The U.S. Justice Department again has asked a federal judicial panel to consolidate all of the Medicare fraud whistleblower civil lawsuits filed against Nashville-based Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.
Both the government and Columbia have sought the consolidation to speed the process of resolving all the cases by entering one global settlement.
No date has been set to hear the motion, which was filed Aug. 12 before the Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation.
In a public statement Columbia released earlier this year, the company said it had arranged a $1 billion letter of credit to pay for any settlement.
In February, the same judicial panel denied the first request by both sides to consolidate cases, saying it could not transfer all the cases into one jurisdiction because many of the lawsuits were then sealed. Since then, the government has partially unsealed some of those cases to allow judges to learn of their existence.
Justice Department spokeswoman Chris Watney said eight whistleblower suits have been unsealed and are pending, but she declined to disclose the number of suits that remain sealed. Insiders said there are at least 18 other suits under seal.
The government has intervened as a plaintiff in five of the eight unsealed Columbia lawsuits.
They were filed between 1993 and 1998 in federal district courts across the country. The allegations include falsified Medicare cost reports and illegal kickbacks for patient referrals.
The government has declined to intervene in three other unsealed lawsuits, which are pending with the relators as the sole plaintiffs.
Seven other suits have been unsealed and dismissed in federal courts.
Watney said the proposed consolidation does not resolve the pending criminal fraud investigation of Columbia and its executives.
To date, that investigation has resulted in the conviction of two Columbia executives on charges of Medicare fraud. They are to be sentenced in October.