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Sarasota-Manatee
Business Observer Friday, May 24, 2019 3 weeks ago

Complaint alleges area home health agency engaged in fraud

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Doctor’s Choice is a home health agency based in Sarasota. 

SARASOTA – The U.S. has filed a complaint in intervention against Doctor’s Choice Home Care Inc. and partial owners Timothy Beach and Stuart Christensen.

The complaint alleges False Claims Act violations arising from the alleged payment of kickbacks in the form of sham medical director agreements and payments to the spouses of referring physicians, the Department of Justice announced in a press release. 

Doctor’s Choice is a home health agency based in Sarasota. 

The lawsuit alleges Doctor’s Choice, with the knowledge of Beach and Christensen, paid kickbacks in the form of sham medical directorships to three physicians to refer patients to Doctor’s Choice, a release states. According to the statement, the physicians allegedly did little, if any, of the work for which Doctor’s Choice paid them as medical directors.

Sham medical director agreements to induce patient referrals violate the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law. Doctor’s Choice also allegedly paid some employees in a manner that accounted for the volume of referrals by their physician spouses, in violation of the Stark Law, the press release says.   

“Health care providers must make recommendations about their patients’ health without respect to their own financial interests,” says Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division in a statement. “We will continue to do our part to protect federal health care program beneficiaries and the American taxpayers from the corrupting influence of kickbacks designed to undermine the impartiality and integrity of physician decision making.”

The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private parties to file suit on behalf of the U.S. for false claims and receive a share of any recovery. The act permits the U.S. to intervene and take over responsibility for litigating the case, as it has done here, a press release states. A defendant who violates the act is subject to three times the government’s losses, plus applicable penalties. 

“Kickbacks and other improper remuneration that interferes with the medical decision-making process undermines the integrity of our health care system,” says U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez in a statement. “My Office will continue to aggressively pursue those who violate these laws and compromise our system of care.”

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