Department of Justice Seal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CIV

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2000

(202) 514-2007

WWW.USDOJ.GOV

TDD (202) 514-1888

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INTERVENES IN SUIT

AGAINST NATION'S LARGEST HEALTH CARE SERVICES PROVIDER


WASHINGTON, DC -- The Department of Justice announced today that it has intervened in a lawsuit filed against Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation in Miami under the False Claims Act for submitting false hospital cost reports to Medicare.

The suit was initially brought by Michael Marine, a former employee for the South Florida Division of Columbia/HCA, according to Acting Assistant Attorney General David W. Ogden of the Civil Division and Thomas E. Scott, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. The complaint, unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Miami, alleges that the firm submitted false reports pertaining to costs incurred by its nine south Florida hospitals for home health services furnished to homebound patients. The lawsuit also alleges that beginning around November 1994, the hospitals made false statements concerning home health costs to the company contracted by Medicare to process and pay cost reports.

"The intervention today by the Justice Department in this suit demonstrates the government's determination to combat health care fraud," said David W. Ogden, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice's Civil Division.

The complaint further alleges that Columbia/HCA shifted costs from one facility, Cedars Medical Center in Miami, which was over the Medicare cost limit, to the other company-owned South Florida hospitals, which were under the cost limit, in order to maximize reimbursement. In addition, the complaint alleges that the same office in Ft. Lauderdale housed both non-home health and home health employees but Columbia/HCA claimed that all the costs were home health related in order to maximize Medicare reimbursement. The complaint also alleges that the South Florida hospitals double billed Medicare for administrative and billing costs incurred by a contractor hired to manage the hospitals' home health agencies. The suit claims that Columbia/HCA billed Medicare for the contractor's management fee which included those costs, and also billed for administrative and billing services that were allegedly performed by the hospitals.

Under the False Claims Act, those who file false claims against the federal government may be subject to three times the damages caused and penalties of $5,000 to $10,000 per violation. Under certain circumstances, the whistleblower is entitled to a portion of the government's recovery. The case has been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Miami.

The lawsuit is filed in the Southern District of Florida as United States ex rel. Marine v. Columbia/HCA et al, No. 97-4368.

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