HCA, the Nashville-based hospital giant, disclosed a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging the company subjected patients to medically unnecessary, invasive and costly cardiovascular procedures. The U.S. Justice Department declined to join the suit.
A former employee alleges in a 2012 whistle-blower complaint that HCA hospitals billed the procedures for patients who either didn't have coronary artery disease or whose illness wasn't severe enough to warrant an invasive procedure. The lawsuit was filed by Christopher Gentile, then-director of professional liability claims at an HCA subsidiary in Nashville. Many of the procedures at issue were performed at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute, Fort Pierce, Fla., and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, Hudson, Fla., he claimed in the complaint.
HCA disclosed the lawsuit in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Thursday after the Justice Department declined to intervene in the case. False Claims Act lawsuits are generally less likely to succeed without the government's help. The company previously disclosed that the federal government was probing HCA's interventional cardiology services.
The Miami U.S. attorney's office sent information requests to at least 10 hospitals in 2012, asking how they justified the use of interventional cardiology services. That same office had been involved in reviewing the medical necessity of implantable cardioverter defibrillators recommended to patients at hundreds of U.S. hospitals between 2003 and 2010.
The U.S. attorney's office in Miami is still looking into the medical necessity of cardiology procedures at hospitals other than Lawnwood and Bayonet Point, HCA said in the SEC filing this week.
HCA paid $1.7 billion to the federal government between 2000 and 2003 to settle Medicare fraud allegations related to a probe that became public in 1997. The episode resulted in the ousting of former Chairman and CEO Rick Scott, who is now the governor of Florida.
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