Three area hospitals agree to pay feds $2.28 million

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Three Minneapolis-St. Paul area hospitals have agreed to pay the federal government $2.28 million to settle allegations that the heath care facilities submitted false claims to Medicare, according to the Justice Department.

The hospitals, which are part of the HealthEast Care System, were facing allegations that they overcharged Medicare from 2002 to 2007 by thousands of dollars each time they performed a minimally invasive procedure to treat a condition associated with osteoporosis.

“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that Medicare dollars are spent appropriately, and we will prevent Medicare providers from profiteering by providing unnecessary services,” said Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Department’s Civil Division, in a press release.

St. Joseph’s Hospital, St. John’s Hospital and Woodwinds Hospital are the first hospitals to settle Medicare fraud allegations related to this procedure, according to the Justice Department.

The lawsuit against the HealthEast hospitals was 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. 

The lawsuit was filed in 2008 in federal district court in Buffalo, N.Y., by Craig Patrick of Wisconsin and Charles Bates of Alabama. 

It was not immediately clear how much money Patrick and Bates received. Under the law, Patrick and Bates can receive anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of the federal government’s recovery.

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