Annaliese Impink, SavaSeniorCare’s senior vice president chief operations council

Atlanta-based nursing home operator SavaSeniorCare said Friday it is settling “unfounded” and longstanding allegations of billing Medicare for unnecessary therapy services. The Department of Justice announced the $11.2 million settlement agreement earlier in the day.

Annaliese Impink

“We have spent 10 years and several million dollars vigorously defending our position in these cases,” Annaliese Impink, spokeswoman for SavaSeniorCare Administrative and Consulting LLC, said in a statement Friday. 

“As stated in the settlement agreement, we believe that the allegations were unfounded. Nevertheless, the cost of continuing to litigate would have exceeded the settlement payment. We believe it is the right time to put these matters behind us as we begin to recover from the pandemic,” she added. 

The claims stem from a 2015 False Claims Act complaint filed against the nursing home chain. It alleged that from October 2008 and September 2012 the operator submitted false claims for rehabilitation therapy services in a “systemic effort” to increase its Medicare revenues 

The federal government accused Sava of pressuring its skilled nursing facilities to meet “unrealistic” financial goals that resulted in them providing medically “unreasonable, unnecessary, or unskilled services” to Medicare patients. 

“Sava allegedly set these aggressive, prospective corporate targets for the highest Medicare reimbursement rates without regard for its patients’ actual clinical needs and then pressured its staff to meet those targets,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee said in a release.

“Sava also allegedly sought to increase its Medicare payments by delaying the discharge of patients from its facilities, even though the patients were medically ready to be discharged,” authorities added. 

The settlement agreement also resolves allegations that Sava from January 2008 to December 2018 submitted false claims to both Medicare and Medicaid for substandard skilled nursing services.

In addition to the payment, Sava also agreed to enter into a five-year chain-wide Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. The agreement requires an independent review organization to annually review patient stays and associated paid claims by Medicare for those stays. Sava will also be required to engage an Independent Monitor to review the quality of resident care.

Impink said Sava views the integrity agreement as a positive.

“Going forward, our compliance committee is looking forward to working with the quality monitor under the CIA,” Impink said. “We believe that this process will assist us with further enhancing our clinical and quality systems and will provide additional educational support for our center teams.  We also hope to take advantage of best practices the monitor can share from other providers they have worked with.

“As is always the case, we will continue to focus our efforts on supporting our staff who work tirelessly to improve the quality of care and quality of life for those individuals we are privileged to serve,” she added.