Raleigh, N.C. — In the midst of fine-tuning a settlement to end a federal investigation into fraudulent Medicare billing practices at WakeMed, CEO Bill Atkinson tried Friday to put employees at ease about the ongoing legal case.
"WakeMed has learned from its mistakes and has put processes, procedures and additional training in place to ensure the mistakes do not occur again," Atkinson said in the email. "Please do not allow this issue to alter your opinion of WakeMed or distract you from your work."
Federal investigators have accused the Raleigh hospital of routinely billing Medicare for inpatient stays by people who had undergone cardiac treatments, even if they were discharged the same day as the treatment and never spent the night. Federal court documents also allege that WakeMed physician orders to discharge patients were frequently overwritten so Medicare could be billed.
Atkinson said in his email that he couldn't comment on the "active legal case," but said last month that the hospital never intended to defraud the government.
Prosecutors worked with WakeMed to iron out a $8 million settlement that would defer prosecution on charges of making material false statements relating to health care matters and aiding and abetting for two years. The agreement allowed that, if WakeMed complied with the terms of the settlement during that two-year deferment, the charges would be dismissed.
On Thursday, however, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle declined to sign off on the settlement agreement and asked prosecutors why WakeMed and some of its employees weren't indicted. He delayed a decision in the case until Feb. 5.
Atkinson told employees that WakeMed is working diligently to provide the information Boyle needs to agree to the settlement.