The U.S. Justice Department announced that Morton Plant Mease Health Care, Inc., and some of its affiliates (collectively “Morton Plant’), have agreed to pay $10.1 million to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act. According to Morton Plant’s website, it operates a group of hospitals, outpatient and surgical centers, urgent care facilities, rehabilitation centers, and a home health care agency on Florida’s gulf coast. Morton Plant employs over 1,200 doctors and 6,900 staff members.
According to the Justice Department, the Morton Plant affiliates involved in the settlement include Morton Plant Hospital (Clearwater), St. Joseph’s Hospital (Tampa), Morton Plant North Bay Hospital (New Port Richey), St. Anthony’s Hospital (St. Petersburg), Mease Countryside Hospital (Safety Harbor), and Mease Dunedin Hospital (Dunedin).
The allegations were first brought in 2008 by whistleblower Randi Ferrare, a former director of Health Management Services at Morton Plant Hospital. Ms. Ferrare filed a complaint under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. The whistleblower alleged that between 2006 and 2008, Morton Plant submitted false claims to Medicare for certain cardiac and vascular procedures that were improperly billed as inpatient care when they should have been billed as less costly outpatient care.
The False Claims Act allows for private citizens to bring suit on behalf of the United States for violations of the False Claims Act. The whistleblowers, or relators as they are called, may be entitled to share in any recovery or settlement amount received by the government. The whistleblower in this case will receive approximately $1.8 million of the settlement amount as her reward.