HCA Inc. is back at it. Two of the top ten False Claims Act settlements of all time were HCA cases – one in December 2000 for $731 million and one June 2003 for $631 million.
Today, HCA, one in one of the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chains, agreed to pay $16.5 million to settle claims that it violated the False Claims Act and the Stark Statute.
Federal officials alleged that during 2007, HCA, through its subsidiaries Parkridge Medical Center, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and HCA Physician Services (HCAPS), headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, entered into a series of financial transactions with a physician group, Diagnostic Associates of Chattanooga, through which it provided financial benefits intended to induce the physician members of Diagnostic to refer patients to HCA facilities.
These financial transactions included rental payments for office space leased from Diagnostic at a rate well in excess of fair market value in order to assist Diagnostic members to meet their mortgage obligations and a release of Diagnostic members from a separate lease obligation.
The Stark Statute restricts financial relationships that hospitals may enter into with physicians who potentially may refer patients to them.
Federal law prohibits the payment of medical claims that result from such prohibited relationships.
As part of the civil settlement, HCA will pay $16.5 million to the United States and the state of Tennessee, with the federal portion representing $15,693,000 of the settlement amount.
The whistleblower will receive an 18.5 percent share.