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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 July 22, 2014 17:08 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- There's a big decision concerning the big business of health care.
A federal appeals court has ruled 2-1 that the health care law as written only allows insurance subsidies in states that have set up their own exchanges.
That invalidates an IRS regulation that allowed subsidies in all 50 states.
The decision could potentially derail subsidies for many low- and middle-income people who have bought policies, resulting in premium increases for more than half
8 million Americans who purchased taxpayer-subsidized insurance under the law.
The White House says health subsidies under the Affordable Care Act will continue to flow for the time being.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sales of previously owned homes rose for a third straight month in June, pushing activity to the highest level in eight months and providing evidence that housing is regaining lost momentum.
The National Association of Realtors says that sales of existing homes increased 2.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million homes. It marked the first time that sales have been above the 5 million-mark since October.
Even with the three months of increases, sales are still 2.3 percent below the pace in June of last year.
Sales peaked in early summer last year and then lost momentum as mortgage rates rose from extremely low levels. Sales were further hurt by an unusually severe winter.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer prices rose in June at a slightly slower pace than in May with two-thirds of the June advance driven by the largest jump in gasoline prices in a year.
The Labor Department says prices rose 0.3 percent in June following a 0.4 percent rise in May which had been the biggest one-month gain in more than a year.
Energy prices were up 1.6 percent, nearly double the May gain, reflecting a sharp 3.3 percent rise in gasoline costs. But food costs edged up just 0.1 percent, the smallest gain since January.
Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy, were up just 0.1 percent. Over the past 12 months, core prices are up 1.9 percent, an indication of moderate inflation.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Comcast Corp.'s second-quarter net income rose 15 percent to nearly $2 billion as it added high-speed Internet customers at a faster pace than a year ago and video subscriber losses moderated.
Its adjusted earnings topped Wall Street estimates.
The nation's largest cable provider says net income rose to $1.99 billion, or 76 cents per share.
Revenue grew nearly 4 percent to $16.84 billion, short of the $16.95 billion expected by analysts.
Cable hookup revenue, up 5 percent at $11.03 billion, was slightly better than expected, but NBCUniversal revenue, flat at $6.02 billion, was less than analysts predicted.
The company says it added a net 203,000 Internet customers compared to the first quarter, giving it 21.3 million. That's 8 percent more than it added in the same quarter a year ago.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Verizon is reporting that its second-quarter earnings nearly doubled after securing full ownership of Verizon Wireless.
Profit jumped to $4.32 billion from $2.25 billion, or 78 cents per share. Net income per share grew, but at a lower rate, to $1.01 per share from 78 cents per share. That's because Verizon issued shares in February to pay Vodafone shareholders for their share of Verizon Wireless.
Revenue rose 5.7 percent to $31.48 billion from $29.79 billion last year.
GENEVA (AP) -- Credit Suisse AG has posted a second-quarter net loss of 700 million Swiss francs ($779 million) after paying the largest penalty ever imposed in a U.S. criminal tax case.
Switzerland's second-biggest bank calls the steep loss, a striking contrast to its 1.045 billion francs ($1.16 billion) profit in the April-June period a year ago, a direct result of resolving the U.S. government's case against the bank for helping wealthy Americans avoid paying taxes through secret offshore accounts.
The Zurich-based bank pleaded guilty in May to aiding U.S. tax evaders and agreed to pay about $2.6 billion to the U.S. government and regulators.
Chief Executive Brady Dougan says, "we deeply regret the past misconduct that led to this settlement and that we take full responsibility for it."
McDonald's profit slips; US sales decline
OAK BROOK, Ill. (AP) -- McDonald's says its profit slipped in the second quarter as sales in the U.S. continued to flag.
The world's biggest hamburger chain has been struggling to boost sales in its flagship market amid intensifying competition, changing eating habits and the persistent financial struggles of its lower-income customers.
In the U.S., sales at established locations fell 1.5 percent for the period fewer customers came into its restaurants. The company, based in Oak Brook, Illinois, hasn't managed to raise the figure since October.
Executives say they're working to improve basics such as operational speed and service, but that they don't expect performance to change significantly in the near term.
ATLANTA (AP) -- Coca-Cola is reporting quarterly sales that fell short of Wall Street estimates as demand weakened for Diet Coke in North America.
Globally, the world's biggest beverage maker says sales volume rose 3 percent, boosted by gains in places including China, India, the Middle East and South Africa.
In its flagship North American market, however, sales volume was flat despite the company significantly stepping up its marketing around the World Cup. Sodas including Coke, Fanta and Sprite saw gains, but Diet Coke declined. Diet Coke is the country's No. 2 soda, behind Coke and ahead of Pepsi.
Executives at Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have blamed a recent decline in diet sodas on concerns people have about artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.
To address those worries, the companies have been working behind the scenes to assure dietitians and others about the safety of such sweeteners.
For the quarter, the Atlanta-based company says profit fell to $2.6 billion, or 58 cents per share, from $2.68 billion, or 59 cents per share, in the same quarter a year earlier.
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Harley-Davidson Inc. reports net income that climbed by 30 percent in its second quarter, and topped analysts' expectations.
The Milwaukee-based company says earnings rose to $354.2 million, or $1.62 per share, from $271.7 million, or $1.21 per share, in the same quarter a year earlier.
The company says revenue rose 12 percent to $2 billion from $1.79 billion in the same quarter a year earlier, also beating Wall Street forecasts.
Harley-Davidson shares fell $80 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $66.50 in trading before Tuesday's opening bell. They have dropped $1.60, or 2.3 percent since the beginning of the year, while the S&P 500 has risen 6.8 percent.
GOODWILL-DATA BREACH INVESTIGATION
NEW YORK (AP) -- Nonprofit organization Goodwill Industries Inc. is working with federal officials to investigate a possible security breach.
The Rockville, Maryland-based organization says it was contacted Friday by a payment card industry fraud investigative unit and federal authorities who said payment card numbers may have been stolen from some U.S. stores. Investigators are reviewing information but so far no data breach has been discovered.
Goodwill operates more than 2,900 stores and takes in annual retail sales of $3.79 billion. It sells donated merchandise to fund job programs.
Goodwill says it is working with credit card makers, the Secret Service and fraud investigators to figure out if a breach occurred.
Its investigation follows a spate of high-profile data breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers.
CUTLER, Calif. (AP) -- The supplier of fruit to Costco and Trader Joe's has issued a voluntary nationwide recall on certain lots of some of its fruit for possible listeria contamination.
Wawona Packing of Central California says the recall affects its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots.
The recall comes after internal testing at the packing house in Tulare County, California.
Officials say the facility has been sanitized.
NEW YORK (AP) -- CIT Group is buying regional bank OneWest Bank in a $3.4 billion cash-and-stock deal.
OneWest, whose parent company is IMB Holdco LLC, runs 73 retail branches in southern California. The bank is privately owned.
IMB shareholders will receive $2 billion in cash and 31.3 million CIT Group shares that are currently valued at $1.4 billion.
When the transaction closes, CIT Group Inc.'s banking subsidiary CIT Bank will merge with OneWest Bank under the CIT Bank sign.
John Thain will still serve as Chairman and CEO of CIT Group, based in Livingston, New Jersey. The company's board will increase from 13, to 15 directors.
The deal is expected to add 20 percent to CIT Group's 2016 earnings per share.
The boards of both companies have approved the sale.
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