Thanks to a false claims act case filed by former employee, Douglas Stone, Hospice of the Comforter, Inc. (HOTCI), an Orlando-area hospice company, has agreed to pay $3 million to the United States to settle allegations of hospice fraud. According to a DoJ press release, Mr. Stone filed the case in 2011, alleging that HOTCI directed its staff to admit all referred patients regardless of whether they were eligible for the Medicare hospice benefit, falsified medical records to make ineligible patients appear eligible, employed field nurses without hospice training, established procedures to limit physicians’ roles in assessing patients’ terminal status and delayed discharging patients when they became ineligible for the benefit.
As part of the settlement, HOTCI has entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent future misconduct. In addition, HOTCI’s CEO has agreed to a three-year, voluntary exclusion from all federal health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid.
“Hospice care is a sacred trust from which no provider should fraudulently profit,” said Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Daniel R. Levinson. “Claiming tax dollars for people who are not terminally ill, and therefore ineligible for hospice care, cannot be tolerated.”