Baton Rouge Based Charter Home Health Fined for Patient Recruiter and Illegal Kickback Scheme
Charter Home Health, a Baton Rouge based healthcare company, agreed to settle civil federal Louisiana Medicare fraud charges filed under the federal False Claims Act. The company will pay $1.7 million. The company also agreed to a Corporate Integrity Agreement. Should the company commit another offense, it would be subjected to much higher fines and penalties.
Prosecutors say that Charter paid Veronica Green and others kickbacks “based on the number of Medicare patients that such persons, specifically Veronica Green, referred to Charter Home Health for home health care services.” Because most of Charter’s patients are Medicare recipients, the kickbacks violated the Anti Kickback statute.
The Anti-Kickback statute prevents anyone from giving anything of value in order to induce medical care decision. Healthcare should always be based on the best interests of the patient and not on who pays the biggest bribes or kickbacks.
Many healthcare companies hire patient recruiters. The practice is legal as long as the recruiters are paid salary or by the hour. The government claims, however, that Veronica Green’s compensation was solely based on the number of new patients she recruited for Charter. They say she was paid $250 as head.
That gave Green a financial incentive to recruit as many patients as possible, even if they didn’t qualify or need home care.
In announcing the settlement, Baton Rouges’s acting United States Attorney said, “We will continue to use all civil and criminal tools at our disposal to protect our tax dollars. I appreciate the hard work of the attorneys and investigators who handled this important matter on behalf of the United States. This settlement rightly results in the return of money to the federal government, along with a Corporate Integrity Agreement to help prevent any future improprieties.”
A Health and Human Services special agent added, “Home health care providers who pay kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals will be held responsible at the settlement table. We will continue to crack down on such illegal, wasteful business kickback arrangements, which undermine medical judgement, corrode the public’s trust in the health care system, and divert scarce Medicare funding.”
Veronica Green’s Medicare Fraud Problems
Charter Home Health wasn’t the only one in trouble for the illegal kickback scheme. Veronica Green was criminally prosecuted and was sentenced to prison.
She had other problems too. While investigating the kickback and mMedicare fraud allegations, prosecutors Green was hiding her income from Social Security.
Apparently in 2004, Green claimed she was disabled and entitled to social security benefits. She was awarded benefits with the provision that if she later was able to work, she couldn’t double dip and collect disability monies. That didn’t stop her, however, from her lucrative patient recruiting scheme.
To avoid getting caught having income, prosecutors claim Green conspired with Charter Home Health to pay her illegal kickback money to her husband. She was subsequently convicted for failing to disclose her income, sentenced to a concurrent prison term and ordered to repay the money she received from Social Security.
In 2011 she was sentenced on both cases to 30 months in prison. The case against Charter Home Health wouldn’t resolve until 2017.
Veronica Green Hits the Medicare Fraud Trifecta
We have a saying around the office, “once a thief, always a thief.” Some people grow up but many don’t. Despite two fraud related criminal convictions, Green wasn’t quite through.
In addition to her kickback scam with Charter and her concealment of income from Social Security, prosecutors say that Green had a third scam. She was the owner of a durable medical goods company called AYS Supply. AYS sold heavy duty motorized wheelchairs for people weighing over 300 pounds. These wheelchairs cost approximately $5000 each.
Prosecutors say that Green was billing Medicare for these heavy duty, specialized wheelchairs even though some patients didn’t qualify and others had “no medical need.”
They also say her company was billing Medicare up to $800 for back braces even though she was giving the patients a much less expensive $50 model.
What are the takeaways?
First thieves love other thieves. It is common to find clusters of fraudsters all running their own scams while also involved in a larger hustle. In fact, it was Green’s 2011 problems with Social Security that ultimately resulted in Charter Home Health getting caught.
Second, Louisiana and especially New Orleans are filled with fraud schemes. Miami and southern Florida still has the dubious honor of being the fraud capital of the United States but Detroit and Louisiana are nipping at Miami’s heels for top “honors.” In fact, things are so bad that we posted special information about both New Orleans Medicare fraud and Louisiana whistleblower rewards.
Third, patient recruiter schemes are almost always illegal. The marketing director that works for a nursing home and runs ads is probably not a criminal. Those folks are paid salaries.
Recruiters that get paid cash to sign up patients are breaking the law, however. The payment of kickbacks violates the federal Anti Kickback Statute. We have seen recruiters that literally stalk homeless shelters and economically depressed areas trying to recruit patients for some unscrupulous clinic or doctor. Often these scams involve paying the would-be patients with cigarettes and booze. One patient recruiter scheme in Brooklyn offered patients expensive Nike high tops.
Patient Recruiter Schemes Eligible for Whistleblower Rewards
Information about violations of the Anti – Kickback law, illegal patient recruiter schemes and Medicare fraud in general can make you eligible for cash whistleblower awards. The Department of Justice and courts pay hundreds of millions of dollars in rewards each year.
To be eligible you must have inside information about the fraud or scheme, the scheme must involve federal healthcare dollars (Medicare, Tricare and Medicaid) and you generally must be the first to report the information.
Reporting is done by filing a sealed lawsuit in federal court. We can help you with that and advance all the costs to do so.
To learn more about patient recruiter schemes, visit our patient recruiter information page. Ready to find out if your information qualifies you for an award? Contact us by email or by phone at 414-704-6731.
MahanyLaw helps whistleblowers across the United States fight fraud and corruption. We also help our whistleblower clients qualify for the highest awards possible.
About the author – Attorney Brian Mahany began his career as a police officer in New Orleans, Louisiana. While serving as a law enforcement officer, Brian graduated Tulane Law School in New Orleans. He continues to care for the greater New Orleans community and its residents.