U.S.: 16 Indicted in Alleged US$ 60 Million Fraud in Texas Hospice
A U.S. court charged the owner of a Texas hospice and 15 of his aides for billing government health funds more than US$ 60 million for services they either never provided or were not allowed, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Texas.
In some cases staff overdosed patients to speed up their deaths, local media reported.
Bradley Harris, who owned Novus Health Services and Optim Health Services and operated the two as one company, has billed Medicare and Medicaid more than $US 60 million from July 2012 to September 2016. The government paid the company more than US$ 35 million, according to the indictment unsealed on Tuesday in Dallas.
"That tens of millions of dollars were stolen through fraud is shocking enough," said U.S. Attorney John Parker. "That these defendants used human life at its most vulnerable stage as the grist for this scheme displays a shocking level of depravity that this community simply cannot tolerate."
The FBI raided the company’s offices in September 2015, after it accused Harris of instructing nurses to deliberately overdose some patients with morphine and other drugs to speed up their deaths and maximize profits, local media reported.
"You need to make this patient go bye-bye," Harris told one of the nurses, according to a local NBC affiliate.
Doctors that referred hospice patients in exchange for medical director salaries actually provided little to no oversight of the patients, the U.S. Attorney Office statement said.
Instead, Novus nurses and Harris — a certified public accountant with no medical license — directed the care and determined whether patients were certified for or discharged from hospice; whether they would be placed on continuous care; and how they would be medicated with drugs such as morphine.
"These decisions on medical care were often driven by financial interest rather than patient need," the statement said.
Doctors falsely claimed that they met patients face-to-face, according to NBC. One doctor claimed she had seen patients when she was actually traveling in Hawaii or Mexico.
Without consulting a doctor, Harris placed patients on continuous care — which Medicare paid for at a higher daily rate than routine care — regardless of whether the patients needed it or not, the statement said.
When a patient was in continuous care, nurses would give them high doses of drugs such as morphine, whether or not the patient needed it, to justify billing Medicare at the higher continuous care rate.
In some instances, the overdoses resulted in a patient’s death or serious injury.
All 16 defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and 12 are charged with at least one other crime linked to the conspiracy.
If convicted, one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of substantive health care fraud carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a US$ 250,000 fine.