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BOSTON – The United States Attorney’s Office has filed a complaint against Brookline-based Bournewood Health Systems and First Psychiatric Planners (FPP) for allegedly paying kickbacks in the form of free sober housing to induce patients to choose Bournewood and FPP over other treatment facilities.
The United States Attorney’s Office filed the complaint under the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Statute against Bournewood Health Systems and FPP, together doing business as Bournewood. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has also joined the complaint under the Massachusetts False Claims Act and other state laws.
It is alleged that Bournewood and FPP paid kickbacks in the form of free sober housing to induce substance use recovery patients to choose and attend Bournewood’s and FPP’s Partial Hospital Program, over a myriad of other treatment options and facilities, in violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, the federal False Claims Act, the Massachusetts Anti-Kickback Statute and the Massachusetts False Claims Act. The governments contend that Bournewood and FPP paid the kickbacks to sustain and grow their daily patient census and increase the amount of reimbursement received from insurers, including federal healthcare programs, for the provision of partial hospital program treatment services.
It is further alleged that Bournewood and FPP contracted to send patients to certain sober homes to support their revenues, even when they knew that some of the sober homes were unsafe and threatened patients’ sobriety. Patients expressed to Bournewood and FPP, and Bournewood and FPP were otherwise aware of, concerns regarding sexual solicitation and harassment, drug overdoses, prescription medication theft, bed bugs and overcrowding.
The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits providers from offering or paying, directly or indirectly, any remuneration—which includes money or other things of value—to induce Medicare and Medicaid patients to select the provider’s services. The governments do not contend that any substance use patient knowingly accepted the defendants’ kickbacks.
“The government’s complaint today alleges that Bournewood and FPP paid illegal kickbacks to induce vulnerable patients to drive business to their sober home operations,” said Joshua S. Levy, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. “This kickback scheme negatively impacted the Medicare and Medicaid programs financially, and more importantly it jeopardized patients’ health at a vulnerable time in their recovery.”
“Kickbacks can adversely influence the medical decision-making process,” said Roberto Coviello, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “Together with our federal and state law enforcement partners, we remain committed to investigating allegations of improper arrangements that can put patient safety at risk.”
“Massachusetts is no place to take advantage of vulnerable populations, especially those suffering from substance use disorder,” said Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell. “These entities referred patients to certain unsafe sober homes and jeopardized their healing to support their own revenue. By taking action, my office and the USAO are reaffirming our commitment to ensure those seeking help have access to treatment and a safe path to recovery.”
The government’s investigation was prompted by False Claims Act allegations brought in a lawsuit filed by a whistleblower under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act.
Acting U.S. Attorney Levy, HHS-OIG SAC Coviello and Attorney General Campbell made the announcement today. This matter is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven Sharobem and Julien Mundele of the Affirmative Enforcement Unit; Assistant United States Attorneys Gregory Dorchak and Anuj Kheturpal of the Civil Rights Unit; and Assistant Attorney General Katie Cooper Davis of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office’s Medicaid Fraud Division.