HHS' inspector general's office is considering excluding Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, from Medicare and Medicaid because the hospital declined to enter a corporate integrity agreement as part of a $108 million False Claims Act settlement.
HHS mulls dropping Christ Hospital from Medicare, Medicaid
The U.S. Justice Department, joining a whistle-blower lawsuit, alleged that Christ Hospital devised a system of assigning coverage in its diagnostic unit that rewarded the cardiologists who brought the most business to the hospital. The scheduling amounted to kickbacks, the government contended, because the cardiologists got the opportunity to bill for diagnostic services and pick up new patients for follow-up procedures. Christ Hospital's former parent, the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, was also a party to the settlement agreement.
“The Christ Hospital provided necessary and often life-saving medical care by ensuring sufficient cardiologist coverage to read heart tests provided in the hospital,” said Heather Adkins, vice president and chief strategy officer, in a written statement. Adkins characterized the rejected corporate integrity agreement as “costly, burdensome and unnecessary.”
The inspector general's office declined to provide further information because the case is ongoing. Spokesman Donald White noted, however, that the office's analysis includes careful consideration of whether the community would have sufficient medical resources if a provider is excluded from federal health programs.
Excluding a hospital is an extremely rare move for HHS to take. The last time the inspector general's office initiated the procedure against a hospital was in 2006 against Tenet Healthcare Corp.'s Alvarado Hospital Medical Center in San Diego, which the government alleged paid kickbacks to physician practices disguised as recruiting agreements. The matter was rendered moot when Tenet divested the hospital as part of a settlement agreement.
Earlier in 2006, the inspector general's office excluded South Beach Community Hospital, Miami, for violating the terms of a corporate integrity agreement. That troubled hospital had ceased operations by the time the exclusion took effect.
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