Whistleblower Case Against Tennessee-Based Nursing Care Company

IMG_5281 fixedBy Danielle M. Murray, J.D.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is investigating a Tennessee-based nursing care company. The company runs more than 200 skilled nursing homes (SNFs), assisted living facilities (ALFs), retirement living communities, home care services, and Alzheimer’s centers across the country. The nursing care company is accused of defrauding Medicare of millions of dollars for unnecessary and expensive therapy treatments from 2006 to 2011, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Click here to read the entire article from the Wall Street Journal.

Nursing Care Company Allegedly Overbilled Medicare and Tricare.

According to the federal complaint, the nursing care company is accused of encouraging its employed therapists to perform unnecessary and expensive therapy treatments that were billed to Medicare. The document mentioned specific cases of patients who allegedly didn’t need therapy or could have been harmed by it, but received it anyway.

In addition to Medicare, Tricare was also allegedly billed for high-priced nursing care performed at facilities that are affiliated with the nursing care company.

Letter on Company’s Website Defends Billing Methods.

Representatives from the nursing care company posted an open letter on its website. It calls the lawsuit an attempt by the federal government to target companies that provide rehabilitation therapy services. It also denies the allegations of fraudulent billing.

Click here to read the entire letter.


Whistleblowers Cry Foul.

Two former employees filed separate cases against the nursing care company, according to a Times Free Press article. In 2008, a former staff development coordinator working in Tennessee filed a complaint alleging Medicare fraud. In the same year, a former occupational therapist who had worked for the company in Florida, made similar complaints. The government decided to combine their lawsuits and is currently investigating. Be sure to check this blog in the future for updates to this story.

To read the Times Free Press article, click here.

More Medicare and Medicaid Audits May Be Coming to Health Professionals.

The Health Law Firm’s President and Managing Partner George F. Indest III wrote a two-part blog on the increased number of Medicare and Medicaid audits being initiated against health professionals who treat assisted living facility (ALF) and SNF residents. Most often these are audits by the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC), because this area of medical practice has been identified as one fraught with fraud and abuse. To learn more on the areas being targeted and how to respond to different types of audits, click here for the first blog and here for the second.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Medicaid and Medicare Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

In addition to our other experience in Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare cases, attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To learn more on our experience with Medicaid and Medicare quit tam or whistleblower cases, visit our website. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Do nursing care companies need stricter oversight? Have you noticed an increase in Medicare or Medicaid audits in your practice area? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Burton, Thomas. “Medicare Fraud is Charged.” Wall Street Journal. (December 3, 2012). From: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323717004578157640024945594.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Harrison, Kate and South, Todd. “Probe Reveals Claims of Unnecessary Therapies at Cleveland-based Life Care Centers.” Times Free Press. (December 16, 2012). From: http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/dec/16/dying-patients-unneeded-therapy-life-care-center/?print

Life Care Centers of America. “Open Letter to Life Care Associates and Medical Professionals.” Life Care Centers of America. (November 30, 2012). From: http://lcca.com/openletter/

About the Author: Danielle M. Murray is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Detroit Nurse Will Spend Time Behind Bars for Signing False Medicare Claims

indest1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A Detroit-area registered nurse was sentenced on November 19, 2012, to 30 months in federal prison for his alleged part in a nearly $13.8 million Medicare fraud scheme. According to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release, he will serve probation after being released from prison. He was also ordered to pay more than $450,000 in restitution, together with his co-defendants.

Click here to read the entire press release from the DOJ.

Nurse Paid Handsomely for Signing False Claims.

According to the nurse’s plea agreement, from December 2008 through September 2011, he was paid to sign medical records for a home health care agency that billed Medicare for services that were allegedly never rendered. The man reportedly admitted to not seeing or treating the Medicare beneficiaries for whom he signed medical documentation. He also admitted to knowing that the documents he signed were being used for false claims. According to an article from Health Exec News, the man was paid around $150 for each fake file that he signed.

To read the article from Health Exec News, click here.

Case Investigated by Medicare Fraud Strike Force.

Nine alleged co-defendants in this case have pleaded guilty and are waiting to be sentenced, while three others are fugitives and six more are awaiting trial, according to the DOJ. In total, the home health agency was paid close to $13.8 million by Medicare.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations,  in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Do you think the registered nurse received a sentence that was too harsh? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Health Exec News. “Medicare Fraud Scheme: Nurse Gets Jail Time for Signing False Claims.” Health Exec News. (November 23, 2012). From: http://healthexecnews.com/nurse-medicare-fraud-scheme

Department of Justice. “Detroit-Area Nurse Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Role in $13.8 Million Home Health Care Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice. (November 19, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/November/12-crm-1389.html

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida HB 0653 Signed Into Law; Effective 2/1/2012

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Florida Legislature unanimously passed HB 653 which relaxes some of the draconian exclusions enacted under SB 1986, which went into effect on July 1, 2009. SB 1986, which added provisions to Chapter 456, Florida Statutes, among others, prevented numerous healthcare providers from obtaining or renewing licenses based on prior criminal convictions, which could have occurred decades earlier.

HB 653 has been passed unanimously by the Florida Legislature and has been signed by the Governor to be effective July 1, 2012. It has been signed into law as Chapter 2012-64, Florida Laws and amends Section 456.0635(5), Florida Statutes (2012).

Under HB 653, the professional boards within the Department of Health (such as the Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing, Board of Psychology, Board of Massage Therapy, etc.) now will, if signed by the Governor, only prohibit the renewal or granting of a health professional’s license, certificate or registration, if the individual:

1. Has been convicted of, or entered a plea of guilty or no contest to, regardless of adjudication, a felony under Chapters 409 (Medicaid offenses), 817 (theft or fraud) or 893 (drug offenses), Florida Statutes, or similar laws in other jurisdictions, unless the individual successfully completed a drug court program for the felony and provides proof that the plea was withdrawn or the charges were dismissed, or unless the sentence and any related period of probation for such conviction or plea ended:

- For first and second degree felonies, more than fifteen (15) years before the date of application;

- For third degree felonies, more than ten (10) years before the date of application, except for third degree felonies under Section 893.13(6)(a), Florida Statutes; and

- For third degree felonies under Section 893.13(6)(a), Florida Statutes, more than five (5) years before the date of application.

2. Has been convicted of, or entered a plea of guilty or no contest to, regardless of adjudication, a felony under 21 U.S.C. Sections 801-970 or 42 U.S.C. Sections 1395-1396 (federal Medicare & Medicaid offenses), unless the sentence and any subsequent period of probation for such convictions or plea ended more than fifteen (15) years before the date of application; or

3. Is listed on the OIG’s list of excluded individuals and entities.

This new legislation has the effect of reducing the period of time a health professional may be prohibited from holding a license because of a conviction for one of the enumerated felonies. Under the current law, there is a fifteen (15) year prohibition for all enumerated offenses. The new legislation, if signed, will reduce the period to as little as five (5) years for drug offenses.

However, it also broadens the reach of the current Florida law by including, for the first time, convictions under “similar laws in other jurisdictions.” This may now “catch” many to whom the Florida law did not previously apply.

HB 653 also allows individuals previously denied renewals under SB 1986 who at are now eligible for renewal to obtain a license without retaking and passing their examinations.

The latter requirement above, number 3, may present a “catch 22″ for many health professionals. Usually, if a licensed health professional is convicted of a felony, loses his/her license or is denied renewal of a health professional’s license, this is reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The NPDB now includes reports previously made to the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB). If this occurs, in most cases the Office of Inspector General (OIG) commences action to exclude the professional from the Medicare Program. This automatically places the health provider’s name on the OIG’s List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE). Therefore, most licensed health professionals, even if they are no longer prohibited from holding a license under numbers 1 and 2 above, may still be prohibited because of requirement number 3 above.

Doubtless, this lacuna (gap) in this legislation will require additional corrective legislation in the future.

To view a summary of HB 653, click here.

To view the Bill Analysis of HB 653 from the Health and Human Services Quality Subcommittee, click here.

To view the Bill Analysis of HB 653 from the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, click here.

To view the Bill Analysis of HB 653 from the Health and Human Services Committee, click here.

About the Author:  George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.