DOJ Seeks $400M More in HCA Medicare Overpayment Charges
HCA-The Healthcare Co. has already agreed to pay the federal government $840 million to settle criminal and civil fraud charges, the St. Petersburg Times reports that the "nation's largest hospital chain" may "owe the government even more," according to a Justice Department court filing. In the 1,000-page court filing, the DOJ accuses HCA of "routinely falsif[ying]" hospital cost reports, which resulted in more than $400 million in Medicare overpayments (Hundley, St. Petersburg Times, 3/16). Bloomberg News/New York Times reports that the court filing "may increase pressure" on HCA to settle civil claims, including charges of filing false cost reports with Medicare from 1987 to 1997 and paying doctors "kickbacks" to refer Medicare patients from 1988 to 1998 (Bloomberg News/New York Times, 3/16). The St. Petersburg Times reports that HCA, if found guilty in court, could have to pay triple damages -- as much as $1.35 billion (St. Petersburg Times, 3/16). Lehman Brothers analyst Adam Feinstein said that the triple damage figure "is posturing by the prosecutors just to get a big number out there and then negotiate off of it." HCA and DOJ spokespeople declined to comment (Bloomberg News/New York Times, 3/16). The St. Petersburg Times reports that the DOJ court filing outlines HCA's efforts to "systematically cheat" the government over ten years, portraying the hospital chain as having "engaged in deep and broad deception" (St. Petersburg Times, 3/16).