UPMC Hamot, cardiology practice pay $20.7M to settle whistle-blower lawsuit

UPMC Hamot and cardiology practice Medicor Associates, both in Erie, Pa., have agreed to pay the federal government $20.7 million to settle a whistle-blower lawsuit filed under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Tullio Emanuele, MD, brought the lawsuit in 2010, one year before the hospital, then called Hamot Medical Center, was acquired by Pittsburgh-based UPMC. The lawsuit claims the hospital created sham directorships for Medicor physicians and paid the physicians millions of dollars in incentives between 2004 and 2010 in exchange for referring patients to the hospital for heart procedures.

"This is an example of the sweetheart deals between hospitals and physicians that undermine patient confidence and drive up healthcare costs for everybody," said Andrew Stone, principal of Stone Law Firm, which helped represent Dr. Emanuele.

UPMC declined to comment on the settlement.

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