FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEAG
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2000(202) 514-2008
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCES LARGEST
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FRAUD SETTLEMENT IN HISTORY
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a press conference today announcing the largest fraud recovery in history, the Attorney General made the following statement:
"Health care fraud impacts every American citizen. When a company defrauds our nation's health care programs, it takes money out of the American taxpayer's pocket. It is wrong.
"That is why the Justice Department, like other federal agencies, has redoubled its efforts to combat this fraud - a fraud that imperils such programs as the Medicare Trust Fund and the Federal Health Care Benefits programs.
"Today, we have taken a major step in our efforts to stop this fraud. I am pleased to announce that the largest hospital chain in the nation - HCA - The Healthcare Company - has entered into the largest health care fraud agreement ever reached by the Justice Department.
"Under a civil settlement, HCA will pay $745 million, plus interest, for its alleged false billing practices. And, it will pay $95 million in criminal fines.
"In addition to these fines and damages, HCA - formerly known as Columbia/HCA - has also signed a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services. The agreement will assure that the violations that led to this investigation in the first place are not repeated. It will also require HCA to self-report misconduct to the Department of Health and Human Services and cooperate in the ongoing investigations into the conduct of individuals.
"Today's civil settlement resolves claims that the company engaged in fraudulent billing practices, including overbilling the government, charging for services that were not performed and claiming funds for non-reimbursable costs.
"It is a settlement that not only recoups the funds for the American taxpayer - but penalizes the company as well. It's a simple message: If you overbill the U.S. taxpayer, then we are going to make you pay it back, and then some.
"Additionally, as part of this settlement, two of Tennessee-based HCA's subsidiaries, Columbia Management Companies, Inc. and Columbia Homecare Group, Inc., have agreed to plead guilty to several criminal charges involving a wide range of conduct which occurred at HCA's hospitals nationwide. The criminal conduct charge includes cost report fraud, fraudulent billing to Medicare for personnel who worked at home health agencies and at wound care centers, fraudulent billing to Medicare and other health benefit programs for patients diagnosed with pneumonia, paying kickbacks to doctors to induce referrals, paying kickbacks in connection with the purchase and sale of home health agencies, and fraudulent billing of Medicare for fees paid to manage those agencies. The two defendants will also be excluded from participation in the Medicare program.
"I would like to recognize the exceptional efforts and outstanding team work of all the agencies and individuals involved in this groundbreaking case. Today's plea agreements and civil settlement stand as a testament to our commitment and success in the fight against health care fraud and abuse.
"Federal health care programs operate on the good faith and honesty of health care providers. This action today will help keep those unscrupulous providers honest.
"This investigation was the largest multi-agency investigation of a health care provider ever undertaken by the government. And it was a complex undertaking, involving the participation by the Department's Criminal and Civil Divisions, more than 30 United States Attorneys' Offices, the FBI, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Health Care Financing Administration, Defense Criminal Investigative Services, the Department of Defense's TRICARE program, Office of Personnel Management Inspector General, and State Medicaid Fraud Control Units. The Criminal Division and the Civil Division of the Department of Justice coordinated this major investigation and negotiated the settlements. It is an example of government working together and what can be done through teamwork.
"I am joined today by Assistant Attorney General David Ogden of the Civil Division; Richard Deane, the United States Attorney from Atlanta; Donna Bucella, the United States Attorney from Tampa; June Gibbs Brown, the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services; Thomas Kubic of the FBI; Patrick McFarland, Inspector General of the Office of Personnel Management; Carol Levy, Director of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service of the Defense Department; Dr. James Sears, Director, TRICARE; and, Barbara Zelner, Counsel to National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units.
"I would now like to thank everybody who has been involved in this remarkable investigation and undertaking, and I would like to introduce Assistant Attorney General David Ogden of the Civil Division, who has been so instrumental in effecting this negotiation."