Qui tam cases continue as Columbia/HCA officials sentenced

Feb. 2, 2000 -- Two Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. executives were recently sentenced to prison and fined for their role in a Medicare fraud scheme — the latest result of a federal investigation into Columbia/HCA spurred by qui tam lawsuits brought by clients of Phillips & Cohen LLP.

Jay Jarrell, president of the company's southwest Florida division, was sentenced in December to 33 months in prison and fined $10,000. The federal judge in the case also ordered him to pay about $1.7 million in restitution.

Robert Whiteside, who had been director of reimbursement for Florida and became a division director at Columbia's corporate headquarters, was sentenced to two years in prison and fined $7,500. The judge ordered him to pay $645,000 in restitution.

A federal jury in Tampa, Fla., in July 1999 found Jarrell and Whiteside guilty of cheating the government out of nearly $3 million in overpayments to Columbia's Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte, Florida. A key witness in the trial was John Schilling, who brought one of the qui tam lawsuits against Columbia/HCA and is represented by Phillips & Cohen.

"Columbia had said that Medicare reimbursement cases are so complicated and arcane that no jury is ever going to understand it enough to convict health care managers in a case like this," said Stephen Meagher, a partner with Phillips & Cohen. "This verdict shows that 12 people can understand that these Columbia executives knew they were keeping money they were not entitled to."

Both Schilling's qui tam lawsuit and a separate one filed by James F. Alderson allege a systematic scheme to defraud the Medicare program through the "cost reports" Columbia submitted annually for Medicare reimbursement. The Justice Department has joined both qui tam cases.

A list of news articles about the qui tam lawsuits brought by Phillips & Cohen is available on the "News Reports of Phillips & Cohen Cases" page.