Amedisys Home Health Companies Agree to Pay $150 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

Amedisys Inc. and its affiliates (Amedisys) have agreed to pay $150 million to the federal government to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by submitting false home healthcare billings to the Medicare program, the Department of Justice announced today.  Amedisys, a Louisiana-based for-profit company, is one of the nation’s largest providers of home health services and operates in 37 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“It is critical that scarce Medicare home health dollars flow only to those who provide qualified services,” said Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.  “This settlement demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring that home health providers, like other providers, comply with the rules and don’t misuse taxpayer dollars.”

The settlement announced today resolves allegations that, between 2008 and 2010, certain Amedisys offices improperly billed Medicare for ineligible patients and services.  Amedisys allegedly billed Medicare for nursing and therapy services that were medically unnecessary or provided to patients who were not homebound, and otherwise misrepresented patients’ conditions to increase its Medicare payments.  These billing violations were the alleged result of management pressure on nurses and therapists to provide care based on the financial benefits to Amedisys, rather than the needs of patients.

Additionally, this settlement resolves certain allegations that Amedisys maintained improper financial relationships with referring physicians.  The Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Statute restrict the financial relationships that home healthcare providers may have with doctors who refer patients to them.  The United States alleged that Amedisys’ financial relationship with a private oncology practice in Georgia – whereby Amedisys employees provided patient care coordination services to the oncology practice at below-market prices – violated statutory requirements.

“Combating Medicare fraud and overbilling is a priority for my office, other components of the Department of Justice, and United States Attorneys’ Offices across the country,” said Zane David Memeger, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  “We have recovered billions of dollars in federal health care funds from schemes such as the one alleged in this case.  Those are health care dollars that should be spent on legitimate medical needs.”

“Home health services are a large and growing part of our federal health care system,” said Sally Quillian Yates, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.  “Health care dollars must be reserved to pay for services needed by patients, not to enrich providers who are bilking the system.”

“Amedisys made false Medicare claims, depriving the American taxpayer of millions of dollars and unlawfully enriching Amedisys,” said Joyce White Vance, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.  “The vigorous enforcement work by assistant U.S. attorneys in my office, along with their colleagues in North Georgia, Eastern Pennsylvania, Eastern Kentucky and the Civil Division of the Justice Department, has secured the return of $150 million to the taxpayers and stands as a warning to future wrongdoers that we will aggressively pursue them.”

“This settlement represents a significant recovery of public funds and an important victory for the taxpayers,” said Kerry B. Harvey, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.  “Fighting health care fraud and recovering tax payer dollars that fund our vital health care programs is one of the highest priorities for our district.”

Amedisys also agreed to be bound by the terms of a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General that requires the companies to implement compliance measures designed to avoid or promptly detect conduct similar to that which gave rise to the settlement.

“Improper financial relationships and false billing, as alleged in this case, can shortchange taxpayers and patients,” said Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  “Our compliance agreement with Amedisys contains strong monitoring and reporting provisions to help ensure that people in Federal health programs will be protected.”

This settlement resolves seven lawsuits pending against Amedisys in federal court – six in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and one in the Northern District of Georgia – that were filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private citizens to bring civil actions on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.  As part of today’s settlement, the whistleblowers – primarily former Amedisys employees – will collectively split over $26 million.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $19.2 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $13.6 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The United States’ investigation was conducted by the Justice Department’s Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division; the United States Attorneys’ Offices for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Northern District of Alabama, Northern District of Georgia, Eastern District of Kentucky, District of South Carolina, and Western District of New York; the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Office of Personnel Management’s Office of Inspector General; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service of the Department of Defense; and the Railroad Retirement Board’s Office of Inspector General.

The lawsuits are captioned United States ex rel. CAF Partners et al. v. Amedisys, Inc. et al. 10-cv-2323 (E.D. Pa.); United States ex rel. Brown v. Amedisys, Inc. et al., 13-cv-2803 (E.D. Pa.); United States ex rel. Umberhandt  v. Amedisys, Inc., 13-cv-2789 (E.D. Pa.); United States ex rel. Doe et al. v. Amedisys, Inc., 13-cv-3187 (E.D. Pa.); United States ex rel. Ognen et al. v. Amedisys, Inc. et al. 13-cv-4232 (E.D. Pa.); United States ex rel. Lewis v. Amedisys, Inc., 13-cv-3359 (E.D. Pa.); and United States ex rel. Natalie Raven et al. v. Amedisys, Inc. et al., 11-cv-0994 (N.D. Ga.).  The claims settled by the agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

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Omnicare to Pay Government $4.19 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations of Kickbacks

Omnicare Inc., an Ohio-based long-term care pharmacy, has agreed to pay the government $4.19 million to settle allegations that it engaged in a kickback scheme in violation of the False Claims Act, the Justice Department announced today.  Omnicare provides pharmaceuticals and services to long-term care facilities and residents and other senior populations.

The settlement resolves allegations that Omnicare solicited and received kickbacks from the drug manufacturer Amgen Inc. in return for implementing “therapeutic interchange” programs that were designed to switch Medicaid beneficiaries from a competitor drug to Amgen’s product Aranesp.  The government alleged that the kickbacks took the form of performance-based rebates that were tied to market-share or volume thresholds, as well as grants, speaker fees, consulting services, data fees, dinners and travel.

“Kickbacks are designed to influence decisions by health care providers, such as which drugs to prescribe,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery.  “Americans who rely on federal health care programs, particularly vulnerable patients in skilled nursing facilities, are entitled to feel confident that decisions about their medical care are not tainted by improper financial arrangements.”

“The District of South Carolina has devoted significant resources over the last three years to pursuing claims under the False Claims Act, and this settlement is the latest example of this office’s successful efforts,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina William Nettles.  “I am very proud of the work this office has done in this area.”

This civil settlement resolves a lawsuit filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provision of the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens with knowledge of false claims to bring civil actions on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery.  The relator’s share in this case is $397,925.

“Kickbacks corrode our federal health care programs,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the region covering South Carolina.  “OIG is committed to unveiling these illegal reciprocal relationships, and companies making or receiving such payments can expect serious consequences.”

The settlement with Omnicare Inc. was the result of a coordinated effort among the Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $19 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $13.4 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

The False Claims Act lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina and is captioned United States ex rel. Kurnik v. Amgen Inc., et al.

South Carolina Ambulance Company to Pay U.S $800,000 to Resolve False Claims Allegations

Monday, February 25, 2013
Williston Rescue Squad Inc. has agreed to pay the United States $800,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by making false claims for payment to Medicare for ambulance transports, the Justice Department announced today.  Williston, based in Williston, S.C., provides ambulance transport services in the southwestern part of South Carolina.

 

Medicare is a federally-funded health care program that is intended to provide basic medical insurance to people over the age of 65.  Medicare reimburses providers only for non-emergency ambulance transports if the patient transported is bed-confined or has a medical condition that requires ambulance transportation.  The settlement resolves allegations that Williston billed Medicare for routine, non-emergency ambulance transports that were not medically necessary and that Williston created false documents to make the transports appear to meet the Medicare requirements.

“Billing Medicare for unnecessary ambulance transports contributes to the soaring costs of health care,” said Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice is committed to pursuing companies that waste limited Medicare funds.”

 

“Medicare fraud is stealing, and it is crippling America’s health care system.  We have doubled the number of attorneys working these cases in South Carolina.  Take notice, if you are bilking the Medicare system designed to support our elders, we are working to find you.  For the honest service providers, which is a greater majority of the community, you can report fraud at  1-800-MEDICARE,” said William N. Nettles, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina.

 

The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by Sandra McKee under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions, of the False Claims Act.  McKee is a clinical social worker at a facility that regularly received patients transported by Williston’s ambulances.  Under the False Claims Act, private citizens can bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.  Ms. McKee will receive $160,000 as her share of the government’s recovery.

 

This resolution is part of the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and another step for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in May 2009. The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover nearly $10.2 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs. The Justice Department’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 are over $14 billion.

 

To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

 

The United States’ investigation was conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, the Justice Department’s Civil Division, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General.  The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

 

The False Claims Act suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina and is captioned United States ex rel. McKee v. Williston Rescue Squad, Inc., No.  11-CV-00186 (D.S.C.).

U.S. Army Major Pleads Guilty in South Carolina to Defrauding U.S. Government

WASHINGTON – A U.S. Army Major has pleaded guilty today to accepting thousands of dollars in gratuities from contractors while he was a U.S. Army captain deployed to Iraq, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina William N. Nettles.

Ulysses S. Hicks, 40, of Sumter, S.C., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Chief Judge Margaret B. Seymour in the District of South Carolina to a criminal information charging him with one count of conspiracy to accept illegal gratuities.

According to court documents, Hicks was a captain in the U.S. Army, who was deployed to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Hammer in Iraq as a pay agent for field ordering officer (FOO) funds.  FOO funds are used to purchase miscellaneous items and supplies such as paint, lumber and plywood from local vendors.  It is a violation of federal law for pay agents to accept gratuities from contractors dependent upon them for contracts.

From about March 2007 through October 2008, Hicks, along with co-conspirator former U.S. Army Master Sergeant Julio Soto Jr., was involved with the construction of a government building at FOB Hammer by local Iraqi contractors.  According to court documents, Hicks and Soto unlawfully sought, received and accepted illegal gratuities for helping Iraqi contractors gain U.S. government contracts.  After accepting the illegal gratuities, Hicks and Soto purchased U.S. Postal money orders with the illegal proceeds and mailed them back to the United States.

At sentencing, Hicks faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release.  As part of his plea agreement, Hicks agreed to pay $65,409 plus interest in restitution to the United States.

Soto pleaded guilty on Aug. 29, 2012, before U.S. District Chief Judge Seymour to a criminal information charging him with one count of conspiracy to accept illegal gratuities.  On Dec. 7, 2012, Soto was sentenced to serve five years of probation and ordered to pay $62,542 in restitution.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Trial Attorney Mark Grider of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, on detail from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), and by Assistant U.S. Attorney Winston Holliday, Deputy Chief of the General Crimes Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.  The case was investigated by SIGIR, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Major Procurement Fraud Unit of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.

South Carolina-based Harmony Care Hospice Inc. and CEO/Owner Daniel J. Burton to Pay U.S. $1.286 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
South Carolina-based Harmony Care Hospice Inc. and CEO/Owner Daniel J. Burton to Pay U.S. $1.286 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

Harmony Care Hospice Inc. (Harmony) and Harmony owner and chief executive officer Daniel J. Burton have agreed to pay the United States $1,286,999.32 to settle allegations that the South Carolina-based company submitted false claims to Medicare for patients under care at its hospice facilities, the Justice Department announced today.

 

Hospices provide palliative care – medical treatment that concentrates on reducing the severity of a disease’s symptoms – to patients who decide to forego curative care of their illness. Medicare beneficiaries are entitled to hospice care if they have a terminal prognosis of six months or less. The United States alleged that Harmony and Burton knowingly submitted or caused to be submitted false claims for patients who did not have such a prognosis and thus were not eligible for hospice care. Under today’s agreement, Burton is individually liable for $200,000 of the settlement amount.

 

“Billing Medicare for unnecessary or inappropriate end-of-life care contributes to the soaring costs of health care for everyone. Today’s settlement demonstrates the Department of Justice’s efforts both to protect public funds and safeguard Medicare beneficiaries,” said Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division.
Today’s settlement with Harmony and Burton resolves a lawsuit filed by former Harmony employees Mona Singletary and Lynda Fulton under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act. Under the False Claims Act, private citizens can bring suit for false claims on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery. Together, Singletary and Fulton will receive $244,529.87 as their share of the government’s recovery.

 

As part of the settlement, Harmony and Burton will enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Office of Inspector General (OIG), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to address the allegations raised in the qui tam complaint.

 

“As budget pressures increase it is more important than ever to protect Medicare dollars and vigilantly guard against needless health spending,” said Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “The company and its owner have agreed to Federal monitoring and reporting requirements designed to avoid such problems in the future.”

 

This resolution is part of the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and another step for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in May 2009. The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover more than $10.1 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs. The Justice Department’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 are over $13.9 billion.

 

The investigation was jointly handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, the Justice Department’s Civil Division and the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

 

The qui tam case is captioned United States ex rel. Singletary, et al. v. Harmony Care Hospice, Inc., et al., Case No. 2:10-cv-01404-PMD (D.S.C.).