FLORIDA (Legal Newsline) - Claims of alleged fraudulent activity regarding the referral of doctors has led to a $69.5 million settlement between the U.S. and a Florida hospital.
North Broward Hospital District allegedly violated the False Claims Act by overcompensating nine employed doctors beyond the fair market value for the work performed. Doctors were purportedly given improper sums of money in exchange for patient referrals. The U.S. brought allegations against the hospital under the Stark Statute and the False Claims Act. The hospital is said to have been in violation of both statutes which regulate the financial practices between hospitals and physicians as it regards referrals. The suit was symbolic of the federal government's fervent efforts to prevent health care fraud.
“The Department of Justice has long-standing concerns about improper financial relationships between health care providers and their referral sources, because those relationships can alter a physician’s judgment about the patient’s true health care needs and drive up health care costs for everybody,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “In addition to yielding a recovery for taxpayers, this settlement should deter similar conduct in the future and help make health care more affordable.”
“Our citizens deserve medical treatment uncorrupted by excessive salaries paid to physicians as a reward for the referral of business rather than the provision of the highest quality healthcare,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida. “This office will be steadfast in continuing to devote all necessary resources to ensure that anyone rendering medical care does so for the sole benefit of the patient and in compliance with the law.”