Five people, including a former hospital executive and two surgeons, are charged with a massive kickback scheme that resulted in billing $580 million to the government and insurance companies, authorities announced Tuesday.
Two already pleaded guilty and the others have agreed to plead guilty in connection to the scheme, which involved paying tens of millions of dollars to dozens of doctors, chiropractors and others to refer patients to two Southern California hospitals for spinal surgeries, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office.
Over an eight-year period, Pacific Hospital of Long Beach and Tri-City Regional Medical Center in Hawaiian Gardens billed thousands of operations to California's workers' compensation system, the U.S. Department of Labor and workers' compensation insurers.
"Some of the patients lived hundreds of miles away from Pacific Hospital, and closer to other qualified medical facilities. The patients were not informed that medical professionals had been offered kickbacks to induce them to refer the surgeries to Pacific Hospital," the U.S. attorney's statement said.
"Injured workers were treated like livestock by doctors and hospitals who paid or accepted kickbacks and bribes in exchange for referrals," California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a statement.