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Georgia hospital hit with $12.8 million penalty over alleged false claims, kickback allegations

DOJ spokesperson said penalty could have been much higher if hospital had not fully cooperated with their year-plus investigation.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Credit: Meadows HealthCredit: Meadows Health

A Savannah, Georgia hospital and some other affiliated parties have been slapped with $12.8 million settlement in relation to a suit filed alleging the organization violated the False Claims Act and Anti-Kickback Statute by paying physicians to refer patients to the hospital for healthcare services, the Department of Justice announced.

The United States and State of Georgia argued that Meadows Regional Medical Center, a part of Meadows Healthcare Alliance, had inappropriate payment arrangements with certain affiliated physicians, and violated the False Claims Act by submitting claims referred by those physicians.

[Also: Running list of notable 2017 healthcare frauds]

According to the complaint, Meadows maintained financial relationships with certain affiliated physicians, wherein the physicians would refer patients to the hospital for healthcare services, and the hospital in turn filed Medicare claims for those services.

The complaint further alleges that Meadows violated the Anti-Kickback Statute by paying or causing others to pay kickbacks to those physicians for the referrals.

[Also: 62 Indiana hospitals named in $300 million fraud suit over EHR kickbacks(updated)]

A spokesperson for the DOJ's Southern District of Georgia clarified that the investigation of Meadows went on for more than a year, and when the organization was informed they were being investigated, they cooperated fully. However the DOJ clarified this was not a whistleblower case.

Their cooperation meant a much smaller penalty, the spokesperson said, as numerous multipliers can jack up the penalties for investigations such as this, with numerous instances of illegal payments and false claims being made to government payers.

In addition to the monetary penalty, Meadows has entered into a corporate integrity agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
Email the writer: beth.sanborn@himssmedia.com

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