Federal attorneys have joined a whistleblower lawsuit filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama against national hospice company AseraCare over allegations that the company defrauded Medicare by coordinating improper cycling of patients from nursing home care to hospice to maximize Medicare reimbursements.
AseraCare is a Fort Smith, Arkansas-based hospice company, which operates in 19 states, and is owned by Golden Living, a national company that provides skilled nursing services, MSNBC reported. Federal attorneys have alleged the company defrauded the government program by pressuring employees to enroll patients who were not dying into the hospice program.
The whistleblowers, Dawn Richardson, and AseraCare nurse manager, and Marsha Brown, who ran several company offices in Alabama, allege that patients were enrolled in skilled nursing care for 20 days, and then moved to hospice, whether they were dying or not. Medicare pays the entire bill for the first 20 days of skilled nursing care, and then pays a flat payment for each day the patient is enrolled in hospice.
“Typically, a patient admitted into Defendant’s web of operations will be referred and re-referred until that patient has received—and Medicare has been billed for—the maximum number of days of skilled nursing care, including rehabilitative therapy … home health care, and hospice care,” the lawsuit said.
AseraCare said it would vigorously defend itself against the allegations.