University of Miami settles 3 suits alleging fraudulent billing, unnecessary lab tests for $22M

By Dave Muoio, Fierce Healthcare, May 12, 2021.

Article Summary: University of Miami has agreed to pay $22M to resolve allegations
that it violated the False Claims Act by ordering medically unnecessary laboratory
tests and submitting false claims.

The University of Miami has agreed to settle three whistleblower lawsuits alleging
fraudulent billing and medically unnecessary lab tests for $22 million, the U.S.
Department of Justice (DOJ) announced in a May 10 release.

The three cases in question were first filed by individuals against the university
between July 2013 and April 2014 and then pursued by the government under
provisions of the False Claims Act. They were first unsealed in November and
reported on at the time by the Miami Herald.

Alongside the payment, the University of Miami has agreed to enter into a corporate
integrity agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as
part of the settlement.

“Bilking the Medicare program and patients by charging for medically unnecessary
services will always draw the attention of my office,” Special Agent in Charge Omar
Pérez Aybar of the HHS Office of Inspector General said in a statement. “Working
with our law enforcement partners, our agents are committed to investigating
alleged billing scams that result in tremendous costs to federal health care programs
and its beneficiaries.”

According to court documents cited by the DOJ, the University of Miami allegedly
converted multiple physicians' offices it operates to hospital facilities and then billed
at the higher payment rates associated with the setting without informing Medicare
program beneficiaries.

Hospitals are required to provide beneficiaries with a notice explaining that they and
their Medicare program would face higher costs when receiving services at a hospital
facility. The cited documents alleged that the University of Miami continued to seek
payments without appropriate notice “even after being advised by a Medicare
Administrative Contractor that its notice practices were deficient,” the DOJ wrote.

The other two alleged violations settled by the university also involved Jackson
Memorial Hospital, which the DOJ noted had agreed to a separate $1.1 million

Here, patients who checked into the Miami Transplant Institute (which is jointly run
by the University of Miami and Jackson Memorial Hospital) allegedly received a
preset series of tests that were conducted by a University of Miami lab. “Several” of
these tests were medically unnecessary “and dictated by financial considerations
rather than patient care,” the DOJ wrote.

Further, the university allegedly caused Jackson Memorial Hospital to submit
inflated reimbursement claims for pre-transplant lab tests conducted at the jointly
run transplant program. To do so, the DOJ wrote that the University of Miami
allegedly made the hospital purchase those tests directly from the university “at
inflated rates in exchange for [University of Miami’s] surgeons and Department of
Surgery continuing to perform surgeries” at the hospital.

The University of Miami confirmed the settlement in a statement provided to Fierce

“The agreement resolved claims filed in 2013 stemming from certain past
administrative practices, including billing notices at [University of Miami Health
System’s (UHealth’s)] outpatient clinics and lab testing protocols at its transplant
center,” the statement reads. “UHealth’s best-in-class quality of care was never in

question. We are pleased to have concluded this matter and continue to be focused
on delivering high-quality healthcare to the South Florida community.”

UHealth is comprised of three hospitals and over 30 outpatient facilities across
South Florida. It employs more than 1,200 physicians and scientists.

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