COLUMBIA, SC — A chain of South Carolina hospices will pay the federal government nearly $1.3 million following accusations that it filed false claims to Medicare.
The agreement, made Tuesday, settles a lawsuit accusing Harmony Hospice Care and its owner, Daniel J. Burton, of filing claims for hospice care under Medicare for patients who did not qualify.
Of the nearly $1.3 million settlement, Burton will have to personally pay $200,000, according to a U.S. Justice Department release.
Two hospice employees, Mona Singletary and Lynda Fulton, filed the suit against the company and its owner under a whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act. Under the act, citizens can file suit on false claims on behalf of the federal government and receive a share of any penalties defendants have to pay. Singletary and Fulton will split a $244,529 share of Tuesday’s settlement.
Beneficiaries of Medicare are eligible for hospice care if a doctor says they have less than six months to live from an illness. The U.S. government accuses Harmony’s hospices and Burton of knowingly submitting claims for hospice care for Medicare patients who did not qualify.
“Billing Medicare for unnecessary or inappropriate end-of-life care contributes to the soaring cost of health care for everyone,” said Stuart F. Delery, the principal deputy assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s civil division.
As part of the settlement, Harmony and Burton will enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the federal Health and Human Services Department to address allegations raised in Singletary and Fulton’s whistleblower complaint.
Harmony Hospice Care has locations in Columbia, Greenville, Hartsville and Union.