Former exec of San Francisco hospice company admits to overdosing patients to hasten their death to spike profits records show

The former executive of a San Francisco  hospice Novus Health Services, admitted to overdosing patients to “hasten their deaths” so the company could make more money, court records show. Melanie Murphey, 36, admitted in court records that she defrauded Medicare and Medicaid by billing them for patients who did not qualify for hospice services. She also admitted filling out forms as though she were the doctor by using notes taken by a nurse.

Court records show that Murphey also admitted she followed orders for patients’ care from Novus owner Bradley Harris, who has no medical training. Murphey admitted falsifying paperwork, including orders to not resuscitate patients. This was done to avoid paying for ambulance trips to a hospital if a relative called 911The patients did not see a doctor in person before they were admitted. The indictment alleges that from July 2012 to September 2015, Novus billed Medicare and Medicaid more than $60 million for fraudulent hospice services. The government paid Novus more than $35 million.

Murphey, Novus’ director of operations, pleaded guilty to health care fraud and is expected to testify against 15 others in the case, including Harris and his wife, Amy. The other defendants have pleaded not guilty. She said Harris’ directives were intended to drive up profits. Harris ordered that patients who stayed beyond the time they allowed Novus to turn a profit receive higher doses of “whatever narcotic was being used, generally morphine, Dilaudid or Ativan,” records show. He also sent a text to a nurse that said, “You need to make this patient go bye bye” according to an affidavit.

The defendants are accused of submitting false claims for hospice services, submitting false claims for continuous care hospice services, recruiting ineligible hospice beneficiaries by providing kickbacks to referring physicians and healthcare facilities, and falsifying and destroying documents to conceal these activities from Medicare, federal officials say.