A home health agency has agreed to pay nearly $10 million to settle allegations that it submitted false claims to a health care program for Department of Energy workers.
The Wisconsin-based Atlantic Home Health Care (AHH) is a home health care agency that operates in nine states. The U.S. government alleges that in Arizona, between 2017 and 2021, the agency falsely billed a government energy program for in-home nursing and personal care services that were never provided.
The government also alleged the agency paid kickbacks through its “friends and family program,” offering cash payments of up to $5,000 for patient referrals. Additionally, the agency provided payments for expenses like food, internet and travel to patients and their families.
These actions were considered a violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits parties in federal health care programs from “knowingly paying or receiving remuneration for patient referrals,” according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Quality care is critical to beneficiaries participating in the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP),” U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino, for the District of Arizona, said in a statement. “The payment of cash kickbacks to induce referrals has no place in our health care system. False Claims Act enforcement protects the integrity of federal health care programs.”
The EEOICP was established to protect the interests of Department of Energy employees or contractors who were injured or became ill on the job.
Atlantic Home Health Care disclosed its wrongdoing voluntarily before the government investigated, and the settlement acknowledged its cooperation.
Of the settlement total, approximately $7 million will be restitution. The case also involved a former agency employee, Tonya Cass, who filed a whistleblower lawsuit. As part of the resolution, Cass will receive about $1.7 million.
The resolution of the case comes after years of work and coordination between the Justice Department’s Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch, Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona.