Assuming the Seattle Times got it right in their article this morning
, the pending announcement of a settlement in the False Claims Act suit against them is the final chapter in an appalling tale of lawlessness on the part of a pillar of the Seattle health-care community:
[W]hen [a 1996 compliance] program was put into place, auditors found rampant errors. Doctors were routinely overbilling Medicare and Medicaid, charging for more expensive services than those they had performed. According to the lawsuit, auditors found evidence of this in nine out of 10 departments at the Children's University Medical Group, the billing group for UW doctors who practice at Children's Hospital and Medical Center.
When UW Physicians found out, according to the lawsuit, it hid the practice by changing the compliance policy, making it acceptable to round up, meaning doctors could charge for a treatment that was one rung higher on the billing chart than the treatment they had actually provided.
With the new rules in place, UW Physicians began a second audit for 27 specialty departments. Even under the more permissive rule, though, the errors poured in, according to the lawsuit. The majority of errors came from doctors who were charging for services two or more rungs higher than the services performed. In the dermatology department, 90 percent of the cases reviewed were incorrectly billed. Rates were 57 percent for infectious-diseases, 21 percent for pulmonary and 22 percent for craniofacial.
Best of all, "UW Physicians destroyed the old reports, the lawsuit said, and wrote new, sanitized versions."