A federal judge Thursday rejected an attempt by North Carolina's WakeMed Health and Hospitals to admit wrongdoing and settle a case that is believed to be the first time a U.S. hospital has been charged criminally with making false statements to rip off Medicare.
U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle gave attorneys in the case an earful at the afternoon hearing, according to local media reports, before deciding to postpone a hearing to decide whether to accept the health system's admissions and $8 million settlement.
In return for admitting the crimes against Medicare that resulted in at least $1.2 million in overpayments, the hospital was supposed to receive a deferred-prosecution agreement that could erase the criminal charge after two years. Instead, Boyle called the agreement a “slap on the hand” and declined to approve it, continuing the hearing until Feb. 5.
A report in the News and Observer said Boyle told the lawyers in the courtroom that only the day before he had sentenced a woman to a year in prison for an insurance fraud involving just $235,000. The judge noted that deferred-prosecution agreements were usually offered to marijuana-smoking teenagers, not corporations accused of financial crimes, the story said.