Whistleblower suit leads to $6.1 million Medicare settlement in Kansas

06/21/2012 5:00 AM

06/21/2012 7:30 PM

A Kansas hospice care provider and its Texas-based parent company will pay $6.1 million to resolve allegations that they submitted false claims to the federal Medicare program. The case arose from a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a nurse more than six years ago, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday.

Justice officials said in a news release that they hope the settlement with Wichita-based Hospice Care of Kansas LLC and Fort Worth-based Voyager HospiceCare Inc. will serve as a warning to other hospice providers.

Prosecutors alleged the companies submitted false claims to the federal health care program for the elderly and disabled between 2004 and 2008 for patients who weren’t expected to die in less than six months, a requirement for the benefits in question.

The whistleblower suit was filed in 2006 by Beverly Landis, a Hospice Care of Kansas nurse. The Justice Department later intervened. Landis will receive $1.34 million under the federal False Claims Act.

One of her attorneys, David White of Kansas City, told The Associated Press that Landis had been the director of another hospice service before joining Hospice Care of Kansas on a fill-in basis. Landis, who was semi-retired, knew the regulations and knew how the billing was supposed to work.

“She went to management and said, ‘You can’t do this,’ and they blew her off. And so she said, `If you won’t solve it yourself, I am going to do it,’ and so she reported it,” White said.

The agreement includes no admission or determination of wrongdoing, Harden Healthcare, the owner of Voyager HospiceCare and Hospice of Kansas, said in a statement. The company also noted that the government never questioned the quality of patient care or found the companies received payments for services that weren’t provided.

“Harden Healthcare cooperated fully with this investigation, which covered a period prior to our acquisition of Voyager HospiceCare and Hospice Care of Kansas...,” Lew Little, CEO of Harden Healthcare, said in a statement.

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