Signature HealthCare agreed to pay more than $30 million to settle allegations that the skilled-nursing provider submitted false claims to Medicare for unnecessary rehabilitation services, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday.
The False Claims Act lawsuit alleged that Louisville, Ky.-based Signature presumptively placed patients in the highest therapy-reimbursement level, provided the minimum number of minutes required to bill at a given reimbursement level, and pressured therapists and patients to complete therapy even when patients were sick or declined.
The settlement also resolves allegations that Signature submitted forged pre-admission certifications of patient need for skilled nursing to Tennessee's Medicaid program.
Signature, which has a network of nearly 120 skilled-nursing facilities across 10 states, said that it can now move forward.
"Resident care remains our first priority, and therapy services are and remain an important part of that care. We are more focused than ever on our mission to serve each resident and family with excellence, and will continue to work hard each and every day to deliver great outcomes for our residents," Joe Steier, CEO and president of Signature, wrote in a statement.
Kristi Emerson and LeeAnn Tuesca, former Signature employees, filed the whistle-blower lawsuit in Nashville federal court. They will receive a portion of the recovered funds along with the state of Tennessee, where seven of Signature's facilities are located.
"Signature was charged with illegally boosting profits by providing excessive amounts of therapy to patients whether they needed it or not," Derrick Jackson, special agent in charge for HHS' Office of Inspector General, wrote in a statement. "The decision to provide therapy should never be based on corporate financial considerations rather than a patient's medical needs."
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