A skilled nursing operator accused of pressuring some therapists and managers to place all patients in the highest rehab payment classification, regardless of clinical needs, is settling federal fraud allegations for $10 million. 

The Department of Justice announced the False Claims Act settlement with Saber Healthcare on Tuesday. Three whistleblowers, former Saber therapists and managers, will receive $1,750,000 for their part in filing the original lawsuit (Wright et al. v. Saber Healthcare Holdings, LLC).

The chain was alleged to have “improperly established general goals that all patients should be provided with the Ultra High level of therapy, regardless of the patients’ individual therapeutic needs, and enforced that expectation by pressuring therapists to provide Ultra High therapy to each patient at nine facilities,” Justice officials said in a statement. Officials added that there was officially “no determination of liability.”

The provider said the settlement resolves allegations concerning “a very small number” of its 118 facilities in a statement emailed to McKnight’s prior to the DOJ announcement. 

“Saber disputes the allegations and has the utmost confidence that its facilities have acted in compliance with applicable laws and regulations in providing the best possible care to each and every patient,” the company stated. 

“During this critical time for healthcare providers, our resources are better spent in serving our patients’ needs and supporting our employees rather than continuing to litigate these issues,” it added.

Federal authorities contended that Saber established “uniform expectations for Ultra High therapy in facility budgets, and also pressured facility directors in weekly or daily calls to ensure therapists provided the Ultra High therapy to each patient.”

The chain also was accused of having therapists report time spent on initial evaluations as therapy time, as well as report time spent providing unskilled services as time spent on skilled therapy.

The alleged infractions occurred at seven facilities scattered through from the Midwest to the Eastern seaboard from 2013 to 2017, and at two Virginia facilities from 2016 to 2017.