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St. Joseph Medical Center Settles Stent Cases

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   May 07, 2013

A civil suit involving allegedly unnecessary stent procedures at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, MD has taken a significant step toward final resolution.

Last week 247 former patients agreed to an undisclosed settlement with the medical center, Mark Midei, MD, the cardiologist accused of performing the procedures, and Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives, the medical center's former owner.

The announcement in Baltimore County Circuit Court ended three weeks of testimony in a case that was expected to last three months. Efforts to reach Jay D. Miller, the Towson attorney representing the 247 former patients involved in the settlement, were unsuccessful.

The Baltimore Sun reports that about 45 civil suits remain. Plaintiffs in the civil suits contended that Midei overstated the seriousness of their conditions to "justify use of the stents, a procedure that increased his pay," according to the Sun.

The case involves stents put in place by Midei in 2008 and 2009. At that time Midei was employed by the 263-bed medical center as an interventional cardiologist. The allegations surfaced in 2009 as part of a whistleblower suit, which alleged that St. Joseph violated the Anti-Kickback Act, Stark Law and False Claims Act by paying illegal remuneration to Midei's former cardiology practice to induce referrals.

In 2010 St. Joseph notified about 600 patients treated by Midei that their stent surgeries may have been unnecessary. That same year the medical center agreed to pay $22 million to settle the kickback accusations, as well as for allowing Midei to place medically unnecessary stents in patients covered by federal health benefit programs.

Midei resigned from St. Joseph in November 2009. The Maryland Board of Physicians revoked his state medical license in 2011. His 2012 effort to overturn that revocation was denied.

Midei denies any wrongdoing and has long contended that he is a scapegoat in the kickback scandal. He filed a defamation lawsuit against St. Joseph and CHI in 2011 seeking $60 million in compensation. The Baltimore County Circuit Court dismissed the case in 2012.

HealthLeaders Media was unable Monday to reach Stephen L. Snyder, who is Midei's attorney, to confirm that the defamation suit opinion is under appeal.

The University of Maryland Medical System, a 12-hospital system, acquired St. Joseph Medical Center in December 2012. UMMS formed the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center LLC to take over all hospital operations. In a press release announcing the acquisition, UMMS officials noted that under the asset purchase agreement, UMMS would not assume any of St. Joseph liabilities "arising from events occurring prior to December 1, 2012. These liabilities will remain with SJMC and CHI."

After UMMS acquired St. Joseph, the system applied for a new Medicare provider agreement for the facility, but the hospital failed an inspection by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

In April, UMMS and CMS reached an agreement to restore some of the estimated $25 million UMMS lost on unbilled Medicare services between mid-December 2012 and February 2013 while the new federal agreement was in limbo, according to a report in the Baltimore Business Journal.

In February, the Department of Justice announced that St. Joseph's Medical Center agreed to pay $4.9 million "in connection with its submission of false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs."

Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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