500 hospitals agree to quarter-billion in federal fines

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Friday, October 30, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPVI) -- The Justice Department has reached agreement with 457 hospitals in 43 states, including just over a dozen in our area, accused of violating Medicare rules on heart devices.

The government says the hospitals implanted defibrillators in patients who may not have needed them, by not observing the required waiting period.

Medicare rules require waiting 40 days after a patient has a heart attack, heart bypass surgery, or angioplasty, before implanting an ICD, or implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

The waiting period is to give the heart the opportunity to recover function on its own to the point that an ICD may not be necessary.

The Department of Justice says from 2003 to 2010, each of the settling hospitals implanted ICDs during the prohibited time period.

They are paying a quarter BILLION dollars in fines.

According to federal officials, this is one of the largest whistleblower lawsuits, in terms of the number of defendants.

Most were named in a suit brought under the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens to bring lawsuits on behalf of U.S. and receive a portion of the proceeds.

The suit was filed in Florida by Leatrice Ford Richards, a cardiac nurse, and Thomas Schuhmann, a healthcare reimbursement consultant.

The local facilities named in the settlement include: Brandywine Hospital, Cooper Health, Christiana Care, Deborah Heart & Lung Center, Easton Hospital, Hahnemann University Hospital, Lancaster Regional Medical Center, Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Phoenixville Hospital, Robert Wood Johnson Health Care, St. Joseph's Medical Center in Reading, and St. Mary Medical Center.

The whistleblowers have received more than $38 million from the settlements.

The Department of Justice is continuing to investigate additional hospitals and health systems.