Georgia hospital to pay nearly $1 million to settle kickback suit

The U.S. Department of Justice Thursday announced a half-million dollar settlement of a lawsuit alleging that a Georgia hospital and its parent company paid kickbacks to an obstetric clinic serving primarily undocumented Hispanic women in return for patient referrals.

The False Claims Act lawsuit, filed in the Middle District of Georgia, alleged that from 2008 to 2009, Walton Regional Medical Center, owned by Health Management Associates, paid kickbacks to Hispanic Medical Management’s Clinica de la Mama in return for Clinica’s agreement to send pregnant women to Walton Regional for deliveries paid for by Medicaid, in violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

Health Management Associates was purchased in 2014 by Community Health Systems and the hospital, which is about 45 miles east of Atlanta in Walton County, is now called Clearview Regional Medical Center.

“The Medicaid program is a vital part of the government’s efforts to make sure that everyone has access to health care,” said U.S. Attorney of the Middle District of Georgia Michael Moore. “Instead of providing health care services to expectant mothers in its area and receiving payment for those services from Medicaid, the hospital participated in a scheme to pay kickbacks in exchange for having pregnant women from outside its market funneled to its facility with the goal of increasing the amount of Medicaid money the hospital could claim.”

In addition to the $595,155 settlement of the federal lawsuit, the defendants also will pay the State of Georgia $396,770 to settle Georgia’s claim under the Georgia False Medicaid Claims Act.