The whistleblower legal team at Mahany Law is investigating reports that Hospice of Marion County is violating state and federal healthcare fraud laws. Included in our investigation is a report of elder abuse.
We typically receive our cases from concerned healthcare workers. They are in the best position to observe healthcare fraud. Under the federal False Claims Act, we need to show a pattern and practice of fraud. Congress realized that everyone makes mistakes, that why proving fraud usually means finding examples of repeated abuse.
Patients may have direct knowledge of the care they are receiving but typically don’t see hospice bills or have the details about other patients. That doesn’t mean we don’t take patient complaints seriously.
We are currently investigating whether Hospice of Marion County is paying kickbacks to physicians who refer patients and to area hospitals. Kickbacks are illegal under both Florida and federal law.
Most people think of cash when it comes to kickbacks but anything of value qualifies. Offering physicians that refer many patients phony medical directorships, free office staff or the like qualifies.
The same report also indicates that Hospice of Marion County is overmedicating patients, essentially turning them into zombies. Overmedication can result in depression, weight loss and a poor quality of life.
Patients in their last days are entitled to kindness, respect and dignity. We certainly the use of pain medications for breakout pain but what we have been told is widespread use of medications simply to keep patients quiet and in line.”
False Claims Act and Whistleblower Rewards
Under the federal and Florida False Claims Act, whistleblowers with inside information about healthcare fraud involving Medicare or state funded Medicaid are entitled to large cash rewards for coming forward and reporting violations.
Since hospice care is often paid by Medicare and Medicaid, most hospice care qualifies for an award.
Hospice of Marion County
We are in the early stages of investigation. The company has not been charged or formally accused of any wrongdoing.
According the company’s website, Hospice of Marion County is a not-for-profit dedicated to caring for people near the end of their life. Their vision statement says, “Our vision at Hospice of Marion County and Its Affiliated Companies is to enhance the quality of life through expert collaborative care and services in central Florida.”
Although the company claims to be a non-profit, its wholly owned affiliates Accent Medical (Florida Palliative Equipment LLC and Center for Comprehensive Palliative Care are for profit businesses. Those arrangements, while not illegal, make it easier for a hospice to disguise illegal financial transactions. Once again, we hope to speak with present or former employees of these companies to learn more.
Common Hospice Fraud Schemes
A common hospice fraud involves offering hospice care to patients who don’t yet that level of care. Although it is impossible to exactly when someone may die, hospice is designed for patients at the end of their life. Some hospices place patients years before they die. That isn’t good for taxpayers or the patient.
Closely related to this scheme are hospices that pay kickbacks to doctors. There needs to be a finding of medical necessity to place someone in hospice care. What better way to find patients than to bribe doctors, nursing home administrators and hospitals.
Yet another scam involves offering poor quality care. When a facility bills Medicare, it certifies that it means all state and federal licensing and safety codes. Overmedicating patients, keeping family members away and having too few staff violate regulations in most states.
By stepping forward and filing a claim under the False Claims Act, a whistleblower can receive up to 30% of what the government fines the facility. Million dollar fines are not uncommon.
While we love to hear from patients, most hospice patients won’t be around long enough to help us investigate and prosecute these cases. That is why we need present and former employees.
Ready to blow the whistle or just want more information? First, visit our Hospice Fraud information page. That is always a good place to start. Our blog is text searchable and has information on other specific hospice fraud investigations and prosecutions.
If you want to know whether you have a case, contact us online, by email or by phone at 202-800-9791. All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept confidential.