Georgia Hospital to Pay $20 Million for Allegedly Overbilling the Government for In-Patient vs. Out-Patient Hospital Care
On Monday, April 27, 2015, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that The Medical Center of Central Georgia (MCCG), the second largest hospital in Macon, Georgia, agreed to a $20 million settlement to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by overbilling Medicare for unnecessary inpatient care. According to the lawsuit filed by the government, MCCG allegedly charged Medicare for services rendered to patients admitted into the hospital, when less expensive outpatient care would have sufficed. Knowingly billing the government for unnecessary procedures, services, or hospital stays violates the FCA and is considered Healthcare fraud. Additionally, when profits are considered more important than the best interests of patients, trust in the health care system is eroded, and taxpayer dollars are wasted.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with limited income and resources, and also offers benefits not normally covered by Medicare, like nursing home care and personal care services. When a company or individual knowingly bills the Medicaid or Medicare system for bogus or unnecessary services, it is a violation of the FCA. According to the government, MCCG allegedly continued, for a period of four years between 2004 and 2008, to overbill Medicare for services rendered to patients that qualified for observation or outpatient care, but not for the overnight hospital stays for which Medicare was billed. The government alleged that MCCG’s motive was to increase its revenue, and an investigation into it practices revealed MCCG’s alleged violations.
As part of the settlement agreement, MCCG entered into a corporate integrity agreement (a “CIA”) with the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That CIA requires the company to adhere to the rules and regulations outlined in the agreement for a period of five years.