Intermountain to pay $25.5M settlement over improper doc relationships

Intermountain Healthcare in Utah has agreed to pay $25.5 million to settle allegations that some of its leases and contracts with physicians violated the Stark law and False Claims Act, the U.S. Department of Justice announced today.  

In 2009, regular reviews uncovered issues with physician relationships, such as physicians receiving bonuses that improperly considered the value of patient referrals, according to the settlement. Intermountain notified government officials and fixed the lease and compensation arrangements.

"These issues were primarily technical in nature and involved things such as lack of proper paperwork involving leases of physician offices and service agreements," Intermountain Chief Medical Officer Brent Wallace, M.D., said today in a statement.

He also pointed to ever-changing, complex regulations governing hospital-physician relationships as a cause behind compliance problems.

"We are embarrassed that these issues occurred and regret that our controls at the time were inadequate to properly monitor these matters," Wallace said.

Intermountain did not admit liability and maintained the problematic physician agreements did not compromise care quality or cost. The system also said it will continue to routinely review physician agreements to ensure compliance.

So far this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services settled potential physician self-referral violations disclosed under the Voluntary Self-Referral Disclosure Protocol (SRDP) by three acute care hospitals.

When hospitals and providers self-disclose potential Stark and kickback violations, they can end up settling with the government for False Claims or civil monetary penalties rather than winding up with a corporate integrity agreement, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For more:
- read the DoJ announcement
- here's the Intermountain statement
- check out the CMS SRDP settlements