Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Posted: Oct 14, 2013 2:26 PM by Jessica Holley - email@example.com
Updated: Oct 14, 2013 7:05 PM
Updated: Oct 14, 2013 7:05 PM
ROBSTOWN - A Robstown doctor is facing nine decades behind bars after a Grand Jury indicted him on nine counts of Medicare and Medicaid fraud and five counts of mail fraud and identify theft.
Authorities on Friday arrested Dr. Roque Ramirez, owner of Calallen-based Health Resolutions Inc., and charged him with filing 4,970 false claims over a three and a half year period starting in December, 2008.
The Texas Attorney General's Office says the claims were worth more than $1.4 million and that in some instances, the doctor filed claims for dead patients.
Officials say Ramirez was also out of the state and country on the days he wrote on the forms. The indictment says his billing, in some cases, would have required him to work more than a 24 hour day.
Ramirez will be arraigned Wednesday morning at the Federal Courthouse. He asked the court to provide him an attorney.
No one answered the door to his home, listed in Robstown, on Monday and his clinic was vacant.
By Jordan Rau
KHN Staff Writer
OCT 14, 2013
What do hospital boards value in a chief executive? A new study of CEO pay at nonprofit hospitals finds that executives at institutions that have a lot of fancy medical technology and high patient satisfaction are paid more than their peers. But running a hospital that scores well on keeping more patients alive or providing extensive charity care does not translate into a compensation bump.
"The finding on quality is disappointing: It says that most boards are more focused on the fanciest technology around," said Dr. Ashish Jha, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the study’s authors. "This paper suggests that maybe we need to pay a little more attention to other more important outcomes, such as whether your patients are dying at a high rate or not."
CEOs of technology-laden nonprofit hospitals earned on average $136,000 more than those with little advanced machinery, according to the study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. CEOs at places with high patient satisfaction scores earned on average $52,000 more than those with poor reviews.
The study found no difference in CEO compensation depending on publicly available measures of quality, including mortality rates, readmissions rates and how consistently hospitals followed a number of publicly reported guidelines for recommended care. This results are in line with a report last year that focused on New Hampshire hospitals and also found no relationship between CEO pay and quality of care.
For some time, nonprofit hospitals have been under scrutiny for paying lavish salaries to CEOs while giving little back to their communities. Dr. Karen Joynt, the study's lead author, said that since nonprofit hospitals do not have to pay any property taxes, the researchers wanted to see if there was any evidence hospital boards gave financial rewards to CEOs to provide more charity care, such as treating lots of low-income patients and discounting or waiving bills for those who had trouble paying. "We didn't see a signal at all," she said.
The study is the first to use federal tax returns of hospitals to assess CEO pay and the factors that are associated with it. The researchers examined records for 2,581 hospitals, more than 98 percent of private nonprofit hospitals. For-profit hospitals, which are a minority of America’s acute care hospitals, were not included in the analysis. The analysis identified 1,877 executives, with some running more than one hospital.
The researchers compared the highest performing hospitals with the lowest performing hospitals after adjusting for all other factors, such as the size, whether the hospital was located in an expensive part of the country and whether it was an academic medical center or community hospital. They also adjusted for CEOs who ran more than one hospital.
The average CEO compensation was $595,781 in 2009, the most recent year for which the tax returns were publicly available when the study began. As would be expected, the study found that CEOs who ran bigger hospitals were paid more -- an average of $550 more per bed. CEOs of academic medical centers were paid $425,000 more than CEOs running nonteaching hospitals.
The researchers employed a technology index that assessed the number of advanced machines such as MRIs and positron-emission technology, also called PET scans. The index also factored in whether the hospital performed complex operations such as transplants and open-heart surgery. The researchers divided the hospitals into four groups, based on this index. The average CEO compensation at hospitals in the group with the most technology—after all other factors were taken into account —was $664,000, while the average compensation for CEOs at hospitals in the group with least amount of sophisticated technology was $528,000, 26 percent lower.
Dr. Warren Browner, the CEO of the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, questioned the paper’s conclusions in a commentary that the journal also published. He wrote: "Their conclusion that advanced technology drives CEO pay might be right, but an observational design cannot rule out alternatives, such as CEOs at fancier hospitals earn more because they are worth more, or because the members of the board compensation committees at glitzy hospitals are more accustomed to higher incomes."
Browner disputed the researchers' suggestion that hospital boards need to place more emphasis on quality when setting compensation, saying that already is a widespread practice. He suggested that hospital boards may be judging CEOs using internal metrics that are different than those available to the Harvard researchers.
The researchers acknowledged that possibility, but said that the public measures, such as mortality, should be relevant in assessing any hospital leader. "It's hard to argue that death rates after a heart attack don't matter," Jha said.
They found that on average, the group of hospitals with the highest patient satisfaction scores paid their CEOs nearly $626,000 while CEOs of hospitals in the group with the lowest scores earned $574,000. Patient satisfaction is considered one marker of quality, although there is disagreement about how much it is influenced by extraneous factors such as the lavishness of the hospital facilities.
Browner wrote that it would not be surprising if hospitals used the public patient satisfaction measures as a metric, but wrote that it was “unclear” whether those reflect medical quality. "Indeed, at our hospital, overall patient satisfaction is markedly higher among those who were in private rooms," he wrote. "So, too, is their satisfaction with the physicians, nurses, tests and treatments, and even the food! Talk about a halo effect."
The Alabama Pain Center on 600 Whitesport Drive. S.W. in Huntsville. (Lucy Berry | firstname.lastname@example.org)
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – The suspension of Medicare payments in late August and a dwindling supply of financial reserves will force the Alabama Pain Center to close its doors Nov. 15 unless payments resume, the clinic announced late Monday afternoon.
The Alabama Pain Center, which operates clinics on 600 Whitesport Drive. S.W. in Huntsville and 1701 Main Ave. S.W. in Cullman, plans to meet with patients and their families from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at Trinity United Methodist Church to discuss anongoing audit of their Medicare accounts by AdvanceMed, a Zone Program Integrity Contractor.
Since January, AdvanceMed has conducted an audit of the pain clinic. Officials were informed in late August that all Medicare payments to the clinic would be suspended while the review continued. Despite presenting evidence that "the clinic has been adhering closely to all appropriate guidelines provided to them by CMS," officials said the outside contractor conducting the audit on behalf of CMS/Medicare chose to stop payments anyway.
The Alabama Pain Center, which receives about 80 percent of its total revenue from Medicare, filed a rebuttal of the auditor's decision to suspend payments in September. The clinic learned last week that CMS/Medicare dropped all but one claim against the pain center but did not lift AdvanceMed's order to stop Medicare payments.
Dr. Dean Willis, chief medical officer and founder of the Alabama Pain Center, said he will continue to appeal the decision, but that process could take more than a year. The Alabama Pain Center, which serves more than 2,700 patients and employs 124 staff members, only has enough reserves to continue operating through November.
"We are bitterly disappointed that this action by CMS and AdvanceMed will force our clinic to close resulting in the inability for our patient's (sic) to receive the care they need," he said in a written statement. "For over 20 years, the one goal of the Alabama Pain Center has been to provide the highest quality state of the art treatments for the thousands of patients who have come to us for help from across our region. It is heartbreaking that this action will no longer allow us to achieve that goal."
Attempts to reach NCI, which acquired AdvanceMed in 2011, on Monday afternoon were unsuccessful. Serving CMS/Medicare since 1999, AdvanceMed is an integrity services provider based in Virginia that works to detect and prevent fraud, waste and abuse in healthcare programs in 38 states.
Willis said Alabama Pain Center patients and staff will continue to work with the Congressional Delegation to stop this decision, and officials are preparing an appeal "based on the danger to life and health that closure of this practice presents to patients." On Tuesday, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama will meet to discuss what options are available to keep the pain center open.
Approximately 322 patients who have received customized spinal medication through the clinic's implantable pain pump therapies will be most affected by the closure.
"They depend on it in order to perform normal daily activities like walk, stand, sit and smile," an announcement said. "These patients are among the most severe of chronic pain sufferers. Each of them have received care from multiple other physician specialists and have tried many other pain therapies, including pain medications, pain blocks, counseling, physical therapy and surgery with no relief."
Willis said the impending closure of the clinic because of a "misguided, bureaucratic review like this" has been upsetting to his staff.
"It is still my hope and my prayer that someone at CMS will put the needs of these patients first," he said. "These patients truly are our family and it is heartbreaking to our entire staff that a misguided bureaucratic review like this can needlessly cause them such pain and suffering. As always, we welcome any audit or review and will participate willingly just as we have done for each of the seven previous reviews. Our desperate plea is for Medicare to allow us to continue the excellent care we have been providing for these past 26 years while this review continues."
During the last five years, the clinic has been audited by three different government agencies or contractors, and none of the reviews resulted in negative findings, the Alabama Pain Center told AL.com in September.