Therapy whistleblower suit allowed to proceed in MN

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An occupational therapy assistant will be able to move forward with a lawsuit against her former employer over what she says were fraudulent therapy claims.

A federal judge in Minnesota declined in February to dismiss Ricia Johnson and Health Dimensions Rehabilitation Inc.'s case against Aegis Therapies and Golden Gate National Senior Care LLC, doing business as Golden Living. The next phase of the case will be discovery, with the next court date scheduled for Oct. 31.

Golden Living did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Johnson worked for Aegis Therapies Inc. at Golden Living Center-Hillcrest in Minnesota from 2004 to 2007. According to court documents, Johnson said she oversaw the length of time clients were on exercise machines in a wellness center, without supervision, and that 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. When Johnson went to work for Health Dimensions and said what she had seen at Aegis, Health Dimensions joined her in reporting Aegis and filing the lawsuit in 2008. The government declined to join the case in 2011.

While Johnson worked for Hillcrest, the suit alleges that eight other facilities in Minnesota and some Golden facilities in other states followed similar billing practices, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported. If the case stays limited to Hillcrest, the damages could be hundreds of thousands of dollars, but more widespread errors could cost the company significantly more, the paper reported.

Therapy services and payment are hot issues for providers, who can learn more about the latest news in the industry and receive continuing education credits at the McKnight's Online Expo on March 21 and 22. For free registration, visit the sign-up page.