Former hospice care COO indicted for Medicare fraud

The former Chief Operations Officer for  Horizons Hospice LLC, Mary Ann Stewart, has been indicted by a federal grand jury after she allegedly created a health fraud scheme in which people were put into a hospice center when they were not terminally ill and for making false declarations in front of a grand jury, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Stewart, allegedly also provided untrue testimony to a series of four questions in front of a grand jury.

 Stewart was the chief operations officer for Horizons Hospice LLC, which provided end-of-life hospice care to eligible patients. A significant number of patients were eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. The indictment alleges Stewart orchestrated a scheme whereby she caused her staff to place non-qualifying patients into hospice care that were not appropriate, and then recertified the patients for continued hospice care.

A former medical director at the Horizons Hospice, Oliver Herndon, pleaded guilty to similar charges last fall according to Healthcare Finance News. The fraud allegedly resulted in the collections of millions of dollars in false billing as people who were not dying were sent to hospice care.

The maximum sentence for the health care fraud charge is 10 years. For each count of making a false declaration before a grand jury, Stewart potentially faces five years in prison and/or a fine of $250,000, according to the FBI, which made sure to point out that an indictment is an accusation and Stewart is assumed innocent unless she is proven guilty.

Stewart will be arraigned on March 19 for the hospice-related fraud charge and the false declarations charges.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers