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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 December 19, 2014 18:50 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The FBI says it has enough evidence to conclude that North Korea was behind the hack attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment.
An FBI statement cites, among other factors, technical similarities between the Sony break-in and past "malicious cyber activity" linked directly to North Korea.
The Sony attack, reported late November, involved the use of destructive malware that caused the studio to take its entire computer network offline and left thousands of computers inoperable.
The breach resulted in the disclosure of tens of thousands of leaked emails and other materials. It later escalated to terrorist threats that promoted Sony to cancel the Christmas release of the movie "The Interview," a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The FBI statement says North Korea's actions "were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves."
SONY HACK-MESSAGE FROM HACKERS
NEW YORK (AP) -- Hackers have sent a new email to Sony Pictures Entertainment, praising the studio as "very wise" to cancel the release of "The Interview" and saying Sony's data is safe "as long as you make no more trouble."
The email was confirmed Friday by a person close to the studio who requested anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
The message warned to "never" release the film "in any form," including on DVD. The email was sent to several employees of the Culver City, California company.
The Obama administration on Friday formally accused the North Korean government of being responsible for the devastating hacking attack.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- T-Mobile US will pay up to $90 million, mostly in refunds, for billing customers for cellphone text services they didn't order, under a settlement with federal regulators.
The Federal Trade Commission announced the agreement Friday with T-Mobile over billing for unauthorized charges, a practice known as "cramming." T-Mobile, the fourth-largest U.S. cellphone company, is paying refunds to affected customers plus $18 million in fines to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and $4.5 million in fines to the Federal Communications Commission.
The FTC sued T-Mobile in July, accusing it of billing customers for subscriptions to text services like $9.99-per-month horoscopes or celebrity gossip updates that they didn't want or authorize.
T-Mobile collected 35 percent to 40 percent of the charges, the FTC alleges.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker is criticizing a decision to delay full implementation of a rule that bears his name and aims to curb banks' risky investments.
The Fed said Thursday that it would delay until July 2017 the deadline by which U.S. banks will have to sell off potentially volatile holdings in private equity, venture capital and hedge funds.
In a statement, Volcker calls it "striking that the world's leading investment bankers, noted for their cleverness and agility in advising clients" need to take so long to reorganize their own activities.
Volcker says the banks' real aim may be to delay implementation of the law until they can get it changed. Congress passed the Volcker Rule in an overhaul of financial regulations after the 2008 financial crisis.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unemployment rates fell in 41 U.S. states in November and were unchanged in six more, reflecting healthy job gains across the country.
The Labor Department says unemployment rates rose in only three states: Connecticut, Louisiana, and Washington state.
Solid economic growth since the spring has encouraged more employers to step up hiring. The U.S. has added nearly 2.7 million jobs this year, the most since 1999. That has lowered unemployment rates in most of the country.
North Dakota's 2.7 percent unemployment rate was lowest in the nation. Mississippi's 7.3 percent rate was the highest.
The biggest job gains occurred in California, which added 90,100 jobs in November, followed by Florida, which gained 41,900. Texas added the third-most jobs, with 34,800.
CHICAGO (AP) -- The average price for a gallon of gas has fallen below the $2.50 mark for the first time in about five years. Oil analyst Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy.com says the price of gas has dropped 41 cents over the last month with the average now at $2.46 a gallon.
According to GasBuddy.com, Texas features the lowest gas price with a station in Keller selling fuel for $1.69.
DeHaan says while the price of gas should continue to fall as the year comes to a close, the rate will not be as dramatic since gas prices have just about matched the steep decline in oil prices.
DETROIT (AP) -- Chrysler is recalling nearly 257,000 older Ram pickup trucks because the rear axle can seize or the drive shaft can fall off.
The recall covers Ram 1500 pickups from the 2005 model year.
Chrysler says in documents posted Friday by U.S. safety regulators that the rear-axle pinion nut can come loose. That can cause problems that make the trucks spin out of control.
The recall comes after an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that began in June.
The agency found 15 complaints, including seven drivers who reported that the wheels locked at speeds over 50 miles per hour. At the time, no crashes or injuries were reported.
Dealers will install a fix at no cost to owners. The recall will begin in February.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Health officials say prepackaged caramel apples are linked to five deaths and more than two dozen illnesses in 10 states.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says investigators are trying to determine the specific brands that were involved. But consumers are being warned not to eat prepackaged caramel apples until more is known.
The CDC says it knows of 28 cases in which people were sickened by a form of bacterial food poisoning called listeria, with 26 hospitalized. They got sick between Oct. 17 and Nov. 27. CDC said it's possible other illnesses have occurred since then.
Two of the deaths were in Minnesota, according to state health officials. The CDC said the illnesses also occurred in Arizona, California, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of cancer treatment company Juno Therapeutics Inc. are surging 60 percent in their stock market debut.
Juno genetically engineers a patient's own white blood cells to find and kill cancer cells in the body. It says its clinical trials have shown evidence of tumors shrinking.
The Seattle-based company raised $264.5 million after selling more than 11 million shares at $24 per share. It plans to use the cash raised to continue trials and studies. The stock is listed on the Nasdaq stock market under ticker symbol "JUNO."
NEW YORK (AP) -- Blackberry reported an adjusted profit for its fiscal third quarter, surprising Wall Street.
The Canadian company's stock climbed almost 3 percent in Friday premarket trading.
For the period ended Nov. 29, the company lost $148 million, or 28 cents per share. That compares with a loss of $4.4 billion, or $8.37 per share, a year earlier.
Stripping out some charges, earnings were a penny per share.
Analysts polled by Zacks Investment Research predicted a loss of 6 cents per share.
Revenue declined to $793 million from $1.19 billion. Analysts were looking for $927.8 million, according to Zacks.
Blackberry Ltd. said that it continues to target sustainable adjusted profitability some time in fiscal 2016.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Another major publisher has reached a multiyear deal with Amazon.com.
Amazon and Macmillan CEO John Sargent confirmed this week that they had agreed to terms for both print and electronic books. The deal will allow Macmillan to set prices for e-books, an arrangement known as the "agency model," and appears similar to agreements Amazon reached in the past two months with Hachette Book Group and Simon & Schuster. Authors at Macmillan range from Jonathan Franzen and Hilary Mantel to Oprah Winfrey and Bill O'Reilly.
Both Macmillan and Hachette have had public feuds with Amazon over terms for e-books. In 2010, Amazon briefly removed "Buy' buttons for all Macmillan releases. For months in 2014, the retailer restricted availability and reduced discounts for numerous Hachette books.
BANGKOK (AP) -- Thai Union Frozen Products is acquiring Bumble Bee Seafoods, a major seller of canned tuna in the United States, for $1.5 billion.
The Thai company says Friday that the purchase of Bumble Bee, which is owned by private equity firm Lion Capital, should be completed by the second half of 2015,
Its statement said Thai Union has annual sales exceeding 100 billion baht ($3 billion), and San Diego-based Bumble Bee Seafoods generates annual sales of approximately $1 billion.
The Thai company already owns Chicken of the Sea, another major U.S. provider of packaged seafood.
MIAMI (AP) -- The Cuban cigar is set to make its first legal appearance U.S. in years, with relaxed guidelines allowing travelers to return with a few in their suitcases. But the cigars won't roll into stores just yet, and owners say they aren't worried about business.
Some tobacco shops owners in Miami's Little Havana say most customers can't afford to travel to Cuba for cigars and won't do so regularly.
Licensed American travelers can return home with $100 in alcohol and tobacco products. Experts say that's three to 20 cigars.
Cigars brought back to the U.S. must be for personal use, not resale. If the U.S. embargo with Cuba is eventually lifted, many tobacconists say they'd welcome the change. They could add Cuban tobacco to their blends, and many believe they interest in cigars would increase.
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