Thursday, January 6, 2005

Plea Deal in Healthcare Fraud Case

A high-profile prosecution of a hospital, its former CEO, and an associate administrator got a jolt when the associate administrator, Mina Nazaryan, agreed to plead guilty on Jan. 5 as the trial is in its second month (see AP story).  Nazaryan was charged with demanding kickbacks from three doctors for arranging employment for them at the hospital.  The hospital, the Alvarado Hospital Medical Center near San Diego, is owned by Tenet Healthcare Corp. and is charged with paying doctors kickbacks disguised as relocation payments to have the doctors refer patients to the hospital.  The hospital and former CEO will continue to defend against the charges.  Tenet issued a statement asserting: "Nazaryan’s plea is hers alone. It will not affect our decision to vigorously defend the hospital and its chief executive officer. As we have said before, Tenet believes that its physician relocation policies were appropriate and legal under federal laws and regulations.”  A guilty verdict against the hospital would likely trigger substantial civil penalties in addition to the criminal fine, including the possibility that it would be debarred from participating in the Medicare/Medicaid program, which could result in it going out of business.(ph)

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