Healthcare Provider Agrees to Settle False Claims Act Allegations Regarding Kickbacks it Reportedly Made to Nursing Homes and to Physicians
Kickbacks and illegal inducements offered to and received from healthcare providers sometimes take the form of cash payments but they just as often involve free services. Thus, the anti-kickback statues were designed to deal with both forms of illegal incentives. Hence, it was late last month that the Department of Justice announced that Reliant Rehabilitation Holdings Inc. (Reliant) has agreed to pay the United States $6.1 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. §3729, et seq., by paying kickbacks to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) in connection with its services. (Reliant nationally provides rehabilitation services for the infirmed and elderly and is based in Plano, Texas.)
The United States alleged that between April 2013 and May 2017, Reliant knowing offered inducements in the form of their nurse practitioners working for facilities it wanted to do businesses with. Moreover, Reliant is alleged to have offered these services below their fair market value as an added enticement for these SNFs to contract out with it. “The Justice Department is committed to investigating and routing out any improper financial relationships between health care providers that have the potential to undermine patient care and trust.” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “This settlement demonstrates our commitment to protecting the integrity of the Medicare program.”
“Paying illegal remuneration to nursing homes and doctors to increase the bottom line – as contended by the government in this case – is unacceptable as it too often sacrifices the best interests of patients to profit-making schemes,” said CJ Porter, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Patients and taxpayers deserve better.”
The allegations resolved by this agreement originated from a lawsuit filed by Dr. Thomas Prose under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act. This act, which has been an invaluable tool in government’s efforts to prosecute healthcare fraud, permits private citizens to file suit against companies and individuals for false claims. Plaintiffs can then share in the proceeds arising from any settlement. Often, plaintiffs engage the services of a whistleblower Medicare attorney or qui tam lawyer in this effort. Dr. Prose will receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $900,000 as his share of the settlement.