$14.5M settlement in overbilling case

SEATTLE — A Tacoma-based physician provider company has agreed to pay $14.5 million to settle allegations it overbilled Medicare and other federal health programs, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

The department alleges Sound Inpatient Physicians Inc. overbilled the federal government between 2004 and 2012.

Sound Inpatient Physicians provides physicians to hospitals and post-acute facilities in 22 states. They provide “hospitalists,” who are typically trained in internal medicine and work exclusively with hospital inpatients. They don’t have an office or an outpatient practice.

The company “knowingly submitted” inflated claims on behalf of its hospitalists for higher and more expensive levels of service than were documented in patient medical records, the federal government alleged.

“Fraudulently inflated billing of government health care programs puts those programs at risk, and impacts the system’s ability to care for the neediest in our communities,” said U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Jenny Durkan.

“During this time of tight government budgets, we will do all we can to make sure everyone plays by the rules and does not run up the taxpayers’ tab,” she said.

A message left with Sound Inpatient Physicians was not immediately returned.

The Department of Justice began the investigation after a former employee of the company sued under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act. That employee, Craig Thomas, will get $2.7 million of the settlement.

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