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Hospitals to pay $34m in settlement

ST. LOUIS — Fifty-five hospitals in 21 states have agreed to pay $34 million to the US government to settle allegations that they used more expensive inpatient procedures rather than outpatient spinal surgeries to get bigger payments from Medicare, the US Justice Department said Tuesday.

The settlement involves kyphoplasty procedures used to treat spinal fractures usually caused by osteoporosis. It can be done as an outpatient procedure, but the Justice Department said the hospitals performed the surgeries as inpatient procedures to increase Medicare billings.

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A similar settlement was reached last year, when 14 hospitals agreed to pay more than $12 million. And in 2008, the Justice Department agreed to a $75 million settlement with Medtronic Inc.’s spine business.

In the latest settlement, the largest payments are being made by Atrium Medical Center of Middletown, Ohio, which will pay $4.2 million; Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami, $1.8 million; Altru Health System of Grand Forks, N.D., $1.5 million; Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, $1.5 million; Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro, N.C., $1.3 million; Trover Health System of Madisonville, Ky., $1.2 million; The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, $1.1 million; and Des Peres Hospital in suburban St. Louis, $900,000.

Several multihospital organizations also agreed to settlements.

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