El Paso Behavioral Health Facility Pays $860,000 to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations Under Civil Settlement with United States
Today, University Behavioral Health of El Paso, LLC (“UBH”) paid $860,000 under a civil settlement with the Department of Justice to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that the hospital paid unlawful remuneration under the Anti-Kickback Act and violated the Stark Law when it improperly paid a physician who made referrals to the hospital pursuant to a personal services agreement.
That announcement was made today by United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Douglas E. Lindquist, El Paso Division.
The allegations resolved in the settlement include the submission of false claims to Medicare that were tainted by the payment of kickbacks to a physician under the guise of a professional services agreement, in return for the physician’s referral of patients to UBH. Specifically, the physician received payments above fair market value, or for services not rendered, and made improper referrals to the hospital for Medicare-reimbursed services.
Federal law, including the Anti-Kickback Act and the Stark Law, seeks to ensure that services reimbursable by federal healthcare programs are based on the best interests of patients rather than the personal financial interests of referring physicians.
The settlement covers certain claims submitted to Medicare by UBH for the period from February 1, 2010, through December 31, 2013. The professional services agreement at issue was entered into by a previous owner of UBH. In October 2012, University Health Services, Inc. (“UHS”) acquired UBH, which operated the hospital known as University Behavioral Health, now known as the El Paso Behavioral Health System. UHS terminated the professional services agreement effective December 31, 2013.
The settlement announced today was the result of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas and the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Susan Strawn handled the investigation for the United States Attorney’s Office.