HMA improperly collected $31 million in Meaningful Use incentives

Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates will restate financial statements from 2010 through 2013 after an internal audit uncovered that 11 of its 71 hospitals inappropriately collected $31 million in benefits from the federal government's electronic health record incentive program.

The hospitals, according to an HMA statement released Tuesday, recognized their HITECH payments as income between July 2011 and June 2013. The audit found that HMA made an error in certifying its EHR systems. The hospitals, in fact, did not meet Meaningful Use criteria, despite the following claims:

  • $8.3 million in 2011
  • $17.3 million in 2012
  • $5.4 million for the first half of 2013

As a result of the error, HMA, on Oct. 30, withdrew the hospitals from the incentive program, but plans to re-enroll the facilities soon. HMA stated that it has repaid most of the funds to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and that it hopes to eventually recoup some of that money.

"[D]ue solely to this matter, [HMA's] financial statements and related communications for fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012 and the fiscal quarters ended March 31, 2013, and June 30, 2013, and its annual 2013 guidance issued on July 30, 2013, should no longer be relied upon," the statement said. "[HMA] is in the process of remediating a material weakness in internal control relating to the administration and oversight of its EHR enrollment process that it has now concluded existed as of Dec. 31, 2012, March 31, 2013, and June 30, 2013."

Hospitals and health systems are being encouraged to conduct their own internal audits in anticipation of Meaningful Use attestation audits set to be conducted by the federal government. Although the government will hit only a small percent of the nation's providers with such an audit, the stakes are high: Any single attestation misstep could be grounds for loss of the full incentive payment.

Attendees at the CHIME13 CIO forum in Scottsdale, Ariz., last month heard from two leaders who've been there: Elizabeth Johnson, vice president of applied clinical Informatics at Tenet Healthcare Corporation, which has 78 hospitals in 20 states, and Pam McNutt, senior vice president & CIO at the six-hospital Methodist Health System in North Texas.

To learn more:
- here's the HMA announcement