Tom Oxholm, chairman of the WakeMed board, has written a letter to the editor apologizing to the public for Medicare being billed for overnight stays when patients did not in fact stay overnight.
Read the latest story on the legal settlement WakeMed case
An apology from the WakeMed Board
On behalf of the WakeMed Board of Directors, I would like to apologize to the residents of Wake and surrounding counties for the Medicare overbillings made on our watch. Now that the settlement agreement is in place, we would like to affirm our unwavering commitment to the community and the patients we serve while explaining some of the facts raised in the settlement documents and presented at the hearings and in The News & Observer.
First and foremost, all of the billed patient care was delivered, and all patients received appropriate care at the appropriate time. This case was exclusively limited to billings by WakeMed to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services related to one-day patient stays.
WakeMed has a 14-member volunteer board of directors. Board members devote countless hours to ensuring WakeMed continues to serve as the important community asset it has been for 52 years. As a board, we are responsible for overseeing WakeMed’s operations, the care of hundreds of thousands of patients each year and the 10,000 dedicated physicians, employees and volunteers who deliver exceptional patient care every day.
We take responsibility for the overcharging that occurred and are committed to assuring that it does not happen again. Since the irregularities were first identified, WakeMed has cooperated completely, assisting the auditors and U.S. Attorney’s office in their investigation and instituting additional procedures and training to ensure compliance going forward.
WakeMed also proactively repaid $1.2 million in overcharges and then repaid an additional $1.8 million in overcharges along with $5 million in penalties in the settlement with the U.S. Attorney. The total overcharges represent less than a 10th of 1 percent of WakeMed’s total Medicare billings during the eight-year period examined. It is important to note that no employees, senior management or board member personally profited from the overbillings, nor did senior management or the board have any prior knowledge of the inappropriate actions.
We would like to thank the U.S. Attorney for working with us to settle the issue in a manner that does not endanger the patients who depend upon WakeMed’s Medicare and Medicaid participation or harm innocent employees, physicians and volunteers. Health care billing is complicated, and many hospitals have paid settlements and fines to the government to correct overbillings.
As citizens and taxpayers, we are glad that the government employs auditors to find errors in health care billing. The fact is, many hospitals have repaid overpayments and have incurred penalties. It is unfortunate that WakeMed is the first hospital to have a deferred prosecution agreement related to one-day stays for Medicare patients, but it will not likely be the last.
The bottom line is that we are sorry for the mistakes, and we will do better. We will remain true to the WakeMed mission of providing outstanding and compassionate health care to all regardless of the ability to pay. This is our commitment to our patients, physicians, employees, volunteers, elected officials and the community.
Chairman, WakeMed Board of Directors