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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."
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Last Update on October 22, 2014 07:28 GMT
ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The pace of corporate earnings reports eases today.
Boeing will have its numbers out before the market opens this morning, while AT&T is scheduled to release earnings after the market closes.
This morning, the Labor Department releases its Consumer Price Index for September. There's been little sign of inflation in recent months. Prices actually dropped two-tenths of a percent in August, with gasoline, airline tickets and clothing prices all falling. It was the first decline since a similar drop in April or 2013.
BEIJING (AP) -- Asia Pacific finance ministers are meeting today in Beijing to consider coordinated responses amid concerns over a slowdown in the regional economy highlighted by lower Chinese growth figures.
Opening the meeting of 21 ministers from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation economies, Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said recovery from the global economic downturn had been tepid.
But he said China was on track to meet its loose goal of 7.5 percent growth for the year, with inflation stable and the economy set to produce more than 10 million new jobs.
Meeting participants, including those from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, will discuss the regional economic outlook and discuss possible coordinated action to respond. An APEC news release said ensuring financing for infrastructure was among the issues to be discussed.
OBIT-NELSON BUNKER HUNT
DALLAS (AP) -- Nelson Bunker Hunt, a Texas oilman who once tried to corner the silver market with one of his brothers only to see the move end in financial disaster, has died. He was 88.
His brother, W. Herbert Hunt, says Nelson died Tuesday at a Dallas assisted-living center after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.
Hunt was among the world's wealthiest men. His father was legendary Texas oilman H.L. Hunt, who left behind a multibillion-dollar fortune and Placid Oil Co., once one of the biggest independent oil companies.
But a huge, soured bet on the silver market by Hunt and his brother, Herbert, led to legal problems and bankruptcy after the price of silver collapsed.
The brothers agreed to lifetime bans from trading in commodities futures and a $10 million penalty.
Nelson Bunker Hunt filed for bankruptcy in 1988, and much of his remaining fortune was liquidated to pay creditors and the IRS.
A funeral is scheduled Friday.
SUNNYVALE, Calif. (AP) -- A huge windfall from Alibaba's recent IPO has sent Yahoo's earnings soaring.
The Internet company earned $6.8 billion in the third quarter, or $6.70 per share. That compares with income of $297 million, or 28 cents per share, last year.
While Alibaba accounted for most of the difference, Yahoo's revenue also rose slightly, after posting quarterly declines for most of the past five years.
Yahoo's third-quarter revenue totaled $1.15 billion, up 1 percent increase from last year. The uptick included more than $200 million in revenue from mobile devices. That represented 17 percent of Yahoo's total revenue for the three months that ended in September, an indication that CEO Marissa Mayer's emphasis on designing sleeker applications for smartphones and tablets is starting to pay off.
RIVERWOODS, Ill. (AP) -- Discover Financial Services says its third-quarter net income increased nearly 9 percent to beat market expectations.
The credit card issuer and lender's gains were made on increased credit card spending and overall lending.
Discover says its net income after preferred dividends rose to $630 million, or $1.37 per share. That compares with $579 million, or $1.20 per share, a year earlier. Revenue net of interest expense rose to $2.19 billion from $2.06 billion.
Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of $1.34 per share on revenue of $2.2 billion.
Shares of the Riverwoods, Illinois-based company ended regular trading up $1.68 to $64.38 and added 13 cents in extended trading following the report.
UNDATED (AP) -- Global property and casualty insurer Ace Ltd. says it may exclude Ebola coverage from some of its general liability policies.
The Swiss company says it's making the decision on a "case by case" basis for new and renewal policies for U.S.-based companies and organizations that travel or have operations outside the U.S.
Ace says it's evaluating the risk for clients that might be present in select African countries with higher exposure to the Ebola virus.
While Ace may be the first to disclose such a move, Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, says it is standard practice for insurers to regularly reevaluate the risk to their policies.
UNDATED (AP) -- A hedge fund run by a famed investor says it has taken a large stake in Amgen and now wants the biotech drugmaker to consider splitting up into two.
In a letter to investors, Third Point, a hedge fund run by Daniel Loeb, says it has recently increased its stake by an unspecified amount, making it one of the drugmaker's top shareholders. According to FactSet, Third Point already owned about 450,000 Amgen shares, a stake worth roughly $64.8 million.
In response, Amgen says its board and management are continually assessing the company's business.
Japan's exports up in September; deficit persists
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's trade deficit edged higher in September though exports rose more than expected as the yen weakened to a near six-year low.
Japan's Finance Ministry says exports jumped 6.9 percent from a year earlier in September to 6.38 trillion yen ($59.6 billion) while imports rose 6.2 percent to 7.34 trillion yen ($68.6 billion). That left a deficit of 958.3 billion yen ($8.96 billion), compared to a shortfall of 943.2 billion yen a year earlier.
Japan's currency dropped to nearly 110 yen to the U.S. dollar in September, potentially helping to make Japanese products cheaper abroad. Today, it was trading near 107 yen to the dollar.
Economists expect the U.S. economic recovery to give Japan's exports a long-awaited boost -- despite a weaker yen, demand had remained weak and the trade deficit has remained a drag on growth, thanks partly to imports of oil and gas to compensate for the country's loss of generating capacity after reactors were idled following the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.
DETROIT BANKRUPTCY-SCRAPPED METAL
DETROIT (AP) -- The city of Detroit plans to sell 13 million pounds of copper wire from its public lighting operation.
Financial consultant Gaurav Malhotra testified Tuesday in Detroit's bankruptcy trial that the city is budgeting for $25 million over six years from such a sale, but the scrapped metal could bring in about $40 million.
Detroit is phasing its electricity service over to DTE Energy Co.
Thieves have targeted below-ground and overhead wires, which they sell to scrap metal operations. They also have contributed to widespread blight in Detroit by stealing wire, copper pipes, fixtures, air conditioners and anything else of value from vacant houses.
Federal Judge Steven Rhodes has said he expects to make a ruling in early November on the city's plan to get out of bankruptcy.
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- The four major U.S. pro sports leagues and the NCAA have made another court filing in their efforts to stop New Jersey from allowing legalized sports betting.
The order to show cause was filed Tuesday in federal court in Trenton. The NFL, the NBA, the NHL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA want a judge to temporarily prevent New Jersey's casinos and racetracks from taking sports wagers.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Friday signed a law that effectively repeals the state's ban on sports wagering. Monmouth Park racetrack says it plans to accept bets starting Sunday.
A federal judge is expected to rule this week.
The two sides have been fighting in court since 2012, when Christie signed a law authorizing sports betting. Only Nevada offers single-game betting, and three other states are allowed to sell sports parlay pools.
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