Kansas hospice and parent company pay $6.1 million to settle False Claims Act allegations

by Ben Vernia | June 25th, 2012

On June 21, the Department of Justice announced that a Wichita hospice and its Texas parent company agreed to pay $6.1 million to settle allegations initially brought by a whistleblower. According to DOJ’s press release:

Hospice Care of Kansas LLC and its parent company, Ft. Worth, Texas-based Voyager HospiceCare Inc., have agreed to pay $6.1 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by submitting claims to the Medicare program for ineligible hospice services, the Justice Department announced today. Hospice Care of Kansas currently provides hospice services throughout the state of Kansas. Hospice Care of Kansas, which is based in Wichita, Kan., was purchased by Voyager in 2004.

The Medicare hospice benefit is available for patients who elect palliative treatment ( medical care focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness) for a terminal illness, and have a life expectancy of six months or less if their disease runs its normal course. Today’s settlement resolves allegations that Hospice Care of Kansas and Voyager submitted or caused the submission of false Medicare claims between January 2004 and December 2008 for beneficiaries that did not have a terminal prognosis of six months or less.

The government alleged that Hospice Care of Kansas and Voyager engaged in certain practices that resulted in the submission of false claims, including the provision of compensation to clinical employees based on patient census and admissions, delaying discharges of patients determined not to have a six month or less prognosis, instructions to staff to document patient conditions in a misleading manner, and implementation of an inadequate compliance program.

The government announced that the qui tam relator, a former nurse at the hospice, will receive $1.342 million of the settlement (a 22% relator’s share).

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