PATH to compliance. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio will return $9.8 million plus $7.4 million in interest and other charges to the government in another PATH settlement.
The government had accused the institution of incomplete documentation of services provided under Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs.
The settlement does not include any finding of misconduct on the part of the university, and the Health Science Center has denied any liability or wrongdoing.
PATH investigations are being conducted by the HHS Office of the Inspector General at teaching hospitals to expose Medicare fraud.
Playing fair. The Department of Justice is pursuing Medicare fraud with a vengeance, but it also is reassuring providers they will not be prosecuted for simple mistakes. In a memorandum to all United States attorneys last month, Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder issued guidance on when and how investigators may use the civil False Claims Act. "While the broad reach and substantial damages and civil penalties under the Act make it one of the department's most powerful tools, departmental attorneys are obligated to use their authority under the Act in a fair and responsible manner,"the memo explained.
The memo also said Department attorneys must establish the provider submitted false claims or statements with "knowledge of their falsity."
Attention please! David Meyer, M.D., the largest stockholder in ophthalmology PPM Physicians Resource Group, is considering options "to better focus management's attention on the enhancement of stockholder value."
Meyer on June 8 filed such a notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Meyer, of Memphis, Tenn., owns 8.5% of PRG's stock. That sort of filing generally means a shareholder is upset with the value of his stock; PRG is trading for around $4, down from an all-time high of about $35 (see related story page 12).
Peter Dorflinger, PRG's president and chief executive officer, says he has not spoken to Meyer but he believes his plan involves getting more physician investment in PRG.
Meyer, with his lawyer on the phone during an interview with Modern Physician, only would say that the SEC document "speaks for itself." He says he is supportive of management's effort to improve PRG's finances.
Meyer affiliated with PRG after selling his company, EyeCorp, to the Dallas-based PPM in 1996. Meyer and board member Lucius Burch III, a Nashville, Tenn., venture capitalist, are personally guaranteeing $12.4 million in bank loans that PRG must repay by Dec. 31, according to a May 29 SEC filing.
Pennies from Coastal. After a June 15 quarterly earnings report showed more losses, Coastal Physician Group's stock sank to an all-time low of 15.6 cents per share.
For the quarter ending March 31, Coastal lost $4.6 million, or 12 cents per share,on $87.9 million of revenue. The loss actually was down considerably from $11.6 million, or 48 cents per share,on $124.7 million of revenue in the first quarter ending March 31, 1997. The lower revenue figure reflects Durham, N.C.-based Coastal's divestiture of units outside of physician contract management and billing.
Investors didn't take the smaller loss as good news. Coastal's stock dropped from an already-meager 25 cents per share, then fell to 15.6 cents on June 17 before edging up to 21.9 cents.
Big bucks. Healthcare organizations apparently are realizing the value of physicians in management. They offered newly-hired physician executives an average of 22% more money in base compensation than CEO hires in 1997, according to new data released by Witt/Kieffer, Ford, Hadelman, Lloyd.
The data reveals that the average healthcare CEO placed last year was offered $161,164 in base salary with a 24% bonus potential and physicians placed in administrative spots were given an average base salary of $207,325 with a 21% bonus potential.
In 1996, CEOs got $160,464 base salary and 20.3% bonus and physicians got $178,677 and a 20.9% bonus. Witt/Keiffer notes, however, that exact comparisons between 1996 and 1997 are not meaningful because different people are involved in the searches.
Physician executives placed at integrated delivery systems received the highest base compensation among their M.D. executive counterparts -- $255,750 in base salary with a 29% bonus, Witt/Keiffer found.
Managing ethics. Healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente is forming a National Ethics Council intended to provide guidance to its senior leaders and the public on national and community health policy issues.
The council -- made up of 18 community leaders and experts in bioethics and health care, as well as Kaiser Permanente leadership -- will focus on issues of patient, member, community, professional and organizational ethics. The group will meet for the first time on June 30.
Kudos. David J. Shulkin, M.D., has been selected as one of five winners of the 1998 International Emerging Leaders in Healthcare Award by the Healthcare Forum and Korn/Ferry International. Shuklin is chief medical officer and chief quality officer for the University of Pennsylvania Health System. The award is given to the most influential and promising executives in the field for their likelihood to shape the future of healthcare.