Steward Health Care to settle kickback allegations for $4.7 million after Hingham doc blows whistle

ByRachelle R. Sowell

Jun 14, 2022 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

BOSTON – The owner of the former Quincy Medical Center has agreed to pay $4.7 million to settle Medicare and Medicaid kickback allegations brought after an investigation of claims by three whistleblowers, including a Hingham doctor.

The whistleblowers, including Hingham Dr. Olivia Lanna, alleged that Steward Health Care paid specialists for services that were not performed and rented space from providers to induce patient referrals to its Accountable Care Organization.

The whistleblowers filed a False Claims Act lawsuit on behalf of the federal and state governments in Boston federal court in 2018.

An undated file photo of the main entrance to Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton.

An undated file photo of the main entrance to Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton.

According to a statement from the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll, which represented the whistleblowers, Steward accepted responsibility for three actions:

  • Steward failed to charge the “proper rent” on leases it had with about  50 physicians, physician organizations and non-physician organizations resulting in rent payments below fair market value, a possible violation of an anti-kickback statute prohibiting physician self-referrals.

  • Good Samaritan Medical Center entered into a compensation arrangement with a Brockton internist for services that Steward cannot confirm were performed and therefore may have violated the anti-kickback statute.

  • Good Samaritan entered into arrangements with two local urology centers for services that were not provided.

In a statement Thursday, Steward Health Care System said it “vehemently denies it violated any referral laws and has admitted no wrongdoing in this matter whatsoever.”

“To be clear, the company cooperated fully with the government investigation, in fact self-reporting two of the three issues raised, and through actions like-self reporting, demonstrated a commitment to the highest standards of compliance and corporate integrity,” the company said. “While Steward admits no wrongdoing, expediently putting this matter behind us now allows the company to focus without distraction on delivering accessible, high-quality healthcare to the local communities and patients it serves every day.”

After Steward pays the $4.7 million settlement, the whistleblowers will split about $725,000.

“My role as a physician is to uphold the integrity of the health care system and provide an environment that is committed to the health of our patients. This settlement will forge a brighter path for health care,” Lanna said.

100 years old: South Shore Hospital started with just 20 beds – check out our series

The settlement calls for Good Samaritan and the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services to enter into a corporate integrity agreement.

The whistleblowers also were represented by the Boston law firm Arrowood LLP.

Steward, a nationwide, for-profit health care network, also owns and operates Carney Hospital in Dorchester, Morton Hospital in Taunton, New England Sinai Hospital in Stoughton, Norwood Hospital in Norwood and St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston, among others.

In 2015, a report by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office says Steward had mixed results meeting its goals and commitments, one of which was to keep Quincy Medical Center open through 2021. The hospital closed in 2014 and is being replaced by apartments.

This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Steward Health Care to settle kickback allegations for $4.7 million