09/14/2017: "Did Life Care Whistleblower Settlement Close The Friday Harbor Center?"
(Friday Harbor Life Care Building)
Life Care Centers of America Inc. (Life Care) announcement that it will close it’s facility in Friday Harbor by November 30th, due to the “difficult economic environment,” may be related to the $145 million economic hit to the company that resulted from an agreement by the owner of Life Care, Forrest L. Preston, and the US Justice Department’s Civil Division to forestall further legal action against the company on “false claims” related to unnecessary billings.
The Justice Department became involved after allegations were made as part of a lawsuit filed under whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by Tammie Taylor and Glenda Martin, former Life Care employees (not employed at the Friday Harbor center).
The settlement resolves allegations that between Jan. 1, 2006 and Feb. 28, 2013, Life Care submitted false claims for rehabilitation therapy by engaging in a systematic effort to increase its Medicare and TRICARE billings by Life Care.
“This resolution is the largest settlement with a skilled nursing facility chain in the department’s history,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
U.S. Attorney Nancy Stallard Harr stated: “Billing federal healthcare programs for medically unnecessary rehabilitation services not only undermines the viability of those programs, it exploits our most vulnerable citizens.”
At the local level, the impact on the employees will perhaps be eased by a severance package and an “opportunity to possibly obtain work within other Life Care buildings.” Which of course means they would have to move off island -if there is, in fact, an opportunity for a new job at a new location.
Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $31.6 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $19.2 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.