Florida hospitals pay $10M to settle CV suit

Morton Plant Mease Health Care and its affiliated hospitals, which serve two Tampa Bay counties in Florida, have agreed to pay more than $10 million to the federal government to resolve allegations that they improperly billed for interventional cardiac and vascular procedures.

The whistleblower suit alleged that Morton Plant Mease violated the False Claims Act by submitting false claims for services given to Medicare patients between July 1, 2006 and July 31, 2008. According to the suit, the services for certain interventional cardiac and vascular procedures were provided as inpatient care when those services should have been billed as less costly outpatient care or as observational status.

In a statement, Morton Plant Mease said it had cooperated with the inquiry and entered into the settlement agreement to avoid protracted litigation. It made no admission of liability or wrongdoing.

“The healthcare provided was reasonable and necessary,” according to the statement. “Inpatients and observation/outpatients receive the same quality of care, treatments and therapies on the same units by the same nurses and doctors.”

Morton Plant Mease owns and operates, or is affiliated with, Morton Plant Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Morton Plant North Bay Hospital, St. Anthony’s Hospital, Mease Countryside Hospital, and Mease Dunedin Hospital. These hospitals are part of the BayCare Health System in Florida’s Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco counties.

Randi Ferrare, a former director of health management services at Morton Plant Hospital, filed the lawsuit. She will receive more than $1.8 million as her share of the government’s recovery.