4 Houston-area hospitals will pay $8.6M to settle kickback allegations

Four Houston-area hospitals will pay settlements totaling $8.6 million to resolve allegations they received kickbacks from ambulance companies in exchange for Medicare and Medicaid transport referrals, according to the Department of Justice.

Three unidentified whistle-blowers alerted officials about the payments made to Bayshore Medical Center in Pasadena, Texas, Clear Lake Regional Medical Center in Webster, Texas, West Houston Medical Center and East Houston Regional Medical Center, all owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare. The whistle-blowers brought their allegations against the hospitals in two lawsuits filed under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act.

The case was handled by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas, HHS' Office of Inspector General and the Texas Attorney General's Office.

"This settlement emphasizes that both sides of any arrangement where remuneration is paid in exchange for healthcare referrals are responsible for their improper actions — even entities that do not actually bill Medicare or Medicaid for the services," said HHS Chief Counsel Greg Demske. "Any company or individual receiving anything of value in exchange for referrals should understand that their actions may have serious legal and financial consequences."

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