Physicians accepted $40M in kickbacks from Texas hospital, feds say

The federal trial for 10 defendants, including four surgeons and a pain physician, accused of participating in a $200 million healthcare fraud scheme kicked off last week, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Five things to know:

1. The trial, which is expected to last up to two months, centers on bribes and kickbacks now-defunct Forest Park Medical Center in Dallas allegedly paid to physicians and surgeons to steer surgeries to the hospital.

2. The scheme, which began in 2009 and ran through 2013, involved paying surgeons for referring patients to FPMC, which was out of network with payers. Instead of billing patients for out-of-network copayments, hospital executives and physicians allegedly assured patients they would pay in-network prices. Those involved in the scheme allegedly concealed the patient discounts and wrote off the difference as uncollected bad debt.

3. There were 21 defendants charged in the scheme in 2016, 11 of whom have pleaded guilty and are expected to testify on behalf of the government at trial, according to The Dallas Morning News.

4. The $200 million healthcare fraud scheme allegedly involved FPMC officials making $40 million in illegal payouts to surgeons and others in exchange for referrals. Although the $40 million in payments looked legitimate, they were really "bribes and kickbacks," a government lawyer told the jury during opening arguments on Feb. 21, according to Law360.

5. Several of the defendants have denied any wrongdoing. They claim healthcare attorneys told them the marketing agreements they entered into, which are at the center of the kickback allegations, were not illegal, according to The Dallas Morning News.

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