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The St. Louis Post Dispatch has reported that Mercy Hospital (formerly St. John’s Mercy Medical Center) has settled a Justice Department investigation by agreeing to pay $365,000.

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The settlement resolves allegations that Mercy overcharged Medicare between 2000 and 2008 for performing kyphoplasty, a minimally-invasive procure to treat certain spinal fractures. The allegation was that the hospital’s unnecessarily extended the patient’s stays in order to increase the recovery from Medicare. The DOJ brought the charges under the False Claims Act.

Mercy was 1 of 14 hospitals around the nation that settled with DOJ over the practice.

Since Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius created an initiative to jointly pursue investigations to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid Fraud in May 2009, the U.S. Government has recovered $6.6 billion in cases involving Medicare and Medicaid Fraud, mostly from hospitals and large medical care providers.

H.R. 1063 known as the Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act of 2011 has done what seemingly nothing else has ever done–it has gotten wide spread support from groups as diverse as the American Association for Justice (the preeminent trial lawyers organization in the United States), the Chamber of Commerce (usually opposed to anything and everything supported by the AAJ), and companies like Walmart, Best Buy and Disney. Its being co-sponsored by Republicans Ron Paul, Tim Murphy, Don Young and Howard Cable, along with Democrats Ron Kind, Diana DeGette, Linda Sanchez and Tammy Baldwin.

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So what brings this diverse group of backers together? Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act of 2011 will reform the way people deal with Medicare when they have a claim for personal injury. Medicare requires that when a person is injured due to someone else’s negligence, whether it is by medical malpractice, an auto accident, a fall, or any other incident where someone else is at fault, and they are receiving Medicare benefits, then Medicare is entitled to be reimbursed for the money it has spent providing medical care. That’s certainly fair. However, the Medicare bureaucracy now does not allow the Medicare recipient to find out how much Medicare is claiming they have paid for that medical care until after a settlement has been reached. This ridiculous rule puts claimants, their attorneys, defendants and their insurers, in the ridiculous position of trying to guess how much Medicare will want to be repaid.

Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act of 2011 simply requires Medicare to provide that information before a settlement is reached. Simple and fair. The result will be that Medicare (meaning the taxpayers) will receive reimbursement faster. And why wouldn’t that be a good thing?

Call or write your congresman and ask them to please support H.R. 1063 known as the Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act of 2011.