Colorado Neurosurgeon Pays Hefty Settlement Over Kickback Allegations
Dr. William Choi and three distributors of spinal equipment owned by him, paid $2.35 million to resolve allegations that the Colorado neurosurgeon received illegal payments by using spinal implant equipment when performing surgery on his Medicare and Medicaid patients.
The Anti-Kickback Statute of the False Claims Act makes it unlawful for a doctor to receive money or other incentives intended to influence the doctor’s healthcare decisions for a patient. The statute protects explicitly patients who participate in federal healthcare programs, like Medicare or Medicaid, which subsidize the patients’ healthcare expenses.
Dr. Choi, who performs spinal surgeries, allegedly arranged to receive kickbacks by creating two distributorships of spinal equipment. The companies, Nexus Spine, LLC, and 4D Spine, LLC, provided at his request spinal implant equipment, such as rods, screws, and cages to the hospitals where Dr. Choi performed surgery. Though various third parties are registered owners of both distributorships, Dr. Choi maintained sole control of these companies as well as their finances. By choosing to use supplies in surgery provided by his distributorships, Dr. Choi was allegedly wrongfully taking taxpayer’s dollars.
The whistleblower, Mark Rahe, is a former employee of both Dr. Choi’s medical practice and 4DSpine, LLC, and had inside knowledge of the kickback relationship between the two entities. Mr. Rahe brought this illegal activity to the attention of the United States government and thereby assisted in the administration of justice for the American taxpayers and the medical community.
“When doctors receive kickbacks, those kickbacks undermine patient trust in our healthcare system, and they also drive up medical costs,” said United States Attorney Jason Dunn. “It is important for patients to know that when a doctor chooses equipment for a surgery, that decision is being made solely on that patient’s best interest, and is not impacted in any way by someone paying a kickback. And it is important for doctors to know that if they get illegal kickbacks, they face serious penalties.”