Health care systems pay to settle overbilling claims

Capitol Area East End Complex, Sacramento, California
Capitol Area East End Complex, Sacramento, California

Two California health care operators have collectively paid $2.3 million to settle claims that they overcharged the government for medical services.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento said Wednesday that Sutter Health Association has paid more than $1.4 million to the United States and Catholic Healthcare West paid more than $875,000.

Federal Department of Health and Human Services auditors found the two improperly billed the government more than once for two similar medical procedures, infusion therapy and lithotripsy.

Infusion therapy generally means a drug given through an IV, whereas lithotripsy is a medical procedure that uses shock waves to break up kidney stones.

Catholic Healthcare West is the nation's fifth largest hospital provider, and the largest in California. The 36 affiliate hospitals involved in the overbilling are located in California, Nevada, and Arizona.

The 25 Sutter Health Association hospitals are all in Northern California.

Authorities say the hospitals cooperated.

“This office will actively pursue recovery of Medicare dollars,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner in a press release. “This settlement not only recoups overpayments made by Medicare, it helps ensure more accurate billing practices by these hospital systems in the future.”

Hospital officials could not immediately comment Wednesday.