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Hospital Executive Pleads Guilty to False Meaningful Use Attestation for EHR Incentive Payments

Written by: Sarah Beth Smith and Laurence J. Freedman

The former CFO of Shelby Regional Medical Center, Joe White, pleaded guilty to knowingly making a false statement related to the hospital’s meaningful use of electronic health records (“EHR”).  Shelby Regional had received $785,655 in meaningful use incentive payments from Medicare for fiscal year 2012. White faces sentencing of up to five years in prison.

According to the indictment, White was charged for knowingly submitting a false attestation that Shelby Regional met the meaningful use criteria in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2), (a)(3). White was responsible for overseeing the implementation of Shelby Regional's EHR platform. After implementing the platform in early to mid-2011, the hospital attested to a 90-day continuous meaningful use period for the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2011. For the subsequent year, the hospital failed to fulfill its requirements of meaningfully using the EHR platform throughout the entire year and was therefore ineligible to receive a payment through Medicare’s EHR Incentive Program. However, to create the appearance that the hospital had met the requirements, White directed the EHR vendor to take data from paper records and manually input it into the EHR system. Data was often input into the system several months after patients were discharged or after the end of the 2012 fiscal year. When the Assistant Administrator refused to submit the attestation for meaningful use, White made the submission through an account he allegedly created with the Assistant Administrator’s name and social security number. As a result, Shelby Regional received $785,655 as an incentive payment from Medicare for fiscal year 2012.

CMS has paid over $16.3 billion to eligible providers through the Medicare EHR Incentive Program since the program began in May 2011.  The case illustrates the Department of Justice’s high level of scrutiny and commitment to use criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement against entities that received incentive payments as well as individuals who signed certifications.

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