Therapy lawsuit advances in federal court; debate persists

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Judge Donovan Frank
Judge Donovan Frank
A former Aegis occupational therapy assistant can move forward with a lawsuit over what she says were fraudulent therapy claims.

U.S. District of Minnesota Judge Donovan W. Frank declined to dismiss Ricia Johnson and Health Dimensions Rehabilitation Inc.'s case against Aegis Therapies and Golden Gate National Senior Care LLC (which does business as Golden Living). The next phase of the case will be discovery, with a court date scheduled for Oct. 31.

Golden Living, citing pending litigation, declined to comment.

Johnson worked for Aegis Therapies Inc. at Golden Living Center-Hillcrest in Minnesota for three years. According to court documents, she oversaw the time clients were on exercise machines in a wellness center, without supervision. She says those records were used by Aegis to bill Golden Living for occupational therapy and physical therapy services. Golden Living then would bill Medicare or Medicaid, according to the lawsuit.

Additionally, “in some instances, Johnson witnessed Aegis's physical therapists negotiating over who would get to claim Johnson's time as their own that day in order to meet Aegis-established individual productivity goals,” court records state. After Johnson went to work for Health Dimensions, she said what she had seen at Aegis, and Health Dimensions joined her in filing the lawsuit in 2008. The government declined to join the case in 2011.

Frank wrote that Johnson and HDR “allege the time, place and manner of the fraud and identify 41 specific incidents of false billing,” and provided enough facts for the case to move to discovery.

While Johnson worked for Hillcrest, the suit alleges other facilities followed similar billing practices, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported. If true, it could cost the company millions of dollars.
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