CLEARWATER — The Morton Plant Mease health care system has agreed to pay the federal government more than $10 million to settle an investigation into allegations that it overbilled for cardiac procedures for Medicare patients.
The settlement, announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Justice, resolves claims that Morton Plant billed certain interventional cardiac procedures as inpatient care, when authorities say it should have been billed as less costly outpatient care.
"We hold medical providers to a high standard in our district, and we will not hesitate to hold them to account when we find evidence of serious misconduct," said Robert O'Neill, the Tampa-based U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, in a statement. "This settlement should send a strong message that health care fraud enforcement is a growing priority in our office."
The settlement involves care delivered between July 1, 2006 and July 31, 2008 at Morton Plant and its affiliated hospitals in mid-Pinellas County. The 1,200-bed network is part of BayCare Health System, which also operates St. Anthony's in St. Petersburg and the St. Joseph's hospitals in Tampa.
The charges of overbilling came to light in a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by Randi Ferrare. The former director of health management services at Morton Plant Hospital will receive more than $1.8 million of the settlement.
In a statement, Morton Plant Mease president Glenn Waters said the "health care provided was reasonable and necessary," noting that the hospital cooperated with the federal inquiry into its billing codes.
"We entered into this settlement agreement to avoid protracted litigation and to resolve claims where the billing status was disputed by the government," he said. "There was no admission of liability or wrongdoing in this settlement."