The largest health system in the state of Utah has agreed to pay the Federal government $25.5 million to settle claims that it violated laws governing physician referrals and payments. But an official with Intermountain Healthcare says they didn’t realize they were in violation of the law until after an internal review.
The non-profit corporation confessed to the discrepancies back in 2009. They say they discovered from the year 2000 to 2009 they had violated so-called Stark laws by renting office space to physicians after their leases had expired. They also gave bonuses to physicians based on a formula that could potentially incentivize the performance of unnecessary services. Dr. Brent Wallace is Chief Medical Officer for Intermountain Healthcare.
“Really the big takeaway from this is that, one, we discovered it by ourselves," Wallace says. "We self-reported it because we wanted to be compliant with all the laws and regulations.”
Wallace says IHC has since put in place proper oversight to ensure hospitals are in compliance moving forward.
"We believe that we are an organization of integrity that wants to do things the right way and be a good provider in our community," Wallace says.
Stark Laws consist of hundreds of pages of regulations defining the ways in which physicians and hospitals can contract together to prevent improper relationships.
In a statement, a U.S. Department of Justice official says such relationships can corrupt a physician’s judgment about the patient’s true healthcare needs. The official added the settlement should deter others from making similar mistakes and eventually make health care more affordable to patients.