Three cardiologists settle for $355K over Stark Law violations

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The U.S. government has reached a settlement with cardiologists Richard A. Cohn, MD, Lee Goldberg, MD, and Timothy M. Marshall, MD, of Tucson, Ariz., contending that from January 2007 to October 2007, they submitted payment claims to the Medicare Program in violation of the physician self-referral law, or Stark Law.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix reported that their actions resulted in false claims for payment to Medicare. Cohn, Goldberg, and Marshall agreed to pay $355,000 to settle the matter. The terms said that the "agreement is not admission of wrongdoing or liability by the doctors, nor is it a concession by the federal government that its claims are not well-founded."

The Arizona Daily Star reported that Cohn, Goldberg and Marshall set up a nuclear-imaging practice together in 2007. After practicing for several months, they discovered their billing practices were in violation of the Stark Law. The physicians reported the error to the federal government and avoided litigation by agreeing to pay a settlement. Their practice, Tucson Cardiovascular Imaging, is no longer in business.

Stark Law prohibits physicians from referring Medicare patients for certain designated health services to an entity with which the physician or a member of the physician's immediate family has a financial relationship, unless an exception applies. It also prohibits an entity from presenting a bill or claim to anyone for a designated health service as a result of that prohibited referral.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG), and Robert K. Lu, assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, conducted the investigation.