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Alabama hospice settles fraud claims of $24.7M
SouthernCare, a Birmingham, AL-based hospice provider, and its shareholders agreed to pay the United States $24.7 million to settle allegations that the company submitted false claims to the government for patients treated at its hospice facilities, the U.S. Justice Department has reported.
SouthernCare operates about 99 locations that provide hospice services in 15 states.
"The Medicare hospice benefit is intended to provide compassionate end-of-life care to terminally ill patients," said Gregory G. Katsas, assistant attorney general of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. "This settlement sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will not allow health care providers to take advantage of beneficiaries in their attempts to game the reimbursement system."
The settlement results from two qui tam suits filed by two former SouthernCare employees, on behalf of the United States. The False Claims Act authorizes private parties to file suit against those who defraud the United States and to receive a share of any recovery. The United States will pay $4.9 million to the individuals who filed the actions against SouthernCare. Alice H. Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, said, "Our investigation showed a pattern and practice to falsely admit patients to hospice care who did not qualify and to bill Medicare for that care. This resulted in taxpayers bearing inappropriate costs."