Cardiologist pays $200K to settle kickback case

A cardiologist in Georgia agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a longstanding kickback case, the Atlanta U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

Narasimhulu Neelagaru, MD, a cardiologist in Commerce, Ga., was charged in a whistleblower case with receiving payments between 2000 and 2009 from Banks Jackson Commerce Medical Center for professional and medical director services that allegedly exceeded fair market value. The Office of Inspector General in Atlanta claimed that the medical center received improper payments by Medicare for patients referred by Neelagaru.

In a statement, Neelagaru said he decided to settle the case rather than put more resources into what he called meritless allegations. He added that he “always had legal guidance to ensure that all of my contracts fully complied with every regulation. I firmly believe that I never violated the law.”

Banks Jackson Commerce Medical Center settled with the government in September 2010 but the case involving Neelagaru remained unresolved. The center paid $329,000 in a settlement and Neelagaru will pay $200,000. 

The case stems from a lawsuit filed by Ralph D. Williams under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act. Williams in entitled to a share of the settlement payment.

“The settlement resolves claims that BJC [Banks Jackson Commerce Medical Center] improperly billed the Medicare program for certain procedures and services rendered to patients in violation of the Physician Self-Referral Law, commonly known as the Stark Law, and in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute,” the United States Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia wrote.  

The settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing and the civil settlement has no determination of liability.