More charges in Texas hospital fraud case

A Texas hospital chain administrator stands accused of identity theft, false statements and defrauding the federal government of almost $800,000 in stimulus funds, the Dallas Morning News reported.

His case is part of a larger investigation into hospitals previously owned by physician Tariq Mahmood, M.D., who faces similar charges. The hospitals took $18 million in Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) funding, according to the article.

Court documents say Joe White, former chief financial officer and administrator at various hospitals under Mahmood's ownership, falsely certified that Shelby Regional Medical Center in East Texas met requirements for stimulus money for switching to an electronic medical records (EMR) system, when in reality, the hospital continued to use paper and uncertified technology, according to the Morning News.

Investigators said White also used another employee's Social Security number and computer identification after that employee refused to confirm that the hospital qualified for the funds, the article states. Additionally, the newspaper reported, he's accused of directing an EMR vendor and others to manually insert data from paper records to try and meet the required quotas.

White has yet to enter a plea in the case, but faces up to seven years in prison and fines totaling $500,000.

Mahmood's lax oversight at Renaissance Hospital in Dallas led to at least three patient deaths. He was charged in April 2013 with fraudulently billing Medicare at least $1.1 million, part of an eight-count federal indictment, FierceHealthFinance previously reported. The hospital was shut down in 2012 for failure to pay property taxes.

Authorities have recently cracked down on healthcare fraud nationwide. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force set new records for prosecutions in fiscal year 2013, filing 137 cases, charging 345 people, and obtaining 234 guilty pleas and 46 jury trial convictions, FierceHealthPayer reported in January.

In December, the task force charged 20 Detroit residents with bilking Medicare out of more than $34 million by filing fraudulent claims for physician home visits, home and outpatient healthcare, and chiropractic and psychotherapy services. Earlier in 2013, Paul D. Cardwell, former chief executive of Powell Valley (Wyo.) Healthcare and White County Memorial Hospital in Monticello, Ind., pleaded guilty in federal court for defrauding the hospitals of more than $1.5 million.

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