South Florida Nursing Home Chain to Pay $17M in Whistleblower Suit

Tuesday, July 14, 2015
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
                       

A Miami-based nursing home chain has agreed to pay a record $17 million to settle a False Claims Act suit that was brought by its former Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The United States Attorney's Office claims that Plaza Health Network, formerly known as Hebrew Homes, allegedly doled out illegal payments to physicians for referrals of Medicare patients from 2006 through 2013.


A Sophisticated Kickback Scheme.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Plaza Health Network hired physicians to serve as medical directors, but in reality these were "ghost positions." These positions allegedly existed solely for the physician to refer patients to the company's facilities, dramatically increasing the number of referrals. Each facility had several medical directors who were paid thousands of dollars each month.

The suit also alleged that Plaza Health Network submitted false claims to Medicaid and Medicare for therapy services that were never provided at inflated costs to taxpayers.

Click here to read more from the Miami Herald
.


A Record Settlement.


The settlement is reportedly the largest in U.S. history for a nursing home allegedly violating the Anti-Kickback Statute. This settlement also resolves a whistleblower suit filed by the company's former CFO. He filed the suit under a provision of the law (the False Claims Act) that allows a private individual to sue on behalf of the government. He will collect more than $4 million as part of the settlement.  "Illegal inducements paid to physicians in exchange for patient referrals will not be tolerated," said Deputy U.S. Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer.


The Legalities of Such Cases.


This case was brought under the federal False Claims Act or "whistleblower law." This mandates standards and regulations for both civil and criminal penalties against those falsely billing the government. False Claims Act cases, such as this recent one, are typically filed in a qui tam (or whistleblower) proceeding. This type of action involves a private party filing a lawsuit against a defendant who allegedly is defrauding the government. The "whisleblower" receives a percentage of the money recovered by the government, often millions of dollars. Usually these types of cases protect the whistleblowers from receiving any potential prosecution or punishment due to involvement in the fraudulent actions.

The government urges health care providers to step forward and report illegal and fraudulent activities as soon as they are uncovered. The False Claims Act provides a system of rewards that encourages whistleblowers to bring these issues to the government's attention. To read one of our past blogs on this topic, click here.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.


Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and others who may desire to file a qui tam, False Claims Act or whistleblower suit. We work with physicians, nurses and other professionals to investigate, document and file such cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented  number of doctors and other licensed health professionals as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases. Our attorneys are also available to defend physicians, medical groups and health care providers in qui tam or whistleblower cases.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.




Individuals working in the health care industry often become aware of questionable activities. Often, they are even asked to participate in it. In many cases, the activity may amount to fraud on the government. Has this ever happened to you? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.


Sources:

Hamer, Spencer. "Miami Nursing Home to Pay Record $17M in Whistleblower Suit." JDSupra Business Advisor. (June 19, 2015). From:
http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/miami-nursing-home-to-pay-record-17m-in-61433/

Ovalle, David. "South Florida Nursing Home Chain to Pay $17 Million in Federal Settlement." Miami Herald. (June 16, 2015). From:
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/article24666172.html


About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.


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7/14/2015

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