Tenet Healthcare reveals criminal probe into kickback allegations

In security filings earlier this month, Tenet Healthcare Corp. revealed that it is weathering parallel criminal and civil investigations from federal prosecutors regarding allegations that executives of the Dallas-based company paid kickbacks to medical clinics for patient referrals, according to Bloomberg Business.

According to the health system, federal prosecutors are looking into a 2009 whistleblower lawsuit that claims Tenet hospitals in Georgia and South Carolina paid local obstetric clinics to send undocumented Hispanic women to the hospital for deliveries so that it could collect on Medicaid reimbursement. In 2013, Tenet disclosed the fact that prosecutors were seeking documents related to potential kickback violations. The feds didn't intervene on the case until February of last year.

Prosecutors are also investigating similar payments made to the same obstetric clinics by Health Management Associates Inc. (HMA) based in Naples, Florida, according to Bloomberg. HMA and Tenet allegedly made payments to a firm known as Hispanic Medical Management that were disguised as reimbursement for translation services, marketing and evaluations of Medicare eligibility, according to the news outlet.

Tenet has come under fire in previous years, most notably in 2006, when it agreed to pay more than $900 million for unlawful billing practices. The healthcare system was nabbed again in 2012 when it paid $43 million to settle false claims allegations related to overbilling for inpatient rehabilitation units.

The most recent probe reflects the Department of Justice's (DOJ) new approach to fraud investigations that utilizes both civil and criminal divisions. In April, Universal Health Services revealed a federal criminal investigation into behavioral health services, which originated from a civil complaint.

For more:
- read the Bloomberg Business article
- here's Tenet's SEC filing