United States Intervenes in False Claims Act Case Against Doctor’s Choice Home Care Inc.

by Andrew Murray | June 4th, 2019

On May 24, 2019, the Department of Justice announced the United States’ filing of a complaint in intervention against the home health agency and two of its owners. Allegations against the Florida-based company concern the payment of kickbacks. The Press Release states:

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The lawsuit alleges that Doctor’s Choice, with the knowledge of Beach and Christensen, paid kickbacks in the form of sham medical directorships to three physicians to refer patients to Doctor’s Choice. All three physicians allegedly did little, if any, of the work for which Doctor’s Choice paid them as medical directors. Sham medical director agreements to induce patient referrals violate the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law. Doctor’s Choice also allegedly paid some employees in a manner that accounted for the volume of referrals by their physician spouses, in violation of the Stark Law.

The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits anyone from offering or paying remuneration in order to induce or reward referrals for services paid for under federal healthcare programs. The Stark Law forbids certain medical providers, including home health agencies, from submitting claims to Medicare for services provided to patients who were referred by a physician with whom the provider has a prohibited financial relationship, unless that relationship falls within an applicable exception.

The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and receive a share of any recovery. The act permits the United States to intervene and take over responsibility for litigating the case, as it has done here. A defendant who violates the act is subject to three times the government’s losses, plus applicable penalties.

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The case is captioned United States ex rel. Herbold v. Doctor’s Choice Home Care Inc., et al., Case No. 8:15-cv-01044 (M.D. Fl.).

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