Quorum split off from Columbia whistle blower lawsuit

Hospital chain Quorum says it and the government will ask a Tampa judge to split Quorum off from a whistle blower suit that names both Quorum and Columbia/HCA. The action comes as a DOJ suit claims that cost reports filed by Quorum hospitals defrauded Medicare by at least $50 million.

Quorum wants to distance itself from Columbia. "We believe that this means we won't be impacted by what's happening to the other defendant," says Quorum spokeswoman Shea Davis. "They have larger issues. It's a criminal case."

Columbia appears to be the main target of a qui tam suit filed by a former Columbia reimbursement manager who alleges that Columbia manipulated its cost reports to have Medicare pay for the costs of acquiring home health agencies.

Davis denies the company did anything wrong and says it has not made any changes to its cost reporting system as a result of the case.

One source familiar with the Columbia probe says splitting the case into two could be a prelude to a settlement. However, Davis says no settlement negotiations are currently underway. n Meanwhile, the government has asked for a delay in the Columbia case while settlement talks continue.