McCaskill calls for federal investigation of Putnam County hospital billings

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill is calling for a federal investigation of the billing practices at Putnam County Memorial Hospital in Unionville, Mo. (Photo: KTVO File)

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill is calling for a federal investigation into the billing practices at Putnam County Memorial Hospital.

In a letter to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services Thursday, McCaskill cited Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway’s 2017 report that showed more than $90 million in questionable lab billings had been funneled through the facility.

McCaskill asked the Inspector General to determine whether the management company that took over Putnam County hospital’s operations -- Hospital Partners, Inc. -- had submitted “false, fraudulent or otherwise improper claims for payment” to insurance, and particularly to federal insurers for laboratory services.

In late March, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield filed suit in Missouri against Hospital Partners owner Jorge Perez, who is associated with several similar management companies across the country that participate in similar billing practices. The insurance company alleged that Perez’s companies had billed insurance for tens of millions of dollars in fraudulent charges.

Just last week, the insurer announced a North Carolina hospital operated by LifeBrite, one of the companies associated with Perez that was operating a similar lab billing setup, will no longer be in-network. That hospital, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes in Danbury, is also facing a lawsuit alleging claims similar to the one in Missouri.

In early March, the Putnam County hospital board pushed back against Hospital Partners, sparking a power struggle over who actually controls the hospital; Both board members and Hospital Partners claimed to be in charge of day-to-day operations. The board said that the contract with Hospital Partners had been voided because a change-of-ownership agreement had never been filed with the state.

An attorney for the hospital told KTVO in March that at least some of the questionable practices questioned by the state auditor last year had been halted.

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