Olive View UCLA staffers accused of accepting gifts for referrals

Los Angeles County is investigating three Olive View-UCLA Medical Center employees over allegations they accepted gifts in exchange for referring Medicare and Medi-Cal patients to certain nursing homes-in violation of both the county's code of ethics and state and federal anti-kickback laws, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Three county employees who asked not to be identified reported the gift-giving allegations to a department hotline in November. During a May 6 town hall meeting to discuss allegations of substandard care at the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, two members of the placement department complained to Laura Sarff, the hospital's director of quality improvement, about alleged gifts, which included a Coach bag, Cirque du Soleil tickets and more. The employees told the newspaper that one co-worker bragged she received $100 in gifts for each Medicare patient she referred.

Olive View records reviewed by the Times indicate that between January 2009 and May 5, 2010, the accused employees referred at least 42 patients to the three nursing homes in question. The staff members also referred patients to nursing homes with better or comparable ratings, according to the logs, and other members of the staff also referred patients to the nursing homes named by the employee who complained.

Under the federal Medicare and Medicaid Anti-Kickback Statute, giving or receiving gifts in exchange for referring patients covered by the healthcare programs is a felony carrying a $25,000 fine and up to five years in prison. Anti-kickback convictions under state law are punishable with three years in prison or $50,000 in fines.

To learn more:
- see this California HealthLine piece
- read the story in the Los Angeles Times
- check out this Associated Press article