Justice Department sues hospice company

Jan. 3, 2012 at 8:09 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department says it's joined a suit against a chain of hospice providers, claiming they misspent millions intended for dying Medicare patients.

The whistle-blower suit was originally filed against AseraCare Hospice by former employees Dawn Richardson and Marsha Brown under the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens with knowledge of fraud to file suit on behalf of the United States and to share in any recovery, a Justice Department release said Tuesday.

The Justice Department intervened in the suit, filing a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama against Golden Gate Ancillary LLC, doing business as AseraCare Hospice, which operates 65 hospice facilities in 19 states, including Alabama, Wisconsin, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

The suit alleges AseraCare violated the False Claims Act by misspending millions of taxpayer dollars targeted for people on Medicare with a prognosis of six months or less to live and needing hospice care.

The government asserts AseraCare Hospice consciously sent in to Medicare false claims for hospice care for patients who were not terminally ill, the release said.

"Congress intended that the hospice care benefit be used during the last several months of an individual's life," said Daniel R. Levinson, inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. "We will continue to recover misspent Medicare funds from companies that abuse the hospice benefit."

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