Hospital CFO turns whistleblower

The former chief financial officer for a Georgia hospital has turned whistleblower, filing a lawsuit claiming Health Management Associates (HMA) and its subsidiaries, including Tenet Healthcare and Clinica de la Mama (Clinica), bilked the Medicaid program out of millions of dollars.

The lawsuit was filed by Ralph Williams, a former CFO for HMA's hospital in Monroe, Ga. His suit, which was unsealed this week, claims that HMA and Tenet paid kickbacks to clinics that served pregnant undocumented workers. The money was meant to steer those individuals into their hospitals in order to reap payments from the Medicaid program, the Associated Press reported.

"These hospitals paid Clinica kickbacks camouflaged as interpreter service payments to funnel emergency Medicaid patients their way and increase their bottom line," Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said in a statement. "As Attorney General, I take seriously my responsibility to protect the integrity of Georgia Medicaid and to ensure that those who defraud the program are held accountable."

Tenet Healthcare claimed the arrangements were legal, and provided substantial benefits to low-income communities served by its hospitals in Georgia, reported the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Williams claimed he found the alleged kickback arrangements shortly after he was hired by HMA in 2009. He claimed he was fired not long after he raised concerns about the arrangements.

The federal government and the Georgia state government joined Williams in the suit.

To learn more:
- read the Associated Press article
- check out the Atlanta Business Chronicle article
- here's AG Olens' statement
- read the lawsuit (.pdf)

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