For Immediate Release
Contact: Joseph Greenwald & Laake, P.A.
Veronica Nannis; email@example.com
Sarah Chu; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jay Holland; email@example.com
FRAUD CASE BROUGHT BY WHISTLEBLOWER NURSES RESULTS IN SETTLEMENT IN HOME HEALTH CASE
Doctor’s Choice agrees to pay $5.8M to settle allegations it fraudulently increased patient visits and engaged in a kickback scheme with doctors.
GREENBELT, MD – November 23, 2020 – Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A. represents three healthcare workers who blew the whistle on Florida-based home health agency Doctor’s Choice Home Care, Inc. (“Doctor’s Choice”) resulting in a $5.8 million settlement. The False Claims Act (qui tam) settlement resolves allegations that the company fraudulently increased patient visits in order to increase Medicare payments and that it paid illegal kickbacks for doctor referrals, as detailed in the Department of Justice’s announcement.
The whistleblowers are experienced healthcare providers, including registered nurse, Sara Billings, and physical therapist, Marina Eschoyez-Quiroga, both who worked for Doctor’s Choice primarily out of Naples, FL. The complaint recounted how the whistleblowers first reported their concerns internally to management, to no avail, before reporting to the Department of Justice, which undertook a thorough, four-year investigation before intervening and settling.
The lawsuit is unsealed for the public, after the United States filed a notice of intervention and dismissal. Its investigation and intervention focused on allegations that Doctor’s Choice increased the number of services rendered to Medicare patients in order to avoid lower payments. The complaint alleged that Doctor’s Choice automatically inflated patient visits without medical necessity or the independent medical judgment of the on-the-ground medical personnel.
“Providing medically unnecessary services places patients at risk and jeopardizes millions of taxpayer dollars,” said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Tampa Division Michael McPherson in the Department of Justice release. “This settlement highlights the FBI’s commitment to protect the integrity of the federally funded healthcare system.”
The whistleblowers are represented by Veronica Nannis, Sarah Chu and Jay Holland, who prosecute civil health care fraud cases nationwide. Medicare laws require all patient care to be reasonable and medically necessary. Unreasonably increasing patient services in order to obtain higher Medicare reimbursement violates Medicare laws and the False Claim Act. “Civil healthcare fraud settlements like these are important to maintain the integrity of our healthcare system as well as taxpayer dollars. When healthcare providers improperly inflate medically unnecessary services for financial gain, this puts patients at risk and increases health care costs,” explained Sarah Chu.
Veronica Nannis, lead counsel for the whistleblowers, touted their courage, “the front-line healthcare workers who blew the whistle here are uniquely brave. While many knew of this scheme, only three were courageous enough to come forward. They protected their patients though it meant sticking their necks out as whistleblowers.” Jay Holland added, “our clients are leading by example. They hope this encourages others to report fraud, especially the kind that affects patient care or risks patient health or safety.”
The case is captioned U.S. ex rel. Billings et al. v. Doctor’s Choice Home Care, Inc., Case No. 8:16-cv-3112, United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division. The Relators are represented by a team of experienced whistleblower attorneys including Veronica Nannis, Sarah Chu and Jay Holland of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake and local counsel Audrey Schechter of Law Offices of Audrey Hildes Schechter. The federal government’s team was led by Charles Harden, Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Middle District of Florida, the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the FBI.
Jay Holland is a partner at Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, and is Chair of the Firm’s Labor, Employment and Qui Tam Departments. His False Claims Act cases have resulted in recoveries of over $600 Million for the United States. His recent publications include articles for The National Law Journal, Trial Magazine, D.C. Trial Lawyer, and the Maryland State Bar Association Employment Law Deskbook. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Chu is an associate at Joseph, Greenwald & Laake. She works in the qui tam practice, representing whistleblowers nationwide in sealed investigations and unsealed litigation under the federal and state False Claims Acts. She can be reached at email@example.com
Veronica Nannis is a partner at Joseph, Greenwald & Laake and serves as the Chair of the Firm’s Civil Litigation Department. She litigates qui tam cases and consumer class actions nationwide, typically involving kickbacks and other fraud. A Super Lawyer’s Rising Star in DC and Maryland for several years, she was awarded the MAJ Trial Lawyer of the Year Award in 2011. Past publications include those for Law 360, the ABA Health e-Source, and The Daily Record. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org