...and other sick birds
Sightings from The Catbird Seat
~ o ~
May 29, 2009
Only 48 hours to stop NBC from swiftboating Obama's health care plan.
Friday, May 29, 2009 11:34 AM
"Kate Stayman-London, CREDO Action" <email@example.com>
Bobby N. Harmon, CPCU
NBC has no business airing propaganda about public health care.
We only have a few hours to act.
Rick Scott's discredited infomercial slamming public health care is scheduled to air on NBC this Sunday — e-mail NBC News President Steve Capus today and ask him not to put it on the air.
Americans' lives depend on whether we pass the right kind of health care reform. So why is NBC News airing an infomercial that will spread dangerous misinformation?
President Obama is committed to passing health care reform*, but some Democrats in Congress are already wavering on an extremely important provision — basically, without a public option, the health insurance industry gets to keep getting richer while Americans languish without the care they need.
The public needs to hear the truth about health care. But NBC is preparing to put lies on the air this Sunday.
Rick Scott is the Chairman of a group called Conservatives for Patients' Rights, and he has a history of disseminating lies and misinformation. According to the AP, Scott is "the former head of Columbia/HCA health care company who was ousted amid a fraud investigation that ultimately resulted in the firm pleading guilty to charges of overbilling." His "documentary" looks to be an extended version of videos he's been promoting over the last few weeks, which FactCheck.org characterized as "misleading" in part because they misrepresented the opinions of a doctor who actually favors the public option.
Click here to send an e-mail to NBC News President Steve Capus: Tell him not to air Rick Scott's health care propaganda.
The show is scheduled to air this Sunday, so please act today and forward this email to friends and family who care about real health care reform.
Thank you for working to build a better world.
Kate Stayman-London, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
*CREDO supports a single-payer approach to health care reform, but unfortunately President Obama does not. With single-payer off the table, we are working to ensure that the insurance and health care industry lobbyists don't succeed in stripping a public option from the president's plan.
September 11, 2008
THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Two Miami Physicians Plead Guilty and Admit Ordering $6.8 Million Worth of Unnecessary HIV Infusion Treatments
WASHINGTON – Miami physicians, Carlos Contreras, M.D., and Ramon Pichardo, M.D., each pleaded guilty today to defrauding the Medicare program in connection with a $6.8 million HIV infusion fraud scheme, Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta of the Southern District of Florida announced.
Contreras, 60, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud before U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno in Miami. In his plea, Contreras admitted that he owned a Miami clinic named CNC Medical Inc. (CNC), which purported to specialize in the treatment of HIV positive patients.
Beginning in November 2002 and continuing through April 2004, Contreras admitted that he conspired with others to submit approximately $6.8 million in fraudulent Medicare bills; that he signed documents containing false information about treatments purportedly given to HIV positive patients; and that he approved medically unnecessary treatments at CNC.
Contreras also admitted that the clinic received approximately $4.2 million from the Medicare program as a result of his and his co-conspirators’ conduct.
Furthermore, Contreras admitted that he entered into an agreement in approximately November 2002 with Carlos Benitez, Luis Benitez, Thomas McKenzie, Pichardo and others to operate CNC as a fraudulent HIV infusion clinic. Contreras admitted that the Benitez brothers would refer HIV positive Medicare beneficiaries to the clinic, provide staff members to work at the clinic and transport patients to CNC, in exchange for a substantial share of CNC’s profits.
Contreras was aware that the patients referred to CNC by the Benitezes were paid cash kickbacks in exchange for visiting the clinic and allowing their names to be used to bill the Medicare program. Contreras admitted that he agreed to approve expensive and medically unnecessary HIV infusion claims at the clinic, and to falsify medical records.
Pichardo, 58, also pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Pichardo admitted in his plea that he worked as a physician at CNC, and conspired with Carlos and Luis Benitez, McKenzie, Contreras and others to assist in operating CNC as a fraudulent HIV infusion clinic. Pichardo further admitted that he and Contreras ordered numerous unnecessary and expensive HIV infusion treatments for the purpose of defrauding Medicare rather than providing legitimate health care services.
In a related case, Carlos and Luis Benitez, their brother Jose Benitez and McKenzie were indicted on June 11, 2008, for their role in a $110 million HIV infusion and money laundering scheme. The indictment alleges that Carlos, Luis and Jose Benitez were the masterminds of a massive HIV infusion fraud operation throughout South Florida involving at least 11 clinics and that they laundered the proceeds of their crimes. According to the indictment, Carlos and Luis Benitez were the true owners of CNC. All three Benitez brothers remain fugitives, while McKenzie is currently being detained pending an Oct. 14, 2008, trial.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Hank Bond Walther and John K. Neal of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and Constantine Lizas of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section. The case was investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, and the FBI.
The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by Deputy Chief Kirk Ogrosky of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and U.S. Attorney Acosta of the Southern District of Florida. Federal prosecutors have indicted 82 cases with 142 defendants in South Florida since investigations opened during the period of strike force operations between March and October 2007.
Collectively, these defendants fraudulently billed the Medicare program for more than $492 million.
September 10, 2007
Audit Cites Overpaid
By ROBERT PEAR, New York Times
WASHINGTON — Private insurance companies participating in Medicare have been allowed to keep tens of millions of dollars that should have gone to consumers, and the Bush administration did not properly audit the companies or try to recover money paid in error, Congressional investigators say in a new report.
The investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, said the money could have been used to reduce premiums or provide additional benefits to older Americans.
Under federal law, Medicare officials are supposed to audit the financial records of at least one-third of the insurance companies each year. But the investigators said the Bush administration had fallen far short of that goal and had never met the “statutory requirement.”
Indeed, they said, the proportion of companies audited by Medicare declined steadily — to 14 percent in 2006 from 24 percent in 2001 — despite a steady growth in Medicare payments to the plans. Those payments now total $75 billion a year, about one-fifth of all Medicare spending.
The Bush administration did not take issue with the findings.
“We welcome constructive suggestions for improving the audit process,” said Tim Hill, chief financial officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. An agency spokesman said it might need additional legislative authority to clarify its power to recoup money from insurers.
Administration officials have strongly encouraged insurance companies to participate in Medicare and have urged beneficiaries to enroll in private plans. Some plans, known as Medicare Advantage plans, cover a wide range of services, including doctor’s visits and hospital care. Others provide only prescription drug benefits.
The purpose of the audits is to determine whether insurers correctly calculated their costs and premiums and delivered the services promised to Medicare beneficiaries. Insurers typically receive fixed monthly payments, set in advance, for serving Medicare patients. Drug plans can receive extra payments if their costs exceed their expectations.
Likewise, if private plans hold down costs, they are supposed to share some of the savings with beneficiaries and the government.
In 2003, Medicare audited 49 of the 220 organizations participating in the program. Auditors found significant errors at 41 companies, but Medicare officials took no action on the findings. As a result of the errors, the auditors said, insurers kept “$59 million that beneficiaries could have received in additional benefits, lower co-payments or lower premiums.” The report did not identify the companies.
Paul Caban, assistant director of the financial management team at the Government Accountability Office, said the Medicare agency’s response was puzzling. “What is the value of conducting these audits if you do not act on the findings?” Mr. Caban asked.
Two influential members of Congress expressed dismay.
“Congress required audits for good reason,” said Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee. “There’s a lot of taxpayer money being spent, and we need to know where it goes. We also need consequences for spending that isn’t proven to serve beneficiaries.”
Mr. Grassley said Medicare officials had done “a poor job of bringing accountability here,” and he added, “I want to see concrete action to fix this.”
Representative Pete Stark, the California Democrat who is chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, said the Medicare agency “is not doing its job to protect beneficiaries.”
In separate action, the Bush administration is vigorously pursuing money that it says is owed to insurance companies by Medicare beneficiaries. The Medicare agency has sent letters to more than 135,000 people saying they still owe premiums for prescription drug coverage provided in 2006. In most cases, the premiums were supposed to have been withheld from monthly Social Security checks, but the government withheld the wrong amounts or nothing at all.
Kerry Weems, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said, “I am intently focused on this matter and will make it a priority to correct the errors and minimize them in the future.”
Insurers submit bids to Medicare each year, saying how much they expect to be paid to provide specified benefits. If the government accepts these proposals, it signs contracts with the insurers.
The Medicare agency contends that it does not have the legal authority to force insurers to return money to beneficiaries or to the Medicare trust fund when auditors find “errors, incorrect or unreasonable assumptions or other misstatements” in company bids.
The Government Accountability Office insisted that Medicare officials “had the authority to pursue financial recoveries,” but did not use it.
Medicare hires private firms to conduct many audits. Insurers said that in many cases the auditors were not well versed in the intricacies of Medicare. Moreover, they said, Medicare has not provided clear guidance on how to define important items like administrative costs.
Medicare officials said they found significant errors in bids from 18 of the 80 organizations audited last year. But the Government Accountability Office said “there is a low probability of the audits identifying intentional misrepresentations,” because Medicare relies heavily on actuaries who prepare the bids to certify their accuracy.
Under a 2001 law, every federal agency is supposed to have a program for “recovering any amounts erroneously paid to contractors.”
The Bush administration told the Government Accountability Office that “general federal contract laws do not apply to the payments made under Medicare contracts.”
What the critics are saying about Michael Moore’s new film...
"Three years after winning Cannes' top prize for 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' docu helmer and agent provocateur Michael Moore returns to the Croisette with more polemics-as-performance-art in 'Sicko,' an affecting and entertaining dissection of the American health care industry, showing how it benefits the few at the expense of the many. Pic's tone alternates between comedy, poignancy and outrage as it compares the U.S system of care to other countries."
-- Alissa Simon, Variety
"Moore has a genius for confrontational stunts — demanding a meeting with General Motors Chairman Roger Smith, chatting up an addled Charlton Heston on gun control, buttonholing Congressmen to see if any of them had actually read the Patriot Act — but the Cuba jaunt tops them all. It begins when he hears Congressional testimony indicating that detainees at Guantanamo were getting free colonscopies [sic.] and nutrition counseling."
-- Richard Corliss, Time Magazine
"Three years after conquering the Cannes Film Festival and winning the Palme d’Or for 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' Michael Moore has returned the amour big time with 'Sicko,' his most fluid provocation to date. A persuasive, insistently leftist indictment of the American health care system, as well as a funny valentine to all things French — and many things Canadian, British and Cuban — the film shows that while Mr. Moore remains a radical partisan, he has learned how to sell his argument with a softer touch. He’s still the P. T. Barnum of activist cinema, but he no longer runs the entire circus directly from the spotlight."
-- Manhola Dargis, New York Times
"The revolutionary filmmaker, who shattered all box-office records for a documentary with his last effort, 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' has returned to the Cannes Film Festival with another log to throw on the bonfire, his new film, 'Sicko.' Perhaps the most improbable 116 minutes ever conceived, it is a film about . . . health insurance!"
-- William Booth, Washington Post
"After the screening, several hard-nosed U.S. critics and journalists admitted to crying during the film."
-- Anthony Kaufman, Wall Street Journal
"It's very much in the Michael Moore vein — hilarious, but I was crying through about a third of it."
-- Peter Brunette, Boston Globe
" 'Sicko' has been rapturously received by audiences and critics at Cannes..."
-- Jill Lawless, Associated Press
" 'Sicko' is not just an indictment of an indefensible health care industry in the U.S. It's a rejoinder for those who think we can fix the soulless monster by tinkering with an unconscionable system that puts us further in thrall to those who created the crisis."
-- Rose Ann DeMoro, Huffington Post
"Filmmaker Michael Moore's brilliant and uplifting new documentary, 'Sicko,' deals with the failings of the U.S. healthcare system, both real and perceived. But this time around, the controversial documentarian seems to be letting the subject matter do the talking, and in the process shows a new maturity."
-- Roger Friedman, Fox News
"...a very strong and very honest documentary about a health system that's totally corrupt and that is without any care for its patients."
-- Stephen Schaefer, Boston Globe
DON’T MISS THIS MOVIE!
See also: Nests of the Insurance Vampires; Blessed Are The Peacemakers; Freedom To Sing; The Eagle Hooded: The 9-11 Coverups
January 29, 2006
Frist Says He Got ‘No Nods, No Winks’
Before HCA Stock Sale
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he got “no tips, no nods, no winks, ever” before selling his stock in HCA Inc. in 2005, one month before a company earnings report sent share prices tumbling.
Frist, who holds his shares in a Senate-approved trust, said today on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” that he had no inside information about the company, a hospital chain founded by his father and brother. The Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department both are looking into the 2004 sale....
The investigations and questions about the stock sale are among the factors complicating Frist’s decision about entering the race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Frist is retiring from the Senate when his second term expires next January and he has been making trips for speeches in New Hampshire and Iowa where the nomination campaign begins.
Frist, 53, said he misspoke in 2003 when he said that because it was held in a “blind trust” as far as I know, I own no HCA stock.” He said he should have made it clear he didn’t know how “how much stock of any particular entity” the trust held.
He acknowledged that “what America thinks is a blind trust, it may be something different, but I’m going to follow the rules, which I did.”
Frist ordered his trustees to sell the stock on June 13, a month before the Nashville, Tennessee, company issued a second-quarter earnings estimate that failed to meet analysts’ predications. HCA shares plunged 8.9 percent, the biggest decline in more than two years.
Frist told “Meet the Press” that he sold the stock because news reports repeatedly raised questions about his holdings while Congress debated health care legislation. “So finally, I got tired of those stories,” he said.
When he set up his trust in 2000, Frist reported owning between $5 million and $25 million in HCA shares....
Frist said he will decide about the presidential race after he leaves the Senate and returns to Tennessee.
December 18, 2005
Frist Charity paid $456,125
to political consultants
Donors included several firms with frequent
business before Congress
By Jonathan M. Katz and John Solomon, Las Vegas Review-Journal
WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s AIDS charity paid nearly a half-million dollars in consulting fees to members of his political inner circle, according to tax returns providing the first financial accounting of the presidential hopeful’s nonprofit.
The returns for World of Hope Inc., obtained by The Associated Press, also show the charity raised the lion’s share of its $4.4 million from just 18 sources. They gave between $97,950 and $267,735 each to help fund Frist’s efforts to fight AIDS.
The tax forms, filed nine months after they were first due, do not identify the 18 major donors by name.
Frist’s lawyer, Alex Vogel, said Friday that he would not give their names because tax law does not require their public disclosure. Frist’s office provided a list of 96 donors who were supportive of the charity, but it did not say how much each contributed.
The donors included several corporations with frequent business before Congress, such as insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield, manufacturer 3M, drug maker Eli Lilly and the Goldman Sachs investment firm.
World of Hope gave $3 million it raised to charitable AIDS causes, such as Africare, and evangelical Christian groups with ties to Republicans – Franklin Graham’s Samaritan Purse and the Rev. Luis Cortes’ Esperanza USA, for example.
The rest of the money went to overhead. That included $456,125 in consulting fees to two firms run by Frist’s longtime political fundraiser, Linus Catignani. One is jointly run by Linda Bond, the wife of Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-Mo.
The charity also hired the law firm of Vogel’s wife Jill Holtzman Vogel, and Frist’s Tennessee accountant, Deborah Kolarich.
Kolarich’s name recently surfaced in an e-mail involving Frist’s controversial sale of stock in his family-founded health care company. That transaction is now under federal investigation.
Jill Holtzman Vogel, who is raising money for a run for the state Senate in Virginia in 2007, has received thousands in contributions this year from Catignani & Bond and from her husband, among numerous other sources, according to data released by the Virginia Public Access Project....
Frist is listed as the charity’s president, and his wife was listed as secretary. Neither was compensated.
Political experts said both the size of the charity’s big donations and its consulting fees raise questions about whether the tax-exempt group benefited Frist’s political ambitions....
Dent Cooper, the Federal Election Commission’s former public disclosure chief, said the big donors’ motives are also suspect.
“These tax deductible gifts were earmarked through Senator Frist,” Cooper said. “They were raised in the political arena at the 2004 Republican Convention, and the natural question is were they given to the Senate majority leader to gain favor or were they given for true charitable purposes?”
September 24, 2005
Sale of stock by Frist is scrutinized
by Jeffrey Birnbaum and Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post
Las Vegas Review Journal
WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is facing questions from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission about his sale of stock in his family’s hospital company one month before its price fell sharply.
The Tennessee lawmaker, who is the Senate’s top Republican and a likely candidate for president in 2008, ordered his portfolio managers in June to sell his family’s shares in HCA Inc., the nations largest hospital chain, which was founded by Frist’s father and brother.
A month later, the stock’s price dropped 9 percent in a single day because of a warning from the company about weakening earnings. Stockholders are not permitted to trade stock based on inside information, whether Frist possessed any appears to be at the heart of the probes.
HCA owns four hospitals in Las Vegas: Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center ... Sunrise Children’s Hospital ... Mountain View Hospital ... and Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center...
A spokesman said Frist’s office has been contacted by the SEC and the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan about his divestiture of the stock. HCA officials disclosed separately that the company was subpoenaed by the same U.S. attorney’s office for documents that were related to Frist’s sale....
According to Frist’s office, the senator decided to sell all his HCA stock - held in blind trusts managed by two companies for him, his wife and his children - on June 13. Under the rules of the trusteeships, Frist had no control over the timing of the sale, Frist spokeswoman Amy Call said.
When the company disclosed that its second-quarter earnings would fall short of Wall Street expectations a month later, the stock price slid steeply. By that time, Frist’s shares had been divested....
Frist’s financial disclosure statement earlier this year placed the value of his blind trusts at between $7 million and $25 million.
HCA was founded in 1968 by Frist’s father, Thomas Frist, his brother, Thomas Frist, Jr., and Jack Massey, the former owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken...
< < < FLASHBACKS < < <
December 21, 2002
LOTT QUITS AS GOP LEADER
Likely successor is Sen. Frist of Tennessee
By James R. Carroll and Al Cross, The Courier-Journal
WASHINGTON - Two weeks of furor surrounding Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott's comments on segregation resulted yesterday in Lott giving up his leadership post as other GOP senators realigned behind Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, widely believed to be a potential successor to Lott, instead backed Frist without mounting a campaign for the job. McConnell already was set to become whip, the second-ranking GOP post, when the Senate convenes next month....
Frist's leadership will be closely watched, Price and other civil-rights leaders promised. Frist's support for conservative judges, tax policies that favor the wealthy and other issues do not bode well, they said....
$ $ $
From the internet posting Columbia/HCA; Corporate Imbalance Sheet:
Columbia/HCA - Wall Street Health Care
● $216,000 - Amount of PAC money Columbia/HCA's Good Government Fund contributed in Florida in 1994, making it Florida's largest PAC
● 24 - Columbia/HCA lobbyists employed to repeal 1992 Florida state legislation requiring the corporation to disclose its physician-investors.
● 6 - Number of lobbyists Columbia/HCA shares with the tobacco industry in three southern states.
● $19.9 billion - Revenue in 1996.
● 18 - Hospitals closed since 1994
● 2,000 - Layoffs and positions eliminated since 1995.
● $70,000 - Total fines paid for two separate patient "dumping" violations in Florida, including one for $55,000 (the highest penalty ever paid by a hospital).
● $19 million - Money that would go into pockets of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Ohio's board members and an outside council, if Columbia/HCA deal goes through.
● $116 million - Tax breaks over 10 years for Columbia/HCA to move its headquarters from Kentucky to Tennessee.
● $30,000 - Amount Florida Senator Genny Brown-Waite received as a consultant to Columbia/HCA while serving on the Senate Health Care Committee.
● 30% - Hospitals in Florida owned by Columbia/HCA.
● 4 - Attorneys General who have sued to block deals involving Columbia/HCA.
● $25,000 - Fine for failing to have enough nurses on duty to ensure patient safety at Columbia Women's Hospital in Indianapolis.
● $3.5 billion - Amount Columbia/HCA has said it is prepared to spend to set up a network in the Northeast.
● 3 - Days notice Columbia/HCA gave town Destin, Florida before it closed the hospital in 1994.
● $1.1 billion - Net worth of Columbia/HCA Vice-Chair Thomas Frist, who made the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans.
● $13.9 million - Columbia/HCA stock held in 1995 by US Senator Bill Frist (TN), brother of Thomas Frist.
● 20% - Profit goal per hospital.
● $40 million - Estimated cost of Columbia/HCA's recent ad campaign to build its image as a national brand name.
● $87 million - Amount of taxes Columbia/HCA owed in partial settlement with the IRS.
● $600 million - Amount of taxes IRS says Columbia/HCA still owes.
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December 18, 2002
HCA cuts deal
to end fraud probe
Hospital company to pay $631 million
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle News Services
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- HCA, the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, announced a $631 million settlement Wednesday with Justice Department attorneys that would end the government's nine-year investigation of health care fraud allegations against the company.
The settlement, which requires formal approval by the Justice Department and the courts, would raise the amount of civil fines and criminal penalties the Nashville-based company has paid the government to $1.7 billion over the past few years.
HCA had pleaded guilty previously to defrauding government health care programs.
In the cases included in the settlement agreement, whistle-blowers alleged the company filed false claims and paid kickbacks to doctors so they would refer Medicare and Medicaid patients to its facilities.
James Thompson, a Texas doctor who filed a whistle-blower suit in 1995 alleging kickbacks and Medicare fraud, said the case cost him his health and his practice. He said other doctors ostracized him, so he practiced alone without a day off for three years, suffering a stroke in 1998.
"I said it then, and I'll say it again: Doctors have a duty to protect the health of the community. They protect their patients first, and profits last," said Thompson, who filed the suit in Corpus Christi and lives in Rockport.
"I am proud of what I did, and I'd do it again. But I'm sure glad it's over."
However, attorneys representing other whistle-blowers were not ready to sign off on the settlement. The government has not detailed how the money will be split up or how much will go to the whistle-blowers.
"We have a statutory right and obligation to ensure the settlement is fair, adequate and reasonable," said John R. Phillips of Phillips & Cohen, which represented the whistle-blowers in the cost-report case. "Once we have more information, we intend to fully analyze the settlement."
The firm represents James Alderson, former chief financial officer of a Montana hospital run by a company once owned by HCA. He says he was fired for failing to include aggressive claims on a cost report and filed suit in 1993 charging fraud. That is when the Justice Department began examining the allegations.
Stephen Meagher, another attorney for the whistle-blowers, said attorneys were about to take depositions from HCA Chief Executive Officer Jack Bovender and co-founder Thomas Frist Jr.
Bovender was scheduled to testify next month and Frist in February, he said.
The settlement also comes with Sen. Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican and Thomas Frist's brother, emerging as a candidate to replace Trent Lott as Senate majority leader.
Under the settlement agreement, HCA would pay the Justice Department $631 million beginning Feb. 3 and the government would end its investigation.
Whistle-blowers like Thompson and Alderson may be entitled to a share of that money.
Previously, HCA agreed to pay $250 million to resolve non-related outstanding Medicare cost report issues with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The company, formerly known as Columbia/HCA, paid $840 million in 2001 to settle other whistle-blower cases and pay criminal fines.
In 1999, two former HCA executives -- Jay Jarrell and Robert Whiteside -- were convicted of conspiring to defraud the government and making false statements in Medicare reimbursement cost reports for a hospital in Port Charlotte, Fla.
The convictions were overturned this year on appeal. It was the only case that went to trial.
The Justice Department closed its criminal investigation of HCA executives in July, clearing them to testify in the civil Medicare and Medicaid fraud cases.
The company also said Wednesday it has reached an agreement with attorneys representing states with claims similar to the government's. Under this agreement, HCA will pay $17.5 million to state Medicaid agencies.
HCA expects to charge approximately $395 million against earnings after taxes in the fourth quarter of 2002 because of the settlements.
The company also will be obligated by law to pay legal fees of the whistle-blowers' attorneys. The company expects to record a charge for these fees in the fourth quarter of 2002.
"We are pleased to have successfully negotiated a settlement to the remaining two civil issues," said Jack O. Bovender Jr., HCA chairman and CEO.
Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller issued a statement saying, "We have had discussions with HCA about resolving this civil litigation. The staff assigned to this matter has now reached a tentative understanding with HCA for a settlement."
"Until I see the math, I'll remain skeptical," Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who helped rewrite the whistle-blower law, said in a written statement.
"This settlement can't be a Christmas gift to HCA and a lump of coal for the taxpayers."
Wall Street liked the news. HCA shares rose 3.4 percent, or $1.39 a share, to close Wednesday at $42.90 on the New York Stock Exchange.
From the FBI, Salt Lake City web posting:
Crime in a
. . . Recently, the Salt Lake City Division spearheaded the investigation of the Columbia HCA network of hospitals and healthcare providers. As a result of this operation, many key players, including a few high-level officials of Columbia, are under federal indictment for Medicare fraud.
$ $ $
From BLB&G Columbia/HCA web posting: . . .
Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP, acting for the benefit of the New York State Common Retirement Fund and the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and 10 other institutional investors and individual plaintiffs, filed this derivative action on behalf of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp against members of the Board of Directors and former senior executives of the Company.
This derivative action seeks to hold the defendants responsible for subjecting Columbia to the largest health care fraud investigation in history, extensive nationwide litigation and potential massive fines and penalties....
On March 19, 1997, officials from the FBI, IRS, and HHS executed search warrants on Columbia's offices in El Paso, Texas, as part of a long-term, on-going investigation into allegations of potential health care fraud. A fourth federal agency, the DOD's Criminal Investigation Service later joined in the investigation.
The federal investigations uncovered illegal billing practices, illegal referrals, and illegal acquisition practices. By the middle of the summer the agents raided 35 additional facilities in six more states: Tennessee, Florida, Utah, Oklahoma, Georgia and North Carolina....
In late July, 1997, a federal grand jury in Florida indicted three Columbia executives, two from Florida and one from the corporate office in Tennessee, on five counts including charging the executives with conspiracy to defraud the government by falsifying cost reports used for reimbursements by Medicare and Champus....
In addition to Columbia's systematic violations of the SSA, the HIPPA, the FCA, the antitrust laws, as well as other federal and state laws, the complaint alleges that certain of Columbia's senior level officials sold their shares of Columbia's stock to the unsuspecting public with full knowledge that public disclosure of the investigations would have adverse consequences to Columbia's publicly traded stock prices....
August 14, 1997
For Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp,
things are going from bad to worse
This time, the new chief executive and six other officials stand accused of illegal insider trading....
A lawsuit filed late Wednesday by New York State Comptroller Carl McCall accuses newly named chairman Thomas Frist of selling 3.7 million shares of Columbia stock in 1996 and 1997 for $138 million.
McCall filed the suit on behalf of the New York State Retirement Fund, which owns 2.4 million shares of Columbia stock....
~ o ~
(Catbird Note: Before Columbia and HCA merged, George W. Bush supporter Richard Rainwater put in about $125,000 in Columbia and $15 million in HCA. On 11/17/97, the Columbia/HCA board approved an internal operating reorganization plan and Goldman Sachs assisted the company in its evaluation of restructuring alternatives. Hawaii's giant charitable trust, Bishop Estate, already a major owner in Goldman Sachs, also became a major investor in Columbia/HCA).
May 10, 1999
Fraud trial begins for four
Nurses Week/Health Week
Several years after its investigation started, the government is trying four executives of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp on charges they filed false healthcare claims in an attempt to cheat the government out of $2.8 million....
The case, being heard in a Tampa, Fla., federal court, is the first to reach trial in the FBI's largest healthcare investigation ever...
This trial is part of a larger fraud case against Columbia. That investigation has led to raids on Columbia facilities in several states and a management shakeup. The company also is facing a number of lawsuits, including seven whistle-blower fraud suits...
December 14, 2000
Settlement In HCA Health Fraud Probe
NASHVILLE. - America's largest for-profit hospital chain has agreed to pay the federal government $95.3 million to settle criminal fraud charges.
The Healthcare Company (HCA) had already agreed in May to pay $745 million in civil fines and penalties.
Combined, it is the largest government fraud settlement in history.
The Nashville-based company was accused of conspiring to defraud government health care programs, paying kickbacks to doctors for referring patients and submitting false bills. The criminal charges were related to the company's hospitals in Florida, Georgia, Texas and Tennessee....
Attorney General Janet Reno and other federal officials were expected to officially announce the settlement Thursday afternoon.
The company, formerly known as Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., this spring settled civil fraud allegations that it overbilled for lab and home health care services and overstated patient illnesses to get more money from the government, called "upcoding."
The civil settlement, which also included hospitals in Utah and Pennsylvania, was contingent on the government and HCA reaching a consensus on the criminal fines and penalties by Dec. 31.
It was unclear whether the company would admit guilt to any of the criminal allegations.
The settlements cap a five-year investigation into allegations by whistle-blowers and others in the health industry that HCA conspired to defraud government health insurance plans, including Medicare, which covers the elderly; Medicaid, which covers the poor; and Tricare, which covers the military and their families.
The fraud investigation became public in March 1997 when FBI agents raided HCA hospitals and offices in several states.
Two mid-level Florida HCA executives were found guilty of fraud in 1999 and are appealing their convictions. Another executive was acquitted and a fourth pleaded guilty after a hung jury to avoid a second trial.
No top HCA executives have been convicted.
HCA co-founder Thomas Frist Jr., the brother of U.S. Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, ousted Richard L. Scott as chief executive in July 1997 and began restructuring the company.
HCA got out of the home health care business and sold or consolidated more than 100 hospitals. The chain currently has about 200 hospitals.
Shares of HCA were trading Thursday at $38.89, up 13 cents.
February 8, 2005
The Nature Conservancy Applauds Bush Administration's Support for Tennessee's Walls of Jericho Forest Legacy Project in FY 2006 Budget
The Nature Conservancy
Nashville, TN — The Nature Conservancy today applauded President Bush’s request for $80 million in funding for the Forest Legacy Program for Fiscal Year 2006, including $1.4 million that will go toward the Walls of Jericho....
The Walls of Jericho is 21,453 acres of rivers, forested uplands and caves spreading across the Alabama and Tennessee state line....
"We are pleased that despite tight budgetary constraints this year the President has requested this funding," said Scott Davis, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Tennessee chapter....
The Nature Conservancy bought the land from Stevenson Land Company. The Alabama Division of State Lands through the Forever Wild program intends to buy from the Conservancy the 12,510 acres of land in its state.
The Nature Conservancy will hold the 8,943 acres in Franklin County, Tennessee and the Tennessee Chapter will continue fundraising for the site.
Along with applauding the Bush administration for including funding for including the Walls of Jericho in his budget, Davis also commended U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, Rep. Zach Wamp, U.S. Sen. Bill Frist and Sen. Lamar Alexander for their longtime support of the project.
In FY 2005, the Walls of Jericho project received $3.5 million that will allow The Nature Conservancy to transfer 6,287 acres into state ownership.
The Forest Legacy Program is a partnership between the United States Forest Service (USFS), state governments and private landowners that identifies and protects ecologically important forest habitat which is threatened by possible development or unsustainable practices. Program objectives are met through land acquisition or the use of conservation easements, which protect working forests while meeting important conservation goals.
Since its first appropriations in Fiscal Year 1992, the Forest Legacy Program has conserved over one million acres across 29 states and territories. This program has also provided excellent leverage of the forest conservation federal investment by protecting over $384 million of land value with a Federal investment of $198 million.
The Bush Administration’s Forest Legacy Program budget is part of the larger Fiscal Year 2006 funding bill for the Department of the Interior and the USFS.
Since 1970, public and private partners have been working to protect the "Walls of Jericho" in the Southern Cumberland Plateau. Once part of Texas oil baron Harry Lee Carter’s 60,000-acre property, the site was open for public access. When Carter died in 1977, the land was divided and officially closed to public visitors....
For more, GO TO > > > The Nature Conservancy
$ $ $
NOW, PUT ON YOUR SANITARY MASKS FOR A CLOSER EXAMINATION OF SOME VERY SICK BIRDS
October 9, 2000
America's Richest 400 People
Forbes Special Edition
Richard Rainwater - $1.5 billion (Rank: 189) - Investments, Fort Worth, Texas.
He's been predicting higher oil prices since 1997 and, after 2 years of record lows, finally proven right. Petroleum bets cost him hundreds of millions in recent years; paid off this spring when oil hit a 12-month high of $34 a barrel. Stake in troubled Columbia/HCA is also up.
Rainwater once handled Bush family investments, but says he hasn't talked to George W. for years, contrary to reports in the Texas press. Stanford M.B.A., got start managing $50 million Bass family portfolio 1979, scored big with Disney investment 1984. Left to manage own money 1986, same year he entered The Forbes 400 list.
Says he's retired, isn't very convincing.
* * *
From People Profiles, (www.pathfinder.com): . . .
Rainwater grew up in Fort Worth . . . and ended up at Stanford Business School along with Sid Bass...an heir to the Bass oil fortune.
After graduation, Rainwater took a job at Goldman Sachs, then went work for the Bass family as a financial advisor, growing their $50 million of assets into a $5 billion fortune. . . .
In the 1980's, Rainwater went out on his own and built up positions in real estate, oil and gas, and health care -- most famously Columbia/HCA, recently the subject of federal investigations.
Along the way, Rainwater was one of the owners (with Texas Gov. George W. Bush, among others) who bought and sold the Texas Rangers baseball team; he's still a part owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He also purchased Canyon Ranch. . . .
* * *
September 3, 1997
From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, by Rick Daysog:
Four years ago, Bishop Estate invested $30 million in Mid Ocean Reinsurance Co. with partners J. P. Morgan & Co., Marsh & McLennan Co., and Texas deal maker Richard Rainwater. The estate's 5.36 percent in the Bermuda-based reinsurance company, which went public in late 1993, today is worth about $106 million....
* * *
From Real People for Real Change: George W. Bush, Jr. - The Dark Side :
Corruption in Texas Government;
State $ to Big Contributors
Bush's administration has been marked by the large amounts of state controlled money flowing to men who have either contributed large amounts to Bush's campaign, or who have made Junior personally rich through sweet insider business deals, or both....
Another key player in the Bush world is Richard Rainwater, the billionaire Texas investor who made Bush Jr.'s original involvement in the Texas Rangers deal possible. That's the deal that made Jr. rich, of course. Bush had several other personal investments in Rainwater controlled companies. But Rainwater has received much from Bush and the state of Texas' treasury, too...
For example, the state teacher retirement fund sold three office buildings to Rainwater's real estate company at bargain prices, and without bids in 2 of the cases. The fund invested $90 million in the Frost Bank Plaza in Austin, and sold it to Rainwater's Crescent Real Estate for $35 million.
Bush signed a law that will give his former baseball team co-owners -- including Rainwater -- a $10 million bonus payment when a new Dallas arena is built. Bush also proposed a cap on business real estate taxes that would have saved Rainwater millions on his various properties (but it lost in the legislature).
And UTIMCO, described above, has invested $20 million in Rainwater companies....
Bush may or may not have violated state ethics laws with all of this big money back-scratching, but there is no doubt that he and these businessmen are operating corruptly -- funneling large amounts of state money to the businessmen's companies, and large amounts of their personal and business money into George Bush Jr.'s pocket and political campaigns....
* * *
From If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates, by Jim Hightower:
Bush Plays Ball.
Meet one of George's special buddies: Richard Rainwater.
He's little known outside the rarefied world of high finance, but to those denizens he's considered a financial wizard and a skilled corporate deal maker. Having been a bright Wall Streeter at Goldman Sachs, then having made a bundle handling investments for the gabillionaire Bass family of Fort Worth, he subsequently amassed his own portly portfolio, now owning such properties as Pioneer Oil Company, the huge Columbia/HCA Healthcare corporation, and the sprawling Crescent Real Estate empire, which has billions invested in high-rise office buildings, golf courses, and other developments. He's also into casinos, costume jewelry, health-food restaurants, and a joint venture with the Chinese called Richina (Richard, rich, China ...get it? Cute).
Bottom line is he now ranks among the one hundred richest people in America, with a net worth in the neighborhood of a billion and a half bucks.
Along the way to that posh neighborhood, he got cozy with the President's boy, who had not amounted to much and showed little promise. After a stint in the National Guard (he helped defend Houston during the Vietnam War), Bush spent many years developing his partying skills, gaining the nicknames of "Boosto" and "The Bombastic Bushkin" along the way. With a little help from Daddy and Daddy's friends, George W. went into the oil business, but failed.
When Rainwater entered his life, Bush wasn't doing anything but hanging around his daddy's White House . . .
To flower, every bush needs to be properly watered, and Rainwater was just what "Junior" needed to grow into real wealth and to gain that "successful businessman" image that later allowed him to run for governor of Texas. Over the past decade, Rainwater has put Bush into oil deals, real estate investments, and other business schemes, with the result that, as R.G. Ratcliffe of the Houston Chronicle reports, Richard Rainwater "is largely responsible for Bush's wealth."
* * *
From The Governor's Gusher : The Bush Profiteers - #10.
Richard E. Rainwater (Ft. Worth): $100,000 - Rainwater was a key investor in the Texas Rangers and Columbia/HCA Healthcare, which the government is investigating on Medicare fraud charges. . . .
GWB received $37,500 from executives of Rainwater's Crescent Real Estate ... which bought two buildings from the state in '96 at bargain-basement prices.
GWB's personal blind trust invested in Crescent during his first term....
September 30, 2002
America's Richest 400 People
Forbes Special Edition
Thomas Frist Jr. - $1.7 billion (Rank: 113) - HCA Healthcare, Nashville
Medical Doctor served as Air Force surgeon before founding Hospital Corp of America with father in 1968. Merged with Columbia Healthcare in 1994; now nation's largest hospital owner. Pulled out of semi-retirement to handle lengthy Medicare-fraud investigation in 1997. Stepped down again this year.
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March 14, 1998
INFACT Questions Sincerity of Columbia/HCA Healthcare's Image Makeover at Annual Meeting And Challenges New CEO's Commitment to Patient Care
Nashville -- Amidst massive, ongoing federal and state criminal investigations, four indictments, and at least 17 lawsuits, the giant Columbia/HCA Healthcare is attempting to change its image from a voracious and criminal corporate raider more concerned with profits than healthcare into a caring and compassionate corporation.
The national corporate watchdog organization INFACT is attending this Hall of Shame Corporation's Annual Meeting today to expose ongoing abuses by Columbia/HCA and challenge new CEO Thomas Frist--brother of US Senator Bill Frist--to stop interfering in public health policy.
In 1997, INFACT inducted Columbia/HCA into the Hall of Shame for corporations that manipulate public policy at the expense of public health, and presented Columbia board members with The 1997 People's Annual Report, detailing the widespread influence-peddling of the healthcare giant. . . .
CEO Frist promises a "new day" at Columbia/HCA, claiming that "compassion, honesty, integrity," and "patient care in the communities we serve" are "cornerstones" of a new corporate culture.
Frist hired an ethics officer to monitor the corporation's behavior. Frist also hired as his second-in-command at Columbia/HCA Jack Bovender, who was in charge of HCA's West Florida Medical Center when the IRS accused that facility of grossly marking up medical supplies.
Its blood bank had a gross profit margin of more than 50 percent....
INFACT wants to ensure CEO Frist's proclamations and the hiring of an ethics officer are not merely public relations ploys used to distract investigators and the public while Columbia/HCA continues to profiteer at the expense of people's health."
While Frist promotes Columbia/HCA's "ethics," its Sunrise Medical Center in Las Vegas--the largest hospital in Columbia/HCA's hands--provides less than half of the national average of uncompensated care to children, the elderly, and the working poor, while continuing to send profits back to Wall Street and Nashville.
At the end of April, the Nevada Attorney General's Medical Fraud Unit confiscated billing records from the Sunrise facility as part of a continuing investigation, drawing into question the corporation's commitment to "cooperate fully with appropriate authorities."
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Founded in 1977, INFACT's purpose is to stop life-threatening abuses of transnational corporations and increase their accountability to people around the world. INFACT is known for its successful Nestléé and GE Boycott Campaigns.
December 21, 2002
'Fristy' is wealthy, personable and a friend of the president
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As he prepares to become the next Senate majority leader, Senator Bill Frist is on the cusp of another milestone in his second career that some believe may include a run for the White House in 2008.
"Fristy" to his friend President Bush, the heart-and-lung transplant surgeon from Tennessee already had been mentioned as a possible secretary of the new Department of Homeland Security, a future party leader in the Senate, even Bush's running mate in 2004.
Not bad for a man who didn't bother to vote until age 34.
Frist, 50, and two years into his second term, is a consensus builder who presents himself as a "compassionate conservative" and for years he has spent portions of his vacations performing free operations all over Africa.
William H. Frist is a fourth-generation Tennessean who learned to fly as a teenager and soloed for the first time at age 16.
His father, Thomas Frist Sr., was a cardiologist who in 1968 founded the Hospital Corp. of America, now known as HCA, the nation's largest chain of for-profit hospitals.
According to the congressional newspaper Roll Call, Frist, whose personal wealth is about $20 million, is in ninth place among Senate millionaires, just behind Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
As a source of wealth, HCA could prove politically nettlesome down the road as Frist comes under increased scrutiny. After a protracted federal investigation, the company pleaded guilty in 2000 to charges of large-scale Medicare fraud and agreed this week to pay more than $880 million in fines and restitution.
Frist, who never worked at HCA, was untouched by the investigation.
But his financial disclosure forms indicate that he, his wife and children hold millions of dollars in HCA stock.
And during his time in the Senate, he has accepted more than $1.8 million in campaign contributions from health-care and related industries, according to data compiled by campaign finance expert Dwight L. Morris.
Frist has rejected suggestions that because of his investments he recuse himself from health-care legislation....
Frist, one of five children, earned his bachelor's degree from Princeton and his medical degree from Harvard.
As a student, he adopted stray cats from Boston-area shelters -- and then dissected them.
Frist later confessed that it had been "a heinous and dishonest thing to do."
After postgraduate training at Stanford University, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and in the United Kingdom, Frist returned to Tennessee. He taught at Vanderbilt University and founded its transplant center; he performed more than 200 organ transplants.
Frist told an interviewer for the Hospitals & Health Network that he had not voted earlier in life because "I didn't realize how significant the impact of an individual could be."...
* * *
DECEMBER 20, 2002
Frist for the Mill?
Senate Majority Leader Aspirant Has Race-Related
Controversy in His Past
By Robert Moore, The Public i
WASHINGTON -- Republican Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, a close ally to President Bush and the probable successor to Sen. Trent Lott as the next Senate Republican leader, would ascend to the top Congressional post with his own history of race-related controversy.
Frist's successful first run for public office in 1994 was marked by charges the campaign was built around racial divisions in a state where roughly 16 percent of the population is black.
In the years since, civil rights leaders in Tennessee----including former NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Hooks----say Frist has redeemed himself by keeping in contact with black leaders across the state.
Nonetheless, the past may haunt Frist as his national profile rises in the Republican Party, and in light of a renewed focus on issues of race occasioned by Lott's remarks at Sen. Strom Thurmond''s 100th birthday party earlier this month. At the event, Lott praised Thurmond's 1948 Dixiecrat run for the presidency on a platform that included opposition to desegregation and federal anti-lynching laws.
Lott agreed to leave his post as Senate Majority Leader because of the firestorm of criticism his remarks unleashed.
A review of Frist's background reveals blemishes on his Washington image.
Until the year he was elected to the Senate, Frist was a member of Nashville's Belle Meade Country Club, which had excluded blacks.
Frist also enraged black clergy and others during the campaign with allegedly racist remarks made in the closing days of the contest against incumbent Sen. Jim Sasser. The remarks surfaced after a November 1994 bus tour the Frist campaign took through a predominantly black neighborhood in Jackson, Tenn.
As the bus pulled into the community, a young campaign volunteer reportedly told passengers, "We're getting deeper and deeper into the jungle here."
Frist himself reportedly asked for some of his campaign's pencils to give to children in the neighborhood. But, Frist allegedly wanted unsharpened pencils, fearing that he might be "stuck" or stabbed.
Campaign staffers also suggested playing rap music over the sound system as the bus pulled into the neighborhood.
The remarks from the bus trip were reported in the Knoxville News-Sentinel and the Commercial Appeal of Memphis.
Despite the criticism at the time, Frist denied there were racial implications to the remarks and refused to make a public apology. Frist's campaign manager at the time, Tom Perdue, said the comments had been taken out of context.
Frist continued to draw criticism over language he used in his stump speeches during the campaign. Frist told supporters that incumbent Sasser was "sending Tennessee money to Washington, to Marion Barry," the embattled black mayor convicted in a drug scandal.
Sasser and other charged the comments had "subtly" racial overtones.
One of the leading critics at the time was the Rev. Harold Middlebrook of Knoxville's Canaan Baptist Church of Christ and president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, who launched a massive get-out-the-vote effort to oppose Frist's Senate aspirations.
"They didn't make those statements in white communities," Middlebrook said at the time. "They only made those statements in our community. When they make those comments in our community, it becomes racist."
Nearly 10 years later, leading civil rights advocates in Tennessee say that Frist has "reached out" to the black communities, while still opposing key initiatives they support....
Frist has risen rapidly in the GOP since 1994 when he became the first practicing physician to enter the Senate in decades. Frist founded and ran Vanderbilt University's transplant center, and has the reputation as one of the Senate's leading voices on health issues.
The Frist family fortune comes from one of the nation's largest hospital chains. Frist's father, Thomas, and brother, Thomas Jr., founded the Hospital Corporation of America, which went on to merge with Columbia Hospital Corp. in 1993.
Today known as HCA/The Healthcare Co., it is one of the nation's largest private hospital companies, worth an estimated $20 billion. The chain recently agreed to pay $648 million to settle charges in a long-running federal investigation involving health care fraud.
The investigation grew out of lawsuits by former employees and focused on whether the company improperly billed Medicare for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Including civil and criminal settlements reached in 2000, HCA has paid a total of about $1.7 billion in fines and other costs, according to the Justice Department....
Copyright 2001, The Center for Public Integrity . All rights reserved
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CHOOSE ONE: WHICH WOULD YOU FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE
ENTRUSTING TO SENATOR BILL FRIST?
1) YOUR TAX MONEY, OR
2) YOUR SICK CAT
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Last Update May 29, 2009, by The Catbird