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More Hospital Overcharges Lawsuits against TeamHealth “Cartel”

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On the heels of TeamHealth settling one class action lawsuit, more complaints allege fraudulent billing, systemic overcharges from its office that runs in a “cartel-like manner”.

Baton Rouge, LANo sooner has TeamHealth settled a $15 million class action lawsuit brought by physicians than it’s slammed with another class action claiming inappropriate ER billing and systematic overcharges from its central billing office which is controlled in a “cartel-like manner”. 

The Louisiana Municipal Risk Management Agency claims that the private-equity-backed physician staffing firm used a “fraudulent and intentionally obfuscated scheme” in emergency room overcharges to its workers.  According to the lawsuit, TeamHealth, a contractor at various hospitals where they provide staffing, operation, and billing services, frequently billed for services rendered by physicians when they were performed by a physician assistant and it overbilled 81 percent of its claims, mostly by using inflated Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes, also known as upcoding, appropriate for higher levels of care. Further, the lawsuit claims that TeamHealth’s central billing office is "controlled in a cartel-like manner".

TeamHealth told Becker's Hospital Review that this lawsuit is “almost identical to a frivolous lawsuit filed by the same attorneys last year which was quickly dismissed” and that the firm “engages professional coders who follow CMS and American Medical Association guidelines for coding emergency medicine claims…coding is subject to a rigorous quality assurance process both internally and externally and is consistent with nationally published database averages."

According to court documents, TeamHealth regularly provides enrollees of the Risk Management Agency’s self-funded health plan with treatment, after which they bill the plaintiff according to certain codes. However, along with Ameriteam Services, LLC, HCFS Health Care Financial Services, LLC, and ACS Primary Care Physicians Louisiana PC., the defendants were a part of a scheme which “systematically overbilled both governmental and private insurance and self-funded payors. Team Health and Ameriteam Services own and control the system of affiliated entities operating as and collectively referred to herein as TeamHealth.

The Louisina lawsuit includes every self-funded payer that has paid for TeamHealth's services over the last four years. It was filed on March 22, 2022, just days before a $15 million settlement between another group of ER doctors and their employer was announced.

TeamHealth Physician Settlement

One lawsuit filed by physicians was not “quickly dismissed”. This settlement stems from a lawsuit filed back in May 2017 (Case 2:17-cv-00346-WKW-JTA ) by a group of doctors named as Forward Momentum, LLC, which, along with Paragon Contracting Services, LLC, were in breach of their contracts and secretly cheated doctors out of a portion of the bonuses they were promised. The physicians claimed that their contracts required TeamHealth to pay them a bonus when they supervised care provided by a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or other advanced practice provider. TeamHealth in 2012 supposedly created a bonus program to its contracts that was intended to incentivize physicians to take on more responsibility. But the contractor argued in 2019 (and a court denied its motion to dismiss) that its employment contracts didn’t expressly obligate it to pay bonuses for supervising advanced practice clinicians.

According to Bloomberg Law, Judge W. Keith Watkins said the settlement “appears to be the result of arm’s length negotiations by highly experienced and knowledgeable class counsel and to be fair, reasonable, and adequate.” The class consists of emergency room doctors working anywhere in the U.S. who participated in Team Health’s incentive program, whether as a Team Health employee or independent contractor, the order says. Ddoctors working in “pool” or “tiered” where incentive payments were at the company’s sole discretion are not included.


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