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CFO Sentenced to Jail for False Meaningful Use Claims

A former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has been sentenced to serve 23 months in federal prison after making false claims to receive payments under the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program.

Joe White, 68, was the former CFO of Shelby Regional Medical Center and was responsible for overseeing the implementation of new Electronic Health Records (EHRs) at the hospital, and attested that the hospital had met the minimum standards as required by the EHR Incentive Program.

The HITECH meaningful use incentive program has resulted in billions of dollars in payments being made to hospitals and other healthcare organizations that have made the change from paper to Electronic Health Records. To qualify for the incentive payments, healthcare providers must “adopt, implement, upgrade or demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology.” Each year, hospitals are required to attest to reaching meaningful use standards.

In order to receive the incentive payments, on Nov. 20, 2012, White knowingly claimed that the hospital was a meaningful user of EHRs when this was not the case. That claim allowed the hospital to receive $785,655.00 in payments from Medicare. On Nov. 12, 2014, White pleaded guilty to the offenses. The case was heard by U.S. District Judge Michael Schneider in the Eastern District of Texas.

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The Shelby Regional Medical Center was not the only hospital that White had responsibility for. A number of other hospitals in the region also received incentive payments as a result of White’s claims.

All of the hospitals were owned and operated by Dr. Tariq Mahmood of Cedar Hill, Texas. Mahmood was investigated for healthcare fraud and was convicted of seven counts of healthcare fraud earlier this year, in addition to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. He was sentenced to serve 135 months in federal prison in April in addition to paying back approximately $100,000 to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Centers Medicare & Medicaid Services. In total, Mahmood’s hospitals have received over $16 million in EHR incentive money.

According to U.S. Attorney John M. Bales, “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 under-served, rural areas like Shelby County. 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.”

In addition to the 23-month jail term, White has been ordered to pay back the payments received under the EHR incentive program – $4,483,089.09 – which corresponds to the monies fraudulently obtained for all hospitals for which White had responsibility.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.