Agreement: Sanford must hire outside auditor
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Agreement: Sanford must hire outside auditor

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SIOUX FALLS — An agreement between Sanford Health and the federal government requires the health care system to hire an outside auditor to monitor its billing.

News of the deal comes on the heels of UnityPoint Health abruptly calling off a merger with Sioux Falls-based Sanford, one of the nation's largest health care systems with 44 hospitals, 1,400 physicians and more than 200 Good Samaritan Society senior care locations in 26 states and nine countries. UnityPoint -- St. Luke's operates a hospital and several other health care facilities in Sioux City.

Sanford's agreement with the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services allows the health care system to continue to participate in Medicare and other federal programs.

It comes as Sanford settles a whistleblower lawsuit in which it agreed to pay more than $20 million in penalties after it was accused of allowing Dr. Wilson Asfora, a neurosurgeon, to defraud the federal government out of millions of dollars.

The lawsuit by two of Asfora’s colleagues alleged that Sanford allowed the neurosurgeon to use his company’s medical devices in surgeries.

The Argus Leader says the agreement also requires Sanford to conduct annual training for medical staff about federal laws that prohibit kickbacks.

No reason for the decision was given, but Krabbenhoft said in a statement that those who worked on the merger "are disappointed that the UnityPoint Health board failed to embrace the vision."

In June, Sanford and Des Moines-based UnityPoint health announced they would be combining to create one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country, with more than $11 billion in operating revenue. 

No reason for the decision was given, but Sanford CEO Krabbenhoft appeared to pin the blame on UnityPoint, saying in a statement that those who worked on the merger "are disappointed that the UnityPoint Health board failed to embrace the vision."

The merged organization would have employed more than 83,000 staff and 2,600 physicians.

UnityPoint operates 32 hospitals and has relationships with 280 physician clinics throughout Iowa, western Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

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