Sarasota home health agency accused of paying kickbacks to doctors for patients

Doctor's Choice facing lawsuit

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The Department of Justice has accused Doctor’s Choice Home Care Inc. of Sarasota with paying kickbacks to doctors for patient referrals.

Partial owners Timothy Beach and Stuart Christensen are being accused of False Claims Act violations. The DOJ says the kickbacks were paid through sham medical director agreements and payments to the spouses of physicians who referred patients to the home health agency.

All three physicians accused in the scheme, none of which were named by the DOJ, allegedly did little, if any, of the work for which Doctor’s Choice paid them as medical directors.

Sham medical director agreements to induce patient referrals violate the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law.

Doctor’s Choice also allegedly paid some employees in a manner that accounted for the volume of referrals by their physician spouses, in violation of the Stark Law.

The lawsuit against Doctor’s Choice was filed under whistle-blower provisions of the False Claims Act. This allows private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and receive a share of any recovery.

“Healthcare providers must make recommendations about their patients’ health without respect to their own financial interests,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “We will continue to do our part to protect federal health care program beneficiaries and the American taxpayers from the corrupting influence of kickbacks designed to undermine the impartiality and integrity of physician decision making.”

Doctor’s Choice released a statement about the lawsuit, calling the allegations, “wholly uncorroborated and provably false,” and saying the home health agency plans to “vigorously defend against these claims," adding, "The government’s distorted rendition of the facts is in direct contrast with this reality.”

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