It was an interesting scheme. According to allegations by the Department of Justice, Reliant Rehabilitation Holdings, Inc., wanted to induce or reward its client nursing homes for referring patients to Reliant for rehabilitation therapy. So, it sent over nurse practitioners employed by Reliant to work for those nursing homes for free or below market value.
The free and low-cost services those nurse practitioners provided to the nursing homes constituted unlawful kickbacks, according to the Justice Department. Moreover, Reliant and doctors working at the nursing facilities entered into improper contracts in which the doctors were paid above market fair market value when they supervised or collaborated with Reliant nurse practitioners. This was done in exchange for doctors' referrals of Reliant therapy services. Those practices tainted Reliant's Medicare claims and violated the False Claims Act.
Reliant has agreed to settle both claims for $6.1 million. The Justice Department commented that it is committed to rooting out improper financial relationships that could potentially undermine patient care and trust.
"Paying illegal remuneration to nursing homes and doctors to increase the bottom line - as contended by the government in this case -- is unacceptable as it too often sacrifices the best interests of patients to profit-making schemes," said a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General's Office, which participated in the investigation and lawsuit.
This case was originally brought by a whistleblower. Under the False Claims Act, private citizens who have knowledge of fraud against a government program can initiate a whistleblower lawsuit. If the lawsuit is successful, the whistleblower receives a substantial portion of any money recovered by the government. In this case, the whistleblower will receive approximately $915,000.
If you work in an industry that handles government contracts, you may be in a position to blow the whistle on fraud, waste or abuse. To protect your rights and ensure you receive your full share of the proceeds of any False Claims Act lawsuit, contact an attorney familiar with whistleblower law.