Former CFO heads to prison on MU fraud

Attested to meaningful use even as the hospital continued to use paper records
By Bernie Monegain
01:59 PM
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doctor handcuffed holding a stethoscope

The former chief financial officer of a now closed Texas hospital, Joe White, has been sentenced to federal prison after admitting to meaningful use fraud, U.S. Attorney John M. Bales announced June 17.

U.S. District Judge Michael Schneider sentenced White, 68, to 23 months in prison.

White, of Cameron, Texas, pleaded guilty on Nov. 12, 2014 to making a false statement that Shelby Regional Medical Center in Center, Texas, was a meaningful user of electronic health records, when the hospital did not meet the requirements of the federal EHR Incentive Programs.

Schneider also ordered White to pay restitution in the amount of $4,483,089 to the meaningful use program, administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

According to information presented in court, White was the CFO for Shelby Regional Medical Center in Center, Texas, in addition to other hospitals owned and operated by Tariq Mahmood, MD.  White oversaw the implementation of electronic health records for the hospital and was responsible for attesting to the meaningful use of electronic health records in order to qualify to receive incentive payments under the incentive program, according to a U.S. Attorney news release.

On Nov. 20, 2012, White knowingly made a false statement to falsely representing that the hospital was a meaningful user of electronic health records, when the hospital did not meet the meaningful use requirements.  As a result, Shelby Regional Medical Center received $785,655 from the program. In total, hospitals owned by Mahmood were paid more than $16 million under the incentive programs.

According to reports, the hospital continued to rely on paper records even as White attested to meaningful use .

White was indicted by a federal grand jury on Jan. 22, 2014.

[See also: CFO faces 5 years after EHR fraud.]

"The granting of EHR funds to individual and institutional providers was intended to modernize medical record storage and access," said Mike Fields, special agent in charge of the Dallas region’s HHS Office of Inspector General, said in a press statement. "Unfortunately, there are individuals and institutions like Mr. White and his hospital whose only intent for EHR funds was to enrich themselves."

"The EHR Incentive Program was designed to enhance the delivery of excellent medical care to all Americans and especially for those citizens who live in underserved, rural areas like Shelby County," U.S. Attorney Bales added. "There is no doubt that Mr. White understood that purpose and yet, he intentionally decided to steal taxpayer monies and in the process, undermine and abuse this important program."

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Inspector General, the Texas Office of the Attorney General Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the FBI.

OIG has periodically called attention to the potential for fraus in the Meaningful Use EHR Incentive Program. In October 2012, the agency announced it would look at incentive payments CMS made beginning in 2011 to identify payments to providers that should not have received incentive payments  – those that did not meet the meaningful use criteria.

[See also: OIG includes meaningful use in 2013 reviews.]