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Federal Officials Join Hospice “Whistleblower” Lawsuit

Mistreatment by those charged with caring for seniors, disabled, and terminally ill residents takes many forms. Every Chicago nursing home lawyer knows that the most common problems are those involving the intertwining of profit-motive and negligent care. These care locations are often businesses seeking to make a profit, but, at the same time they are fulfilling a vital role for those whose life and death literally hang in the balance. For that reason, when they act inappropriately and cause harm, the civil law allows those hurt to seek accountability.

Unscrupulous conduct by these institutions affect not only those directly harmed but all of us. That is because most funds used for this care comes from taxpayers, in the form of Medicare and Medicaid payments. This fraudulent use of public money cannot be tolerated–particularly when it causes severe physical and emotional pain to residents who depend on proper conduct. Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers know, however, that many facility owners continue to act inappropriately to maximize their own bottom line, regardless of the effect on others.

Whistleblower Lawsuit
For example, the Orlando Sentinel reported recently on a new whistleblower lawsuit filed against a hospice center. According to the lawsuit the defendant-company engaged in routine over-billing of Medicare. This was done by admitting patients for services that did not qualify as terminally ill and keeping some of them there for as long as five years. This particular home was actually a non-profit facility.

The story notes that the latest action by a federal judge allows federal officials to intervene in the suit–a sign that they likely found enough evidence in their own investigations into the matter. A second review by federal officials found a 77% “error rate.” This means that over 3 out of every 4 patients admitted to the hospice care were eventually deemed not to have needed the care. The care is generally limited to those who are certified to likely have less than 6 months to live.

The attorney representing the former employee who first brought the problem to light noted that the hospice facility may ultimately be on the hook for up to $33 million in penalties. This figure was arrived at because the government may seek “triple damages” in these cases–three times the amount of the alleged overbilling.

The nursing home lawsuit was first filed a year ago by the former administrator who moved up to become the facility’s VP for Finance. However, the man claims that he was eventually fired after he urged the non-profit board to reimburse Medicare for overbilling. He claims that that the CEO was incentivized to keep the money for financial reasons. The non-profit CEO took in a $120,000 base salary in addition to about $200,000 in annual bonuses as a result of the facility’s census count.

It remains imperative to stamp out misconduct at all of these care establishments, whether it be based in finances or outright physical/emotional neglect. Nursing home neglect lawyers appreciate that the two are often related. In all cases, however, taxpayers deserve proper use of their funds, for reasonable care that provides a necessary service to those in need.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Medicare Fraud Case Involving Hospice Settles

Weighing the Financial and Emotional Costs of Parent Mortality