Cardiologist who improperly referred patients to hospitals must pay $1M

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A cardiologist in Ohio must pay a $1 million penalty for submitting false claims to Medicare and improperly referring patients to two hospitals following an investigation by federal authorities in Wheeling.

Dr. Devender Batra, president of Belmont Cardiology, will pay that amount for causing Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Regional Hospital to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare from January 2009 to August 2010.

The U.S. attorney's office in Wheeling said the settlement ends an investigation into improper compensation arrangements between Dr. Batra and the two hospitals, which are both owned by Ohio Valley Health Services & Education Corp.

The corporation earlier agreed to pay $3.8 million to settle allegations that it violated the federal Stark Act from 2005 to 2010.

That law prohibits a doctor from making referrals to a hospital for health care services for which Medicare or Medicaid payment may be made if the doctor has a financial relationship with the institution.

Dr. Batra practiced at both hospitals and was being compensated for referring patients there in violation of the law.

In announcing the settlement, federal prosecutors said referrals of patients to hospitals should be free of improper financial influences and said such referrals drive up the cost of health care for everyone.

Torsten Ove: or 412-263-1510.

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