Hospice Companies Settle FCA Case for $12.2M
By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team
Several Hospice companies settled allegations they violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by paying kickbacks for patient referrals. The companies include Hospice Plus; Goodwin Hospice, LLC; Phoenix Hospice, LP; Hospice Plus, L.P.; and Curo Health Services, LLC. Mooresville, North Carolina-headquartered Curo Health Services operates eight hospice affiliates across 18 states. Curo Health Services purchased Hospice Plus, Goodwin Hospice, and Phoenix Hospice, and consolidated the hospice companies under the Hospice Plus brand in September 2010; the brand operates primarily in and around Dallas, Texas.
The $12.2M settlement resolves the allegations of several whistleblowers in two consolidated Dallas, Texas FCA cases. The whistleblowers claimed the hospice companies submitted claims to Medicare and Texas Medicaid that were rendered false as a result of the payment of kickbacks by the hospices, its owners and employees, and others.
The companies allegedly defrauded Medicare and Texas Medicaid through two kickback schemes. The first, active from 2007 to 2012, involved kickbacks—including sham loans, a free equity interest in another entity, stock dividends, and free rental space—to home health company American Physician Housecalls, which traded patient referrals to the hospice companies for these kickbacks. The second scheme involved kickbacks in the form of cash, gift cards, and other valuable items to doctors and nurses at hospitals and longterm care facilities, again in exchange for patient referrals to the hospice companies.
Kickback arrangements such as these violate the Anti-Kickback Statute (42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b(b)) and Stark Law (42 U.S.C. § 1395nn), which, broadly speaking, collectively prohibit hospitals, physicians, pharmacies, nursing homes, durable medical equipment (DME) companies, pharmaceutical (drug) companies, medical device manufacturers, and other medical providers from paying or receiving kickbacks, remuneration, or anything of value in exchange for referrals of patients who will receive treatment paid for by government healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.