TENNESSEE TEMPLE TO LEAVE TOWN90-YEARS-YOUNGTANJA'S LAWEX-EMPLOYEE OF HEALTH CLINIC OWNER SPEAKS OUT
 
Wednesday, September 19 2012, 01:06 PM EDT
HCA - Parkridge Fined $16.5 Million
HCA Inc., one of the nation’s largest private hospital chains, has agreed to pay $16.5 million to settle alleged violations of the Ethics in Patient Referrals Act (also known as the Stark law), the False Claims Act, and other federal and state laws and regulations in connection with the operation of its subsidiary, Parkridge Medical Center, Inc., in Chattanooga. In addition, Parkridge Medical Center has entered into a comprehensive five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG) to ensure its continued compliance with federal health care benefit program requirements.

During 2007, HCA, through its subsidiaries Parkridge and HCA Physician Services (HCAPS), entered into a series of financial transactions with a physician group, Diagnostic Associates of Chattanooga, through which it provided financial benefits intended to induce the physician members of Diagnostic to refer patients to HCA facilities. The financial benefits included lease of office space from Diagnostic at a rental rate well in excess of fair market value to meet the mortgage obligations of the Diagnostic members and release of Diagnostic members from a separate lease obligation. These financial arrangements violated the Ethics in Patient Referrals Act and the Anti-Kickback Statute – laws designed to protect patients as well as the integrity of government-funded health care benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and TennCare.

As U.S. Attorney Bill Killian explained, “Physicians should make decisions regarding referrals to health care facilities based on what is in the best interest of patients without being induced by payments from hospitals competing for their business.”

Federal law prohibits hospitals from submitting claims to government-funded health care benefit programs for inpatient and outpatient hospital services referred, ordered, or arranged for by physicians who have prohibited financial arrangements with those hospitals.

"We will not allow hospitals to provide financial incentives to induce physicians to steer patients their way," said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, HHS-OIG in Atlanta. "These arrangements can corrupt medical decision-making and may result in unnecessary diagnostic testing and hospital admissions."

During the period from 2007 through 2011, HCA through Parkridge, submitted or caused to be submitted claims to Medicare, TRICARE, and TennCare/Medicaid for inpatient and outpatient hospital services referred, ordered or arranged for by the Diagnostic physician members who benefitted from the prohibited financial arrangements between HCA Diagnostic. Medicare and the other health care benefit programs paid the claims for those hospital services, and this settlement addresses the financial harm to the Medicare and Medicaid trust funds, TriCare and TennCare for the moneys paid out of those funds which HCA improperly claimed and received during that time period. Under the False Claims Act, a recipient of such funds may be liable for as much as three times the amount paid by the government program plus civil penalties.

The determination of the losses suffered by the government in a False Claims Act case based on violations of the Stark law depends largely upon the number of physicians who benefitted from the financial arrangements with the hospital, the number of patients referred by those physicians to the hospital, and the amount paid by the government to the hospital for claims submitted for all those patients. The False Claims Act further provides for trebling of any losses and penalties of between $5,500-$11,000 per claim.

“Today's settlement is the third since 2005 involving violations by hospitals in Chattanooga of the Ethics in Patient Referrals and False Claims Acts and reflects the Justice Department's continued determination to enforce these laws to protect both patients and the Medicare and Medicaid trust funds,” said U.S. Attorney Killian. Mr. Killian further noted that this settlement resulted from a comprehensive investigation which began as a result of a qui tam or whistleblower complaint filed in 2008. After an administrative subpoena was served on HCA subsidiaries in July 2009, HCA produced documents to the United States and made its personnel available for interviews.

"The Defense Criminal Investigative Service is committed to ensuring that TRICARE, the U.S. military health care program, continues to provide safe and superior medical care to America's Warfighters and their families." said John F. Khin, Special Agent in Charge, Defense Criminal Investigative Service- Southeast Field Office. "The successful resolution of this case demonstrates the effectiveness of joint investigations to combat health care fraud and preserve the integrity of this vital program."

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper noted: "We are proud to have worked closely with our federal partners to bring this case to resolution. Combating fraud is essential to the strength and integrity of the TennCare program and is a high priority of this office."

HCA - Parkridge Fined $16.5 Million

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The ISM releases its service sector index for February this morning. Its January report showed growth picking up at services firms. The survey covers businesses that employ 90 percent of the American workforce, including retail, construction, health care and financial services companies.

This afternoon, the Fed releases its latest Beige Book. Last month's survey of business conditions showed all 12 of the Fed's regions reporting "modest" or "moderate" growth. It found rising sales of autos and other consumer products, increased factory production and a pickup in tourism in various parts of the country.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says the Federal Reserve has worked hard to correct the mistakes exposed by the 2008 financial crisis.

She says the Fed cannot eliminate the possibility of a future banking crisis. But she says it can make them less likely and less damaging by limiting excessive risk taking and making sure that the nation's biggest banks are better prepared to weather future problems.

She says before the crisis, the Fed focused too much on regulating individual firms and did not pay enough attention to ensuring the stability of the entire financial system.

She says the improvements the Fed has implemented include requiring banks to hold more capital to cushion against losses and testing them annually to see whether they can survive a severe economic downturn.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Congressional Budget Office says Republicans controlling Congress can probably put off a politically wrenching vote to increase the government's borrowing cap until the fall.

That's even though the government can no longer issue Treasury securities after March 15. Instead, the government will rely on tax season surpluses and accounting maneuvers to keep the government afloat through October or November.

The accounting moves include deferring investments into federal employee retirement funds.

Republicans used the need to raise the debt ceiling in 2011 to impose spending cuts upon President Barack Obama. Obama has since refused to negotiate, which drove GOP leaders a year ago to raise the borrowing cap with mostly Democratic votes.

Without congressional action to increase the debt limit, the government would default on U.S. obligations.

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NEW DELHI (AP) -- India's central bank unexpectedly cut a key interest rate by a quarter percentage point, the second such cut this year because of lower inflation.

Wednesday's cut brings the policy repo rate, at which commercial banks can borrow from the Reserve Bank of India, to 7.5 percent.

The Reserve Bank of India made a similar cut in the key rate in January.

Inflation in India has lowered substantially as global oil prices have dropped sharply.

The RBI said in a statement that inflation in January was 5.1 percent, well below the government's upper limit of 8 percent for the month.

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Sony intends on unleashing its virtual-reality headset on consumers next year.

The gaming and electronics giant says its Project Morpheus VR system will debut in early 2016.

The announcement was made Tuesday at a news conference held during the Game Developers Conference.

Sony originally unveiled a prototype of the headset nicknamed Project Morpheus at last year's conference. The headset works in tandem with Sony's PlayStation 4 console and camera by covering users' eyes and simulating virtual worlds on screen.

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No price was announced.

TARGET-INVESTORS

NEW YORK (AP) -- Target Corp. plans $2 billion in cost cuts over the next two years through corporate restructuring and other improvements.

The goal is to make the Minneapolis-based discounter more agile in an increasingly competitive landscape.

As part of the restructuring plans, the Minneapolis-based company plans to eliminate several thousand positions over two years and establish centralized teams based on specialized expertise.

Target also plans to invest between $2 billion and $2.2 billion in capital expenditures, including a $1 billion investment in technology and supply chain.

The moves unveiled Tuesday are being spearheaded by CEO Brian Cornell, who took over last August and who is charged with reclaiming the retailer's image as a purveyor of cheap chic fashions.

ARGENTINA-DEFAULT

NEW YORK (AP) -- A Citibank lawyer has warned a judge its Argentina branch will be in "great danger" if he refuses to let the South American nation pay interest to bondholders.

Attorney Karen Wagner described the threat to federal court Judge Thomas Griesa during arguments Tuesday in New York.

Wagner says bonds purchased by Citibank customers in Argentina are subject to Argentine law. She says they should not be subject to an order the judge issued banning Argentina from paying interest on bonds exchanged at a discount by 90 percent of bondholders after the republic defaulted on $100 billion in debt in 2001.

The judge says interest can't be paid unless Argentina pays U.S. hedge funds about $1.5 billion they're owed. The judge hasn't ruled.

A lawyer representing Argentina supported Wagner in her arguments.

GREECE-POVERTY BILL

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece's new left-wing government is promising to spend 200 million euros ($234 million) this year on assistance programs for people pushed into "extreme poverty" by the financial crisis.

In its first bill to parliament Tuesday, the government said it would spend the money on programs to distribute food stamps and provide housing and energy bill assistance.

Greece is struggling to emerge from a six-year recession that saw a dramatic rise in unemployment and poverty, following drastic spending cuts in exchange for bailout loans.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' (TSEE'-prah-zehzs) Syriza (SEER'-ih-zah) party has seen its popularity rise since winning January elections, despite being forced to extend its bailout agreements.

According to an opinion poll for private Star television Tuesday, support for Syriza has risen to 41.3 percent from 36.3 percent in the election.

YELLEN-FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fed Chair Janet Yellen may have gotten a job promotion last year, but her total assets don't appear to have gotten a bump.

Yellen's financial disclosure form for 2014 shows a net worth of between $4.92 million and $13.37 million.

On the high end of the valuation, that represents a slight decline of about 5 percent from 2013 when her assets were valued as high as $14.1 million.

On the government's financial disclosure forms, officials are only required to put the value of their assets in broad ranges. So it is not clear what caused the small drop in her assets, many of which are held jointly with her husband, Nobel laureate economist George Akerlof.

Yellen in February of last year succeeded Ben Bernanke as head of the central bank.



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