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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Business) -- Investors encouraged Monday by signs that Washington was moving closer to a deal that would avert a debt default by the U.S. Government.

The stock market started the session broadly lower after negotiations between the White House and House Republicans broke down over the weekend.

But stocks erased those losses in early afternoon trading following news that President Barack Obama would meet with Congressional leaders.

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid opening the Senate session Monday by saying he was -- quote -- "very optimistic we will reach an agreement this week."

The country will reach the limit of its borrowing authority on Thursday. If the debt ceiling is not raised, investors fear the U.S. could default on its borrowings in the coming weeks.

Feds investigate alleged Medicare fraud

Here in Arkansas, Arkansas Business uncovering what investigators say could be the largest Medicare fraud in state history.

The US Attorney's Office for Arkansas' Western District is working to recover restitution from the assets of Mountain Home Dr. Stacey Johnson.

They say Johnson, who died of natural causes in March, overbilled Medicare by $14.7 million over three years between 2004 and 2009.

They say Johnson did this mainly by submitting patients to too many medical tests.

According to a federal affidavit, one 39-year-old male received more than 90 tests, only 6 of which were determined to be necessary.

By one account, Johnson's history of overbilling stretches to 1985.

His wife, Cynthia, telling Arkansas Business she doesn't believe her husband is guilty of fraud but is cooperating with investigators.

She's already paid $600,000 toward restitution.

Mercy Health, Catholic Health sign letter of intent to sell

Arkansas Business reported in September that a deal was in the works, and on Monday the parties made it official.

Mercy Health of Chesterfield, Mo., and Catholic Health Initiatives signing a non-binding letter of intent to sell Mercy Hot Springs hospital and physician clinic to CHI and its affiliate, St. Vincent Health System in Little Rock.

That deal, expected to be complete by the end of the year, will put Mercy Hot Springs under the oversight and operation of St. Vincent's network.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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