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Area hospitals settle Medicare fraud case for millions of dollars

The widespread prevalence of Medicare fraud hit home recently, as several local hospitals were ordered to pay their part of a multi-million dollar settlement.

The case covered 21 different states, with a grand total of 55 hospitals involved in the judgement. In Southwest Florida, that included: Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor, Port Charlotte's Fawcett Memorial Hospital, Mease Dunedin Hospital, Clearwater's Morton Plant Hospital, Morton Plant North Bay Hospital in New Port Richey, and Fort Myers' Southwest Florida Regional Medical Center.

An attorney associated with the case said that hospitals had made wilful misrepresentations to Medicare. Specifically, the hospitals were accused of billing an inpatient procedure called kyphoplasty as a more expensive outpatient procedure. If you are a medical provider or institutuon being investigated for health care fraud, an experienced criminal defense lawyer may prove invaluable to your case.

The Hospital Corporation of America, HCA, was asked for comments on the case since they own nine of the 55 hospitals involved. In response, a statement was issued by their Nashville-based corporate headquarters. It stated they felt industry care standards were clarified by the ruling, and they considered the issue to be resolved.

Yet, HCA has incurred penalties for Medicare fraud before. Columbia/HCA pleaded guilty to overcharging and related offenses several years ago, eventually being compelled to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in a settlement.

With more than 100 hospitals having been ordered to settle similar cases in the last few years, there is growing concern about how people in need of medical attention are being affected. A chief worry is that limited funds are being spent on inflated bills, leaving less for critical patient care.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Inspector General, Daniel R. Levinson, echoes this concern. In a recent news release, he affirmed that Medicare fraud simultaneously wastes resources and drives up health costs.

Naturally, this situation has resulted in a nationwide call for change. Across the country, people are seeking assurances that the overbilling will be ended so quality medical care can be protected.

Herald-Tribune, "UPDATE: Local hospitals to pay millions in Medicare fraud settlement" Donna Koehn, Jul. 02, 2013

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