St. Joseph Hospice entities, Southern hospice chain, pays $5.86 to settle whistleblowers’ fraud allegations

by Ben Vernia | September 5th, 2015

On September 3, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Mississippi announced that a regional chain of hospices had agreed to pay $5.86 to settle civil allegations, originally brought by three whistleblowing former employees, that the company submitted false claims for continuous home hospice services (to which the recipients were not entitled). According to the U.S. Attorney’s press release:

Jackson, Miss. – St. Joseph Hospice Entities, which consists of 13 hospice facilities in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Alabama, and Patrick T. Mitchell, its majority owner and manager, have agreed to pay the United States $5,867,518 under the False Claims Act to resolve allegations that they submitted false claims for delivery of continuous home care hospice services to patients who were not entitled to receive continuous care hospice level treatment, announced United States Attorney Gregory K. Davis, Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Donald Alway.

Continuous home care hospice services, sometimes called crisis care services, are provided to hospice-eligible patients in moments of crisis resulting from acute medical symptoms. This level of care is available to a patient when the patient’s acute medical symptoms require immediate and short-term skilled nursing services, allowing the patient to remain in his/her home during a very difficult time. Medicare pays for continuous care hospice services at a rate that is nearly 6 times that of the daily rate for routine home hospice care. The continuous home care reimbursement rate is the highest daily rate a hospice can bill Medicare. Because continuous home care hospice services are limited to moments of crisis and have stringent criteria, they are rarely used.

During the government’s investigation, it was discovered that St. Joseph Hospice was an outlier in its use and billing of continuous care hospice services. The government found that there were a significant number of patients who received continuous care hospice services when there was no crisis, and thus, they were not eligible for such services. The result of this misuse of the continuous home care hospice benefit was millions of dollars of false claims submitted to and paid by the government.

*   *   *

The U.S. Attorney announced that the three relators will receive over $1 million of the settlement (a 17% relators’ share).

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts

Recent Comments