Chemed Corporation and several subsidiaries, including Vitas – the largest for-profit hospice chain in the United States – have agreed to pay $75 million to settle False Claims Act (FCA) allegations. Chemed Corporation was accused of submitting claims to Medicare for treatment of patients who were not terminally ill. Moreover, the government alleged that the Defendants were rewarding bonuses to their employees based on the number of patients receiving hospice care. These bonuses were given regardless if the patient was actually terminally ill or would have benefited from curative care.
Hospice care is reserved for those who are terminally ill and decline curative treatment. The treatment focuses on relieving the patient from pain and suffering instead of curing the illness itself. In order to qualify for hospice care, the patient must have life expectancy of six months or less if the illness runs its normal course. Medicare helps provide hospice care to those who need it most; however, when corporations submit and reward claims to Medicare for hospice care – for patients who are not terminally ill – not only are the patients encouraged to forgo curative treatment, but the corporation is stealing monies from the tax pool. As the tax pool is depleted, funds are not readily available for those who are actually in need of hospice care. Concerning this case, Chad A. Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, stated:
Today’s resolution represents the largest amount ever recovered under the False Claims Act from a provider of hospice services. Medicare’s hospice benefit provides critical services to some of the most vulnerable Medicare patients, and the Department will continue to ensure that this valuable benefit is used to assist those who need it, and not as an opportunity to line the pockets of those who seek to abuse it.
This settlement resolves three lawsuits filed by whistleblowers under the qui tam provision of the FCA. The qui tam provision provides an avenue for ordinary citizens with knowledge of fraud to sue on behalf of the United States. As an incentive to do the right thing and blow the whistle on fraud, the FCA not only grants the whistleblower protection against retaliation, but also permits the whistleblower to share 15 to 30 percent of the government’s recovery.
Are you aware of fraud being committed against the federal government, or a state government? If so, the FCA can protect and reward you for doing the right thing by reporting the fraud. If you have any questions about whether you qualify as a whistleblower, contact one of the lawyers on our firm’s Whistleblower Litigation Team for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim. You may also contact Beasley Allen for a free copy of Lance Gould’s book, “Whistleblowers: A Brief History and a Guide to Getting Started.”
Source: U.S. Department of Justice
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