California Skilled Nursing Facilities, Owner and Management Company Agree to $45.6 Million Consent Judgement to Settle Allegations of Kickbacks to Referring Physicians
Mubashar Choudry, M.D., and three medical practices with which he is associated, Washington Cardiovascular Institute, Advanced Vascular Resources, and Washington Vascular Institute, have agreed to pay the United States $750,000 to resolve False Claims Act allegations that they knowingly billed Medicare and TRICARE for claims in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), the Department of Justice announced today. Choudry is a cardiologist who has treated patients in Maryland and Washington, D.C. for peripheral arterial disease.
“Providing impermissible remuneration to induce patient referrals undermines government health care programs,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “Patients are entitled to expect that the medical testing they receive and any resulting referral decision are free of financial inducements to the referring physician that may inappropriately impact the physician’s judgment.”
The AKS prohibits the knowing and willful payment of any remuneration to induce the referral of services or items that are paid for by a federal healthcare program, such as Medicare and TRICARE. Claims submitted to these programs in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute may give rise to liability under the False Claims Act.
The settlement resolves allegations that, between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2016, Choudry, Washington Cardiovascular Institute, Advanced Vascular Resources, and Washington Vascular Institute submitted, or caused, false claims in violation of the AKS. Specifically, the defendants allegedly induced patient referrals by providing ankle-brachial index testing on patients under agreements with the referring physicians but without collecting from the physicians the fair market value for the tests. Ankle-brachial index testing is used to detect peripheral arterial disease, which Choudry and the practices would treat.
“Kickback schemes like the scheme alleged in this case not only call into question the integrity of individual medical decisions, but they also raise the cost of health care for all of us,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur for the District of Maryland. “Patients deserve care based on a doctor’s sound medical judgment, not the doctor’s personal financial interest.”
“For four years, Dr. Choudry and associated medical practices boosted their profits by allegedly paying kickbacks to referring physicians,” said Maureen R. Dixon, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. “Along with our law enforcement partners, we will continue maintaining the integrity of these vital health programs because taxpayers deserve better.”
The agreement resolves allegations brought by Steven Pringle, a former sales and operations employee of the practices, under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private parties to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to receive a share of any recovery. The qui tam case is captioned United States, et al., ex rel. Pringle v. Choudry, et al., Case No. GJH 16-cv-3779 (D. Md.). As part of this settlement, Pringle will receive $121,500 as his share of the government’s recovery.
This settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland; the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Counsel to the Inspector General and Office of Investigations; and the Defense Health Agency Office of General Counsel. The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.