National health care chain HCA will turn its head and cough after agreeing to pay $16.5 million to settle claims it broke the law by enticed doctors to refer patients to a hospital.
The for-profit corporation was also accused of violating the False Claims Act, which involves cases of fraud against federal health care programs. A whistleblower who tattled on HCA will get 18.5 percent of the settlement, or about $3.1 million.
HCA has a large presence in North Texas with 10 hospitals, a Children’s Hospital, a Psychiatric Hospital, 12 ambulatory surgery centers, 13 Imaging Centers, an Oncology Center and a Freestanding Emergency Room in Dallas Fort Worth and the surrounding areas.
In 2007, HCA, through subsidiaries in Tennessee, entered into financial dealings with a physician group and induced patient referrals by slipping doctors money through lease agreements.
Improper business deals between hospitals and physicians jeopardize both patient care and federal program dollars,” said Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. “Our investigators continue to work shoulder to shoulder with other law enforcement authorities to stop schemes that imperil scarce health care resources.”
HCA owns and operates approximately 163 hospitals and approximately 109 freestanding surgery centers in 20 states and London, England. Overall company revenues in 2011 were $32.5 billion, up 6 percent from 2010.