A hospital and a physician partnership in southeast Missouri will pay $300,000 and have agreed to a permanent restraining order to resolve allegations that they used unfair practices to corner the local healthcare market.
Doctors Regional Medical Center and physicians of the Kneibert Clinic in Poplar Bluff were accused of forcing or unfairly influencing patients to get home oxygen, prescription drugs and medical equipment from businesses owned by the clinic or hospital. Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon also alleged that the hospital tied nursing home referrals to the purchase of hospital laboratory services. Under federal and state law, these are regarded as anti-competitive practices.
The hospital and clinic did not admit any wrongdoing under the agreement announced in April with the attorney general's office, but they did promise to take a variety of actions. For instance Kneibert Clinic physicians and Doctors Regional from now on must tell patients they can obtain services from the firm of their choice. They must also give patients written lists of local businesses providing ancillary services.
The doctors and the hospital have paid $200,000 to the state under the judgment. They will pay an additional $75,000 to a local not-for-profit healthcare education group and $25,000 to a nursing program at a nearby community college.