According to a recently resolved False Claims Act complaint, Orland Park-based Quality Therapy and Consultation Inc. (now defunct), and its owner, Frances Parise, systematically billed federal health care programs for services that were never rendered. The alleged misconduct took place as part of Quality Therapy’s work with various nursing homes in the state of Illinois.
The nursing homes mentioned in the whistleblower lawsuit have all agreed to a settlement. Under its terms, Lakeshore Healthcare will pay $2.7 million, Balmoral Home will pay $1.7 million, Ridgeview Rehab will pay $1 million, and Carlton at the Lake will pay the largest settlement: $3.6 million.
The alleged fraud was brought to the government’s attention in 2014, when Katherine Verhulst, a former occupational therapist with Quality Therapy, filed a qui tam lawsuit presenting evidence of her employer’s unlawful practices. As a False Claims Act whistleblower with original information about fraud, Verhulst will receive a $1.9 million award.
According to Verhulst’s complaint, which was later joined by the government, the defendants misrepresented the level of care required by Medicare beneficiaries to boost profits. Allegedly, they routinely scheduled and billed the federal program for, unnecessary therapy.
The owner of Quality Therapy, Frances Parise, not only will pay $160,000 as part of the settlement but has been excluded from any participation in Medicare and other government health care programs for a period of five years.
Whistleblowers like Verhulst are protected by anti-retaliation regulations. Individuals with access to information about fraud against the government and the American public can confidently report it under the False Claims Act, which provides that it is illegal for employers to fire, demote, or otherwise retaliate against a plaintiff in an FCA lawsuit.