Government Prosecutors Close Investigations into HCA Executives’ Conduct in Fraud Cases
Government prosecutors announced yesterday that they have closed their inquiry into possible misconduct by individuals associated with HCA, clearing the way for HCA executives to begin giving sworn depositions in a large civil case brought by the government on fraud charges, the New York Times reports. The government has filed numerous cases against HCA alleging that the hospital chain filed improper Medicare reimbursement claims and gave kickbacks to doctors. HCA pleaded guilty in December 2000 to 14 criminal counts and paid the government $840 million to end most of the fraud cases, but lawyers for HCA as well as for company executives have refused to allow employees to testify while fraud charges against individuals associated with HCA remained a possibility (Eichenwald, New York Times, 7/17). In 1999, a jury convicted Jay Jarrell, former CEO of HCA's southwest Florida division, and Robert Whiteside, former director of reimbursement for the company, of six counts of Medicare fraud each as part of a larger fraud investigation of the company. These convictions, however, were overturned in March (American Health Line, 6/4). Jeff Prescott, a spokesperson for HCA, hailed the government's decision to close inquiries into individual misconduct, saying, "This decision frees up people to give their depositions, and for us that is a good thing" (New York Times, 7/17). HCA still could face up to $650 million in civil fraud claims if convicted on additional charges (Lewis, Nashville Tennessean, 7/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.