Fairfax, Va.-based skilled nursing facility Fairfax Nursing Center (FNC) and its owners have agreed to pay $700,000 to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by knowingly submitting or causing the submission to Medicare of false claims for non-reimbursable rehabilitation therapy services, the Justice Department announced today.
The settlement resolves claims that FNC provided excessive, medically unnecessary, or otherwise non-reimbursable physical, occupational, and speech therapy services to 37 Medicare beneficiaries serviced by FNC between January 2007 and December 2010. The United States alleged that the rehabilitation therapy services provided by FNC to these beneficiaries were not reasonable and necessary for the treatment of their condition. Specifically, the United States alleged that the therapy services were often excessive, duplicative, performed without clear goals or direction, and, in some instances, performed primarily to capture higher reimbursement rates.
“Today’s settlement is another example of the Department’s efforts to hold skilled nursing facilities accountable for the rehabilitation therapy services they deliver to some of the most vulnerable in our society,” said Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. “The provision of excessive and medically unnecessary therapy services will not be tolerated.”
“Medicare fraud takes many forms and arises in various segments of health care,” said U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride. “We continue to work toward recovery of money lost to overbillings to Medicare.”
This resolution is part of the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and another step for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in May 2009. The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover nearly $10.2 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs. The Justice Department’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 are over $14 billion.
The allegations settled today arose from a lawsuit filed by two former FNC therapists and one former contract therapist under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions, of the False Claims Act. Under the False Claims Act, private citizens can bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery. The whistleblowers in this case will receive, collectively, $122,500 of the recovery. The lawsuit is captioned as United States of America & Commonwealth of Virginia ex rel. Christine Ribik, Nadine Kelly, & Stephanie Beauregard v. Fairfax Nursing Center, Inc., et al. No. 1:11-cv-496 (E.D. Va.).
The case was handled by the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Commonwealth of Virginia Attorney General’s Office. The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.