Reliant Care Group to pay $8.3M to settle Medicare claims

A Missouri-based nursing home operator has agreed to pay more than $8.3 million to settle claims that it and its affiliates provided unnecessary therapy and falsely billed Medicare.

The deal announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice resolves claims that Reliant Care Group and its affiliates provided unwarranted physical, speech and occupational therapy from January 2008 to April 2014. The government said the nursing home residents were relatively independent and in skilled nursing sites largely because of psychiatric conditions.

The government also alleged that some Reliant Care Rehabilitative Services management pressured therapists to treat residents even when the therapists believed such therapy was without merit.

As part of the settlement, Reliant denied submitting bogus claims to taxpayer-funded Medicare and agreed to a five-year agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' watchdog Office of Inspector General to comply with various reporting requirements.

Reliant Care said Thursday through its lead counsel, Brian Bewley, that it cooperated in the investigation and "is very satisfied with the result."

"After almost five years, and even though Reliant continues to disagree with the government's findings, it was determined to be in all parties' best interest to move forward and resolve this matter," Bewley said in the statement emailed to The Associated Press.

Reliant, based in the St. Louis suburb of Maryland Heights, must pay $2.8 million within five days and the rest, with interest, within three years.

"Health care fraud is a major and increasingly serious problem that costs taxpayers millions in lost and wasted dollars while depriving vulnerable beneficiaries of the care and support they need," said Steven Hanson, special agent in charge with the Health and Human Services Department's inspector general arm. "Every dollar that we save or recover allows us to better serve those who really need and deserve our help."