A $39.3 million judgment and the specter of hefty fines hang over Tuomey Healthcare System following a jury's decision that it violated the Stark Law and the False Claims Act. Adventist Health will pay $14.1M to resolve false claims allegations. Both cases were initiated by whistleblowers.
A retrial this week that resulted in a jury's $39.3 million judgment against Sumter, SC-based Tuomey Healthcare System should demonstrate to providers everywhere that federal prosecutors are serious about enforcing anti-kickback laws.
"You look at what happened. This is a small hospital but the government put a lot of resources into this and this could put the hospital out of business and I don't think the government is wild about that," says Al Bassett, an attorney and consultant with Alexandria, VA-based Strategic Management Services LLC,
"There was a trial in 2010. There was an award. A federal appeals court set the verdict aside for a retrial. The government elected to take this to a retrial. In this second go-around you get this verdict and I think people will look at this and say 'look if the government did this to a 242-bed community hospital they will take on anybody.'"
After a four-week trial, the 10-member federal jury in Columbia, SC needed less than five hours to determine that Tuomey violated the Stark Law and the False Claims Act between 2005-2009 with its use of lucrative referral fees for 19 physicians who steered business to the health system. The case was brought forward by a whistleblower.
Tuomey has a month to appeal the ruling, but hospital officials have not said if they will.