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Ohio’s Christ Hospital has tentatively agreed to pay an enormous amount to settle a whistleblower lawsuit leveling claims of health care fraud against the provider. At the core of the suit were allegations concerning the Heart Station—an outpatient cardiology testing unit located within Christ Hospital. The Heart Station performs non-invasive heart procedures, including stress tests, electrocardiograms and echocardiograms. Christ Hospital and the Heart Station, alleged the U.S. Department of Justice, “devised a scheme that provided cardiologists improper financial incentives in exchange for generating revenue for the hospital.”
The suit was originally filed in federal court in Cincinnati by Dr. Harry Fry, a cardiologist who had previously provided medical services at the two facilities. From 1999 to 2004, claimed Fry, cardiologists were given time at the Heart Health Center in direct proportion to the number of heart related procedures the physicians or their medical groups generated for Christ Hospital in the year preceding. Many of such heart procedures performed by Christ Hospital were billed to Medicare and Medicaid. But such a practice is illegal because federal law prevents a medical facility from paying financial incentives in exchange for patient referrals.
Fry filed his suit under authority of the federal False Claims Act. That legislation encourages those with knowledge of a fraud against the government to come forward by awarding whistleblowers with a portion of any recovery the government receives as a result of a whistleblower suit. Under the Qui Tam provisions of the statute, Fry will receive a share of the settlement with Christ Hospital.
For the full story, go to the Cincinnati Business Courier.