Insurance Fraud NEWS
Kentucky health firm to repay $30M, also seeks NBA franchise
June 12, 2018, Louisville, KY
A health care company led by the chairman of the group trying to bring an NBA team to Louisville has agreed to pay $30 million to settle charges that it bilked the government by submitting false claims for unnecessary services.
Louisville-based Signature HealthCare was accused of illegally boosting profits by providing excessive therapy to patients "whether they needed it or not," the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office said Friday.
Federal prosecutors in Nashville said Signature submitted false claims totaling $244 million to the federal government and to the state of Tennessee.
Joe Steier, Signature’s CEO and president, is also chairman and co-founder of the Louisville Basketball Investment and Support Group, which says it hopes to raise $1.4 billion over the next 18 months to bring an NBA team to Louisville.
The group’s president, former ABA and NBA star Dan Issel, and member J. Bruce Miller, declined to comment on what impact the Signature settlement might have on NBA 2 Louisville, as the effort is informally known.
In a prepared statement, Steier said: "Whatever I need to do to help our campaign to be awarded an NBA franchise I will do. If that means help lead it, be an investor, or just be a passionate supporter -- I am in on all fronts."
He also noted Signature did not admit wrongdoing and that it had to settle the case to close a deal to restructure the company and provide "long term stability to our amazing stakeholders and precious residents -- our only priority."
Steier in a May 19 blog post wrote that he has dreamed of landing an NBA team since he moved Signature from Florida to Louisville seven years ago.
“I would actually invest my ‘first communion’ money in this dream if I thought it would help secure a franchise just to position Louisville and the Commonwealth as the potential ‘Basketball Capital of the World,'” he wrote.
Issel told the Louisville Forum last month that a small group of local investors has raised $750,000 for startup costs and has commitments for an additional $3 million.
The Justice Department said Signature — one of the largest nursing home corporations in the nation — was accused of artificially inflating therapy time to maximize profits. The government also said it pressured therapists and patients to complete planned minutes of therapy even when patients were sick or declined to participate.
In a statement issued by the company, Steier said “resident care remains our first priority” and “we are more focused than ever on our mission to serve each resident and family with excellence.”
The company has a network of nearly 120 skilled-nursing facilities across 10 states and 17,000 employees. It operates nine facilities in the Louisville metro area alone, according to its listings online.
The case against Signature was initiated through a whistleblower suit filed by two former employees in U.S. District Court in Nashville. They will receive a portion of the recovered funds along with the state of Tennessee, where seven of Signature's facilities are located.
In a statement, Chad Readler, the Justice Department’s acting assistant attorney general for the civil division, said the settlement “demonstrates our continuing efforts to protect patients and taxpayer by ensuring that the care provided to beneficiaries of government-funded healthcare programs is dictated by clinical needs, not a provider’s fiscal interests.”
The settlement also resolves allegations that Signature submitted forged pre-admission certifications of patient need for skilled nursing to Tennessee's Medicaid program.
The company also was accused in 2014 of billing Medicaid about $2 million for unapproved costs by auditors with the Tennessee Comptroller's Office, McKnight’s Health Care News reported at the time.
Steier's personal website describes as a “dynamic healthcare entrepreneur” and says Signature is built on three organizational pillars: “Spirituality, Learning and Intra-preneurship.”
He is also chairman of the board of Bearno’s Pizza Inc. and serves on various business and civic boards, including SCALA, the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville's Agenda.
Source: Courier Journal