Westchester Medical Center pays $18.8 million for kickbacks; owner and biller found guilty in $4.5 million home care fraud scheme;

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> Westchester Medical Center agreed to pay $18.8 million and admitted to paying kickbacks to Cardiology Consultants of Westchester P.C in order to generate patient referrals between 2000 and 2007, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) statement. The hospital paid the clinic money to open a practice with the specific intent to refer patients, and then allowed the clinic to use fellows associated with New York Medical College free of charge. Statement

> An administrator and a biller for Home Care America Inc., based in Schaumburg, Illinois, were found guilty for their involvement in a $4.5 million scheme in which they billed Medicare for in-home services provided to patients who were dead, and for services rendered by clinicians that worked more than 24 hours a day. Rick E. Brown, president of the company, forged physician signatures, and Mary C. Talaga, who served as the biller, instructed physicians to falsify documentation, the DOJ said. Statement

> A New Jersey doctor--one of 26 who have pleaded guilty to taking bribes from Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services LLC (BLS)--has been sentenced to 14 months in prison for his role in the scheme, according to the DOJ. Franklin Dana Fortunato admitted to taking more than $100,000 in payments through sham lease and service agreements in exchange for test referrals. BLS made more than $430,000 on testing specimens referred by Furtunato, a fraction of the more than $100 million the company made from false claims in total. Statement

Health Provider News

> In some cities, "respite centers" are offering a viable alternative to hospital visits when it comes to mental health services. The centers offer a warm and welcoming environment, along with mental health counseling. One center in New York has received funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the goal of reducing hospital costs by $50 million. Article

Health Payer News

> The California Franchise Tax Board revoked the tax-exempt status of Anthem Blue Cross in August, but didn't announce that decision until March. Now, an advocacy group is demanding to see public records surrounding the decision. Consumer Watchdog says the information would help other states facing similar decisions, and see how other non-profit health organizations in the state measure up. However, the Franchise Tax Board said confidentiality laws prevent it from releasing the information. Article

And finally … The modern-day Phineas Gage. Article

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