St. Joseph Medical Center will pay $22 million to the federal government to settle charges it provided illegal kickbacks to MidAtlantic Cardiovascular Associates. Dr. Mark Midei, who is accused of implanting unnecessary stents in hundreds of patients, co-founded the cardiology practice in question.
"Kickbacks give doctors an incentive to pursue unnecessary treatments that are costly and sometimes even dangerous to patients," Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. District Attorney for Maryland, said in a statement. "Medical care providers are prohibited from giving or receiving kickbacks because of the risk that they will put their own financial interests ahead of their patients' interests."
The Towson, Md.-based St. Joseph agreed to settle without admitting liability "in order to avoid the expense and uncertainty of litigation and to allow the medical center to move forward," according to a statement.
The civil investigation into kickbacks and unnecessary procedures at St. Joseph began with three whistleblowers--cardiac surgeons who realized they weren't getting patients referred to them like some of their peers, reports WJZ in Baltimore.
"Today, and as we move forward, we stand true to our mission to serve the community with integrity, compassion, and excellence," St. Joseph's President and CEO Jeffrey K. Norman said in a statement. "From the start of the U.S. Attorney's inquiry, St. Joseph Medical Center made it clear that it would cooperate fully with the government."
In addition to the fine, the hospital also signed an agreement that requires it to ensure accurate billing and appropriate relationships with referral sources, according to U.S. attorneys.
St. Joseph still faces 101 lawsuits filed by patients--and one lawsuit filed by Dr. Midei, who claims he is the scapegoat for the kickback scheme, notes WJZ.