The U.S. attorney in Chicago and the Illinois attorney general accused three Chicago health systems of defrauding the government in civil lawsuits unsealed today. Two of those systems, the University of Chicago Hospitals and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, paid $115,000 and $23,587, respectively, to resolve allegations that they admitted liver transplant patients to intensive-care units when those admissions were not medically necessary and billed Medicare and Medicaid for those unnecessary procedures. Both systems signed the agreements while denying legal wrongdoing. The third system, the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago has not settled. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald alleged that the University of Illinois hospital defrauded Medicare and Medicaid of more than $1 million. The charges against all three hospitals stem from a civil False Claims Act lawsuit filed in 1999 by Richard Pollack, a liver transplant surgeon and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
A spokesman for the university, Mark Rosati, said the hospital is cooperating with the government's investigation. "Our physicians acted at all times with the utmost concern for the welfare of patients very ill with liver disease," Rosati said. "Since the matter is in litigation, we cannot comment further." -- by Mark Taylor