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Catholic Health strikes settlement with Justice Department over billing practices

Catholic Health has agreed to a large settlement with the U.S. Justice Department in a whistleblower lawsuit over billing practices in such government health programs as Medicare and Medicaid, according to two sources with knowledge of the case.

The hospital system also agreed to enter into a corporate integrity agreement with the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General to ensure compliance with regulations. Those agreements usually last five years.

The settlement arose from a whistleblower lawsuit that is brought under the False Claims Act and entitles whistleblowers to a portion of any settlement.

Details of the case were not available. Officials at Catholic Health and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Buffalo declined to comment on Tuesday, saying the settlement remained sealed, preventing them from talking publicly about it. Such cases remain "under seal" when initially filed while federal authorities investigate the allegations.

The Department of Justice obtained more than $4.7 billion in settlements and judgments from False Claims Act cases in fiscal year 2016 ending Sept. 30, according to a report issued in December by the department.

Of the $4.7 billion recovered, $2.5 billion came from the health care industry, including drug companies, medical device companies, hospitals, nursing homes, laboratories, and physicians. The $2.5 billion only reflects federal losses and, in many cases, additional funds for state Medicaid programs were recovered, according to the report.

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