Verdict reached in False Claims Act whistleblower suit against Consulate Health Care

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A Florida jury sided with a nursing home whistleblower this week regarding allegations over whether her former employer submitted false claims to the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida agreed with Angela Ruckh, formerly of La Vie Management, that the providers listed in the case presented “false or fraudulent” claims for reimbursement. Those false claims incurred more than $115 million in total damages to the Medicaid and Medicare program, according to court documents.

Ruckh filed the lawsuit in 2011. She said her former employer, now known as Consulate Health Care, engaged in a “years-long corporate scheme to bilk Medicare and Medicaid” by upcoding therapy claims.

The company countered last December, arguing that Ruckh's evidence didn't back up her allegations. Consulate lawyers argued that Ruckh's time working at two of its facilities did not give her knowledge of the operations at the provider's other 51 Florida locations. A federal judge ruled that month that the case could proceed despite Ruckh's “scant” evidence.”

The case involves statistical sampling; Consulate failed to bar the use of the controversial method in the trial in 2015.

A request for comment to Consulate Health Care was not returned by press time Thursday.