University Behavioral Health to pay $860,000 for alleged false claims, kickbacks

EL PASO, Texas - University Behavioral Health of El Paso has been ordered to pay $860,000 under a civil settlement with the Department of Justice. 

The announcement was made Thursday by United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Douglas E. Lindquist, El Paso Division.

The civil settlement of more than three-quarters of a million dollars to resolve allegations it made improper payments to a doctor who referred patients to the hospital.  The allegations resolved by the settlement include submitting false claims to Medicare and paying kickbacks to the doctor in exchange for referring patients.

The doctor was not named in a news release.

Specifically, the physician received payments above fair market value, or for services not rendered, and made improper referrals to the hospital for Medicare-reimbursed services.

Federal law, including the Anti-Kickback Act and the Stark Law, seeks to ensure that services reimbursable by federal healthcare programs are based on the best interests of patients rather than the personal financial interests of referring physicians.

The settlement covers certain claims submitted to Medicare by UBH for the period from February 1, 2010, through December 31, 2013. 

The professional services agreement at issue was entered into by a previous owner of UBH. 

In October 2012, University Health Services, Inc. ("UHS") acquired UBH, which operated the hospital known as University Behavioral Health, now known as the El Paso Behavioral Health System. 

UHS terminated the professional services agreement effective December 31, 2013.

The settlement was the result of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas and the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. 

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