Companies in the News

Amedisys to implement compliance program

Amedisys (Baton Rouge, LA) said that under its new chief compliance officer, Lynne Shackelford-Bernhard, it will present for approval to its board, a comprehensive corporate compliance program. The program is designed to ensure, both at the corporate and field levels, the company’s compliance with the statutes, regulations, and manual provisions that govern healthcare providers. It has been developed to provide efficient controls that promote adherence to applicable federal and state law to detect and prevent fraudulant violations.

Apria shareholder sells shares

An Apria Healthcare Group (Costa Mesa, CA) investor, mutual fund group Franklin Resources, has unloaded its 5.15% stake in Apria, according to a recent regulatory report, a Los Angeles Times report said. Franklin held 2.7 million shares of Apria on Sept. 30, according to a previous filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (Washington).

More FBI documents unsealed in Columbia case

A Columbia/HCA Healthcare (Nashville, TN) office in El Paso, TX, made false billings for hospital supplies and set up a shell medical laboratory to funnel kickbacks to doctors, according to the latest documents unsealed in the federal investigation of the company, reports the Associated Press. The newest accusations were revealed in an FBI affidavit for search warrants filed in July 1997, and made public last week, in response to an order from a federal judge in Tampa. About a dozen pages in the 74-page document remained unsealed, reported the AP.

Columbia, along with some of its executives, have been the targets of a two-year federal investigation into its Medicare billing practices involving both its home care operations and a large group of its hospitals.

"The issues in [last week’s] unsealing really are nothing new," said Columbia spokesman Jeff Prescott. "The home care and physician relations issues are things we’ve been in discussion with the government for a year."

According to a Los Angeles Times report, the court document names Debra Wertzberger, former head of Columbia’s home health division who resigned in October 1997, and Michael Rusnak, who is listed in the documents as Columbia Homecare senior vice president. Neither Wertzberger nor Rusnak faces any criminal charges, the paper reported. Wertzberger, Rusnak, and five other former Columbia executives "conspired with others to submit false Medicare, Medicaid, and CHAMPUS hospital cost reports and false claims" to collect payments under the three government health programs, the affidavit says. So far, four Columbia executives have been indicted on criminal fraud charges, and their case focuses on allegations of wrongdoing in Florida, the Times reported.

HealthCor gets new symbol

HealthCor Holdings (Dallas), effective Jan. 8, now trades under the symbol HCOR.

Interwest reports improved 4Q98, FY98 results

Interwest Home Medical (Salt Lake City) saw increased revenues from FY97 to FY98 ended Sept. 30. For the year, Interwest reported revenues of $28.6 million, compared to FY97 revenues of $24.8 million, an increase of 15%.

FY98 net income was $1.4 million, 35 cents per share, compared to FY97 net income of $656,564, 17 cents per share. The year’s income, Interwest said, included a one-time gain from the sale of undeveloped real estate of $575,193, 15 cents per share, and the one-time accounting charge of $750,000, 19 cents per share, in 4Q98.

In 4Q98, revenues increased 22%, to $7.7 million, from 4Q97 revenues of $6.3 million. Interwest reported a net income in 4Q98 of $376,762, 9 cents per share, compared to a 4Q97 net loss of $283,012, 7 cents per share.

Both the FY98 and 4Q98 results, said Interwest President/CEO James Robinson, reflect the benefits of the company’s focus on its respiratory/oxygen business, which he said the company expects to continue.

Invacare, GF settle lawsuits

Invacare (Elyria, OH) said last week that it has settled all lawsuits with Graham-Field Health Products (GF; Hauppauge, NY). As part of the settlement of the lawsuits, Invacare and GF entered into a cross-licensing agreement with respect to certain patents owned by each of the companies. In addition, GF entered into a three-year agreement with the Invacare’s wholly owned Dynamic Controls subsidiary to supply Everest & Jennings, a GF company, with electronic controls for motorized wheelchairs. Invacare also agreed to a two-year agreement to supply LaBac seating systems to providers under a single invoice program. In addition, Invacare received $2.2 million from GF associated with prior product purchases.

In other news, Invacare has been recognized by CFO Magazine in its Selling, General and Administrative (SG&A) Expenses Survey of the companies with the lowest SG&A in their respective industries. In the survey, Invacare was ranked number three in the category of Scientific, Photo, and Control Equipment companies. Invacare’s 1994-1997 average was 21.5%; its 1997 percentage was 20.2%.

Matria to buy Gainor Medical

Matria Healthcare (Marietta, GA) has agreed to acquire Gainor Medical Management, a diabetes-management company, for $130 million. Matria said last week that the acquisition will bolster its diabetes business through expanded services and products, a larger patient base, and enhanced relationships with self-insured companies, managed care organizations, and key diagnostics companies.

McKessonHBOC begins operations

McKessonHBOC (San Francisco), the company recently formed from the purchase by McKesson Corp. (San Francisco) of HBO & Co. (HBOC; Atlanta), began operations last week. The newly formed company provides pharmaceutical supply management and information technologies across the entire continuum of healthcare, including market-leading businesses in pharmaceutical and medical-surgical distribution, information technology for healthcare providers, services for payers, and outsourcing.

The company serves 750 home care agencies, as well as 5,000 hospitals, 25,000 retail pharmacies, 20,000 physicians, 10,000 long term care sites, 600 healthcare payers, 450 pharmaceutical manufacturers, and 2,000 medical-surgical manufacturers.

Four former HBOC executives have joined McKesson’s existing corporate officers on the new McKessonHBOC executive operating committee, including Charles McCall, chairman of the McKessonHBOC board, formerly HBOC chairman/CEO; Albert Bergonzi, group president of healthcare information technology, formerly HBOC president; David Schenk, senior vice president of the affiliation team, formerly senior vice president of enterprise services for HBOC; and Christine Rumsey, senior vice president of human resources and administration, formerly HBOC senior vice president of human resources.

The merger of the two companies will be accounted for as a pooling of interests. McKessonHBOC will have a fiscal year end of March 31, and the quarter ending March 31, 1999, will be the company’s first quarter of combined financial results and will include a charge for merger-related costs.

NuMed, Turkey Vulture Fund reach agreement

NuMed Home Health Care (Clearwater, FL) and its board have reached an agreement with Turkey Vulture Fund XIII to settle all outstanding litigation and present to NuMed’s stockholders a combined slate of nominees to the board for the upcoming stockholders meeting on Jan. 28.

Pursuant to the settlement agreement, the committee for a new NuMed will withdraw its proxy statement and the Fund will enter into a stock purchase agreement to purchase 744,680 shares of NuMed common stock for $350,000 in cash. Management will recommend in its proxy for the stockholders’ meeting a slate of the following six directors: Susan Carmichael, Thomas Chema, Michael Gorman, Richard Osborne, Thomas Smith, and Jugal Taneja. Additionally, parties to the settlement agreement have agreed to vote all of their shares which are eligible to vote in favor of the foregoing slate. Taneja, the former chairman/CEO, is not eligible to vote at the January meeting the 744,680 shares he received in connection with the execution of his termination, noncompetition, and mutual release agreement. Finally, the parties to the settlement agreement have agreed to enter into a standstill agreement on proxy fights through the 2000 annual stockholders meeting.