Friday, February 05, 2010

More Settlements: Christ Hospital, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries

For the end of the week, a round-up of the latest legal settlements involving large health care organizations, in alphabetical order....

Christ Hospital (Cincinnati, Ohio)

As reported by the Business Courier of Cincinnati:
Christ Hospital and the federal government have reached a settlement agreement on a whistleblower lawsuit that accused the hospital of defrauding federal health-care programs.

The suit alleged that Christ Hospital and the Ohio Heart Health Center cardiology practice, which Christ Hospital has since bought, 'devised a scheme that provided cardiologists improper financial incentives in exchange for generating revenue for the hospital,' according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Potential liability was reported to be as high as $424 million across the Health Alliance and its former members in an October 2007 document from VMG Health, a consultant hired as part of the separation of Christ Hospital from the Health Alliance.

Christ faced potential liability of as much as $123 million in the case, according to the report, and the St. Luke Hospitals, which also left the Health Alliance, faced exposure of $51 million.

The focus of the suit is an outpatient cardiology testing unit within Christ Hospital known as the Heart Station, where patients receive non-invasive heart procedures such as electrocardiograms, echocardiograms and stress tests.

The action was originally filed in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by Dr. Harry Fry, a cardiologist who had provided services to Christ Hospital and Ohio Heart.

The lawsuit alleges that, between at least 1999 and 2004, cardiologists were allocated time at the Heart Station based on the number of coronary arterial bypass graph procedures and catheter lab revenues they or their group generated for Christ the previous year.

Many of the procedures were billed to federal benefit programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, according to the government. It’s against federal law to exchange financial incentives for patient referrals.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries

As reported by Reuters,

Generic drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd ... said on Friday it plans to settle lawsuits alleging it caused governments to pay inflated prices for its drugs under Medicaid and other programs.

Teva, which denies the charges, said it will record a charge of about $315 million in its fourth quarter, 2009. The charge includes the settlement in principle and a reserve for the remaining drug pricing lawsuits to which Teva is a party.

Israel-based Teva is one of a number of drug companies named in civil lawsuits that relate to drug price reporting by manufacturers in about 15 states. The cases are pending....

The march of settlements continues. To repeat, seemingly ad infinitum, these are just the latest in a now long parade of settlements that serve as reminders of poor behavior by myriad health care organizations. As we have previously noted, these settlements seem to have little deterrent effect on future bad behavior. Usually, the companies involved only need to pay fines, and no individual who performed, directed or approved unethical or illegal acts will suffer any negative consequences. I submit once again that such fines are viewed merely as costs of doing business by the affected companies, and do not deter future bad behavior. Until the people who approve, direct, and perform unethical or illegal acts pay some penalties, expect such acts to continue.  I again suggest that to truly reform health care, we need rigorous regulation of health care organizations that has the power to deter unethical behavior that may risk patients' health.


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