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Sutter Health, a Sacramento-based health care services provider, and its affiliate Sutter Bay Hospitals, agreed to pay more than $13 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by billing the United States for toxicology screening tests performed by outside labs.

The United States contends in the civil settlement agreement signed by Sutter Health that under the terms of a contract which the Sutter Health hospital Alta Bates Summit Medical Center entered into with Navigant Network Alliance, LLC, Navigant referred urine toxicology specimens obtained from physicians and laboratories across the country to Sutter. Sutter submitted bills, or caused bills to be submitted, for reimbursement of the qualitative and quantitative testing it performed on the specimens.

The United States asserts that Sutter did not perform the quantitative testing on thousands of specimens referred under the agreement and that these quantitative tests were instead performed by third-party labs. The United States alleges that Sutter nevertheless sought reimbursement for the tests.

In the settlement agreement, the United States contends that between August 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, Sutter billed for urine toxicology tests it did not perform and was paid for the testing by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare.

Sutter agrees in the settlement agreement to pay $13,091,452 to settle the false claims allegations. Of that amount, Sutter has already paid more than $6.5 million to the United States. Sutter agrees to pay the remaining amount of approximately $6.5 million to the United States within 30 days. The settlement agreement resolves the civil law claims that the United States might have brought based upon these allegations.

The matter is the result of a coordinated investigation between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California and the FBI, OPM OIG, HHS-OIG, DCIS, and the DHA.

The investigation and resolution of this matter illustrate the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

The civil settlement agreement is neither an admission of liability by Sutter Health nor a concession by the United States that its claims are not well founded.