Signature HealthCARE, LLC (Signature), will pay more than $30 million to settle cases based on Medicare and Medicaid fraud charges for giving patients more therapy than they needed, even if they were sick and could not tolerate the therapy sessions. Signature, which owns and operates approximately 115 skilled nursing facilities,has agreed to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly submitting false claims to Medicare for rehabilitation therapy services that were not reasonable, necessary and skilled, the Department of Justice announced today. The settlement also resolves allegations that Signature submitted forged pre-admission certifications of patient need for skilled nursing to the state of Tennessee’s Medicaid program. The government alleged that Signature engaged in various practices that resulted in the submission of claims for unreasonable, unnecessary, and unskilled services to Medicare patients, including: (1) presumptively placing patients in the highest therapy reimbursement level, rather than relying on individualized evaluations to determine the level of care most suitable for each patient’s clinical needs; (2) providing the minimum number of minutes required to bill at a given reimbursement level while discouraging the provision of additional therapy beyond that minimum threshold; and, (3) pressuring therapists and patients to complete the planned minutes of therapy even when patients were sick or declined to participate in therapy.
The case was originally brought by two whistleblowers, Kristi Emerson and LeeAnn Tuesca, former Signature therapy employees, in federal court in Nashville, Tennessee. The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery. The Act also allows the government to intervene and take over the action, as it did in this case. Ms. Emerson and Ms. Tuesca will receive a portion of the recovered funds.