Clear Lake Regional Medical Center in Webster is one of four area hospitals that will pay $8.6 million as part of a settlement in a lawsuit over claims they received illegal kickbacks from ambulance companies for lucrative Medicaid and Medicare-funded transports, according to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
The accusations against Clear Lake Regional Medical Center stem from lawsuits filed by three whistleblowers, asserting that ambulance companies offered free or discounted patient transports in exchange for the hospital’s referrals for Medicare and Medicaid business to them, said Angela Dodge, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The federal Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering anything of value to receive items or services covered by federal health care programs, Dodge said.
“If not for this kickback arrangement, the four hospitals would have been financially responsible for the patient transports at significantly higher rates,” Dodge said.
Wednesday’s settlement announcement is the second of its kind against a medical institution operating near Galveston County.
Galveston-based nursing home operator Regent Management Services in 2015 reached a $3.2 million settlement over similar allegations, officials said.
That settlement may have been the first of its kind against a medical institution rather than an ambulance company for ambulance swapping, U.S. Attorney’s Office officials said at the time.
Regent Management Services is headquartered in Galveston and manages 12 nursing facilities, including Regent Care Center and Harbourview at South Shore in League City. It was established in 1997.
All of the hospitals involved in the newest settlement — Bayshore Medical Center, Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, West Houston Medical Center and East Houston Regional Medical Center — are all affiliated with the Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America, Dodge said.
The state of Texas will receive more than $300,000 of the total settlement amount, Dodge said.
The claims resolved by the settlement were allegations, with no determination of liability, prosecutors said.