Careall Companies Agree to Pay $25 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations

CareAll Management LLC and its affiliated entities (collectively “CareAll”) have agreed to pay $25 million, plus interest, to the United States and the state of Tennessee to resolve allegations that CareAll violated the False Claims Act by submitting false and upcoded home healthcare billings to the Medicare and Medicaid programs, the Department of Justice announced today.  CareAll is based in Nashville, Tennessee, and is one of Tennessee’s largest home health providers.

“Home health agencies may only bill Medicare and Medicaid for care that is necessary and covered by the programs,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “This settlement is another example of the department’s commitment to ensuring that home health care dollars – which are so vital to ensure the care of homebound patients – are spent for their intended purposes.”

This settlement resolves allegations that between 2006 and 2013, CareAll overstated the severity of patients’ conditions to increase billings and billed for services that were not medically necessary and rendered to patients who were not homebound.

“This case demonstrates that enforcement of the False Claims Act is a priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee,” said U.S. Attorney David Rivera for the Middle District of Tennessee.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to protecting the public and vigorously pursuing all those who knowingly submit false claims affecting the Medicare and Medicaid programs.”

This is CareAll’s second settlement of alleged False Claims Act violations within the last two years.  In 2012, CareAll paid nearly $9.38 million for allegedly submitting false cost reports to Medicare.  As part of the settlement announced today, the companies agreed to be bound by the terms of an enhanced and extended corporate integrity agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) in an effort to avoid future fraud and compliance failures.

“Fraudulent home-based services are surging across the country,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of HHS-OIG in Atlanta.  “We will continue to protect both Medicare and taxpayers, and ensure that funds are not siphoned off by companies more concerned with the bottom line than patient care.”

Under the False Claims Act, private citizens, known as relators, can bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.  The relator in this case, Toney Gonzales, will receive more than $3.9 million as his share of the recovery.

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 the Attorney General and the Secretary of HHS.  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 $23.1 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $14.8 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee, HHS-OIG and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

The case is docketed as United States ex rel. Gonzales v. J.W. Carell Enterprises, Inc., et al., No. 12-0389 (M.D. Tenn.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

King’s Daughters Medical Center to Pay Nearly $41 Million to Resolve Allegations of False Billing for Unnecessary Cardiac Procedures and Kickbacks

Ashland Hospital Corp. d/b/a King’s Daughters Medical Center (KDMC) has agreed to pay $40.9 million to resolve allegations that it submitted false claims to the Medicare and Kentucky Medicaid programs for medically unnecessary coronary stents and diagnostic catheterizations and had prohibited financial relationships with physicians referring patients to the hospital, the Justice Department announced today.
Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey for the Eastern District of Kentucky and Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Kentucky region made the announcement.
“Hospitals that place their financial interests above the well-being of their patients will be held accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Delery.    “ The Department of Justice will not tolerate those who abuse federal health care programs and put the beneficiaries of these programs at risk by providing medically unnecessary care.”
The government alleged that, between 2006 and 2011, KDMC billed for numerous unnecessary coronary stents and diagnostic catheterizations performed by KDMC physicians on Medicare and Medicaid patients who did not need them.    The government also alleged that the physicians falsified medical records in order to justify these unnecessary procedures, which allegedly generated millions of dollars in Medicare and Kentucky Medicaid reimbursements for KDMC.
“The conduct alleged in this matter is unacceptable, victimizing both taxpayers and patients,” said U.S. Attorney Harvey.    “Treatment decisions motivated by financial gain undermine public confidence in our health care system and threaten vital federal programs upon which so many of our citizens rely.    We will not relent in our efforts to protect the public from the sort of systematic misconduct alleged in this case.”
The settlement also resolves allegations that KDMC violated the Stark Law by paying certain cardiologists salaries that were unreasonably high and in excess of fair market value.    The Stark Law is designed to limit the influence of money on physicians’ medical decision-making by prohibiting financial relationships between hospitals and referring physicians, unless these relationships meet certain designated exceptions.
In connection with this settlement, KDMC has agreed to enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with HHS-OIG, which obligates the hospital to undertake substantial internal compliance reforms and to commit to a third-party review of its claims to federal health care programs for the next five years.
“Medically unnecessary procedures can cause serious health issues, cost the taxpayers millions of dollars each year and drain the Medicare Trust Fund,” said Special Agent in Charge Jackson.    “The OIG will continue to protect beneficiaries and hold health care providers accountable for improper claims.”
“This type of alleged conduct deceives individuals when they are seeking medical treatment and are vulnerable,” said Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Louisville Field Division.  “The level of funds involved in this matter is staggering.    This money has been stolen from the patients and the taxpayers.”
The Commonwealth of Kentucky will receive approximately $1,018,380, which represents the state’s share of the recovered Medicaid funds.    The Medicaid program is funded jointly by the federal and state governments.
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 investigation was conducted by the FBI, the HHS-OIG, the Kentucky Office of Attorney General, Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Control Unit, the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky.    The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

 

Tennessee Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Agrees to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations for $9.25 Million

The Department of Justice announced today that CRC Health Corp. (CRC) has agreed to pay $9.25 million to the federal government and the State of Tennessee to settle allegations that CRC knowingly submitted false claims by providing substandard treatment to adult and adolescent Medicaid patients suffering from alcohol and drug addiction at its facility in Burns, Tenn.  CRC,  based in Cupertino, Calif., is a nationwide provider of substance abuse and mental health treatment services.

“Medicaid patients who enter residential treatment programs for alcohol and drug addiction deserve to have treatment provided by qualified personnel according to the appropriate standard of care,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery.  “We will not tolerate health care providers who prioritize profit margins over the needs of their patients.”

CRC owns and operates a residential substance abuse treatment facility in Burns, Tenn., called New Life Lodge.  The government alleged that, between 2006 and 2012, New Life Lodge billed the Tennessee Medicaid program (TennCare) for substance abuse therapy services that were not provided or were provided by therapists who were not properly licensed by the state of Tennessee.  The government also alleged that New Life Lodge failed to make a licensed psychiatrist available to patients at the facility, as required by the state’s regulations; failed to maintain patient-staffing ratios required by Tennessee Department of Mental Health regulations and billed for Medicaid patients in excess of the state-licensed bed capacity at the facility.  In addition, the government alleged that New Life Lodge double-billed Medicaid for prescription substance abuse medications given to residents at the facility.  New Life Lodge currently is not treating Medicaid patients at its facility.

“Substance abuse of varying levels is rampant here and across the country,” said U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee David Rivera.  “Fortunately, when needed, Medicaid or TennCare covers substance abuse treatment and certain mental health assistance.  When those services are required, the government will ensure that the treatment is provided with the highest possible quality of care to those patients.  Anything less is unacceptable.”

“Safeguarding TennCare’s mental and behavioral health support system is a particular focus of this office,” said Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper.

The allegations covered by the settlement were raised in a lawsuit filed by Angie Cederoth, who was previously employed in New Life Lodge’s billing department, under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private parties to sue on behalf of the government for the submission of false claims and to receive a share of any recovery.  Cederoth will receive $1.5 million as her share of the settlement proceeds.

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.

“Providers of health care services must not place profits above patients,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General in Atlanta.  “This was a vulnerable population of individuals who were seeking treatment for their substance abuse problems.  We will pursue these cases in order to ensure proper treatment is afforded to those seeking treatment.”

The investigation of this matter reflects a coordinated effort among the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

“The FBI is committed to investigating allegations of wrongdoing and false claims related to federally funded health care programs,” said A. Todd McCall, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Division of the FBI.  “The resolution of this matter is the result of the hard work by the individual investigators and the coordinated effort of all the agencies involved.”

“This resolution is indicative of a great collaborative effort to combat egregious and fraudulent activity against health care, which ultimately impacts everyone in Tennessee,” said Director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Mark Gwyn.

The lawsuit is captioned U.S. ex rel. Cederoth v. CRC Health Corporation Inc. , CV-3-11-00897 (M.D. Tenn.).   The claims asserted against the defendants are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

American Family Care Inc. to Pay $1.2 Million to Settle Allegations of Inflated Medicare Claims

American Family Care Inc. has agreed to pay the government $1.2 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that it knowingly submitted claims to Medicare for outpatient office visits that were billed at a higher rate than was appropriate, the Justice Department announced today.  American Family Care is a network of walk-in medical clinics headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., with offices in Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.

“Mischarging the government for office visits wastes valuable government resources that could be used to care for other patient needs,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery.  “At a time of increasing concern about the cost of medical care, it is especially important to ensure that health care providers are not overbilling the government by improperly inflating their claims.”

Following guidance adopted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, health clinics such as American Family Care bill Medicare for their services by selecting a corresponding Evaluation and Management code.  The codes are divided into five different levels – from basic (level 1) to most complex (level 5).  Higher level codes result in higher reimbursement from Medicare than lower level codes.  The government alleged that American Family Care knowingly selected Evaluation and Management codes for a level of services that exceeded those actually provided in order to artificially increase the amount of reimbursement it received for those visits.

“The False Claims Act is a critical tool for weeding out fraud and protecting the taxpayers,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Joyce White Vance.  “My office will continue to return funds, like the $1.2 million in this case, to the taxpayers by proceeding against those who abuse our public health programs.

“Billing the government for services not provided as claimed cheats both taxpayers and patients,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services region including Alabama.  “We will pursue aggressively providers like American Family Care alleged to have improperly maximized reimbursements.”

The civil settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by Anita C. Salters, a former employee of American Family Care, under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, which permits private parties to file suit on behalf of the government for false claims and to obtain a portion of the government’s recovery.  Salters’ share has not yet been determined.

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 on 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.

This settlement with American Family Care was the result of a coordinated effort among the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama; the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch; the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The lawsuit is captioned United States ex rel. Anita C. Salters v. American Family Care Inc. (N.D. Ala.).  The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

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.

Abbott Laboratories Pays U.S. $5.475 Million to Settle Claims That Company Paid Kickbacks to Physicians

Abbott Laboratories has agreed to pay the United States $5.475 million to resolve allegations That it violated the False Claims Act by paying kickbacks to induce doctors to implant the company’s carotid, biliary and peripheral vascular products, the Justice Department announced today.  Abbott is a global pharmaceuticals and health care products company based in Abbott Park, Ill.

“Patients have a right to treatment decisions that are based on their own medical needs, not the personal financial interests of their health care providers,” said Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice.  “Kickbacks undermine the ability of health care providers to objectively evaluate and treat their patients, and will continue to be a primary focus of the Department’s health care enforcement efforts.”

The settlement resolves allegations that Abbott knowingly paid prominent physicians for teaching assignments, speaking engagements and conferences with the expectation that these physicians would arrange for the hospitals with which they were affiliated to purchase Abbott’s carotid, biliary and peripheral vascular products.  As a result, the United States alleged Abbott violated the Anti-Kickback Act and caused the submission of false claims to Medicare for the procedures in which these Abbott products were used.

“Physicians should make decisions regarding medical devices based on what is in the best interest of patients without being induced by payments from manufacturers competing for their business,” said U.S. Attorney Bill Killian of the Eastern District of Tennessee.

“Offering financial inducements can distort health care decision-making,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General in Atlanta.  “OIG and our law enforcement partners vigilantly protect government health programs from such alleged abuses.”

Carotid and peripheral vascular products are used to treat circulatory disorders by increasing blood flow to the head and various parts of the body, respectively.  Biliary products are used to treat obstructions that occur in the bile ducts.

The settlement resolves allegations originally brought in a lawsuit filed by Steven Peters and Douglas Gray, former Abbott employees, under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act , which allows whistleblowers to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and share in any recovery   As part of today’s resolution, Peters and Gray will receive a total payment of morethan $1 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 Health and Human Services Secretary 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 $17 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $12.2 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

This settlement was the result of an investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Division, theU.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Tennessee and the Northern District of Californiaand the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The lawsuit is captioned United States ex rel. Peters et al. v. Abbott Laboratories, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:09-CV-430 (E.D. Tenn.).   The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.