Hospitals to pay $6.3M for overcharging Medicare

Seven hospitals in six states have agreed to pay the government a total of more than $6.3 million to settle claims that they overcharged Medicare between 2000 and 2008 when performing back surgery known as kyphoplasty, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.

In most cases, kyphoplasty can be done safely and costs less as an outpatient procedure. Yet, the hospitals in question kept kyphoplasty patients overnight to increase Medicare billings, according to the DOJ.

The hospitals are part of a larger whistleblower lawsuit filed against 25 hospitals and Medtronic Spine LLC, formerly known as Kyphon Inc. The new settlements bring the government's total recoveries from the suit to $101 million. The whistleblowers are two former Kyphon employees.

"Hospitals overcharging Medicare take critically needed resources necessary to provide quality care and drive up healthcare costs," Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel Levinson said in a statement. "When Medicare and taxpayers' dollars are threatened, OIG and its federal partners will hold perpetrators accountable."

Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital in Florence, Ala., is among the seven hospitals accused of submitting false claims to Medicare between 2000 and 2008. ECM Hospital settled the claim for $676,038.

Even though Charlotte, N.C.-based Presbyterian Orthopaedic Hospital disagrees with the federal government's allegations, it agreed to pay its $637,872 fine because hospital officials say further litigation would be too costly, notes McClatchy Newspapers.

Lakeland Regional Medical Center, in Lakeland, Fla., will pay the highest fine of $1,660,134.

For more:
- here's the DOJ press release
- here's another press release
- read the Times Daily article
- read the McClatchy Newspapers article