Several Tenet and HMA hospitals in Georgia are named in the suit. Among them are Atlanta Medical Center, Atlanta Medical Center South Campus and Spalding Regional Medical Center. The suit alleges those hospitals illegally paid Clinica de la Mama and Clinica de Bebe hundreds of thousands of dollars through sham contracts to refer pregnant illegal immigrants to their delivery rooms. Those patients would be eligible for emergency Medicaid benefits, the lawsuit says.
The federal whistle-blower, Bill Williams, filed his suit in 2009. The judge in the case sealed the lawsuit while the Justice Department looked into the allegations, Wilbanks said. DOJ declined to comment Wednesday.
Williams told WSB-TV he discovered the alleged kickback scheme when he worked as the chief financial officer for HMA. His attorney said Williams was fired within a month of protesting the alleged scheme. If his lawsuit is successful, Williams would be entitled by law to receive 15 percent to 30 percent of the money the government recovers from the defendants, his attorney said.
The judge lifted the seal on the lawsuit Wednesday at the request of Williams and state officials, allowing them to move forward with their case, Wilbanks said.
“It’s an egregious scheme that violated federal law, the anti-kickback statute, and I feel like it is not a gray area,” Williams said. “I believe that it’s praying on a very vulnerable population and people that would generally trust people in the healthcare business.”
Georgia filed court papers Tuesday to join the federal lawsuit.
“These hospitals allegedly paid Clinica kickbacks camouflaged as interpreter service payments to funnel emergency Medicaid patients their way and increase their bottom line,” Attorney General Sam Olens said in a prepared statement.