A federal choose in Kansas dismissed a False Claims Act lawsuit towards HCA Healthcare, ruling that the whistleblower did not have particular sufficient details about the alleged fraud.
U.S. District Decide John Lungstrum in Kansas Metropolis this week granted motions to dismiss from Nashville-based HCA, HCA Midwest Well being and HCA practices School Park Bodily Remedy and School Park Household Care Heart Physicians Group. He added the caveat that the plaintiff, Edward Ernst, has till Dec. 14 to resubmit his claims.
Ernst sued HCA and its subsidiaries in February 2019, accusing them of submitting false claims to Medicare and Tricare for bodily remedy providers offered in Overland Park and Olathe, Kansas from April 2017 to August 2018. The federal authorities declined to intervene within the case in April 2020.
In his Nov. 23 ruling, Lungstrum wrote that Ernst’s criticism contained “treasured little” of the required particulars of the alleged fraud, such because the time, place and content material of the false representations.
“In different phrases, the who, what, the place, when, and the way of the alleged fraud,” the choose wrote.
In an announcement, HCA stated it was happy with the district court docket’s resolution to dismiss the lawsuit. The investor-owned hospital firm has grown its revenue this yr regardless of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ernst outlined 4 particular schemes: Falsely billing Medicare and Tricare for providers offered by bodily remedy aides or techs as an alternative of by therapists or by bodily remedy assistants, falsely billing Medicare for aquatic remedy providers offered by a bodily remedy assistant with out supervision of a therapist, falsely billing Tricare for providers offered by bodily remedy assistants with out oversight by a therapist and falsely billing Medicare for providers offered with out complying with the Eight-minute billing rule. Underneath the Eight-minute rule, therapists should present direct remedy for not less than eight minutes with a view to be reimbursed for a time-based code.
With respect to the aquatic remedy claims, the choose wrote that Ernst did not determine a legal responsibility concept. In different phrases, it wasn’t clear whether or not he was accusing the suppliers of falsely claiming a therapist supervised the providers, or one thing else.
The choose additionally cited the lack of expertise Ernst offered on the alleged Tricare scheme, mentioning that he did not determine a selected therapist or affected person.
“The pleading of this scheme falls woefully wanting the required commonplace of particularity, particularly along side the shortage of any element in regards to the precise claims submitted to the federal government,” Lungstrum wrote.
Ernst did give names for 2 particular examples of the alleged “Eight-minute rule” violations, however the choose stated the scope of that conduct continues to be unclear.
And “much more egregiously,” Lungstrum wrote, Ernst persistently refers to conduct by “defendants” with out specifying which one in every case.
The defendants argued towards giving the plaintiff another shot at rewriting his claims, arguing Ernst had already submitted an amended criticism following their movement to dismiss. However Lungstrum famous that is his first ruling on the sufficiency of the allegations, so he’ll grant the plaintiff an extra alternative to state his claims.
Ernst will not get one other shot at his claims towards a fifth defendant, School Park Household Care Heart, P.A. Lungstrum agreed with defendants that the apply cannot be sued as a result of HCA purchased it in 2013 and previously dissolved the previous company in 2015, earlier than the alleged fraud occurred.
Ernst’s attorneys didn’t reply to a request for touch upon the ruling, or whether or not they plan to resubmit the criticism.