Hospice to pay $3 million to settle Medicare fraud whistleblower case

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A Florida-based hospice provider has agreed to pay $3 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit alleging false Medicare claims, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

Hospice of the Comforter Inc. (HOTC) provides hospice services to patients at their homes or in long-term care facilities in three Florida counties. A former executive alleged that the company billed Medicare for patients that were ineligible for the hospice benefit. Between 2005 and 2010, the company falsified medical records, hindered physicians and engaged in other unlawful practices to further its scheme, former Vice President of Finance Douglas Stone charged.

The federal government joined the lawsuit in 2012.

Under the settlement, HOTC would pay $3 million and enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the DOJ. Stone's share of the settlement amount has not yet been determined, and court approval of the deal is still pending.

Hospice of the Comforter does not admit any liability by entering into the settlement, according to a statement from Jo Simonini, chairman of the board. Simonini stressed that the provider has cooperated with the government since the investigation was launched, and that the company determined a settlement would be in the best interests of its patients and their families.

The hospice never engaged in litigation on this matter, but rather initiated settlement negotiations and requested that the government unseal the case to facilitate discussions, HOTC attorney Latour Lafferty told McKnight's

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