Three anesthesia providers and several outpatient surgery centers pay $28 Million to settle kickback and False Claims Act case

Three anesthesia providers and several Georgia outpatient surgery centers, and their physician-owners and an administrator, agreed to pay more than $28 million to resolve allegations that they entered into kickback arrangements by paying and receiving payments for medications, supplies, equipment and labor as well as free staffing in exchange for the referral of patients.

Anesthesia providers typically depend on hospitals and outpatient surgery centers for their income.  If an anesthesia provider can secure an exclusive contract for anesthesia services with a center, it is guaranteed a steady stream of patient referrals during the term of the contract.  As a result, anesthesia providers compete aggressively for these contracts.

The Government alleges that, between 2005 and 2015, Ambulatory Anesthesia of Atlanta, LLC (f/k/a Ambulatory Anesthesia of Atlanta, PC) (“AAA”) and Northside Anesthesiology Consultants, LLC (“NAC”) made payments for drugs, supplies, equipment and labor, and provided free staffing to a number of Georgia outpatient surgery centers in order to induce the centers to select AAA and NAC to be their exclusive anesthesia providers.  The Government alleges that these arrangements were negotiated by Stanford Plavin, M.D. on behalf of AAA and NAC.  The Government alleges that these arrangements violated the Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b(b), and caused the submission of false claims in violation of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729, et seq.

The following individuals and entities have entered into settlement agreements with the Government (listed in alphabetical order):

•         Ambulatory Anesthesia of Atlanta, LLC (“AAA”)

•         Arif A. Aziz, M.D.

•         Jean Calhoun

•         Jay A. Cherner, M.D.

•         David Finkelman, M.D.

•         Alan M. Fixelle, M.D.

•         DCA Diagnostics, L.L.C.

•         The Endoscopy Center, LLC (Savannah)

•         Endoscopy Consultants, LLC

•         Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, P.C.

•         Georgia Endoscopy Center, LLC

•         G.I. Diagnostics Endoscopy Center, L.L.C.

•         Eugene H. Hirsh, M.D.

•         A. Steven McIntosh, M.D.

•         North Fulton Medical Center, Inc.

•         Northside Anesthesiology Consultants, LLC (“NAC”)

•         Northwest Georgia Orthopaedic Surgery Center, LLC

•         Stanford Plavin, M.D.

•         M. Thomas Riddick, M.D.

•         Bruce A. Salzberg, M.D.

•         Gary S. Simon, M.D.

•         David N. Socoloff, D.O.

•         United Surgical Partners International, Inc.

•         Wellbrook Endoscopy Center, P.C.

This settlement resolves a lawsuit originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia by Kathleen Hartney-Velazco, M.D., Jan Kersey and Capitol Anesthesiology, P.C. (the Relators) under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.  United States ex rel. Capitol Anesthesiology, P.C., et al. v. Stanford Plavin, M.D., et al., No. 1:11-cv-2513-SCJ.  Under the False Claims Act, private citizens may bring suit for false claims on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery obtained by the government.  The Relators have received over $4,700,000.00 from the settlement.