The sentencing of three convicted defendants in the Kansas City Medicare kickback case has been rescheduled for the end of October.
Dan Anderson, former chief executive officer of Baptist Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., and two physicians had been scheduled for sentencing Aug. 16. U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum last week postponed sentencing, however, to allow more time to hear related evidence.
In April, a jury in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., convicted Anderson and brothers Robert LaHue, D.O., and Ronald LaHue, D.O., of several counts of paying and taking bribes for referral of Medicare patients (April 12, p. 2).
The jury also convicted a fourth defendant, Dennis McClatchey, a former Baptist vice president, but the judge acquitted him after reviewing the evidence. On Aug. 13, federal prosecutors appealed McClatchey's acquittal to the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver. "Our position is the verdict was within the law and the evidence," said Jackie Williams, U.S. attorney for Kansas. "This is an important case that has national implications."
Williams said the remaining cases arising from the LaHues' scheme will be prosecuted as civil, not criminal, actions.
Anderson faces a prison sentence of as much as 10 years and is the first-ever hospital CEO to be convicted of a criminal violation of the anti-kickback provisions of the Medicare and Medicaid fraud-and-abuse statutes. The provisions bar any form of remuneration to induce the referral of Medicare or Medicaid patients.
The government did not indicate how long a sentence it would seek for either of the LaHues, said James Eisenbrandt, Ronald LaHue's lawyer.
"It all will depend on rulings the judge is going to make at the sentencing hearing," he said.
In deciding the sentences, the judge must consider myriad factors and incorporate them into the federal government's strict sentencing guidelines, which prescribe precisely how much prison time should be added or subtracted because of specific circumstances.
"There are 10 or 15 different decisions he has to make to count up these guidelines," said James Wyrsch, Anderson's lawyer.
However, judges are reluctant to hand down long sentences for white-collar criminals vs. those for defendants convicted of drug-related or violent crimes.
Wyrsch said the government is asking for a sentence of 97 to 121 months for Anderson. Prosecutors also want to introduce evidence regarding how much the kickback scheme cost Medicare during the 10 years it was used. Anderson will argue that the scheme didn't cost the government any extra money, since no evidence showed that the care given was inappropriate or medically unnecessary.
Since the conviction, Anderson has been free pending sentencing.
The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25 and 26. After that, Anderson and both LaHues intend to appeal the jury verdict.