MedStar Health, Inc. has agreed to pay $35 million to settle charges that it paid kickbacks to a cardiology group based in Pikesville, Maryland, in exchange for referrals to its Union Memorial and Franklin Square Hospitals in Baltimore for lucrative cardiovascular procedures, including cardiac surgery and interventional cardiology procedures, for almost six years.
“Kickbacks give doctors an incentive to pursue unnecessary treatments that are costly and sometimes even dangerous to patients,” U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur said in a statement issued by the U.S. Department of Justice announcing the settlement. “We will not tolerate medical care providers who put their patients at risk and waste taxpayers’ dollars in order to line their own pockets.”
The settlement stems from a lawsuit brought by a group of Baltimore cardiac surgeons, alleging that the two hospitals had violated the Anti-Kickback Act and the False Claims Act.
The settlement also resolves a lawsuit alleging that Medstar received Medicare payments from January 1, 2006 through December 28, 2012, for medically unnecessary stents performed by a doctor reportedly still at Union Memorial Hospital. The patients claimed the doctor, MedStar and Union Memorial performed medically unnecessary cardiac procedures involving artery-opening stents and submitted false claims to Medicare for those procedures.
Medstar has denied any wrongdoing.
Compared to other types of cardiac surgery, use of cardiac stents to open blocked arteries has been viewed as relatively safe. Some say “stenting” is lucrative for doctors and hospitals, leading to abuse.
More and more, the practice is also leading to medical malpractice lawsuits in Maryland and other parts of the United States. In 2014, St. Joseph Medical Center agreed to pay up to $37 million to resolve allegations that a cardiologist there placed hundreds of unnecessary stents in patients. The Towson hospital did not admit to any wrongdoing.
In 2013, a federal trial court in Maryland refused to throw out a medical malpractice lawsuit brought by a couple who were told by a local hospital that the husband’s multiple stent surgeries were necessary. However, after the surgeries had been performed, Julian and Denise Peacock received a letter from the Department of Justice – which was investigating the doctor for criminal healthcare fraud – telling them that the surgeries were not necessary.
The Peacocks filed a lawsuit in 2012 against Dr. John R. McLean and John R. McLean and Associates, P.A. and Peninsula Regional Medical Center and Peninsula Regional Health System, Inc. (PRMC) for damages related to allegedly fraudulent and unnecessary heart procedures performed by McLean upon Mr. Peacock at PRMC. The couple claimed negligence, lack of informed consent, negligent supervision and privileging, loss of consortium and fraud by intentional misrepresentation.
McLean is currently serving a term in federal prison for criminal health care fraud related to heart procedures he performed at PRMC between 2003 and 2006.
An experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorney can help you to evaluate your Baltimore medical malpractice claim. The lawyers at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience representing people who need help after Baltimore medical errors have been discovered. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.244.5068 or via our website for a free consultation.