A look back at Dr. Asfora/Sanford Health whistleblower lawsuit

Investigates

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: A misspelling was corrected.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A five-year-long civil court case involving one of the state’s largest health systems, a renowned brain surgeon and two other physician whistleblowers, is finally coming to an end. The case cost Sanford Health $20 million in settlements. Now the doctor at the center of it all has agreed to a settlement in the case.

The civil suit, filed in 2016 by Dr. Dustin Bechtold and Dr. Bryan Wellman against Dr. Wilson Asfora and Sanford, claimed that both Sanford and Dr. Asfora were profiting from an illegal kickback scheme involving implanting medical devices sold by Asfora’s own company.

The case was unsealed in 2019, and we learned that the whistleblower physicians said they brought the concerns to top leadership at Sanford, but Sanford allowed Asfora’s practices to continue in order to make millions in kickbacks from Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs.

After the lawsuit was unsealed, Sanford Health fired Dr. Asfora and he in turn sued Sanford for wrongful termination. That case is still ongoing.

However, in October of 2019, Sanford Health agreed to a more than $20 million settlement, with
Doctors Bechtold and Wellman receiving $3.4 million. While not admitting any wrongdoing, Sanford said in the settlement that it had taken steps to stop all Sanford physicians from profiting from their choice of medical devices.

The latest settlement reached this week was between Dr. Asfora, the two whistleblowers and the federal government. The amount agreed upon has not yet been made public.

We reached out to Dr. Asfora today and he told us his attorney has advised him not to do an interview.

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