Home Health Agency Settles Kickback/Stark Allegations

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The U.S. Department of Justice announced on November 20 that Doctor’s Choice Home Care, Inc. agreed to pay $3,856,000 to resolve allegations that the agency paid illegal kickbacks to physicians for referring patients. The agency will pay an additional $675,000 to resolve separate allegations that its employees pressured clinical personnel to increase the number of home visits for Medicare patients, and its two founders and former top executives will each pay $647,000 individually.

Doctor’s Choice, based in Sarasota, Florida, claims to be the largest independent home care agency in the state. Doctor’s Choice allegedly compensated referring physicians through sham medical director agreements, which violated both the federal Anti-Kickback and the Stark Law, and further violated the Stark Law by paying bonuses to those physicians’ spouses who were employed by the agency.

The allegations were originally brought in two False Claims Act lawsuits filed by former agency employees. Three of the whistleblowers will receive approximately $145,000 out of the overall settlement, while the fourth whistleblower’s share hasn’t been determined.

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