ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona Home Health Aide kickback scheme results in $4.25 million settlement

Sep 2, 2023, 6:30 AM

PHOENIX — Watermark Retirement Communities LLC, a senior living community operator based in Tucson that manages five retirement homes in the state and two in the Phoenix metropolitan area, agreed to pay $4.25 million on Thursday to resolve kickback allegations.

According to the Department of Justice, the settlement includes the resolution of claims brought under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by David Freedman, who was the former director of strategic growth for Bayada, a home health aide operator, between 2009 and 2016.

Referrals = kickbacks

The Department of Justice alleged that the HHA operator purchased two of Watermark’s home health aide operations in Arizona to induce referrals of Medicare beneficiaries living in Watermark residential communities. The scheme was designed around eight Watermark retirement homes in Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida and Pennsylvania where the two companies had overlapping operations.

The United States alleged that from Jan. 1, 2014 through Oct. 31, 2020, Watermark caused Bayada to submit false claims for payments to Medicare for services.

The Antikickback Statute prohibits parties who participate in federal health care programs from knowingly and willfully soliciting or receiving any remuneration in return for referring an individual to any item or services for which payment is made by a federal health care program.

“It is imperative that decisions about the care provided to federal health care beneficiaries are not undermined by the payment of kickbacks,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

“Today’s resolution demonstrates that the Department is committed to holding accountable not only those who offer kickbacks but also those who receive them.”

Retirement operations

Watermark operates 79 retirement communities across the country. The company’s Arizona communities include five in the metro Tucson area and one each in Bullhead City, Kingman, Gilbert, and Casa Grande.

In September 2021, Bayada entered into a $17 million settlement with the United States to resolve the claims.

Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

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Arizona Home Health Aide kickback scheme results in $4.25 million settlement