House Panel Eyes Meaningful Use Program in Wake of Hospital Fraud

February 13, 2014 in News

The House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to investigate how HHS awards funds to hospitals that attest to meaningful use and what guidelines have been issued to prevent fraud and abuse of the program, the Dallas Morning News‘ “Watchdog Blog” reports.

Under the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record systems can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

The move comes after Joe White, CFO of now-closed Shelby Regional Medical Center in Texas, was indicted for allegedly defrauding the federal government of nearly $800,000 in meaningful use payments (Moffeit, “Watchdog Blog,” Dallas Morning News, 2/10).

Background on Indictment

The indictment states that Shelby was granted $785,655 in January 2013 for successful demonstration of meaningful use during the 2012 full-year reporting period.

White faces one count of false statement and one count of aggravated identity theft related to meaningful use attestations for fiscal year 2012.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, but faces a total of up to seven years in prison and $500,000 in fines if convicted on both counts (iHealthBeat, 2/10).

Details of Inquiry

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) first questioned the HHS meaningful use program in August 2013.

At the time, the agency did not respond because the investigation was in progress, according to “Watchdog Blog.”

Because White has been indicted, Burgess said he and the committee now will seek “formal answers to the bigger questions” surrounding the meaningful use program.

Such questions include:

  • Whether there could be additional cases of meaningful use fraud; and
  • Whether there are new protocols in place to prevent such abuse.

Burgess said he will go to the Government Accountability Office for answers if HHS does not cooperate with the inquiry (“Watchdog Blog,” Dallas Morning News, 2/10).

Meanwhile, the HHS Office of Inspector General’s 2014 “work plan” notes that it will examine EHR documentation vulnerabilities and audit providers who receive meaningful use incentive payments (iHealthBeat, 2/5).

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