By Fred Schulte and Joe Eaton, The Center for Public Integrity 

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder

Top federal officials are stepping up scrutiny  for doctors and hospitals that may be cheating Medicare by using electronic health records to improperly bill the health plan for more complex and costly services than they deliver.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder notified five medical groups of their intention to ramp up investigative oversight, including possible criminal prosecutions, by letter on Monday.

By Fred Schulte, The Center for Public Integrity 

Third in a series

Electronic medical records, long touted by government officials as a critical tool for cutting health care costs, appear to be prompting some doctors and hospitals to bill higher fees to Medicare for treating seniors.

The federal government’s campaign to wire up medicine started under President George W. Bush. But the initiative hit warp drive with a February 2009 decision by Congress and the Obama administration to spend as much as $30 billion in economic stimulus money to help doctors and hospitals buy the equipment needed to convert medical record-keeping from paper files.

By Joe Eaton and David Donald, The Center for Public Integrity 

Second in a series

Judging by their bills, it would appear that elderly patients treated in the emergency room at Baylor Medical Center in Irving, Texas, are among the sickest in the country — far sicker than patients at most other hospitals.

In 2008, the hospital billed Medicare for the two most expensive levels of care for eight of every 10 patients it treated and released from its emergency room — almost twice the national average, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis. Among those claims, 64 percent of the total were for the most expensive level of care.

But the charges may have more to do with billing practices than sicker patients.