HILTON HEAD ISLAND (AP) — The parent company of Hilton Head Hospital is denying allegations that the hospital was involved in a kickback scheme involving the Medicaid program.
A federal whistle-blower lawsuit accuses the Hilton Head Hospital and others in Georgia of paying kickbacks to clinics that directed expectant mothers in the country illegally to their hospitals and filed fraudulent Medicaid claims on those patients.
The Island Packet of Hilton Head reported that a Hilton Head Hospital spokeswoman referred questions to Tenet Healthcare’s corporate office in Dallas.
Tenet spokeswoman Ashley Walton says the company thinks its agreements between Hispanic Medical Management and Hilton Head Hospital were appropriate. Walton says the company thinks the hospital provided needed health care for underserved pregnant women.
Federal law prohibits hospitals from paying to get patient referrals.
Also, people living in the country illegally are not eligible for Medicaid coverage except in emergencies. Medicaid does consider childbirth an emergency condition.
It’s unclear how long the relationship between Hilton Head Hospital and Hispanic Medical Management lasted. The Tenet spokeswoman said Hispanic Medical Management’s clinic on Hilton Head Island, Clinica de la Mama, closed in 2011. It had opened in 2006.
Hilton Head Hospital was the only Tenet hospital in South Carolina with an agreement with Hispanic Medical Management.
The lawsuit says the hospitals fraudulently billed Medicaid for tens of thousands of ineligible claims, and asks that the hospitals pay damages and penalties.