6 surgeon, practice settlements with the federal government


Following is a list of six cases this year where surgeons and/or practices agreed to settlements to resolve false claims, kickback and other allegations with the federal government.

In September, Athens (Ga.) Orthopedic agreed to settle systemic HIPAA noncompliance allegations and will pay $1.5 million as well as adopting a corrective action plan. In 2016, hackers accessed the group's EHR through a vendor's credentials and requested payment in exchange for the copy of its stolen database. Athens Orthopedic later reported to the Office for Civil Rights that 208,557 individuals were affected by the breach.

Sagi Kuznits, MD, and the director of his Neurosurgical Care Pnina Kuznits practice agreed to pay $1 million to settle the false claim allegations. They are accused of billing Medicare, Tricare and other federal programs for implanting neurostimulators when the actual procedure was a nonsurgical application of Stivax and/or P-stim, which are electro-acupuncture devices.

In July, Oklahoma City-based Oklahoma Center for Orthopaedic and Multi-Specialty Surgery agreed to resolve allegations that it made improper payments in exchange for patient referrals over a 12-year period. The specialty hospital, along with its part-owner and management company USP OKC and USP OKC Manager, Oklahoma City-based Southwest Orthopaedic Specialists, and two SOS physicians, will pay $77.2 million to settle whistleblower claims that their relationships were improper.

Russell Hudgens, MD, and Alabama Orthopaedic Clinic in Mobile agreed in July to pay the U.S. Department of Justice $74,000 to settle allegations that they violated the Controlled Substances Act. The DOJ alleges that the two parties failed to make a "complete and accurate record" of all controlled substances at a workers' compensation pharmacy they operated.

Jeffrey Carlson, MD, agreed to pay the DOJ $1.75 million in April to settle allegations that he accepted kickbacks from SpineFrontier. Dr. Carlson is the sixth surgeon to settle fraud allegations relating to interactions with the spine device manufacturer.

In February, William Choi, MD, paid the federal government $2.35 million to settle claims that he violated the Anti-Kickback Statute and False Claims Act. Dr. Choi was accused of secretly running two implant distribution companies that sold implants to three Colorado hospitals where he performed spine surgeries. 

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