Former National Medical Enterprises executive Peter Alexis last week was charged with conspiring to pay illegal kickbacks to physicians and therapists in exchange for patient referrals to the company's 13 Texas hospitals.
Mr. Alexis is the highest-ranking former NME official to face criminal charges in the federal investigation of NME's scandal-plagued psychiatric hospitals. He previously was administrator of NME's Psychiatric Institute of Fort Worth and regional vice president for NME's psychiatric operations.
The two-count complaint against Mr. Alexis was filed in U.S. District Court in Dallas by the U.S. attorney's office there. Mr. Alexis, who was not available for comment, waived his right to a grand jury proceeding, said U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins. His plea will be entered at a June 27 arraignment.
Other high-ranking former NME executives are also under investigation, MODERN HEALTHCARE has learned. Mr. Coggins declined to comment on such reports. "All I can tell you is this is just the beginning of our investigation," he said.
Mr. Alexis left NME in 1991 to become senior vice president of mental health for Columbia Hospital Corp.-now Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. Last month, Mr. Alexis was asked to resign. He had been removed from senior management in 1992 (April 19, 1993, p. 56). Since then, he has been working with Century Healthcare Corp., a four-hospital chain with which Columbia/HCA has a management contract.
Mr. Alexis is charged with signing several contracts that paid Texas physicians for making referrals to NME hospitals. He also is accused of working with other NME corporate executives to disguise the profits and referral payments for the company's other psychiatric hospitals.
Mr. Alexis also is charged with filing a false Medicare cost report that listed $34 million in operating expenses at the company's Fort Worth hospital. The U.S. attorney's office claims that amount was bloated by the alleged kickbacks.
In April, NME said it had reached a settlement with the government in which it would pay damages of more than $300 million (April 18, p. 2).
However, the federal government can continue to pursue criminal charges against current and former NME executives.