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Akron Univ. School of Law

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Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Suits Seek Recoupment of Medicare Funds

As reported by Kaiser Family Foundation's Daily Health Policy Report:

     Two law firms have filed lawsuits in multiple states over allegations that a number of hospitals have improperly billed Medicare for treatment of injuries or illnesses caused by medical errors, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the Times, the lawsuits, which "could potentially win millions of dollars," do not involve specific allegations of wrongdoing "but seek instead to find evidence of such treatments, arguing that Medicare should be reimbursed" (Yi, Los Angeles Times, 6/7). Florida-based law firm Wilkes & McHugh has filed such lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Arkansas against Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives, Texas-based Triad Hospitals and their malpractice insurers. The lawsuit alleges that the companies "breached their duties to Medicare" when they accepted "millions of dollars in payments" for treatment of injuries or illnesses caused by medical errors (Baskin, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 6/7). Wilkes & McHugh also has filed such lawsuits in California, New Jersey and Florida. The California lawsuits, filed on Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, name Adventist Health, County Villa Service, Catholic Healthcare West, Kindred Healthcare, Longwood Management, Mariner Health Care and Tenet California as defendants.

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Tenet California spokesperson David Langness said, "These are the kinds of baseless lawsuits that contribute to the high cost of health care today" (Los Angeles Times, 6/7). Attorneys at Wilkes & McHugh offices in Florida and Arkansas declined to comment on the lawsuits. A spokesperson for CMS, which is not involved in the lawsuits, also declined to comment. However, CMS Administrator Mark McClellan last month said that Medicare should not have to reimburse hospitals for treatment of injuries or illnesses caused by 27 categories of medical errors. In addition, CMS last month in a statement said that Medicare reimbursements to hospitals for treatment of infections will decrease in October 2007, with additional reductions in reimbursements for treatment of injuries or illnesses caused by medical errors likely in the future (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 6/7).

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