13 December 2005

Notice to Hospital CEOs: Cut Back on Patient Care, Go to Jail

Finally, insufficient healthcare provided to vulnerable patients has the attention of Federal prosecuting attorneys. Thank you, Santa Claus - that was at the top of my list.

A healthcare organization and its Chief Executive Officer have been indicted on Federal conspiracy and fraud charges connected with the to lack of staffing at these facilities. If convicted, these charges carry maximum penalties of five years in prison, per count, and/or fines.

According to the indictment, between January 1998 and June 2001, Robert Wachter was the Chief Executive Officer of American Healthcare Management (AHM), and determined the budget, the result of which was staffing limitations and insufficient nursing staff at their facilities.

Additionally, the indictment alleges that during this time, Wachter and AHM continued to bill Medicare and Medicaid for services that they knew were inadequate or not performed at all. The purpose of the conspiracy as alleged in the indictment was for the defendants to enrich themselves by obtaining and retaining reimbursement for these inadequate services and to conceal the actual conditions and the true nature of care provided from Federal and State governments.

“Today’s indictment demonstrates this office’s continuing commitment to fight health care fraud, especially the kind that hurts our most vulnerable citizens. We will continue to use all of the tools that are available to ensure that when … management accepts the obligation of caring for … beneficiaries, that those obligations are met,” said the US Attorney.

The US Attorney commended the work performed on this case by the Office of Investigation for the Inspector General of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Assistant United States Attorneys Dorothy McMurtry and Howard Marcus are handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

I hope that the next phase of action for the US Attorneys pursues facilities that not only provide an insufficient quantity of care but insufficient quality. We will then be on track to fix the underlying issue of medical errors, soaring healthcare costs, and whining about malpractice insurance premiums. I appreciate the US Government providing the investigators, prosecutors, and courts to finally fix this problem.