By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On August 8, 2016, federal prosecutors blasted Dr. Venkateswara Kuchipudi, a Chicago physician nicknamed the “King of Nursing Homes,” convicted of sending nursing home patients to a hospital he believed was subpar allegedly in exchange for free staff. According to prosecutors, the doctor attempted to “whitewash his actions” when asking for a lenient sentence and caused actual harm to patients to satisfy his “callous greed” (words prosecutors reportedly used).
Prosecutors argued that U.S. District Judge Matthew Canaille should give Dr. Venkateswara Kuchipudi a sentence that reflects how vulnerable his victims were and how much Dr. Kuchipudi profited from billing insurers for the work he didn’t pay his staff to do. In March 2016, Dr. Kuchipudi was convicted of a charge related to the illegal kickback scheme. Click here to read more.
The “King of Nursing Homes”
Dr. Kuchipudi earned the nickname “King of Nursing Homes,” from the hundreds of nursing home patients he treated and allegedly from accepting kickbacks for referring Medicare patients to Sacred Heart Hospital (in the Chicago area) in exchange for staff in 2016. The victims of Kuchipudi’s kickback scheme were “elderly and physically and/or mentally impaired nursing home-bound patients,” whose vulnerability gave Kuchipudi “nearly limitless discretion” over where they were treated, the government said in a sentencing memorandum. Dr. Kuchipudi allegedly chose a hospital he constantly criticized as “substandard” and that was located far from many of his patients, prosecutors said. Click here to read the sentencing memorandum in full.
Jeopardizing Quality of Care.
The government pointed out the victims at were brought to Sacred Heart Hospital on Dr. Kuchipudi’s orders, despite it not being the closest hospital, when they were suffering conditions that could have been life threatening, including heart attack, embolism and stroke. Other patients were forced to undergo unnecessary testing, stay at the hospital longer than necessary or, in one case, stay nine days to wait for surgery because the hospital lacked the proper equipment.
“Kuchipudi should never have sent an elderly patient with a broken hip to Sacred Heart if Sacred Heart did not have the equipment, such as a surgical table, already in place to provide necessary patient care,” the government said. “The table should wait for the patient. The patient should not have to wait nine days for the table.”
Additionally, Dr. Kuchipudi refused to work weekends or take calls at night, but wouldn’t let other doctors see his patients, so that he himself could bill for them, the memorandum states. Eventually Sacred Heart had to hire another doctor to take on Dr. Kuchipudi’s patients, for which he would then bill (according to prosecutors). This, by itself, would probably violate the Anti-Kickback Statute. According to prosecutors, when he was at the hospital, he would see his patients for 10 to 15 minutes total and make no notes, leaving the work to physician assistants and nurses.
He would often bill Medicare for the work done by these other physician assistants, nurses and the doctor the hospital hired for his patients, as if he did the work himself, the government stated.
In addition to having Sacred Heart pay for Dr. Kuchipudi’s staff, the physician received “well over $750,000” from insurers for their labor, the government said. As the kickback is more than $550,000, the offense level under the sentencing guidelines should increase, according to prosecutors.
Kuchipudi’s sentencing memorandum showed no signs of his acknowledging or feeling remorse for his crimes, the government said. Click here to read more.
To read a prior blog I wrote on illegal kickback schemes, click here.
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Kass, Dani. “’King Of Nursing Homes’ Downplayed Patient Harm, Feds Say.” Law360. (August, 8, 2016). Web.
Eltagouri, Mawra. “Doctor known as ‘king of nursing homes’ convicted in kickback scheme.” The Chicago Tribune. (March 16, 2016). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
KeyWords: King of Nursing Homes, Medicare fraud scheme, Medicare audit, submitting false claims, Department of Justice (DOJ), health care fraud scheme, illegal kickback scheme, Medicare beneficiaries, services not rendered, unnecessary tests and procedures, improper billing, nursing home health facilities, health care kickbacks, Florida health care lawyer, The Health Law Firm
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