Sentient settles for $2.7 million in alleged Medicare fraud case

Hunt Valley firm admits no error, says issues occurred under previous owner

November 17, 2010|By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Sentient Medical Systems of Hunt Valley has agreed to pay the U.S. government $2.7 million to settle accusations that it submitted false Medicare claims.

The company's former CEO, Jeffrey H. Owen, is also named as a party in the settlement, according to documents outlining the agreement. Owen sold the company in 2007.

Sentient performs what is called remote neuro intraoperative monitoring, a process that remotely monitors a patient's nervous system during brain and spinal surgeries. The patient is hooked up to a monitoring device in the operating room and monitored by a medical professional located elsewhere.

The government allegations, which cover a five-year period beginning in 2003, say Sentient billed for an excessive number of monitoring hours. For instance, the company would bill for six hours when medical records showed that just four hours of work had been performed, according to settlement documents.

The company also billed for monitoring more than one patient at a time, which was against Medicare policy at the time, according to the allegations. If the physician monitored three patients simultaneously for four hours, it could bill only for four hours. Sentient would bill four hours for each patient, the government alleged.

Sentient has not admitted wrongdoing, and company officials said the majority of the issues occurred under previous ownership.

"We are not admitting to any liability in this," said Kirk Rothrock, the company's current CEO.

"It seems the appropriate action so we can move forward with running our businesses," Rothrock said of the settlement.

Rothrock said that since the allegations were raised, the company has established a code of conduct and implemented programs to ensure employees understand appropriate business practices.


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