Christus Health and its Santa Fe, New Mexico hospital will pay $12.2 million to the federal government to settle a whistleblower-initiated case that alleges Christus and the hospital manipulated federal funding for an indigent care program to boost their revenues. The scheme involved New Mexico’s Sole Community Provider Fund and Sole Community Provider Supplemental Payments programs and “donations” made by St. Vincent Regional Medical Center to Santa Fe County. The suit alleges that illegal “donations” were made to cover the state’s share of funding needed to obtain federal matching funds from 2001 to 2009.
In New Mexico, state or local government must provide about $1 for every $3 that the federal government pays. The “donations” from the hospital to cover County and State costs removed any incentive those entities had to keep their eye on costs. The citizen fraud-fighter in this case was Diana Stepan, who was the Indigent Health Care Administrator for Los Alamos County from 2002 to 2011. After investigating the allegations in her FCA complaint, the federal government joined her case, but Ms. Stepan died before the case was finally resolved. Her estate will receive her share of the whistleblower award.