HHS Fines La Mesa Company $1 Million for Illegal Marketing Practices
HHS yesterday fined La Mesa-based U.S. Seminar more than $1 million -- the largest fine ever levied by the department -- for sending more than 362,000 letters to health care providers in 2001 and 2002 claiming false ties to the federal Medicare program, the Los Angeles Times reports. HHS Assistant Inspector General Larry Goldberg, in a public letter to U.S. Seminar, said the company "used the words and letters of the Medicare program and HHS" in such a manner that could lead recipients to believe that the company's seminars were "approved, endorsed or authorized" by Medicare (White, Los Angeles Times, 4/9). The HHS Office of Inspector General indicated that the letters, sent in a series of three mailings to physicians and other health providers, used the terms "Formal Notice" and "Compliance Required" to convince recipients to take the company's courses or face government action, the AP/Nando Times reports. In addition, HHS said U.S. Seminar telephone representatives would call providers and claim to be Medicare representatives. According to HHS, the company illegally marketed their seminars for six years despite repeated warnings to stop the practice. U.S. Seminar officials could not be reached for comment. The company has 60 days to appeal the fine (AP/Nando Times, 4/8).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.