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Former HPH Hospice workers scale back whistleblower lawsuit

Published Feb. 3, 2012

Plaintiffs in a federal whistleblower lawsuit alleging hospices and other health care providers use questionable practices to bilk Medicare have significantly scaled back their complaint.

Attorneys for Heather Jo Numbers and Gregory Scott Davis, two former employees of HPH Hospice, voluntarily dropped as defendants Gulfside Regional Hospice, an HPH competitor, as well as 40 area nursing homes, hospitals and assisted-living facilities.

However, the plaintiffs "preserve and continue to assert their claims" against HPH Hospice and HPH Healthcare LLC, according to court documents.

"I am very pleased, and not surprised by the plaintiff's dismissal of Gulfside Regional Hospice from this case," said Linda Ward, president of Pasco-based Gulfside, which never employed the plaintiffs. "Gulfside is proud of our high standards for quality care, proven continuously through routine compliance audits by Medicare and the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration."

Attorneys for Numbers and Scott could not be reached for comment.

HPH president Tom Barb said his company has nothing to hide and has been fully regulated since its founding in 1984.

"We still dispute the allegations and look forward to defending our reputation in court," he said.

Numbers and Davis filed the federal whistleblower lawsuit in April 2010, but it was sealed until last July. Among the allegations: Managers instructed staff to keep patients even when they were not terminal to collect payments from Medicare and Medicaid; employees fabricated patient forms to get claims paid; HPH provided free care to hospitals, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in exchange for referrals; and HPH staff altered medical charts to create a false impression that patients' health was declining so as to receive payments.

Lawyers for HPH lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.

"There are no facts alleged or documentation of any sort provided showing facts of these allegations," HPH attorneys wrote. "Notably, for having allegedly witnessed 'countless incidents' and seen 'counterfeit paperwork' plaintiff-relators attach not one page of supporting documentation." They also noted that the government had not intervened.

The motion went onto to say that the plaintiffs "simply depict schemes that they have heard described in public fraud alert reports and layer on their personal speculation."