• Hospice of the Comforter faces federal lawsuit over Medicare charges


    ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. - One of the largest hospice organizations in central Florida is facing a federal lawsuit.

    Attorneys say Hospice of the Comforter, based in Altamonte Springs, overbilled Medicare by millions of dollars.

    Federal prosecutors are combing through the Medicare bills stored at the oldest hospice in the region.

    In a rare move, federal prosecutors are taking over a whistle-blower lawsuit that claims administrators at Hospice of the Comforter overbilled Medicare by up to $11 million.

    "In this case, Hospice put profit first," said attorney David Oliver.

    Oliver represents the original whistle-blower, the former vice president of finance, who claims the organization kept Medicare patients on its books for more than five years.

    Guidelines say hospice care should be limited to six months.

    But, he claimed, more patients on the books meant bigger bonus checks for top administrators.

    "When the government intervenes, it's because they have found a sufficient factual basis to support the allegations of the complaint," said Oliver.

    Late Tuesday afternoon, a lawyer for the hospice told WFTV that they are working closely with the federal government to resolve the issue. He said patient care won't be affected.

    The hospice website claims it's helped tens of thousands of people through their most difficult times.

    Now, it faces $33 million in penalties, and it could lose its Medicare license.

    "The federal government has that option when someone has overbilled, in this case, Medicare," said Oliver.

    A federal judge in Orlando will hear the case if a settlement isn't reached.

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