The U.S. Department of Justice announced on March 21, 2019 that MedStar Health Inc. (“MedStar”), which has its headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, MedStar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, and MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore, have agreed to pay the United States $35 million to settle allegations under the False Claims Act that it paid kickbacks to MidAtlantic Cardiovascular Associates (“MACVA”), a cardiology group formerly based in Pikesville, Maryland, in exchange for referrals, through a series of professional services contracts at Union Memorial Hospital and Franklin Square Hospital.
The allegations resolved in the settlement include the payment of kickbacks to MACVA under the guise of professional services agreements, in return for MACVA’s referrals to Union Memorial Hospital of lucrative cardiovascular procedures, including cardiac surgery and interventional cardiology procedures, from January 1, 2006 through July 31, 2011. Under the settlement, MedStar also agrees to settle allegations that it received Medicare payments from January 1, 2006 through December 28, 2012, for medically unnecessary stents performed by John Wang, M.D., a one-time employee of MACVA who was later employed by MedStar.
The settlement resolves a lawsuit brought by whistleblowers, who are cardiac surgeons who practiced together as members of Cardiac Surgery Associates in Baltimore. The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in June 2010, alleges that Union Memorial Hospital and Franklin Square Hospital, and others, violated the Anti-Kickback Act and the False Claims Act by paying various forms of illegal remuneration to MACVA to induce referrals of patients insured by Medicare for cardiac procedures which caused false claims to be submitted to Medicare.
The settlement also resolves another lawsuit brought by whistleblowers, who were former patients of John Wang, M.D., who claimed that Dr. Wang, MedStar, and Union Memorial Hospital engaged in a pattern and practice of performing medically unnecessary percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty with stent placement procedures and submitted false claims to Medicare for those cardiac stent procedures. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in December 2012.
The whistleblowers, or relators, brought their actions under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private citizens with knowledge of false claims against the government to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the United States and to share in any recovery. Under the civil settlement, the relators will receive a portion of the federal share of the recovery.
If you have information regarding false claims having been submitted to Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, other federal health care programs, or to other federal agencies/programs, and the information is not publically known and no actions have been taken by the government with regard to recovering the false claims, you should promptly consult with a False Claims Act lawyer (also known as qui tam lawyers) in your U.S. state who may investigate the basis of your False Claims Act allegations and who may also assist you in bringing a qui tam lawsuit on behalf of the United States, if appropriate, for which you may be entitled to receive a portion of the recovery received by the U.S. government.
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