Georgia recently joined a false claims act lawsuit alleging that Healthcare Management Associates, Inc. and Tenet Healthcare Corporation hospitals have been improperly paying for referrals for many years. According to the complaint, the hospitals paid interpreter, management and other service fees to clinics in exchange for which the clinics referred pregnant, undocumented women to the hospitals for delivery and post-delivery care paid for, in part, from Medicaid funds available for emergency deliveries and post-delivery care of the newborn. Georgia seeks to recover three times the dollar amount of false Medicaid claims plus civil penalties of between $11,000 and $15,000 for each false claim.
Tenet issued a statement to the effect that the agreements were legitimate and the hospitals were providing necessary healthcare services to women in underserved Hispanic communities served by the hospitals. According to Tenet the services were designed to increase the likelihood of a safe birth and healthy baby.
The lawsuit was filed by Ralph Williams who served briefly as a CFO for one of the HMA hospitals before he was fired. Among other things, the Complaint alleges:
- Hospitals paid the clinics up to $15,000 to $20,000 a month for referrals
- One hospital projected a 56.2% rate of return on its investment in a clinic’s “Hispanic Maternity Program”.
- One clinic billed a hospital for in excess of 13 hours a day of interpreter services during June and July 2009 but Williams was unable to confirm that any clinic employee was on the hospital campus at any time during this period
Georgia brought its claims under its state false claims act based on the federal false claims act. Washington has a virtually identical act applicable to Medicaid payments.
For more information please contact Greg Montgomery.