SACRAMENTO — One of the state’s largest hospital chains has agreed to pay $46 million to settle allegations that its method for billing for anesthesia services was false and misleading.
Sutter Health’s decision to pay comes as a trial was scheduled to start this month.
The agreement stems from a complaint originally filed in 2009, the San Francisco Chronicle reported (http://bit.ly/1b3z5aB).
In addition to paying the fine, Sutter has agreed to make changes to its billing procedures. Those changes include billing for anesthesia on a flat-fee basis rather than on time and more clearly disclosing its anesthesia charges and services to its patients, insurers and other payers.
“This settlement represents a groundbreaking step in opening up hospital billing to public scrutiny,” Dave Jones, commissioner of the state Department of Insurance, said.
Sutter officials insisted the chain had followed the appropriate billing regulations and protocols. The Sacramento-based company operates more than 20 hospitals in Northern California.
“We made a tough decision ... that the certainty and closure of a settlement was preferable to the significant human and financial resources associated with a lengthy trial,” Sutter spokesman Bill Gleeson said in a statement.
The $46 million will be divided among the plaintiffs’ lawyers, the whistle-blower and the state general fund, Sutter officials said.
Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com