The parent company of several mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities operating in Georgia and other states has agreed to pay $122 million to settle sprawling allegations of fraud brought by dozens of whistleblowers.
Under the settlement, Universal Health Services will pay $117 million to resolve allegations that it subjected patients to inappropriate and medically unnecessary services so it could bill Medicare and other government health programs at higher rates, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Those allegations included actions taken by about 30 other psychiatric care centers operated by Universal, including Anchor Hospital, the company’s psychiatric facility in Atlanta. Whistleblowers accused Anchor and the other facilities of using chemical restraints to control patients, inappropriately admitting patients for residential treatments, exaggerating the level of care patients needed, and failing to discharge patients that no longer required inpatient care.
Beasley Allen lawyer Larry Golston represented two whistleblowers at Anchor Hospital, former UHS employees Kenneth Russell and Yvette Gates. “They’re satisfied that this wrongdoing has been revealed,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Russell and Yates accused Anchor Hospital of pressuring its staff to perform diagnostic psychiatric evaluations in 30 minutes, while Anchor billed the U.S. government for assessments of one to two hours. These hasty evaluations also allowed the company to admit Medicare and Medicaid patients purely for financial gain because most of the patients did not experience psychosis or other mental illness.
Whistleblowers involved in this litigation also alleged that the Universal Health Services facilities failed to provide adequate staffing, training, and staff supervision in violation of federal health care regulations. Government investigators determined that the centers engaged in the fraudulent practices between January 2006 and December 2018.
Universal agreed to pay $5 million to settle a separate lawsuit at the same time, resolving whistleblower allegations that its Turning Point Care Center in Moultrie, Georgia, drew patients from all over the U.S. for detox and rehab treatments by offering to pay for or discount their travel to the facility. The company also induced patients to stay for outpatient care by offering free or discounted lodging at furnished homes or apartments, the lawsuit alleged.
Under the settlement, the federal government will receive about $88 million for false Medicare claims and about $28.8 million will go to states whose Medicaid programs were targeted by the alleged fraud schemes.
The 36 whistleblowers who filed the original 19 False Claims Act lawsuits against the Universal Health Care facilities will share an award of nearly $16 million. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, at least 10 of the whistleblowers originally filed their False Claims Act lawsuits in Georgia. Some of the lawsuits have not been unsealed yet.
Beasley Allen has a Whistleblower Litigation Team in place to handle False Claims Act (FCA) claims. Due to our firm’s heavy involvement in whistleblower litigation, there was a definite need for the creation of a team specializing in whistleblower cases. Fraud against the federal government has been and continues to be a huge problem, involving many industries in this country.
As we have consistently stated, whistleblowers are the key to exposing corporate wrongdoing and government fraud. A person who has first-hand knowledge of fraud or other wrongdoing may have a whistleblower case. Before you report suspected fraud or other wrongdoing – before you “blow the whistle” – it is important to make sure you have a valid claim and that you are prepared for what lies ahead. Beasley Allen’s group of lawyers dedicated to handling whistleblower cases can navigate you the oftentimes risky and complex litigation.
Lawyers on our whistleblower litigation team are Lance Gould, Larry Golston, Lauren Miles, Leon Hampton, Leslie Pescia, Paul Evans and Tyner Helms. If you are aware of fraud being committed against the federal or state governments, you could be rewarded for reporting the fraud. If you have any questions about whether you qualify as a whistleblower, you can contact a lawyer at Beasley Allen for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim.