Bryan Cohen Jan. 25, 2013, 7:07pm

CAMDEN, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa and U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced a $12.6 million joint state-federal settlement Thursday with Cooper Health System in Camden.

The settlement resolves allegations that the Camden-based hospital entered into improper consulting and compensation agreements with physicians when building its cardiology program. The matter involved the method by which general practice physicians serving on the Cooper Heart Institute Advisory Board were compensated and the services they provided the hospital in return.

Cooper allegedly ostensibly paid advisory board members for advice while actually paying them to refer their patients to Cooper's Heart Institute for treatment. The hospital also allegedly sought and received reimbursement from Medicaid and Medicare for treating the inappropriately referred patients, a violation of state and federal law.

Under the terms of the consent order, Cooper will pay the federal government about $10.2 million and the state of New Jersey $2.3 million. Cooper also agreed to multiple corporate reforms meant to enhance training, accountability and other aspects of the operation. The hospital will also report to Chiesa's office and the U.S. attorney's office to ensure settlement compliance.

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