BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — St. James Healthcare in Butte has agreed to pay $3.85 million to resolve allegations that the hospital improperly provided financial benefits to a group of physicians that referred patients covered by Medicaid and other government health care programs to the hospital, the Department of Justice announced.
The hospital reported the violations, which were contained in a 2005 partnership agreement, after a 2009 internal compliance review, St. James CEO Chuck Wright told The Montana Standard (http://bit.ly/1eVHdjy ). Wright became CEO in early 2009.
The Department of Justice said Tuesday the physicians group paid below-market lease rates for a medical office building located on the hospital campus. Hospital officials would not identify the physician group.
The fine settles allegations that the hospital violated the Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits doctors from receiving kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals. The DOJ also alleged the hospital violated the Stark Law, which restricts the financial relationships that hospitals can have with physicians who refer patients to them. Federal law prohibits government health care programs from paying medical claims that result from arrangements that violate either law.
Michael Cotter, U.S. attorney for Montana, said the rules help ensure federal health care programs deliver services in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
“We are encouraged that hospitals like St. James Healthcare are taking these issues seriously by reviewing their operations and making disclosures to the government where necessary,” Cotter said in a statement.
Wright said patient care was not affected by the discrepancies. The hospital also has implemented more stringent processes to avoid any future issues related to partnerships between the hospital and doctors.
Hospital spokeswoman Linda McGillen declined to elaborate on the changes. She did say the hospital had budgeted for the anticipated financial penalty.
Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com