Dallas-based Parkland Memorial Hospital hid information from outside auditors working on behalf of federal government investigators, according to an internal memo that recently was recovered by the Dallas Morning News. The investigators are looking into financial records for the hospital, which just five years ago claimed it owed roughly $50 million for overcharges to Medicare and Medicaid, but since then has wavered on that estimate considerably. Thus far, Parkland has repaid only $1.4 million to the federal government.
The memo, which went to former board member Rick Kneipper, mentioned that the amount of information being requested by outside auditor Deloitte & Touche was "not at a level that our internal and external counsel is willing to share." It went on to suggest that Michael Silhol--Parkland's current senior counsel--was worried that supplying the requested information would "be subject to an [Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Heath and Human Services] subpoena."
Silhol is set to resign at the end of September "to pursue new opportunities," the News reports.
"This looks like they're trying to manipulate or withhold information," John Ratcliffe, an ex-U.S. attorney who now helps corporations facing their own government investigations, told the News. "[The memo] would mandate that the Department [of Justice] pursue it for purposes of setting an example. If someone engaged in that kind of egregious conduct, the department would certainly want to make it clear to the other healthcare providers that there would be no quarter."
Parkland's troubles began in 2005, the News reports, when CEO Ron Anderson revealed that the hospital had overcharged Medicare and Medicaid "as far back as 2000" for as much as $25 million. Anderson reported the violations via a program that lets hospitals not only figure out their own repayment figures, but also avoid more large-scale investigations, in exchange for full transparency.
Additional penalties could have raised that amount by another $25 million--leading to the $50 million figure. However, a year later, Parkland hired a consulting firm to take a second look at the numbers; the review resulted in the hospital lowering its initial $25 million figure to just $2.4 million. Two years later, in 2008, Parkland hired another consulting firm, FTI Healthcare, which revised the hospital's stance yet again, this time declaring that Medicare and Medicaid underpaid Parkland on some claims.
Suspicious of Parkland's shifting figures, the OIG in August 2009 disallowed the hospital to participate in the self-disclosure program, according to the News.