The U.S. Justice Department said it has joined a lawsuit against the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals of Cleveland alleging that the academic medical centers improperly billed Medicare for procedures involving experimental cardiac devices from 1990 to 1995. The government joined the case in 2002, but it had been under seal until recently. The allegations stem from a 1994 whistleblower lawsuit naming more than 130 hospitals nationwide. Medicare rules regarding experimental devices have since changed. The Justice Department has intervened in 38 pending cases and so far negotiated settlements with 34 other hospitals for a total of $45 million. The pending cases will be consolidated for pretrial purposes in Connecticut. Last year, a federal judge broke the lawsuit into multiple cases and transferred each to various district courts. The government fought to have the cases reconsolidated.
In other legal news, U.S. District Court in Washington approved a previously announced final settlement of civil Medicare fraud charges against HCA, the company said. HCA, Nashville, will pay the U.S. $631 million plus interest by July 8. State Medicaid programs will receive $17.5 million. -- by Patrick Reilly and Vince Galloro