Healthmaster founder Jeanette Garrison dies


Jeanette Garrison, the founder of an Augusta-based home health care chain who was convicted of Medicare fraud, died Wednesday.


Garrison was 74.

Garrison orchestrated a scheme to charge the company she founded for false insurance claims. She pleaded guilty to 10 counts of conspiracy and making false statements and was sentenced to 33 months in prison, according to The Augusta Chronicle archives.

Healthmaster operated in five Southeastern states with more than 100 offices, 3,000 employees and nearly 10,000 patients. The company was taking in $100 million a year from Medicare and went into bankruptcy after the federal charges were brought.

A former North Augusta nurse, Garrison was the co-chairwoman of the Clinton-Gore 1992 campaign in Georgia and was chairwoman of the Governor’s Club, the state Democratic Party’s top circle of donors.

Garrison and her family gave $6,000 to Clinton’s campaign committee in 1991-92, and she contributed $5,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

According to the original indictment, company workers were told to make campaign contributions to leading Democrats supported by Garrison. The donations were then returned to employees in the form of salary bonuses that were reimbursable through Medicare.

As part of the plea agreement, Garrison repaid the government $16.5 million from the sale of Healthmaster to compensate for vacations, campaign contributions and other improper expenses secretly charged to Medicare and Medicaid.

She testified against her business partners, David Suba and Dennis J. Kelly, who were sentenced to time in federal prison but maintained their innocence. The three were convicted in 1995, three years after the allegations were made known.

In 1997, Garrison testified before a Senate Special Committee on Aging during a hearing on abuse in the Medicare program. She recommended that auditors be trained to investigate not just Medicare-certified home health agencies but also related companies.

Garrison left financial dealings to other senior executives and did not sign Medicare reports for at least 10 years, she said during the hearing.

Graveside services and burial will be Saturday at 2 p.m. at Pen Branch Cemetery. A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Monday at Fairview Presbyterian Church in North Augusta.

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Healthmaster's Garrison says judge too tough, asks for reduced sentence


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