Mississippi Skilled Nursing Facility and others Agree to Pay More than a Million Dollars to Settle Alleged False Claim Act Violations
As the holidays approach, many of us will be visiting elderly relatives who reside in skilled nursing facilities. In November, the government gave the relatives of such residents some good news by going after substandard care that was alleged to be taking place in such a skilled nursing facility. This occurred just last week when the Department of Justice announced that the Hyperion Foundation, Julie Mittleider, Hyperion’s former President, AltaCare Corporation, Douglas Mittleider, AltaCare’s CEO, Long Term Care Services, Inc. and Sentry Healthcare Acquirors Inc. have agreed to pay the government a total of $1.25 million to resolve false claims violations to Medicare and the Mississippi Medicaid program. The charges involve grossly substandard care that was allegedly provided to residents at the Oxford Health and Rehabilitation nursing home in Lumberton, Mississippi from late 2005 through mid-2012. The nursing home was operated by AltaCare. “Residents of nursing homes are some of our most vulnerable citizens,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Nursing home operators who bill Medicare and Medicaid for providing their residents with grossly deficient services will be held accountable.”
The government alleged that from October 2005 to May 2012, Hyperion submitted false claims for grossly substandard care that among other things:
- Failed to meet the nutritional needs of residents of its Lumberton SNF,
- Failed to administer prescribed medications to its residents,
- Over medicated residents
- Failed to hire enough staff to care for residents
- Diverted funds from Medicare and Medicaid to other entities affiliated with Douglas or Julie Mittleider leaving the skilled nursing facility (SNF) unable to provide for basic operations such as food, heating, pest control, etc.
“It’s troubling when a nursing home company and its executives accept Medicare and Medicaid money to care for vulnerable nursing home residents and provide grossly deficient care, as alleged in this case,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “We will continue to hold nursing homes accountable to ensure residents receive quality healthcare and are provided safe living conditions.” The settlement arises from a lawsuit filed by Academy Health Center, Inc. ACH is the owner and landlord of the Lumberton, Mississippi SNF. Moreover, the lawsuit was filed under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. These provisions permit private parties to sue for false claims and share in any subsequent recovery. The amount to be recovered by the private whistleblowers in this case has yet to be determined.
The government’s complaint in this matter is part of its ongoing campaign to combat health care fraud. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.