Laboratory Boston Heart Diagnostics Corporation (Boston Heart), of Framingham, Massachusetts, has agreed to pay $26.67 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations involving payments for patient referrals in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law, as well as claims otherwise improperly billed to federal healthcare programs for laboratory testing, the Department of Justice announced today. The settlement announced today resolves allegations that Boston Heart conspired with others to pay doctors kickbacks disguised as investment returns. From 2015 to 2017, Boston Heart allegedly agreed to provide laboratory testing services to small Texas hospitals in exchange for per-test payments. To generate more referrals for the hospitals and more money for itself, Boston Heart allegedly coordinated with the hospitals’ independent marketers, who set up companies known as management service organizations (MSOs), to make payments to referring physicians that were disguised as investment returns but were actually based on, and offered in exchange for, the physicians’ referrals. Boston Heart allegedly helped the MSOs identify physician targets, referred interested physicians to the MSOs to secure their business, and participated with the MSOs in sales pitches to offer physicians money in exchange for referrals. As a result, physicians allegedly referred patients to the Texas hospitals and Boston Heart for laboratory tests performed by Boston Heart, which were then billed to Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE.
The settlement also resolves allegations that Boston Heart conspired with the Texas hospitals and others to submit claims for outpatient laboratory testing for patients who were not hospital outpatients, in order to receive higher reimbursements from federal healthcare programs. In addition, the settlement resolves allegations that Boston Heart directly or indirectly paid processing and handling fees, waived patient copayments and deductibles, and provided physician practices with in-office dietitians in exchange for physician referrals for laboratory testing. Those allegations were originally made in two cases filed under the whistleblower, or qui tam, provision of the False Claims Act. The act permits private parties to sue for fraud on behalf of the United States and to share in any recovery. The whistleblowers will receive approximately $4.36 million of the settlement. One whistleblower in the case was Christopher Riedel a former Boston Heart Board Member. The lawyers representing him are Justin Berger, Niall McCarty and Eric Buescher.
The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting, or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and other federally funded programs. The Stark Law forbids a laboratory from billing Medicare and Medicaid for certain services referred by physicians that have a financial relationship with the laboratory. The Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law are intended to ensure that medical providers’ judgments are not compromised by improper financial incentives and are instead based on the best interests of their patients.
Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers nationwide. His email address is Jeff@JeffNewmanLaw.com