Mobile, Alabama-based Infirmary Health System Inc. (IHS), two IHS-affiliated clinics and Diagnostic Physicians Group P.C. (DPG) have agreed to pay the United States $24.5 million to resolve a lawsuit alleging that they violated the False Claims Act by paying or receiving financial inducements in connection with claims to the Medicare program, the Justice Department announced today.
“Financial arrangements that compensate physicians for referrals encourage physicians to make decisions based on financial gain rather than patients’ needs,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Stuart F. Delery. “The Department of Justice is committed to preventing illegal financial relationships that undermine the integrity of our public health programs.”
The government’s suit alleged that two IHS affiliated clinics — IMC-Diagnostic and Medical Clinic, in Mobile, and IMC-Northside Clinic, in Saraland, Alabama — had agreements with DPG to pay the group a percentage of Medicare payments for tests and procedures referred by DPG physicians, in violation of the Physician Self-Referral Law (commonly known as the Stark Law) and the Anti-Kickback Statute. Also named in the lawsuit was Infirmary Medical Clinics P.C. (IMC), an affiliate of IHS that directly owns and operates approximately 30 clinics in the Mobile area, including the two clinics involved in this lawsuit.
The Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law are intended to ensure that a physician’s medical judgment is not compromised by improper financial incentives. The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by federal health care programs, including Medicare. The Stark Law forbids a hospital or clinic from billing Medicare for certain services referred by physicians who have a financial relationship with the entity.