Government Sues Skilled Nursing Chain HCR Manorcare for Allegedly Providing Medically Unnecessary Therapy
The government has intervened in three False Claims Act lawsuits and filed a consolidated complaint against HCR ManorCare alleging that ManorCare knowingly and routinely submitted false claims to Medicare and Tricare for rehabilitation therapy services that were not medically reasonable and necessary, the Department of Justice announced today. ManorCare is one of the nation’s largest healthcare providers, operating approximately 281 skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) in 30 states.
“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that healthcare providers who pressure their employees to provide medically unnecessary services to Medicare beneficiaries and Tricare recipients solely to increase their own profits are held accountable,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will not relent in our efforts to stop these false billing schemes and recover funds for federal healthcare programs.”
The government’s complaint alleges that ManorCare, which is owned by The Carlyle Group, exerted pressure on SNF administrators and rehabilitation therapists to meet unrealistic financial goals that resulted in the provision of medically unreasonable and unnecessary services to Medicare and Tricare patients. ManorCare allegedly set prospective billing goals designed to significantly increase revenues without regard to patients’ actual clinical needs and threatened to terminate SNF managers and therapists if they did not administer the additional treatments necessary to qualify for the highest Medicare payments. ManorCare also allegedly increased its Medicare payments by keeping patients in its facilities even though they were medically ready to be discharged.
“We strive for a system whereby health care providers provide reasonable and necessary services without overbilling Medicare for unreasonable and unnecessary services” said U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia. “We will continue our robust investigations of the companies operating in this important sector of our economy.”
“We want to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used to pay for health care for Americans that need it, not to unjustly enrich health care companies,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan. “Medical providers will be held accountable when they exploit patients for profit by subjecting them to therapies they don’t need and then billing Medicare for reimbursement.”
“Today’s action is the result of a robust investigation into alleged false billings submitted to Medicare and Tricare for rehabilitation therapy services that were not necessary for patients,” said Assistant Director in Charge Andrew G. McCabe of the FBI’s Washington, D.C., Field Office. “Healthcare fraud is a top priority for the FBI and we will continue to work closely with federal, state and local law enforcement partners to address vulnerabilities, fraud and abuse in the healthcare industry.”
The three consolidated lawsuits were filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private parties to sue on behalf of the government for false claims for government funds and to receive a share of any recovery. The False Claims Act permits the government to intervene in such lawsuits, as it has done in these cases. A defendant that violates the False Claims Act is liable for three times the government’s losses plus civil penalties.
The government’s intervention in these matters illustrates its emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $24 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $15.3 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs. Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement, including the conduct described in the United States’ complaint, can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).
These matters were investigated by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch; the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa, Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan, Northern and Southern Districts of Ohio, Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Eastern District of Virginia; the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General; the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General; the Defense Health Agency; the Medicaid Fraud Control Units of the California Attorney General’s Office, Delaware Department of Justice, the Florida Attorney General’s Office, Illinois State Police, Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office; the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units; and the FBI.
The cases are captioned United States ex rel. Ribik v. ManorCare, Inc., et al., Case No. 1:09cv13-CMH-HCB (E.D. Va.);United States ex rel. Slough v. HCR ManorCare, et al., Case No. 1:14cv1228 (E.D. Va.); and United States ex rel. Carson v. HCR ManorCare, et al., Case No. 1:11cv1054 (E.D. Va.).
The claims asserted against ManorCare are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.