Today: Windy and cold. Some flurries and snow showers ending. An afternoon high in the mid/upper 40s. A north wind creating a Wind Chill in the 30s. Wind North 15-30 mph.
Tonight: Clearing and much colder with freezing ... More...
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 31, 2014 17:47 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers expect better economic growth and rising incomes in the coming months, pushing a measure of confidence to a seven-year high in October.
The University of Michigan says that its index of consumer sentiment rose to 86.9 from 84.6 in September. That's the highest since July 2007, five months before the Great Recession began. Still, the index regularly topped 90 before the downturn.
Richard Curtin, the survey's chief economist, says that almost six in ten of the respondents said the economy has improved recently, the highest proportion in more than 10 years.
The measure is the second this week to show consumer confidence has reached the highest level since the recession. Greater confidence and more hiring could lead to faster spending and healthier economic growth.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer spending fell in September, the first decline since January, as shoppers took a breather after a big spending spree in August. Income growth posted the slowest gain this year.
The Commerce Department says consumer spending dropped 0.2 percent in September. Income edged up 0.2 percent in September, the smallest monthly gain since a flat reading last December.
The spending decline followed a big 0.5 percent increase in August. In September demand fell for durable goods such as autos and for nondurable goods, a drop that partially reflected falling prices for gasoline.
Spending is closely watched because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. Economists believe September will be a temporary pause as continued hiring gains pushing up spending and the overall economy in coming months.
NEW YORK (AP) -- The average price of gasoline in the U.S. hit $3 a gallon Friday, and should soon drop below the benchmark for the first time since December 2010.
The price at the pump fell 33 cents in October, thanks mainly to plunging oil prices, according to AAA.
Many exuberant drivers have taken to social media to post pictures of gas station signs with prices of $2.99 or lower. Drivers in South Carolina and Tennessee are paying the lowest prices, with an average of $2.75 a gallon.
Drivers in New York are paying the most in the continental U.S., at an average of $3.37. That's still 22 cents cheaper than a year ago.
Gasoline is cheaper than milk again. In September the national average price of milk was $3.73 per gallon.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Falling oil prices hardly seem to be bothering the two biggest U.S. oil companies, but things could get tougher in the coming months.
Exxon and Chevron leaned on strong performances from their refining operations to increase profits in the third quarter despite plummeting global oil prices.
The global price of oil fell 18 percent from the beginning of the quarter to the end, and it cost both companies. Revenue slipped at Exxon by 4 percent and at Chevron by 8 percent.
But low oil and natural gas prices make for low raw material costs -- and higher profit -- for refining and chemical operations, which turn oil and gas into fuels and chemicals. Profit at Exxon's refining and chemicals operations rose 38 percent compared with a year earlier, and Chevron's profit from its so-called downstream operations more than tripled.
Those results helped Exxon's overall earning rise 3 percent in the quarter to $8.07 billion. Chevron's earnings rose 13 percent to $5.59 billion.
NISSAN-AIR BAG RECALL
DETROIT (AP) -- Nissan says it's recalling more than 1,800 Infiniti SUVs in the U.S. for an air bag problem that could send shrapnel into the passenger compartment.
The recall covers the QX56 SUVs from 2013 and the QX80s from 2014. The company says inflators made by Takata Corp. were built with an incorrect outer baffle part. That can cause pressure to build up, and the inflators can rupture if driver's side air bags are deployed.
Nissan has no reports of injuries from the problem. It was discovered after General Motors recalled 33,000 Cruze compact cars for the same problem in June. The Infiniti recall is part of a larger global recall of 260,000 Nissans announced last week.
Takata says the recall is separate from another one affecting 8 million vehicles in the U.S.
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Inflation has crept higher in the 18 countries that use the euro but the rise to 0.4 percent in the year to October is unlikely to offer much relief to the European Central Bank as it tries to boost a weak economy.
The official figure released Friday was up from 0.3 percent the month before.
The European Central Bank is under pressure to give the eurozone another dose of stimulus measures in coming months because inflation is so low and growth so weak. There are fears the eurozone could even fall into outright deflation, a crippling downward price spiral.
Core inflation, a key measure because it excludes volatile food and energy prices, fell to 0.7 percent from 0.8 percent.
The bank's goal is to keep inflation just below 2 percent.
LONDON (AP) -- Royal Bank of Scotland, which is majority-owned by the U.K. government, has set aside 400 million pounds ($639 million) to cover potential fines arising from international investigations into alleged manipulation of foreign currency trading.
The total represents over half the 780 million pounds the bank earmarked for "conduct and litigation costs" in third-quarter earnings released Friday.
The results show the bank, which was bailed out by the government during the 2008 financial crisis, swung back to profit during the July-September period. Its net income of 896 million pounds follows an 828 million-pound loss last year.
CEO Ross McEwan says the bank knows it has "a long list of conduct and litigation issues to deal with and much, much more to do to restore our customers' trust in us."
The Good LifeCelebrating the events, adventures and activities that represent "The Good Life" in the NewsChannel 9 viewing area.
SideroadsTake a ride with Brian Smith to explore the unique people and places to be found along the Sideroads of the NewsChannel 9 viewing area.
Road TrippinCome Road Trippin' with us and see all the great sites in your area!
Closings and DelaysThese are the latest School and Business Closings reported to NewsChannel 9. If you see errors or need to add a school or business, call 423-757-7320.
This N ThatLearn about the latest in community affairs and great events with Brian Smith on This 'N That.
Educator of the WeekNominate now for Educator Of The Week!
Deaf & Hard of HearingInformation provided to NewsChannel 9 by members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community.
Sponsored EventsCheck Back Often for NewsChannel9 Sponsored Events!