Former hospital CEO, two vendors sent to prison for fraud

A former hospital chief executive officer in Louisiana faces more than three years in prison for accepting kickbacks from the facility's equipment vendors, the Associated Press reported.

A U.S. District Judge sentenced 71-year-old Charles W. Alford to 37 months of incarceration and ordered him to pay $1.3 million in restitution. Alford pled guilty to a federal charge of healthcare fraud.

During his tenure as CEO/administrator of Madison Parish Hospital in Tallulah, La., Alford received more than $1 million in kickback payments from a Texas healthcare equipment firm and a Monroe, La.-based insurance company. Executives connected with both of those companies also entered guilty pleas earlier this year, according to the Monroe News-Star.

Henry R. Ham of West Monroe, La., owner of a company called Insurance World, received a 14-month prison sentence and was ordered to repay $817,000. Barney Hughes of Keller, Texas, who operated a company called Tech Solutions, must serve a year in prison and pay $566,874 in restitution. Both paid Alford kickbacks to keep their existing business agreements with Madison Parish Hospital in place.

Insurance World provided health and life coverage to the hospital's employees, while Tech Solutions provided nuclear medicine and ultrasound equipment. The hospital paid Insurance World nearly $5 million for its services between 2007 and 2012, with Alford retaining more than $800,000. Tech Solutions was paid more than $2 million between 2006 and 2012 with Alford receiving nearly $567,000.

The arrangements were not disclosed to the hospital board, and Alford's payments were covered up through the submission of fraudulent cost reports to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have become particularly aggressive in cracking down on healthcare fraud in recent years. Prosecutions for healthcare fraud have increased nearly 10 percent from a decade ago, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

The Madison Parish Hospital Service District has filed civil suits against Alford, members of his family and others they believe are responsible for the fraud, the News-Star reported.

To learn more:
- read the Associated Press article
- here's the Monroe News-Star article