- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) - Two hospitals in Washington state are among 32 in 15 states agreeing to make payments to settle allegations that they submitted false claims to the federal Medicare program for a type of procedure.

The News Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1Pd66WQ) that MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital agreed to pay $938,000 and that Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane will pay $906,000.

According to the Justice Department, the settlements announced Friday are the latest to resolve allegations of hospital mischarges for kyphoplasty procedures. That’s a minimally-invasive procedure used to treat certain spinal fractures that often are due to osteoporosis.

The department said whistleblowers’ lawsuits alleged hospitals increased their Medicare billings by charging for the procedures on an inpatient basis, rather than on an outpatient basis.

“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.

The Justice Department said MultiCare Tacoma General did inappropriate billing from 2000 to 2008.

“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 told the newspaper in an 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.”

The hospital supervisor at Sacred Heart Medical Center on Saturday declined to comment to The Associated Press.

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Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com

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