A trial this week involving the once-celebrated Dallas-based Forest Park Medical Center is said to be one of the biggest health care fraud trials in history. There are as many as 150 witnesses as part of the government's case against ten defendants, which include four surgeons and one pain doctor.
As The Dallas Morning News reported, the jury will have a tough job to do and will be hearing complex testimony regarding the intricacies of federal anti-kickback laws and the "safe harbor" exceptions that apply.
The doctor-owned Forest Park Medical Center hospital-chain was once extremely successful, earning tens of millions of dollars by performing specialty surgeries. However, the chain has now filed for bankruptcy and is fending off fraud allegations.
The federal charges were filed in 2016 and allege that doctors, recruiters and others were paid $40 million in illegal bribes and kickbacks for schemes used to bring in patients. The operation is said to have been worth $200 million.
The defendants in the trial have all denied wrongdoing. In their court papers, several said that they entered marketing arrangements after getting advice from attorneys that the arrangements were legal. They say that these marketing programs they participated in were not tied to the number of surgeries that they performed at the medical center and were not in violation of anti-kickback laws.
Instead, they claim that these kinds of marketing practices – even ones that target patients with private insurance instead of Medicare or Medicaid – are common throughout the country.
In court papers, one defense lawyer said that the case will “impact numerous financial arrangements throughout the health care industry.”
This will be an important case to follow as it unfolds in trial this week and beyond. It tackles very complex and important questions affecting professionals in the medical industry.