Georgia health system inks $35M deal to settle Stark Law, False Claims Act allegations

Columbus (Ga.) Regional Healthcare System has agreed to pay $25 million, which will be divided between the federal government and the state of Georgia, to resolve allegations it violated the False Claims Act by submitting claims to government healthcare programs in violation of Stark Law. Under the agreement, the system has also agreed to additional contingent payments not to exceed $10 million, according to the Department of Justice.

In its lawsuit, the federal government alleged that Columbus Regional provided excessive salary and directorship payments to Andrew Pippas, MD, between 2003 and 2013.

The government also alleged that between 2006 and 2013 the system submitted claims to federal healthcare programs for services at higher levels than supported by the documentation. The government further claimed that Columbus Regional submitted claims to federal healthcare programs for radiation therapy at higher levels than the therapy that was provided between 2010 and 2012, according to the DOJ.

"The maximum amount of this settlement, some $35 million, is appropriate given the number of alleged violations involving the False Claims Act and the Stark Act," said U.S. Attorney Michael Moore of the Middle District of Georgia. 

Dr. Pippas agreed to pay $425,000, which will be divided between the federal government and the state of Georgia, to settle the allegations brought against him.

The settlements resolve allegations originally brought by Richard Barker, a former Columbus Regional executive, under the qui tam, or whistle-blower, provision of the False Claims Act, according to the DOJ.

Although Columbus Regional and Dr. Pippas have agreed to settle the allegations brought against them, there has been no finding of liability in these cases.

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