WEIRTON, W.Va. (AP) — A hospital in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle has agreed to pay $1.5 million to the federal government to settle allegations that the medical center provided financial incentives to physicians for referring Medicare patients there, U.S. Justice Department officials said Thursday.
Weirton Medical Center was accused of violating the Stark Law, which prohibits medical providers from receiving kickbacks or other financial incentives in exchange for referring patients who receive treatment paid for by government healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
The law is intended to ensure that medical decision-making is based on the best interests of the patient, federal officials said in a press release.
“Health care decisions should be based on patients’ medical needs, not physicians’ financial interests,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “The department will continue to investigate financial relationships that may improperly influence physician decision-making.”
The settlement comes after Weirton Medical Center officials voluntarily disclosed potential Stark Law violations to federal authorities.
Weirton Medical Center did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.