The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, adopted in 2009, pumped billions of dollars into hospitals and physicians (through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid) in order to stimulate them to adopt electronic health records. To receive the economic incentives, hospitals and physicians had to “attest” to using electronic health records in a meaningful way over the past several years. This was no easy task, and the criteria and reporting obligations were and continue to be significant for health care providers.
Last November, the CFO of Shelby Regional Medical Center in Texas pled guilty to falsely attesting to the meaningful use program on behalf of the hospital during the 2012 reporting period. He also pled guilty to aggravated identity theft for using a hospital worker’s name to falsely attest to meaningful use.
The false attestations resulted in Shelby and other hospitals owned by Tariq Mahmood to receive close to $17 million in incentive payments from CMS. Mahmood was sentenced to 11 years in prison for the health care fraud last month.
The CFO has agreed to pay $4.4 million in restitution for his part in the fraudulent scheme. He will be sentenced later this month and could get up to seven years in federal prison.
CMS has been actively auditing both hospitals and physicians who have attested to meaningful use, and this case underscores CMS’ seriousness of rooting out health care fraud.