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Excela paid back $2 million for stent surgeries

| Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Excela Health reimbursed the federal government nearly $2 million in Medicare payments for cardiac stent procedures performed at its Greensburg hospital between 2009 and 2011, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Pittsburgh.

The settlement was reached in July, but Excela was prohibited by the Justice Department from releasing the terms until the government made it public Thursday, said Jen Miele, vice president of communications and marketing at Excela.

Excela CEO Robert Rogalski said government regulators were “firm and fair” in their investigation after the health care system alleged that some of the stent procedures were unnecessary. The case was investigated by officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the Medicare program.

“We value transparency as an institution. We were aware of the situation, we investigated, we self-reported, and Excela believes that was an important factor in resolving the issue,” Rogalski said.

“Since our disclosure, Excela's quality improvements have resulted in a national accreditation of our cardiac catheterization laboratory, which we were the first in the state to receive,” he said. “Our commitment to maintaining that quality is unwavering.”

The settlement stems from the submission of reimbursement claims for cardiac stent procedures performed by cardiologists Dr. George BouSamra and Dr. Ehab Morcos, Excela officials said. At the time, both physicians were employed by Westmoreland County Cardiology and had privileges at Westmoreland Hospital, where the procedures were performed.

Stents are small mesh tubes implanted in arteries during catheterization procedures to widen arteries that are clogged by plaque.

Excela hired independent experts to review Bou Samra and Morcos' cases in which it was believed plaque buildup was not significant enough to justify a coronary stent, hospital officials said.

The procedures triggered at a spate of medical malpractices lawsuits against the doctors and Excela Health, which are pending in Westmoreland County.

The physicians filed defamation suits in Allegheny County against Excela Health, Latrobe Cardiology, Mercer Health & Benefits, the American medical Foundation for Peer Review and Education, Rogalski and Dr. Jerome Granata, the former medical director for Excela.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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