When investigators suspected that Houston’s Riverside General Hospital had filed Medicare claims for patients who weren’t treated, they moved to block all payments to the facility. Then politics intervened.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, contacted the federal official who oversees Medicare, Marilyn Tavenner, asking her to back down, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. In a June 2012 letter to Ms. Tavenner, Rep. Jackson Lee said blocking payments had put the hospital at financial risk and “jeopardized” patients needing Medicare.
Weeks later, Ms. Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, instructed deputies to restore most payments to the hospital even as the agency was cooperating in a criminal investigation of the facility, according to former investigators and documents. “These changes are at the direction of the Administrator and have the highest priority,” a Medicare official wrote to investigators.