Oklahoma Center for Orthopaedic and Multi-Specialty Surgery (OCOM), a specialty hospital in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, its part-owner and management company, USP OKC, Inc. and USP OKC Manager, Inc. (collectively USP), Southwest Orthopaedic Specialists, PLLC (SOS), an Oklahoma City-based physician group, and two SOS physicians, paid $72.3 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act and the Oklahoma Medicaid False Claims Act of improper relationships between OCOM and SOS, resulting in the submission of false claims to the Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE programs.
The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting, or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and other federally funded programs. The Physician Self-Referral Law, commonly known as the Stark Law, prohibits a hospital from billing Medicare for certain services referred by physicians with whom the hospital has an improper financial arrangement, including the payment of compensation that exceeds the fair market value of the services actually provided by the physician and the provision of free or below-market rent and office staff. Both the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law are intended to ensure that physicians’ medical judgments are not compromised by improper financial incentives and instead are based on the best interests of their patients.
The settlement resolves allegations that between 2006 and 2018, OCOM and USP provided improper remuneration to SOS and certain of its physicians in exchange for patient referrals to OCOM in the form of (i) free or below-fair market value office space, employees, and supplies, (ii) compensation in excess of fair market value for the services provided by SOS and certain of its physicians, (iii) equity buyback provisions and payments for certain SOS physicians that exceeded fair market value, and (iv) preferential investment opportunities in connection with the provision of anesthesia services at OCOM. The alleged conduct resulted in the submission of claims for services provided to these illegally referred patients, in violation of the False Claims Act and the Oklahoma Medicaid False Claims Act. The settlement also resolves issues arising out of USP’s preferential offering of investment opportunities to physicians at four surgery facilities in Texas. As a result of this settlement, USP will pay $60.86 million to the United States, $5 million to the State of Oklahoma, and $206,000 to the State of Texas. SOS and two of its physicians, Anthony L. Cruse, D.O., and R.J. Langerman, Jr., D.O., will pay $5.7 million to the United States, and $495,619 to the State of Oklahoma.
The Relator (whistleblower), Wayne Allison, was represented in this matter by Nix Patterson, LLP Partner Michael Angelovich and associate Brad Beskin.