Hospice providers to pay $12.2 million to settle kickback allegations involving nursing homes

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A North Carolina-based hospice provider and its affiliates will pay $12.2 million to resolve claims that it paid kickbacks to long-term care facilities and other providers in exchange for patient referrals, authorities announced Tuesday.

The consolidated claims were brought by several whistleblowers against Hospice Plus, Phoenix Hospice and Goodwin Hospice, alleging that the providers paid for patient referrals through two kickback schemes.

The first scheme allegedly took place between 2007 and 2012, and involved kickbacks paid to physician house call company American Physician Housecalls in exchange for patient referrals. Those kickbacks included loans, free equity interest in another entity, stock dividends and free rental space, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas reported.

A second scheme that allegedly ran from 2007 to 2014 paid medical providers — including long-term care facilities, hospitals and doctors — cash, gift cards and other items in exchange for referrals.

The three companies were bought by Curo Health Services in 2010 and combined under the Hospice Plus brand, a Curo affiliate that primarily operates around Dallas. Curo, based in Mooresville, NC, operates eight hospice affiliates in 18 states.

Curo did not admit wrongdoing or liability in settling the allegations, the U.S. Attorney's office said. McKnight's request for comment from the provider was not returned by production deadline Tuesday.

The settlement also requested government intervention in a fraud case against two former executives for the hospice companies.