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Estate Of Diana Mariani-Stepan To Receive $2.249 Million In Whistleblower Case

on September 7, 2017 - 11:48am
Diana Mariani-Stepan
Los Alamos Daily Post

The estate of the late Diana Mariani-Stepan, former Los Alamos County assistant manager and Indigent Healthcare administrator, will receive $2.249 million following an agreement reached in a case involving alleged violations of the False Claims Act.

According to the Department of Justice, CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and its partner CHRISTUS Health have agreed to resolve allegations they made illegal donations to county governments, which were used to fund the state share of Medicaid payments to the hospital. Under the settlement agreement, the two entities have agreed to pay $12.24 million plus interest and because she was the whistleblower in the case, Mariani-Stepan’s estate will receive $2.249 million as her share of the recovery in the case.

The allegations were originally brought in a lawsuit filed by Mariani-Stepan, who died Dec. 4, 2016, under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which allows private parties to bring suit on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery.

Acting Assisting Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division said Congress expressly intended that states and counties use their own money when seeking federal matching funds. He said using local funds provides an incentive for the counties and states to, among other things, hold down costs rather than rely on non bona-fide donations by private providers.

According to the Department of Justice, New Mexico’s Sole Community Provider (SCP) program, which was discontinued in 2014 provided supplemental Medicaid funds to hospitals in mostly rural communities. The federal government reimbursed the state for approximately 75 percent of its health care expenditures under the SCP program. Under federal law, the state’s 25 percent “matching” share of SCP program payments had to consist of state or county funds, and not impermissible “donations” from private hospitals. This restriction on the use of private hospital funds to satisfy state Medicaid obligations was enacted by Congress to curb possible abuses and ensure that states have sufficient incentive to curb rising Medicaid costs.

Between 2001 and 2009, CHRISTUS St. Vincent’s and CHRISTUS allegedly made non-bona fide donations causing caused the presentment of false claims by the state to the federal government under the Medicaid program.