A Georgia hospital now owned by Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. has paid nearly $1 million to settle allegations that it lied about its drug abuse treatment program to avoid applying for a certificate of need.
State and federal investigators alleged 124-bed Lanier Park Regional Hospital in Gainesville improperly billed Georgia's Medicaid program from 1991 to 1992 for treatment of substance abuse. At that time, Lanier Park was owned by Healthtrust, which Columbia acquired in 1995.
The investigators alleged Lanier Park had a contract with a company called Ascenden Group to identify and deliver Medicaid recipients from the Atlanta area to the hospital for substance abuse treatment.
Jerry Fulks, Lanier Park's chief executive officer, said the arrangement called for the hospital to provide medical detoxification to the patients. Ascenden then would provide counseling and follow-up, he said.
State law required a CON for the proposed drug treatment program at Lanier Park, both HHS and the Georgia Department of Medical Assistance contended. To avoid the lengthy and public CON process, Lanier Park and Ascenden misrepresented the nature of the treatment provided and falsified information about the patients' conditions so they would appear to be emergencies, investigators alleged.
Of the 164 Medicaid patients admitted for substance abuse between 1991 and 1992, almost all had been admitted through the emergency room and almost all remained at Lanier Park for a five-day stay, investigators said.
Fulks was notified of the investigation in the winter of 1994. He said the drug treatment program was discontinued in 1992 because the relationship between Ascenden and the hospital had deteriorated. It was not clear whether Atlanta-based Ascenden is still in operation.
Lanier Park did not admit any wrongdoing or liability as part of the settlement and denies the government's allegations.
The hospital chose to settle the allegations to avoid costly litigation, Fulks said.