It was recently discovered that Beth Israel Medical Center, in the east side of Manhattan, was cheating the federal government out of millions of dollars in a practice termed “turbocharging”. By fraudulently inflating fees for medicare patients, Beth Israel illegally acquired upwards of $13 million.
Due to statutes of limitation in a health care False Claims Acts filed by the U.S. Government, Beth Israel is only required to pay back the illegally acquired fees between Feb. 21, 2002 and Aug. 7, 2003. Beth Israel started the practice of “turbocharging” in 1998, so even with the hospital’s agreement to pay back $13 million, one can only speculate how many millions of dollars were successfully stolen from the federal government.
Beth Israel, a subsidiary of Continuum Health Partners, claimed fees as reimbursements for patients whose cost of care was higher than average. Though the costs for inpatients have steady risen since 1997, the fees Beth Israel claimed greatly exceeded the reimbursements they should have been receiving.
Internal emails took place among the hospital administrators about keeping the charges high, including an email from vice president for patient financial services at Continuum. The New York Times writes that the vice president for patient financial services for Continuum wrote an email in 2002 stating “keep the charges high even at the lowest levels of service in the E.R.” Beth Israel charged these excessive medicare fees with the green light from their parent company.
Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said, “This settlement demonstrates our commitment to pursuing those whose conduct drives up the cost of health care.” While the lawsuit against Beth Israel has been successfully filed and settled, the statute of limitations does not account for the funds lost to the federal government prior to Feb. 21, 2002. What remains to be seen is whether Bharara’s commitment to pursue hospitals’ taking advantage of government funding is enough to deter future incidents.