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Fired Radiologist Files Lawsuit For $4.2 Billion

October 28, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Medical Ethics, Practice Management
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After being fired, a radiologist has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against his former employer in Ohio, alleging an illegal scheme involving free services in exchange for patient referrals.

According to Amber Hunt of the Cincinnati Enquirer, G. Daryl Hallman, MD, filed a federal suit in 2011 under the False Claims Act after Millennium Radiology Inc. (MRI) of Delhi Township, Ohio (near Cincinnati), fired him. The lawsuit says Millennium and two Cincinnati hospitals in the Mercy Health chain, Mt. Airy and Western Hills, engaged in practices that violated the Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act.

From at least 2006 through the filing of the lawsuit, the suit says, Millennium provided free physician administrative services and solicitations of third-party physicians for referrals to the hospitals in exchange for access to patients:

This relationship encouraged MRI to order unnecessary procedures to compensate it for the unpaid administrative and solicitation services.

Altogether, the lawsuit says, the hospitals and Millennium made about 400,000 false claims to Medicare and other federal health care programs. The hospitals received about $52 million from those false claims, and Millennium got about $17.5 million, the suit says. The suit seeks both treble damages and additional penalties allowed under the False Claims Act.

The lawsuit only recently came to light because, as is standard in such suits, it remained secret while the federal government decided whether to intervene on the side of the plaintiff. In this case, the government decided not to do so. Mercy spokeswoman Nanette Bentley told the Enquirer in an e-mail, “The Government conducted a review and declined to intervene. In our view, this confirms our belief that the complaint was frivolous and completely without merit.”

Dr. Hallman’s lawyer, Mark Byrne of Cincinnati, not surprisingly disagreed. He pointed to a $120 million settlement announced last week in a False Claims Act suit against Cincinnati-based pharmacy services provider Omnicare. “The government didn’t intervene in that case either,” Byrne said.

Millennium fired Dr. Hallman in April 2011. That led him to file a separate lawsuit in Hamilton County, Ohio, court against Millennium and its chief executive officer, alleging that he was fired because of age discrimination. Trial in that case is scheduled for June 2014. Byrne said Dr. Hallman now practices radiology in Mississippi.

A motion filed on behalf of Millennium in the age-discrimination case says Millennium fired Dr. Hallman from his $250,000-a-year job “for a number of reasons, among them his unwillingness to perform certain medical procedures, his avoidance of complex readings, his inability to write good medical records, his failure to do extra things to help the practice, and his practice of delaying radiology readings.”

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An new Oregon law says patients must be told they can choose their own radiology provider. Should a sentence or two buried in a big packet of information suffice? Check our Facebook page to see what can happen to a law after it’s signed.

Related CME seminar (up to 35.25 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): UW Radiology Review Course “Not Just for Residents”

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