DOJ: Washington spine surgeon billed for unnecessary cases


CHI Franciscan Health, St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., and former orthopedic surgeon Kevin Schoenfelder, MD, settled with the U.S. Justice Department over alleged unnecessary spine surgeries.

In 2018 spine surgeon Daniel Nehls, MD, filed a qui tam lawsuit alleging Dr. Schoenfelder was performing medically unnecessary surgeries, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington said in a May 7 news release. Between Jan. 1, 2013, and June 30, 2018, the allegedly unnecessary spine surgeries were billed to Medicare, TRICARE, and Veterans Affairs. 

Dr. Schoenfelder retired in 2018 and surrendered his physician license the next year.

The hospital will pay $745,654, and Dr. Schoenfelder will pay $197,054 to resolve allegations. The hospital resolved allegations of billing Dr. Schoenfelder's spinal surgeries at more levels than necessary. Dr. Schoenfelder resolved claims related to those surgeries.

Both the hospital and the former orthopedic surgeon are paying the amount that was improperly billed and additional penalties. Dr. Nehls will receive 22% of the payments to the government health programs.

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