by Ben Vernia | August 28th, 2014
On August 28, the Department of Justice announced that it was intervening in part in two whistleblowers’ cases against hospice companies in Colorado. According to DOJ’s press release:
The United States has partially intervened against defendants in two whistleblower lawsuits in the Federal District Court for the District of Colorado alleging Evercare Hospice and Palliative Care (Evercare) submitted false claims for the Medicare hospice benefit. Evercare is now known as Optum Palliative and Hospice Care, which provides hospice services across the United States. One of the suits names Evercare’s parent companies, including UnitedHealth Group Inc.
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The Medicare hospice benefit is available for patients who elect palliative care (medical care focused on providing patients with relief from pain, symptoms or stress) for a terminal illness, and have a life expectancy of six months or less if their illness runs its normal course. When a Medicare patient is admitted to hospice, that individual is no longer entitled to Medicare coverage for care designed to cure his or her illness.
The lawsuits, filed by former employees of Evercare, allege that defendants violated the False Claims Act by knowingly submitting false claims for hospice benefits for patients who did not have a life expectancy of six months or less. The complaints include allegations that management pressured employees and physicians to admit and retain patients who were not terminally ill and challenged or disregarded physicians’ decisions that patients should be discharged.
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