CONCORD, New Hampshire — Catholic Medical Center has agreed to pay $3.8 million to resolve allegations that it violated federal law against kickbacks.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Manchester hospital paid its cardiologists to cover for another cardiologist’s patients when she was on vacation or otherwise unavailable at no charge to her. That doctor in turn referred millions of dollars in medical procedures and services to Catholic Medical Center over the course of a decade, prosecutors said, in violation of a federal law against paying physicians in exchange for referrals involving government health care programs such as Medicare.
The hospital did not admit liability as part of the settlement. A hospital spokesperson said it “vigorously disagrees” with allegations that it broke the law but settled to avoid long and costly litigation.
“This call coverage arrangement originated almost 15 years ago with the input of legal counsel in order to provide high quality care for patients. It is no longer in place,” said Lauren Collins-Cline. “CMC holds itself to the highest ethical standards in patient care and business conduct. That’s embedded in our mission and will always remain our highest priority.”
The settlement resolves allegations originally raised by a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former hospital employee, and some of the settlement will go to him.
Federal officials said such kickback schemes undermine the health care system, compromise medical decisions and waste taxpayer money.
“When patients are referred for medical services, those referrals should be based solely on medical need and not affected by financial considerations,” U.S. Attorney John Farley said in a statement.