HOUSTON — Prosecutors say four Houston-area hospitals will pay $8.6 million to settle allegations of accepting kickbacks from some ambulance companies.

Federal officials on Wednesday announced the settlement with Bayshore Medical Center, Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, West Houston Medical Center and East Houston Regional Medical Center. All are affiliated with Tennessee-based Hospital Corporation of America.

Some patients allegedly received free or heavily discounted transports by various ambulance companies — in exchange for the hospitals’ referral of other lucrative Medicare and Medicaid business to those same companies.

Prosecutors say if not for the kickbacks, which are barred by federal law, the hospitals would have been financially responsible for the patient transports at higher rates.

Authorities say the claims resolved by the settlement are allegations and there’s been no determination of liability.