West Virginia hospital, CEO hit with federal kickback suit

The Department of Justice partially intervened in a whistle-blower lawsuit against Wheeling (W.Va.) Hospital, the hospital's CEO and business consulting group R & V Associates.

The lawsuit alleges R & V and Wheeling Hospital CEO Ronald Violi caused the hospital to violate the Stark Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute. The DOJ specifically alleges the hospital violated the statutes by basing compensation for certain physicians on the volume or value of their referrals to the hospital. The Justice Department further alleges certain physicians received compensation above fair market value.

"Improper financial arrangements between hospitals and physicians threaten patient safety because they can influence the type and amount of healthcare that is provided," Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the DOJ's Civil Division, said in a press release. "The department is committed to taking action to eliminate improper inducements that can corrupt the integrity of physician decision-making."

A former executive vice president of Wheeling Hospital originally brought the lawsuit in December 2017 under the qui tam, or whistle-blower, provisions of the False Claims Act. The DOJ said its decision to intervene in the case shows it's focused on combating healthcare fraud.

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