Former Hospice Owner Changes Plea, Admits Fraud
The former leader of a Pittsburgh-area hospice company has pleaded guilty following accusations of using patients who weren’t terminally ill to collect millions of dollars in false Medicare and Medicaid billings.
Mary Ann Stewart, a 48-year-old from Carrolltown, Pennsylvania, and ex-COO of Horizons Hospice, was indicted last year on one count of health care fraud and four counts of lying to a federal grand jury, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Pennsylvania. She initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, but on Thursday pleaded guilty to the fraud charge. One grand jury count was dismissed last year.
The fraud allegedly took place between January 2008 and August 2012 at the facility in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, 15 miles east of Pittsburgh, according to an indictment. The document contended the fraud cost the government millions of dollars, but an exact amount was not disclosed.
As part of the scheme, Stewart had her staff admit patients who weren’t terminally ill to the hospice so she could bill Medicare and Medicaid for end-of-life medical services, the indictment stated. This often includes pain medication and management.
Dr. Oliver Herndon was also charged in the scheme, and he pleaded guilty in November 2014 to submitting claims for patients who weren’t terminally ill or for services not provided, the Associated Press reported. He was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison in July, which is running concurrent to an 11-year federal prison sentence for supplying patents at his separate practice with illegal painkillers.
Stewart’s sentencing was scheduled for Sept. 9. She faces 10 years in prison, a $500,000 fine or both.
Written by Kourtney Liepelt