The federal government has filed a civil fraud case against several Cincinnati health care providers: Christ Hospital, the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, Ohio Heart and Vascular Center and the now defunct Medical Diagnostic Associates. The suit alleges that from 1997 to 2004, Ohio Heart and Christ Hospital swapped referrals for patients whose services were billed to Medicare. Under the False Claims Act, the government could ask the court to triple the damages.

The government’s suit springs from a whistleblower action filed in 2003 by cardiologist Harry Fry, which case was sealed until the U.S. joined the case in the spring of 2008. The suit charges that the hospital and cardiologists ran an illegal kickback scheme. According to the complaint, Christ Hospital granted time to cardiologists in its state-of-the-art diagnostic center based on how much business the physicians sent to the hospital for surgical procedures. Further, when patients who required heart procedures arrived in Christ Hospital