Pennsylvania hospital and cardiology group settle whistleblower’s allegations for $20.75 million

by Ben Vernia | March 7th, 2018

On March 7, the Department of Justice announced that an Erie, Pennsylvania-based hospital and cardiology group had agreed to pay $20.75 million to settle civil allegations, initially brought by a doctor , that they submitted claims tainted by violations of the Medicare Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law against self-referrals. According to DOJ’s press release:

UPMC Hamot (Hamot), a hospital based in Erie, Pennsylvania – and now affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) – and Medicor Associates Inc. (Medicor), a regional physician cardiology practice, have agreed to pay the government $20,750,000 to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging that they knowingly submitted claims to the Medicare and Medicaid programs that violated the Anti‑Kickback Statute and the Physician Self‑Referral Law, the Justice Department announced today.  Hamot became affiliated with UPMC after the conduct resolved by the settlement occurred.

The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting, or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and other federally funded programs.  The Physician Self-Referral Law, commonly known as the Stark Law, prohibits a hospital from billing Medicare for certain services referred by physicians with whom the hospital has an improper compensation arrangement.  Both the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law are intended to ensure that a physician’s medical judgment is not compromised by improper financial incentives and is instead based on the best interests of the patient.

The settlement resolves allegations brought in a whistleblower action filed under the False Claims Act alleging that, from 1999 to 2010, Hamot paid Medicor up to $2 million per year under twelve physician and administrative services arrangements which were created to secure Medicor patient referrals.  Hamot allegedly had no legitimate need for the services contracted for, and in some instances the services either were duplicative or were not performed.

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The Government announced that the doctor/whistleblower will receive $6,017,500 (a 29% relator’s share).

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