Five hospitals in the Tampa Bay region have agreed to settle allegations that they improperly increased their Medicare billings by frequently charging inpatient rates for a spinal procedure that can be performed less expensively on an outpatient basis, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday.
Topping the list was Citrus Memorial Health System in Inverness, which agreed to pay $2.6 million in fines. Tampa General Hospital will pay $2 million. And three hospitals affiliated with BayCare Health System in Clearwater — St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg and Winter Haven Hospital — have agreed to pay a total of $1.5 million.
The five were among 32 facilities in 15 states that agreed to fines totaling $28 million. The government emphasized that the claims against the hospitals are allegations, "and there have been no determinations of liability."
According to the Justice Department, the allegations involve minimally invasive kyphoplasty procedures used to treat certain spinal fractures that often are due to osteoporosis. The government said the 32 settlements bring to 105 the number of hospitals that have resolved allegations regarding kyphoplasty.
All but three of the 32 were named as defendants in a whistle-blower lawsuit brought under the False Claims Act, which permits private citizens to bring lawsuits on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of the proceeds of any settlement or judgment awarded against a defendant.
In this case, two whistle-blowers who worked for a company that makes the orthopedic balloons used in kyphoplasty will receive about $4.75 million from the settlements announced Friday.