Home Health Agency “Patient Recruiter” Sentenced to 63 Months in Prison for Allegedly Committing Health Care Fraud
(October 18, 2010): The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, working with the FBI and HHS-OIG has announced the sentencing of yet another defendant convicted of home health fraud. As the Department of Justice’s Press Release reflects, the defendant, a nurse who worked as a “patient recruiter“ and operator of a Detroit-area home health agency, allegedly solicited Medicare beneficiaries for the home health agency where he worked and “offered them cash kickbacks in exchange for their Medicare patient information and signatures on medical documents.” The defendant also allegedly:
“admitted that he knew the beneficiaries he recruited were neither homebound nor in need of physical therapy services.” Finally, the defendant allegedly “admitted in court papers that he knew [the home health agency] used the beneficiaries’ Medicare information to bill Medicare for physical therapy that was medically unnecessary and / or never performed.” (emphasis added).
As a result, it was estimated that $6.96 million in “false or fraudulent claims [were submitted] to the Medicare program.” In this case, the defendant was sentenced to 63 months in prison for his actions.
Commentary: Over the last few months, a number of criminal prosecutions have been brought against “patient recruiters” working for home health agencies who have allegedly been involved in wrongdoing. In most cases, the defendants have been alleged to have improperly used the Medicare information of these patients to improperly bill for services that were not medically necessary and / or were not rendered. In light of these cases, it is recommended that home health agencies carefully review their marketing practices to verify that the conduct of their employees or contractors does not violate applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. It is also recommended that home health agency Compliance Officers work with outside counsel to engage outside billing / coding personnel to conduct periodic home health claims reviews so that the propriety of the skilled nursing services billed can be properly verified.
Liles Parker attorneys represent home health agencies and their officers in Medicare audits and investigations. Please call 1 (800) 475-1906 for a free consultation.
President Obama’s 2011 Funding Request Provides for Expansion of the HEAT Program to Additional Cities
(October 4, 2010): As DOJ has recently noted in its own blog, over the last Fiscal Year, DOJ (including its 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices), HHS’ Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), have been extraordinarily active in jointly pursuing health care providers allegedly engaging in fraud as part of the HEAT program. As DOJ notes, the mission of the HEAT program is:
- To marshal significant resources across government to prevent waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs and crack down on the fraud perpetrators who are abusing the system and costing us all billions of dollars.
- To reduce skyrocketing health care costs and improve quality of care by ridding the system of perpetrators who are preying on Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
- To highlight best practices by providers and public sector employees who are dedicated to ending waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare.
- To build upon existing partnerships that already exist between the two agencies, including our Medicare Fraud Strike Forces to reduce fraud and recover taxpayer dollars.
Together, DOJ, HHS-OIG and CMS have accomplished the following over the last Fiscal Year:
- Filed charges against more than 800 defendants.
- Obtained 583 criminal convictions.
- Opened 886 new civil health care fraud matters.
- Obtained 337 civil administrative actions against parties committing health care fraud.
Through these coordinated efforts, more than $2.5 billion was recovered. Importantly, these successes have not gone unnoticed. President Obama’s FY 2011 budget request includes an additional $60.2 million in funding for the HEAT program initiative.
Commentary: In light of the government’s continuing efforts, we strongly recommend that our clients review their current compliance efforts to ensure that they take into account any and all risk areas that have been identified or associated with their areas of practice. Providers should work to ensure that their operations and billing activitivies fully comply with applicable statutory and regulatory billing and coding requirements.
Should you have questions, please give us a call for a complimentary consultation. We can be reached at 1 (800) 475-1906.