An Ocala-based healthcare agency, its CEO, and two local doctors have agreed to pay $490,000 to resolve allegations that kickbacks were paid and received in violation of the False Claims Act.
The United States Department of Justice announced on Tuesday that Village Home Care LLC (VHC), which is located in Ocala, has agreed to pay $225,000 to resolve the allegations that the healthcare agency paid kickbacks to two physicians via sham medical director or sublease agreements in exchange for patient referrals.
In addition, Joy Rodak (CEO and majority owner of VHC) agreed to separately pay $105,000 to resolve the allegations. Agreements were also reached with the two physicians, Dr. Vishnu Reddy and Dr. Kuchakulla Reddy, who were both accused of accepting kickbacks from VHC.
Dr. Vishnu has agreed to pay $100,000 to resolve the allegations, and Dr. Kuchakulla will pay $61,943.44.
According to the Department of Justice, on January 15, 2021, the United States filed complaints in connection with two whistleblower lawsuits that were brought under the False Claims Act against VHC and Rodak. The allegations claimed that they knowingly billed Medicare for home health service for patients referred to VHC by Dr. Vishnu over a two-year period (November 15, 2012, through November 14, 2014) while paying Dr. Vishnu under sham medical director agreements.
The United States further alleged that VHC and Rodak knowingly billed Medicare for home health services for patients that had been referred to VHC by Dr. Kuchakulla over a 15-month period (December 1, 2012, through March 5, 2014). During this time, Dr. Kuchakulla was allegedly paid through his medical practice under sham sublease agreements.
In order to persuade the doctors to refer patients to VHC, the healthcare agency allegedly paid a total of $50,000 to Dr. Vishnu and $30,971.72 to Dr. Kuchakulla.
“Medicare funds should be used to provide care for our seniors, not to induce physicians to refer business,” stated U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg for the Middle District of Florida. “This office will take action against individuals who make unlawful payment to physicians in exchange for patient referrals.”
The resolutions obtained in this case were the result of a coordinated effort between the Justice Department’s Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch, Fraud Section, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General.
The claims resolved by the settlements are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.
The United States government has placed an emphasis on combating health care fraud. Tips and complaints about potential health care fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477).