By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Taxpayer-supported Broward Health will pay $69.5 million in penalties to settle federal allegations that it paid illegal kickbacks to nine doctors who referred patients to its hospitals in a fraud scheme that went on for more than a decade.
The settlement made public Tuesday arose from a lawsuit filed by Fort Lauderdale orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Reilly, under the False Claims Act. Dr. Reilly will receive $12,045,655.51 for blowing the whistle, federal officials said.
The settlement comes as a relief to Broward Health’s current leaders, who have been forced to deal with a federal investigation that was triggered by the actions of Broward Health officials who have long since moved on.
“This is just a resolution of something that’s been on the table for the last four or give years and goes back as far as 2001,” said Dr. Nabil El Sanadi, Broward Health’s chief executive officer. “It’s always good to get things like this over with.”
According to Dr. Reilly’s complaint, filed in federal court, Broward Health improperly compensated its employed physicians at excessive levels that caused “net operating loses of $150 million” from 2004-2011, when the complaint was filed. Broward Health made sure, however, that Medicare and Medicaid referrals from those doctors more than offset those losses at its hospitals and clinics.
The complaint alleged that Broward Health “knowingly violated federal Stark and Anti-Kickback laws, and deliberately submitted “thousands” of false claims to federal health care programs arising from “tainted referrals.”
The federal Stark Law generally prohibits doctors from referring Medicare or Medicaid patients to hospitals with which they have a financial relationship. Likewise, it forbids hospitals from submitting claims from prohibited referrals.
The Anti-Kickback statute forbids offering, paying or soliciting or receiving anything of value to induce or reward referrals or generate federal healthcare program business. Criminal violators face up to five years in prion and a $25,000 fine for each violation.
No criminal charges, however, were announced with the unsealing of the whistleblower case.
More than two-dozen physicians were named in a federal subpoena that sought records about their business ties to Broward Health. The subpoena was served at the outset of the investigation in May 2011.
David Di Pietro, chair of the North Broward Hospital District Board of Commissioners, put out a statement Tuesday afternoon.
“The resolution of this matter and today’s agreement will enable Broward Health to move beyond the allegations that arose in the context of this investigation. It is important to note that those allegations were focused solely on highly complicated contracts with physicians. This investigation was never about patient care,” Di Pietro said.
Arthur Cohen / September 15, 2015 1:10 pm
“No criminal charges were announced…” are they forthcoming or is this the end of it?
Lost Taxes NBHD / September 16, 2015 11:33 am
And we the Tax Payers of Broward County are left with the bill. I believe we are due money back for this criminal behavior. Had this been a Private Sector Business, many of the Executive Staff and Professional Employees would be in Federal Prisons and facing big fines for repayment. Why are the recipients of the big pay outs and those who created them not paying back our Tax Payer losses.
Maybe a class action suit is in order for this Criminal Cover Up… with our local dollars…..
Rose / September 17, 2015 5:16 pm
This is sickening. The tax payers get to pay for the fraudulent behavior of the doctors and Management (the legal bills they run for ten years, the settlement plus years of inflated salaries). They walk away as if nothing’s happened. What country is this? Botswana?? This is the work of the FBI, with our tax dollars??!
J. / October 12, 2015 8:16 am
As an ex BH employee I think that criminal charges are mandatory. BH nurses didn’t even get a COL sized pay increase in the years I worked there. The management knew nothing about the challenges to or equipment used by the floor staff. A recent acquisition of a Pathway to Excellence by a BH facility was rife with half-truths and misleading information. Most of the management has no recent experience in direct patient care, they all have business degrees.
C Blue / February 3, 2016 3:46 pm
I would like the portion of the property tax each property owner paid to fund this fraud scheme to be credited back in our tax bills. This is ridiculous that these physicians and administrators were paying bonus’ and compensating the indigent care that they didn’t actually provide, and inflated the little indigent care they did provide. In the many years this has gone on, I have seen yearly increases (including 2015) for the funding of the Broward Health District on my tax bill. Yes, I’m in favor of a class action lawsuit to regain the amounts used fraudulently as well the funds used to pay the $10M legal fees and the $70M settlement. Surely,criminal charges should be forthcoming.