Federal law enforcement agents arrested one Chicago-area resident and six Detroit-area residents based on allegations of home health care fraud. In an 18-count indictment unsealed on January 17, 2013, the federal government contends that the seven parties effectuated a scheme to defraud Medicare based on claims for in-home health services at Royal Home Health Care Inc., Prestige Home Health Care Services Inc., Platinum Home Health Services Inc. and Empirical Home Health Care Services Inc. According to the indictment, Medicare was defrauded of over $22 million based on false claims for services since August 2008.
The Medicare Program is a federal health care program that provides benefits to the disabled and persons over age 65. It is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), a division of the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (“HHS-OIG”). In order for a health care provider to participate in Medicare, the provider must agree to abide by Medicare polices and procedures, rules, and regulations published by the federal government. When a provider is certified as a participant in the program, the provider receives a provider identification number for billing purposes, known as a “PIN.” A provider uses the PIN to submit claims for reimbursement to the government for services rendered to a patient, or “beneficiary.” A Medicare beneficiary has a Medicare beneficiary number that is used for billing purposes.
Combating Medicare fraud has been a major priority and focus of the federal government for many years. Since March 2007, the federal government’s Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which involves HHS-OIG, the FBI and other federal law enforcement, have charged more than 1,480 defendants who have falsely billed Medicare for over $4.8 billion. This indictment is part of the effort of the government’s Medicare Fraud Strike Force to effectively combat Medicare Fraud in an effort to curb the spiraling costs of the Medicare Program and otherwise for the benefit of the federal taxpayer.
According to the indictment, the home health care companies purported to provide in-home physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology and/or skilled nursing services to patients. Royal, Prestige, Platinum and Empirical were Medicare providers that submitted claims directly to Medicare using PINs and beneficiary numbers. The individuals named in the indictment were either owners and/or officers of the home health care companies, or were employed as therapists or patient recruiters. The indictment charges that the defendants offered and paid kickbacks and bribes in the forms of cash payments and/or prescription narcotics to Medicare beneficiaries for the purpose of such beneficiaries arranging for the use of their Medicare beneficiary numbers by the conspirators as the bases of claims for physical therapy and other services. The indictment further alleges that Medicare claims were submitted to the government for physical therapy services and other services that were not provided and/or were not medically necessary. The indictment states that the defendants used false medical documents to support the fraudulent claims.
Health care providers can unintentionally violate the very complicated rules and regulations of the Medicare Program. For all health care providers, compliance with federal law and regulations respecting the Medicare Program and the submission of claims is imperative. Providers should avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
The Law Offices of Kevin S. Little PC advises and represents physicians and other health care providers and health care businesses. Our business law firm focuses on health care law issues. Kevin Little is a 20-year attorney with an “AV” rating by Martindale Hubbell (its highest rating) with offices in Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia. Contact us at (404) 685-1662 (Atlanta) or (706) 722-7886 to schedule a confidential consultation.
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