St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Hartford, Conn., became the first hospital to settle allegations that it billed Medicaid and other insurers for vaccines the 515-bed hospital received for free under the state-federal Vaccines for Children Program. The investigation, called Operation Free Shot, is limited to Connecticut for now, but it could be expanded nationally, observers said. Under a civil settlement, St. Francis will pay about $300,000 -- double its alleged violations -- to resolve charges that from 1997 to 2004 it billed more than a legally allowed nominal fee for administering vaccines. St. Francis said it deeply regretted "this inadvertent administrative error" and had taken steps to prevent future problems. The hospital signed a certification-of-compliance agreement with HHS' inspector general's office but settled without admitting wrongdoing. Officials said Operation Free Shot had so far resulted in eight civil actions in Connecticut that returned $1.8 million to Medicaid and $3 million to private insurers. -- by Mark Taylor
Conn. hospital settles vaccine case, probe may grow
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