Ten Years Later
Healthcare industry insiders said the civil and criminal Columbia/HCA investigations ignited by my whistleblower lawsuit changed the hospital industry and its relationship with government regulators. It also transformed the hospital industry giant now known as HCA, which took itself private when it agreed to a July 2006 purchase by three private equity firms and the family of its founder, Dr. Thomas Frist, Sr., for more than $30 billion in the largest leveraged buyout in the hospital industry.
Current and former government officials, healthcare attorneys, healthcare fraud experts, and consumer advocates describe the investigation, trial, and record $1.7 billion settlement as historic. But ten years after the 1997 raids on Columbia/HCA facilities in six states, then the largest search warrant execution in FBI history, what lessons have the hospital industry and healthcare financial professionals learned? How did the country's largest healthcare fraud investigation impact the HCA executives who were indicted, convicted, and later exonerated by a federal appeals court? How did it affect the government investigators and regulators who participated in the seven-year marathon and the attorneys sifting through the aftermath?
To answer those and other questions, I turned to veteran healthcare reporter Mark Taylor, who covered the trial, investigation, and settlement for the hospital industry trade publication Modern Healthcare. Taylor, the magazine's former legal affairs reporter, was familiar with many of the players and knew the issues.
History will judge our actions. It may take years before we know the total