Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Morton Plant Mease hospitals pay $2.4 million to settle federal overbilling claims

CLEARWATER — Four Morton Plant Mease hospitals have agreed to pay the federal government more than $2 million to settle charges that they overbilled Medicare for a procedure used to treat spinal fractures often related to osteoporosis.

The hospitals in the nonprofit BayCare Health System were part of a $34 million settlement announced last week by the U.S. Department of Justice. It involved 55 hospitals nationally, including a dozen in Florida, concerning billing practices for a procedure called kyphoplasty.

In kyphoplasty, a physician uses a balloon and cement material to repair certain spinal fractures. The treatment can usually be done on an outpatient basis. But the hospitals had been billing Medicare for hospital admissions, netting higher payments.

The settlement covered patients treated between 2001 and 2010 at Morton Plant Hospital, Mease Dunedin Hospital, Mease Countryside and Morton Plant North Bay.

Federal officials highlighted the case as an example of their commitment to fighting health care fraud.

"We will not stand by and allow hospitals to inflate their profits based on unnecessary hospital admissions at the expense of the Medicare program or any other federal program," said William J. Hochul, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, in a statement.

Morton Plant Mease officials admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, stemming from a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by two former employees of the company that sold the materials needed to perform kyphoplasty.

Federal officials have now entered into similar deals with more than 100 hospitals charged with overbilling for kyphoplasty.

"We based our decisions on what we believed to be right for our patients, based on information that was available at the time," said Beth Hardy, a spokeswoman for the Morton Plant Mease system, stressing its commitment to complying with the latest federal regulations. "That can be a complex process."

The $2.4 million settlement is the second major false claims settlement in less than a year for BayCare. Last fall, six of its hospitals, including the Morton Plant Mease facilities, agreed to pay more than $10 million to settle allegations of overbilling for cardiac procedures for Medicare patients.

That case similarly focused on billing for hospital admissions that would have been less expensive as outpatients.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this article. Letitia Stein can be reached at

Morton Plant Mease hospitals pay $2.4 million to settle federal overbilling claims 07/08/13 [Last modified: Monday, July 8, 2013 11:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash


    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle


    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators


    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.