BRISTOL HOSPITAL AND BRISTOL GASTROENTEROLOGY ASSOCIATES PAY $157,830 TO SETTLE FALSE CLAIMS ACT ALLEGATIONS
The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut today announced that BRISTOL HOSPITAL, located at Brewster Road in Bristol, and BRISTOL GASTROENTEROLOGY ASSOCIATES, P.C., located at 25 Newell Road in Bristol, have entered into a civil settlement agreement with the Government in which they will pay $157,830 to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act.
The allegations against BRISTOL HOSPITAL and BRISTOL GASTROENTEROLOGY ASSOCIATES, P.C. (“BGA”) involve improper billing to Medicare during the time period January 2006 to August 2009. From January 2006 until December 2007, BGA occupied and utilized a medical office suite owned by BRISTOL HOSPITAL without paying any rent to the hospital and without a written lease. In January 2008, the hospital and BGA finally entered into a written lease. However, after entering into the lease, the hospital failed to collect any monthly rent from BGA for an additional 18 months, until August 2009. During the January 2006 to August 2009 time period when BGA was utilizing the hospital’s office suite rent-free, BGA was regularly referring Medicare patients to BRISTOL HOSPITAL and the hospital was submitting claims to Medicare for those patients.
The Stark Law prohibits physicians from referring patients to hospitals with whom they have an improper financial arrangement. A leasing arrangement is improper under the Stark Law absent a written lease, signed by the parties, that specifies the premises covered by the lease. Leasing arrangements must also be commercially reasonable and consistent with “fair market value” for the premises. The Stark Law is intended to ensure that a physician’s medical judgment is not compromised by improper financial incentives and are based solely on the best interests of the patient.
To resolve their liability under the False Claims Act, BRISTOL HOSPITAL and BGA will pay $157,830 for conduct occurring between January 1, 2006 and August 1, 2009.
In entering into the civil settlement agreement, BRISTOL HOSPITAL and BGA did not admit liability.
This matter was investigated by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Richard M. Molot, along with Auditor Kevin A. Saunders.
People who suspect health care fraud are encouraged to report it by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS or the Health Care Fraud Task Force at (203) 785-9270.
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