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Ed Yeates ReportingFiling false Medicaid reports and paying doctors kickbacks is still costing one of the country's largest hospital chains big bucks. The Utah Attorney General's Office today said it's received yet another sizeable settlement from Hospital Corporation of America still trying to remedy years of Medicaid fraud.
HCA operates six hospitals in Utah under the name MountainStar Health. The hospital chain's medicaid troubles began seven years ago after two Utah doctors told the US Government about false reports.
In July of 1997, with warrants in hand, the FBI began seizing records from two different hospital chains in Utah. But it wasn't just happening here; the seizure was nationwide. The Government's investigation of Medicaid irregularities and fraud led to one of the largest health care settlements in US History.
HCA has now paid the State of Utah more than $2,240,000. $1,383,507 from a previous settlement, involving fraud allegations of laboratory charges. And now an additional $856,961, for filing false medicaid reports and paying doctors kickbacks.
Wade Farraway, Dir., Utah Medicaid Fraud Unit: "For those that are involved in fraud, it truly does not pay. It's cost HCA several federal indictments in the states of Georgia, state of Florida, and uh, I believe Tennessee and several other settlements plus this settlement here."
Here in Utah, a spokesperson for HCA at St Mark's Hospital says the charges and settlements involved a previous regime at HCA and no longer reflects the direction of the hospital chain under its new leadership.
Deb Reiner, St. Mark's hospital: "There's been a complete change with our corporate office - new management, new leaders, new president, new board of directors and they're the ones who have put into place some of the measures that are going on now to help us insure that this will not happen in the future."
HCA currently operates six hospitals from Brigham City on the north to Payson on the south. Those include, St. Marks, Mountain View, Timpanogos Regional, Ogden Regional, Lakeview, and Brigham City Community Hospital.
As part of the settlement agreement made in 2001, HCA agreed nationally to pay $840,000,000 in criminal and civil fines and damages.