TENET: Agrees to $850,000 Fraud Settlement
Santa Barbara-based Tenet Healthcare Corp. last week agreed to an $850,000 settlement of a federal lawsuit alleging overbilling of government health programs and private insurers at 42 hospitals it acquired last year. Two whistleblowers charged that officials at the hospitals, many of which are in Southern California, used a "now-defunct" billing service, Comprehensive Auditing Services for Hospitals (CASH) of Irvine, to submit charges for services that were either not provided or already reimbursed between 1990 and 1995. In settling the suit, Tenet admitted no wrongdoing. An official for the hospital chain said the deal was reached so Tenet "can get on with its business." Associate general counsel Christi Sulzback said, "Litigating with the government is not really productive for any business. They are our principal (customer) in many instances, and if we can resolve things we are more inclined to take that route." Assistant U.S. Attorney Conseulo Woodhead "noted that while federal health care fraud cases typically involve Medicare," this instance concerned fraudulent billing for the care of government and military employees. Woodhead "said the case should serve notice to would-be cheats that 'you can't just cut out Medicare and scam the other agencies.'" The hospitals involved in the alleged billing fraud were acquired from OrNda Healthcorp; prosecutors noted that the fraud occurred before Tenet bought the facilities (Marsh, Los Angeles Times, 9/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.