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Hospice With Missouri And Kansas Offices Settles Fraud Allegations For $4 Million

An Oklahoma City-based hospice with offices in Kansas City, Mo., and in Kansas will pay $4 million to settle allegations that it improperly admitted patients to increase its Medicare reimbursements.

Good Shepherd Hospice Inc. and four affiliates agreed to the settlement with the federal government on Friday. The government had intervened in a False Claims Act case originally brought by two whistleblowers, both former employees of Good Shepherd.

The employees, Kathi Cordingley and Tracy Jones, sued Good Shepherd in federal court in Kansas City, Mo., in 2011, alleging it admitted patients who didn’t qualify for hospice care under Medicare rules.

According to the lawsuit, Cordingley was executive director of Good Shepherd’s Kansas City office from Nov. 2010 until she resigned in April 2011. Jones was a registered nurse in the same facility until she was terminated in April 2011.

Both women claimed they were asked to fraudulently certify patients for enrollment in Good Shepherd’s hospice care programs.

In March 2014, the government intervened in the false-claims portion of the lawsuit, which had been sealed.  It declined to intervene in other parts of the action that alleged Good Shepherd had paid kickbacks to medical directors, nursing homes and hospice consultants in exchange for hospice referrals.

Cordingley and Jones will receive a portion of the settlement, or about $680,000, according to the Justice Department.

Good Shepherd operates 15 offices in Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and Kansas. Besides the one in Kansas City, it also has offices in Springfield and Branson, Mo., and in Wichita, Lenexa and Newton, Kan.

A call to the company seeking comment was not immediately returned.

In a statement, Tammy Dickinson, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said, “Health care fraud puts profits above patients, and steals from taxpayers. In this case, company whistleblowers alleged that patients received unnecessary hospice care while Good Shepherd engaged in illicit business practices to enrich itself at the public’s expense.”

Dickinson said the settlement placed measures in place to prevent similar conduct in the future.

Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR.

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