Ex-hospital exec indicted for false Meaningful Use attestation

A former hospital chief financial hospital has been charged with healthcare fraud for falsely attesting that his hospital met the Meaningful Use requirements.

Joe White, of Cameron, Texas, was indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with making false statements to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, according to a Department of Justice announcement Feb. 6. White attested on Nov. 20, 2012, that Shelby Regional Medical center met the Meaningful Use requirements. In actuality, the hospital relied mainly on paper records and used a certified electronic health record "minimally."  White directed the EHR vendor and employees to manually input data into the system, often months after patients were discharged and after the fiscal year ended, according to the DOJ. 

White also engaged in aggravated identity theft by using the name and information of another person to attest to Meaningful Use without that person's consent or authorization.

Shelby received $785,655 in incentive payments for 2012. The announcement does not indicate whether Shelby has since returned the money. Failure to do so could be seen as a violation of the False Claims Act.

If convicted, White could be sentenced up to five years for the false statement and up to two years for the identity theft.

"As more and more federal dollars are made available to providers to adopt Electronic Health Record systems, our office is expecting to see more cases like this one," said Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General's Dallas Regional Office. "The Office of Inspector General is committed to protecting the millions of taxpayer dollars used to pay providers to adopt Electronic Health Record systems."

In the wake of the charges, a Congressional panel led by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) plans to examine how the government is safeguarding stimulus funds, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The government is increasingly clamping down on false Meaningful Use attestations and other problems with EHRs, such as improper billing. OIG's 2014 work plan also ramps up scrutiny of EHRs.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- read the Dallas Morning News article