Hospitals

Christ Hospital resolves kickback saga with federal government

Reversing course on an earlier position, The Christ Hospital entered into an agreement that’ll give the federal government’s inspector general the right to monitor the hospital for five years — and continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid payments.

Reversing course on an earlier position, The Christ Hospital entered into an agreement that’ll give the federal government’s inspector general the right to monitor the hospital for five years.

Entering into the so-called “corporate integrity agreement” removes the the threat that the government would’ve barred the hospital from receiving payments from federal programs such as Medicare, according to (pdf) a statement from the Office of the Inspector General.

The agreement “closes the door” on a decade-long kickback case in which Christ Hospital was alleged to have compensated cardiologists for referring patients to the hospital, according to the statement. In May, Christ Hospital and its former parent, the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, paid a total of $108 million to settle the suit.

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Earlier, Christ Hospital had refused to sign a corporate integrity agreement with the government, calling such a deal “costly, burdensome and unnecessary,” the Cincinnati Business Courier reported. That refusal led to the government’s threat to exclude the hospital from federal Medicare and Medicaid payments.

The hospital tried to put a positive spin on its reversal, saying it signed the agreement “to further demonstrate beyond any doubt that the hospital’s leadership is conducting every aspect of its business with the highest ethical standards,” according to the statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, the hospital is required to implement compliance measures, hire an outside reviewer of its financial relationships with physicians, and be monitored by the Inspector General.

Christ Hospital ran into trouble by assigning time in its outpatient cardiology unit to only cardiologists who referred business to the hospital, the Justice Department said in May when the lawsuit settlement was announced. Cardiologists whose referrals earned at least 2 percent of the hospital’s annual revenues were rewarded with a related amount of time at the Heart Station, the government said.

There, the cardiologists had the opportunity to earn additional income by billing for patients they treated at the unit and for follow-up procedures.