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In shift, feds target top execs for health fraud

Miami Herald/Associated Press, May 31, 2011

It's getting personal now. In a shift still evolving, federal enforcers are targeting individual executives in healthcare fraud cases that used to be aimed at impersonal corporations. The new tactic is raising the anxiety level -- and risks -- for corporate honchos at drug companies, medical device manufacturers, nursing home chains and other major healthcare enterprises that deal with Medicare and Medicaid. Previously, if a company got caught, its lawyers in many cases would be able to negotiate a financial settlement. The company would write the government a check for a number followed by lots of zeroes and promise not to break the rules again. Often the cost would just get passed on to customers. Now, on top of fines paid by a company, senior executives can face criminal charges even if they weren't involved in the scheme but could have stopped it had they known. Furthermore, they can also be banned from doing business with government health programs, a career-ending consequence.