Vistas Hospice Services, Founded by Florida Senate President, Target of Medicare Fraud Charges By Tod Aronovitz | 05/28/13 | 0 Comment

The U.S. government has filed suit against Cincinnati-based Chemed Corporation and its various hospice subsidiaries, including Vitas Hospice Services LLC and Vitas Healthcare Corporation, launched in Miami in 1978 and founded by Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville).

The government contends that Chemed and Vitas violated the False Claims Act and misspent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars from the Medicare program since 2002. At that time, Sen. Gaetz was vice-chairman of Vitas until it was sold to Chemed in 2004.

According to the lawsuit, Chemed and Vitas Hospice continually billed Medicare for crisis care services that were unnecessary, not actually provided, or not performed according to Medicare terms. The complaint also alleges both submitted false claims for hospice care of patients who were not terminally ill and took adverse actions against its marketing employees who did not meet admissions goals.

The suit is part of the government’s effort to combat health care fraud through enhanced cooperation of the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services by using HEAT (the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team). One of its most powerful tools is the False Claims Act, which allows a whistleblower to sue on behalf of the government to recover stiff civil penalties and receive a portion of covered damages. The Justice Department has used this statute to recover more than $10.3 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs. Total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 are over $14.2 billion.

Sen. Gaetz, along with partners, Hugh Westbrook and Esther Colliflower, originally founded Vitas Healthcare as a nonprofit, Hospice Care Inc., in Miami in early 1978. That same year, Gaetz and Westbrook helped pass Florida’s hospice licensure law, the first state law in the country to establish hospice and allow patients to be admitted into hospice care. It became the model for the federal Medicare/Medicaid hospice benefit plan that Congress enacted in 1982.

The company became a for-profit entity in 1984, changing its name to Vitas Healthcare in 1992. Gaetz and his partners sold Vitas in 2004 for $406 million to Cincinnati-based Chemed, best known as the owner of Roto-Rooter. Vitas is the largest for-profit hospice chain in the country and operates hospice services in 18 states including Florida. Reportedly, Gaetz no longer owns any shares or has any affiliation with the company.

How to Report Miami Medicare Fraud

Healthcare or medical billing employees who have inside knowledge of questionable Medicare billing practices can file a confidential legal claim under the False Claims Act. By acting as a “whistleblower” in what is known as a “qui tam” lawsuit, a private party may collect between 10 to 30 percent of the amount recovered, depending on how the case is prosecuted.

ARONOVITZ LAW: Miami Whistleblower / Qui Tam Law Firm

The Miami law firm of ARONOVITZ LAW routinely works with Miami whistleblowers to document Medicare fraud and other forms of fraud against the government. Click on the link to read more about our Miami Whistleblower / Qui Tam law firm services.