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Washington System Fraudulently Billed for 'Medically Unnecessary' Spine Surgeries

In a whistleblower lawsuit, the United States and the State of Washington charged MultiCare Health, located in Tacoma, Washington, of fraudulently charging federal healthcare programs for spine procedures done by physician Jason Dreyer, DO, at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane between 2019 and 2021.

Dr. Dreyer worked at Walla Walla, Washington’s Providence St. Mary’s Medical Center from 2013 until 2019. According to the Justice Department, Providence allowed the neurosurgeon to resign in 2019 amid claims that he was making false diagnoses, injuring patients, and performing medically unnecessary surgeries.

According to a complaint filed on January 26, prosecutors claim that MultiCare was informed during the hiring process of some “red flags” regarding Dr. Dreyer from his time at Providence, but they still hired him because they saw him as a “workhorse” and he started seeing patients and doing surgery at Deaconess in July 2019.

According to reports from October 2019, MultiCare connected Dr. Dreyer to an incentive compensation plan that increased his pay based on the number and complexity of procedures he completed.

The complaint also claims that despite numerous internal complaints and the U.S. Attorney’s Office informing the system that it was looking into the surgeon for possibly harming patients, fabricating diagnoses, and performing medically unnecessary procedures, MultiCare still permitted Dr. Dreyer to perform surgery. Up until the Washington Department of Health unilaterally terminated his authority to do surgery in March 2021, Dr. Dreyer carried on seeing patients and doing surgeries.

The Justice Department claims that between July 2019 and March 2021, MultiCare misrepresented and fraudulently claimed and obtained reimbursement for millions of dollars from Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare, among other government healthcare programs, putting patients at risk.

A qui tam case was filed under seal in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington by a former patient of Dr. Dreyer at MultiCare.

Providence, a medical facility located in Renton, Washington, paid $22.7 million in April 2022 to settle its responsibility for procedures carried out by Dr. Dreyer and another neurosurgeon that the hospital system invoiced to federal healthcare programs. Dr. Dreyer consented to pay around $1.2 million in April 2023 to resolve his personal culpability under the False Claims Act.  

A MultiCare representative told Becker’s in a statement, “We are aware of the Department of Justice’s allegations, and we believe them to be unfounded and without merit.” “We plan to vigorously defend MultiCare in this matter.”

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