DaVita agrees to $389M fine in kickback scheme

Feb. 12, 2014 at 3:56 PM

DENVER, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Denver-based DaVita Healthcare said it will pay a $389 million fine to settle allegations it engaged in a kickback scheme with doctors at some dialysis centers.

The company said Tuesday the fine would end an investigation by the Denver U.S. Attorney's office, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general.

Federal regulators alleged DaVita sold part ownership of 28 dialysis centers to doctors at a price well below market value to ensure the doctors steered their kidney patients to the DaVita-owned facilities.

Providing kidney dialysis treatments is a lucrative part of the healthcare industry and while patients can technically go wherever they wish to receive the treatment, the Denver Post said most tend to go to clinics where their doctors oversee the process, making wooing doctors an attractive proposition for clinic owners.

A federal anti-kickback law makes it illegal for money to change hands in exchange for steering patients to medical facilities.

DaVita CEO Kent Thiry said the company had "agreed to a framework" for settling the federal investigations and the company and regulators would finalize paying the fine in the coming months.

DaVita officials said the company would also likely sell its shares in the suspect dialysis centers at "fair market value."

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