Reliant Rehabilitation Holdings Inc. agreed to pay the U.S. $6.1 million to resolve claims that it paid kickbacks to doctors and skilled nursing facilities to promote its rehabilitation therapy business, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.
Between April 1, 2013 and May 1, 2017, the Plano, Texas-based rehabilitation therapy provider allegedly employed nurse practitioners at client nursing homes at no charge or for a nominal, below-fair-market fee to induce or reward nursing homes for entering contracts with Reliant, according to the government.
The settlement resolves both this claim and a separate allegation that Reliant’s actions led to the submission of Medicare claims that were tainted by the improper contracts between the therapy providers and physicians working at SNFs. The contracts offered the doctors compensation that was above the fair-market fee to supervise and collaborate with Reliant nurse practitioners, in exchange for the facilities’ therapy business.
The allegations resolved by the settlement agreement were originally brought by Dr. Thomas Prose under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act (FCA); he will receive about $915,000 of the settlement proceeds.
“Companies that work to secure patient referrals by providing kickbacks inject improper financial considerations into our healthcare system,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox for the Northern District of Texas said in a statement announcing the settlement. “Today’s settlement demonstrates our determination to thwart such improper inducements — whether they take the form of cash payments or free services.”
The Civil Division of the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern District of Texas handled the case. By entering the settlement, Reliant did not formally admit liability and the claims remain allegations, the government noted.
“RMM is a program we discontinued more than a year ago and we are happy to have this matter behind us,” Reliant CEO Chris Bird said in a statement about the settlement. “We remain focused on our core contract therapy business of providing quality rehabilitation services to our customers and patients. Reliant is committed to maintaining a strong compliance program companywide and invests significant time and resources into training its employees on a wide variety of compliance topics.”
Written by Maggie Flynn
This story has been updated to include a statement from Reliant CEO Chris Bird.