BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – The North Broward Hospital District has agreed to pay the government $69.5 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by engaging in improper financial relationships with referring physicians, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
Federal officials accused the hospital district of providing compensation to nine physicians that exceeded the fair market value of their services.
Officials claimed that the hospital district violated the Stark Statute and the False Claims Act. The Stark Statute restricts financial relationships between hospitals and doctors who refer patients to them.
"The Department of Justice has long-standing concerns about improper financial relationships between health care providers and their referral sources, because those relationships can alter a physician's judgment about the patient's true health care needs and drive up health care costs for everybody," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department's Civil Division. "In addition to yielding a recovery for taxpayers, this settlement should deter similar conduct in the future and help make health care more affordable."
The North Broward Hospital District is a special taxing district of the state of Florida that operates hospitals and other health care facilities in Broward County.
Broward Health released a statement later in the afternoon stating that it "does not admit any improper conduct as part of the settlement and there were no patient care issues alleged."
"Broward Health treats and cares for over 900,000 patients each year. Our physicians and other employees are dedicated to providing the highest levels of care," Broward Health CEO and President Dr. Nabil El Sanadi said. "The agreement with the Department of Justice will permit us to remain focused on building an innovative health care system that provides our Broward County community with the highest quality of evidence-based medical care."
The settlement comes after a lawsuit was filed by whistleblower Dr. Michael Reilly.
Reilly will receive more than $12 million from the settlement.
Broward Health chairman David DiPietro told Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman that the health care system spent more than $10 million on legal fees associated with the complaint, bringing total damages to taxpayers to more than $80 million.
Follow Local 10 News on Twitter @WPLGLocal10