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Saturday, September 30, 2023
Sept. 30, 2023

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E. Wash. surgeon will pay $1M+ settlement. He’s accused of doing unneeded surgeries


KENNEWICK — A former Eastern Washington neurosurgeon has agreed to pay nearly $1.2 million to the federal government to settle allegations he billed Medicaid, Medicare and other federally funded health care programs for surgeries that patients did not need.

Dr. Jason Dreyer practiced at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla from 2013 to 2018 and then was hired by Multicare Health Systems to provide neurosurgery services at Deaconess Hospital and Multicare Rockwood Clinic, both in Spokane.

The settlement announced Monday is in addition to nearly $22.7 million that Providence Health in Washington agreed to pay a year ago to settle allegations that it fraudulently billed taxpayer-paid health care programs for unneeded neurosurgeries by Dreyer and a second neurosurgeon who practiced at St. Mary’s.

It was the largest ever health care fraud settlement in Eastern Washington, according to the Eastern Washington U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The Washington state Department of Health alleged that Dreyer overstated patients’ diagnoses to justify spinal fusion surgeries and overstated procedures done during spine surgeries.

It suspended his ability to perform spinal surgeries, according to the Justice Department.

Both Providence in Walla Walla and Multicare in Spokane paid Dreyer based on productivity, allowing him to earn higher pay by performing more surgeries and more complex surgeries, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In 2020 he was paid $1.7 million by Multicare, according to the settlement agreement.

The settlement agreement resolves allegations that while he was at Multicare, Dreyer’s unnecessary medical procedures were billed to taxpayer-paid reimbursement.

Dreyer did not admit guilt in the settlement agreement.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that Providence admitted that the medical staff at St Mary’s hospital raised concerns that Dreyer was endangering the safety of its patients.

However, Providence allowed him to resign without reporting him to the National Practitioner Data Bank or the Washington State Department of Health, according to federal officials.

“Patients with spinal injuries and back pain deserve top-notch care from a doctor who puts patients and their safety first,” said U.S. Attorney Vanessa Waldref.

As part of Dreyer’s settlement agreement he will not participate in federal health care programs for at least nine years.

That will ensure that patients in Eastern Washington and the nation are protected from unnecessary and unsafe procedures for many years to come, Waldref said.

“Providers have a responsibility to ensure that patient needs and safety, not illegitimate personal financial gain, drive medical decisions,” said Steven Ryan, special agent in charge at the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.