A 34-year-old Texas hospice nurse who reportedly admitted that she intentionally overdmedicated two hospice patients in order to hasten their deaths, at the alleged direction of her employer’s CEO, apparently will avoid being charged with murder by agreeing to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
The licensed vocational hospice nurse is one of sixteen defendants that includes hospice service providers Novus Health Services Inc. and Optim Health Services Inc. (“Novus”). She was allegedly instructed by Novus’ CEO to overmedicate patients using hydromorphone and morphine with the intention to hasten their deaths. It is reported that one text message from the CEO to the nurse stated that one of the nurse’s hospice patients “better not make it tomorrow. Or I will blame u.”
The CEO, who has no formal medical training, allegedly routinely advised employee-nurses on overmedicating hospice patients, on changing end-of-life directives, and arranged for physicians to falsify prescription records and to change patient death records. If the CEO’s instructions were not followed by the company’s registered and practical nurses, they would be replaced with employees who would “do it right,” according to court documents.
The defendant Texas hospice nurse has reportedly acknowledged that between June 2012 and September 2015, she defrauded both Medicare and Medicaid by admitting patient beneficiaries to Novus hospice service who were not elgibile for hospice service and billed the government for services that were not provided. As part of her plea agreement, the nurse reportedly will not be imprisoned for more than ten years and she is eligible for supervised release for a period of three years or less.
Two other Novus employees, a registered nurse case manager and a regional director who was the director of operations for Novus, reportedly entered plea agreements in which they acknowledged that they falsified documents submitted to Medicare and Medicaid, acknowledged that they admitted unqualified patients for hospice care, and billed the government health care programs for hospice services that were unnecessary or not provided. The court documents reportedly charge that physicians signed blank prescription forms and do-not-resuscitate orders in bulk, and that physicians employed by Novus were not always involved in making decisions regarding patient care.
Criminal indictments reportedly contend that Novus billed Medicare and Medicaid over $60 million for fraudulent hospice services, and was paid over $35 million, from July 2012 to September 2015.
If you or a loved one suffered harm as a result of hospice care in Texas or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a Texas medical malpractice attorney, or a medical malpractice attorney in your state, who may investigate your hospice malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved in a hospice malpractice case, if appropriate.
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