Former ED Directors Claim HMA Offered Kickbacks to Admit Medicare Patients

In another lawsuit against Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates, two emergency room physicians claim the hospital operator offered them kickbacks in exchange for ER admissions, according to a Charlotte Observer report.

Thomas Mason, MD, and Steven Folstad, MD, filed the suit in 2010 against Lake Norman Regional Medical Center in Mooresville, S.C., Davis Regional Medical Center in Statesville, N.C., and owner Health Management.

Dr. Folstad is CEO of Mid-Atlantic Emergency Medical Associates, which includes about 60 physicians, and former medical director of the emergency department at Davis Regional. Dr. Mason is the former medical director of the ED at Lake Norman Regional.

The suit was unsealed last month after the U.S. Department of Justice decided to intervene. This is one of eight cases the DOJ is pursuing against Health Management.

The suit claims Health Management tried to increase revenues by ordering expensive tests for patients, often before they were seen by physicians. The hospital operator allegedly required EDs to admit "at least 50 percent of Medicare patients, without regard to medical necessity," according to the report.

Drs. Mason and Folstad did not have privileges to admit patients to the hospitals, but the lawsuit claims Health Management mandated that they call private physicians for every Medicare patient who came to the ED and allegedly persuade those providers to admit their patients, according to the report.
 
An attorney representing the physicians said he has no estimate of the amount of damages sought, according to the report. The plaintiffs want to recover losses resulting from the termination of their contracts, and the law allows for those damages to be multiplied.

In a prepared statement to the Charlotte Observer, Health Management officials denied the allegations and said the company intends to contest them. Officials also said the hospital operator has cooperated with the DOJ.

More Articles on Lawsuits Involving Health Management:

Lawsuit Accuses HMA Hospitals of Avoiding Charity Care
HMA Named in 4 False Claims Actions
Whistleblower Suit Against HMA Alleges Payments for Physician Referrals

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