Tacoma General agrees to $983,000 settlement for false Medicare claims

Tacoma General Hospital
Tacoma General Hospital phaley@thenewstribune.com

Tacoma General Hospital is one of 32 health care facilities across the country that agreed to settlements for allegedly submitting false claims to Medicare for a particular procedure, the federal Department of Justice announced Friday.

This batch of settlements total $28 million and adds to the $105 million already collected from 130 hospitals alleged to have inappropriately billed Medicare for kyphoplasty procedures. The investigation began in 2009.

Kyphoplasty treats certain spinal fractures, usually caused by osteoporosis. It typically is an outpatient procedure, officials said.

Federal officials said many hospitals bill Medicare for inpatient kyphoplasty procedures as a way to increase their Medicare billings.

“Charging the government for higher cost inpatient services that patients do not need wastes the country’s vital health care dollars,” Benjamin C. Mizer, principal deputy assistant attorney general, said in a statement.

Tacoma General, which is accused of inappropriate billing from 2000 to 2008, agreed to pay $983,000.

“MultiCare retained a third party to review its billing practices for this procedure and no evidence of improper or fraudulent billing was found,” Multicare spokeswoman Marce Edwards said via email.

“MultiCare has admitted no liability or wrongdoing in this matter, has not been asked to and has not made changes to our admissions procedures. We settled with the Department of Justice to avoid further costs in litigating this case.”

Only one other health care facility in Washington, Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, is included in the settlement. It will pay $906,000.

The government previously settled with Medtronic Spine LLC, the corporate successor to Kyphon Inc., for $175 million. The company is accused of encouraging hospitals to perform kyphoplasty procedures as inpatient rather than outpatient.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653