Two London, Kentucky, cardiologists pay $380,000 to settle whistleblowers' kickback allegations

by Ben Vernia | October 21st, 2014

On October 21, the Department of Justice announced that, following a $16.5 million settlement with a London, Kentucky, hospital over allegations that it entered into sham management agreements with two local cardiologists, the doctors have agreed to pay a total of $380,000 to settle their side of the claims. According to DOJ’s press release:

The Department of Justice announced today that two cardiologists based in London, Kentucky, have agreed to pay $380,000 to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by entering into sham management agreements with Saint Joseph Hospital, also based in London, Kentucky, in exchange for the referral of cardiology procedures and other healthcare services to Saint Joseph.

“Physicians who place their financial interests above the well-being of their patients will be held accountable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Civil Division. “The Department of Justice is committed to preventing illegal financial relationships that undermine the integrity of our public healthcare programs.”

Satyabrata Chatterjee and Ashwini Anand jointly owned Cumberland Clinic, a physician group that provided cardiology services. The government alleged that St. Joseph Hospital entered into sham agreements with Chatterjee and Anand, under which the physicians were paid to provide management services but did not in fact do so. The government further alleged that, in exchange for the sham agreements, Chatterjee and Anand agreed to enter into an exclusive agreement with St. Joseph to refer Cumberland Clinic patients to the hospital for cardiology and other services in violation of the Stark Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute. The Stark Law forbids a hospital from billing Medicare for certain services referred by physicians who have a financial relationship with the entity. The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by federal health care programs, including Medicare.

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In addition to payment of the settlement amount, which was based on Chatterjee and Anand’s financial ability to pay, Chatterjee and Anand have agreed to enter into integrity agreements with the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), which obligate them to undertake substantial internal compliance reforms and to commit to a third-party review of their claims to federal health care programs for the next three years.

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The government previously entered into a $16.5 million settlement with Saint Joseph Hospital for the allegedly sham management contracts the hospital executed with Chatterjee and Anand, as well as for allegedly billing for unnecessary and excessive cardiology procedures by other members of Chatterjee and Anand’s cardiology practice.

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DOJ announced that the whistleblowers, three other local cardiologists, will share $68,400 (an 18% relator’s share). The doctors previously received 15% of the $16.5 million hospital settlement (i.e., $2.46 million).

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