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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."
More Business News
Last Update on October 24, 2014 17:58 GMT
NEW HOME SALES
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. sales of new homes were essentially flat in September, after the government sharply revised downward what was initially an August surge in buying.
The Commerce Department says new-home sales edged up 0.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 467,000. The report also revised down the August sales rate to 466,000 from 504,000.
The pace of sales for newly built homes has improved a mere 1.7 percent so far this year compared to 2013. Only the South has experienced gains in buying year-to-date.
Housing has struggled to fully rebound since the recession ended more than five years ago. Many potential buyers lack the savings and strong credit history needed to afford a home, causing them to rent or remain in their existing houses instead of upgrading.
DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) -- Ford's net income dropped 34 percent to $835 million in the third quarter, dragged down by the cost of launching its new F-150 pickup.
The company closed its Dearborn truck plant for five weeks during the quarter and cut back on truck sales in order to preserve inventories while it readies the new aluminum-sided truck. That hurt pretax profits in North America, which fell 39 percent to $1.4 billion.
Ford earned 21 cents per share, down from 31 cents in the July-September period a year ago. Without one-time items, including separation costs in Europe, Ford earned 24 cents. That beat Wall Street's expectation of 19 cents, according to analysts polled by FactSet.
Revenue fell 2.5 percent to $34.9 billion, better than the forecast of $33.7 billion.
ATLANTA (AP) -- UPS is expecting an 11 percent jump in December shipments as the holiday shopping season heats up.
UPS recently announced that it would hire up to 95,000 people to handle the tremendous volume. That's up from last year when the Atlanta company initially planned to hire 55,000 seasonal workers. Major U.S. shipping companies were overwhelmed by a shift in American shopping habits, namely the success of Amazon.com. with its free shipping, and UPS was forced to hire an additional 30,000 people.
United Parcel Service Inc. also maintained its guidance Friday for 2014 adjusted earnings between $4.90 and $5 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet predict $4.95 per share.
PROCTER & GAMBLE-DURACELL
Procter & Gamble removes the batteries
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Procter & Gamble is removing the batteries and making Duracell a stand-alone company.
P&G, which acquired Duracell in 2005, announced earlier this year that it would shed more than half its brands around the globe over the next year or two.
If a split off occurs, P&G said that its shareholders would have the option of exchanging some, none or all of their P&G shares for shares of the newly formed Duracell company.
The Procter & Gamble Co., based in Cincinnati, said Friday that it is also considering a spinoff, sale or other options for Duracell.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Chiquita shareholders have rejected plans to merge with Irish fruit importer Fyffes that would have made the world's largest banana supplier.
Chiquita Brands International Inc. said Friday that the shareholders didn't approve a revised transaction agreement between the two companies during a special shareholders meeting.
Chiquita said it now expects to enter talks with investment firm Safra Group and juice company Cutrale Group on their competing offer of $14.50 per share. Chiquita previously rejected buyout bids from the two Brazilian companies.
CHILD SEAT RECALL
DETROIT (AP) -- Evenflo is recalling more than 202,000 rear-facing infant seats because the buckles can become difficult to unlatch.
The recall affects Embrace 35/9999 models with an AmSafe QT1 buckle. Documents posted by U.S. safety regulators say that if the buckles don't release easily, it may be difficult to get a child out of the seat in an emergency.
The affected seats were made at various times from December 2011 through May of 2013.
Not all Embrace 35 models are covered by the recall. For others, the company will provide replacement buckles if requested by customers.
The recall comes after an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Owners with questions can call Evenflo at (800) 490-7591.
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- The founder of a popular brand of food for observant Muslims has been indicted on charges that he shipped beef to Malaysia and Indonesia that didn't meet those countries' import requirements.
A federal grand jury returned the indictment Thursday against Bill Aossey Jr., who founded the Midamar Corp. in 1974. The Cedar Rapids company grew into the leading U.S. halal brand, selling more than 200 products in the U.S. and abroad.
A 19-count indictment charges Aossey with directing employees to change labels and fabricate documents to make beef products appear that they originated from a slaughterhouse that met Malaysia and Indonesia's strict requirements. Halal meat is supposed to be killed in ritual slaughter.
Aossey's attorney called the indictment unfair Friday, saying the allegations were "a minor regulatory violation" at most.
NEW YORK (AP) -- NBCUniversal will pay $6.4 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by unpaid interns who worked on "Saturday Night Live" and other shows who claim they are owed wages, according to court documents.
The interns claim NBCUniversal wrongly classified them as non-employees in an effort to avoid labor laws. NBCUniversal said in court documents that even though it is settling the suit, it denies the allegations and doesn't admit any wrongdoing.
The average amount that class-action members of the suit will receive is $505, although the main plaintiffs will receive more. The number of class members is capped at 8,975.
The interns had been seeking recovery of unpaid wages, attorneys' fees, interest and liquidated damages. The settlement still has to be approved by a judge. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in New York.
NBCUniversal is owned by Philadelphia-based cable provider Comcast Corp.
S&P upgrades Cyprus on commitment to bailout deal
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) -- Rating agency Standard & Poor's has given Cyprus a one-notch upgrade to its credit grade, raising it to B+.
The agency cited the country's commitment to the terms of its bailout program and better-than-expected economic growth. It also said the outlook for Cyprus is stable, with good economic progress offset by lingering challenges to its banking system, which is still burdened with a huge amount of bad loans.
LONDON (AP) -- Official figures show Britain's economic recovery is continuing, despite a gloomy global environment.
The Office for National Statistics said gross domestic product grew 0.7 percent in the three months through September compared with the previous three months. That is down slightly from a 0.9 percent quarterly rate in the April-June period but remains among the strongest growth rates among developed economies.
Compared with a year earlier, the economy was 3.0 percent larger.
Treasury Chief George Osborne says the figures show Britain "continues to lead the pack in an increasingly uncertain global economy."
Samuel Tombs, the senior U.K. economist for Capital Economics, says growth in Europe's third largest economy has become broader-based, though recent falls in stock markets, manufacturing surveys and eurozone growth have intensified concerns over the recovery.
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