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Alabama-Based Hospice Company Pays U.S. $24.7 Million to Settle Health Care Fraud Claims
Date:1/15/2009

Company Locations in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- SouthernCare Inc. and its shareholders have agreed to pay the United States a total of $24.7 million to settle allegations that the Birmingham, Ala.-based company submitted false claims to the government for patients treated at its hospice facilities, the Justice Department announced today. SouthernCare operates approximately 99 locations that provide hospice services in 15 states.

Hospices provide palliative care - any form of medical care or treatment that concentrates on reducing the severity of a disease's symptoms - to patients who decide to forego curative care of their illness. Medicare beneficiaries are entitled to hospice care if they have a terminal prognosis of six months or less to live. The government alleged that SouthernCare was submitting false claims for hospice care for patients who were not eligible for such care.

"The Medicare hospice benefit is intended to provide compassionate end of life care to terminally ill patients," said Gregory G. Katsas, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division. "This settlement sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will not allow health care providers to take advantage of beneficiaries in their attempts to game the reimbursement system."

Today's settlement results from two qui tam suits filed by two former SouthernCare employees, Tanya Rice and Nancy Romeo, on behalf of the United States. The False Claims Act authorizes private parties to file suit against those who defraud the United States and to receive a share of any recovery. The United States will pay $4.9 million to the individuals who filed the actions against SouthernCare.

"Our investigation showed a pattern and practice to falsel
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SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice
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