Keeping patients on hospice care for years and letting the government foot the bill can lead to serious problems, as one healthcare provider recently learned. Hospice care is a type of palliative end of life care for those expected to die within 180 days. While an estimated 21 percent of patients are kept on hospice care for longer, patients who show little or no health decline for extended periods of time are expected to be discharged from care.
In 2012 a doctor filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against Chemed Corporation (“CHE”)’s Vitas Healthcare unit for keeping patients on hospice care for extended periods of time in order to collect money from Medicare. CHE collected Medicare payments for many of these patients for years, while they showed little or no decline in health and thereby letting CHE to reap federal payments while devoting scant resources to maintain their hospice care. The federal government made similar allegations in several other suits, and now attempts to consolidate the various actions against CHE. The potential recover is significant, as the suit seeks civil penalties of $10,000 for each of the defendants’ many false claims, plus additional punitive damages.
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