Cuomo settles with home health agencies for $24M

Nick Rees Dec. 18, 2009, 11:30am


NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - Three home health agencies alleged to have defrauded the Medicaid program have agreed to settlements with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Attorney Benton J. Campbell.

The settlement resolves lawsuits against one of the home health agencies as well as three whistleblower lawsuits. The $23,963,100 settlement is the largest reached with the home health industry in New York by Cuomo's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

B&H Health Care Services Inc., known as Nursing Personnel Home Care, a Brooklyn-based licensed home care service agency, as well as Excellent Home Care Services LLC of Brooklyn and Extended Nursing Personnel CHHA LLC of Manhattan, both certified home health agencies, agreed to the settlement, which arose from their alleged use of hundreds of home health aides who had little to no required training.

The aides were sent into the homes of New York's elderly, frail and indigent daily to provide sensitive medical care. As a result of this practice, Medicaid was billed for millions of dollars in services that the aides were allegedly not qualified to perform.

Home health aides are required by Medicaid to complete a Department of Health or State Education Department licensed training program and must receive a minimum of 75 hours of training, including sixteen hours of supervised practical training conducted by a registered nurse.

"The size of this settlement underscores the seriousness of the allegations and the importance of vigorous oversight of the Medicaid program and the medical care of our loved ones," Cuomo said.

"Being treated at home is an important option for many New Yorkers, and the companies that provide this service at taxpayer expense have an obligation to ensure that the health care workers they employ are qualified for the job."

Cuomo's "Operation Home Alone" has exposed a range of fraudulent practices and schemes in the home health care industry by home health and personal care aides, the schools that train them and the agencies that recruit and employ them. Cuomo's industry-wide investigation uncovered training schools that sold fraudulent HHA certificates to individuals who had not been training and found that Nursing Personnel employed hundreds of HHA's with fraudulent certificates. Nursing Personnels' fraudulent HHA were then assigned to Extended and Excellent and sent into New Yorkers' homes.

The settlements were initiated through lawsuits filed under whistleblower provisions of the False Claim Act, which allows suits to be filed by private citizens on behalf of the United States for fraud. The citizens can then share in any recover. As part of the settlement, Maurice Kershner will receive approximately $1,693,343 in recovery from Nursing Personnel. Deborah Yannicelli will receive approximately $994,080 in recovery from Extended and Excellent.

All three companies will be subject to terms of a corporate integrity agreement entered into with the New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General on their continuing efforts to employ policies and procedures to ensure that all future HHAs are properly certified. Nursing Personnel is also required to employ an outside monitor who will report to Cuomo's office and OMIG.

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