Adventist to pay $118 million to settle false claims suit

Adventist Health System has agreed to pay $118.7 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit that alleges the Florida-based company paid kickbacks to doctors in exchange for referrals.

The 2012 lawsuit alleges Adventist, which operates skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals and other healthcare facilities in 10 states, gave physicians bonuses and increased salaries, and allowed them to overbill, in exchange for referring their patients to Adventist facilities. The suit was filed by three former employees of an Adventist hospital in Hendersonville, NC.

The settlement also will cover a 2013 lawsuit with similar allegations, and resolves claims that Adventist overbilled government healthcare programs.

The federal government will receive $115 million portion of the settlement, with $3.4 million going to the  state of Florida. The rest of the money will be split between North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. The three whistleblowers could potentially receive 15% to 25% of the settlement, but their share has yet to be determined.

The settlement is the largest ever paid in a case involving hospitals giving kickbacks to physicians in exchange for referrals, a lawyer for the plaintiffs told Reuters.