Thursday, November 7, 2013
According to a November 4th Justice Department release, Hospice of the Comforter, Inc. (HOTCI), a company based in Florida, has agreed to pay $3 million to resolve claims it submitted false claims for services covered by Medicare for hospice patients. The company also has issued a statement regarding the settlement, linked on its home webpage.
The report on HOTCI is the latest in a series of settlements or agreements related to whistleblower allegations of Medicare fraud in the hospice industry. In addition to payments to be made over a period of years, the Justice Department reports that HOTCI has entered into to a "corporate integrity agreement" with the Inspector General for Health and Human Services. Further, "HOTCI’s former Chief Executive Officer Robert Wilson has agreed to a three-year, voluntary exclusion from Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health care programs," according to the Justice Department release.
The original whistleblower in the HOTCI case, a former executive, reportedly objected to the $3 million settlement, calling it unreasonably low.
On the one hand, settlements are sometimes criticized as sending the wrong message, arguing agreements to pay comparatively low figues act as a cost of doing business in otherwise still profitable industries, such as the hospice industry. On the other hand, whistleblowers under the False Claims Act stand to recover a percentage of the amounts recovered in the cases.
Other recently reported settlements with hospice providers:
- Hospice of Arizona L.C. and related companies ($12 million, May 2013)
- Multi-state provider Odyssey HealthCare ($25 million, March 2012)
- South Carolina's Harmony Care Hospice Inc. ($1.2 million, November 2012)
- Alabama-based, multi-state SouthernCare Inc. ($24.7 million, January 2009)