Kickbacks, bribes, and rebates are all illegal under Medicare rules but FOX 4 goes undercover to investigate whether some patients may be getting more that what the doctor ordered.
Medicare fraud costs taxpayers $36Million a day. And a patient with a Medicare card is a hot commodity for some healthcare providers.
Ollie Futrell is a very busy lady. She works in the home healthcare business but spends a lot of time in parking lots of apartment complexes and stores with wads of cash in hand, meeting briefly with people in her car. What is Futrell doing? That’s what FOX 4 wanted to know. Futrell wouldn’t talk to FOX 4 for this story but some local Medicare patients allowed us to listen to Futrell’s wheeling and dealing.
“I found two more patients,” an undercover patient prospect said to Futrell. “Okay. Okay,” Futrell responded. “But they want to know how much you’re going to pay,” the undercover patient continued. “I am doing a hundred a month,” Futrell confirmed.
A hundred dollars a month, the undercover patients say, is what Futrell pays patients to sign-up and stay on a home health care program.
“You got a card?” Futrell asked one of them. “Yes I do,” she replied. “I didn’t know you had a Medicare card,” said Futrell. “I’m gonna give you $150,” Futrell continued.
Here’s how Medicare-funded home healthcare usually works: A doctor decides a patient needs care at home and then the doctor sets up a plan of care, including how many visits (per week or month), and what equipment and procedures are needed.
In this case, a recruiter like Ollie Futrell contacts potential patients and then sends out a doctor or nurse to see the patient. If Futrell is offering that $100 or $150 as a kick-back, bribe, or rebate for signing-up and agreeing to home healthcare services, it is a violation of federal law .
And Futrell isn’t just paying patients a monthly fee. As we continued to listen-in, she’s also negotiating a referral fee for people who bring her new patients.
“Each person I refer to you is $200 or $250?” one of the undercover clients asked. “I’m gonna be honest with you. I will give you $150 (laughs). Alright, $250...$200. (Expletive) I ain’t goin’ fifty ‘cause I got to have something now, come on,” Futrell said.
It’s also against federal law to pay for patient referrals.
“Now, let me tell you something,” Futrell said to the undercover client. “I have paid people and my nurse and doctor go over there and they back out,” said Futrell. “No. These people here ain’t gonna back out,” the undercover client responded.
Futrell arrived with two nurses. The nurses and their husbands own Alliance Healthcare Services, located at 10935 Estates Lane in northeast Dallas. State records show the agency, which opened in 2006, offers home healthcare services and bills Medicare and Medicaid.
FOX 4 went to visit Alliance Healthcare. Ernest Amadi invited us in the office. He told us he is a co-owner and head of the company.
“We have some questions about a gal we think is working with you, by the name of Ollie Futrell,” Becky Oliver said to Amadi. “She doesn’t work for me,” Amadi responded. “Well, she has been out with your two nurses, with Agatha and Edith,” said Oliver. “She drives around with them and we have some undercover video wanted to talk to someone about, and about patient referrals,” Oliver continued. “I am not comfortable to be on the video,” Amadi told Oliver.
Off camera, Amadi said Futrell’s son works for him in marketing. He also said his wife and his business partner’s wife take Futrell on home healthcare visits to help with patient communication. Amadi said he knows nothing about any patient referrals and never authorized any payments.
Ollie Futrell is no stranger to federal investigators or to FOX 4. She turned up in our Medicare fraud investigation in 2008.
The feds busted Irene Anderson after FOX 4 reported she was running home healthcare operations with multiple identities . Anderson was in the U.S. illegally. She was convicted of Medicare Fraud and sent to federal prison for four years and fined $2Million.
A federal affidavit in that case states, “Anderson paid Ollie Futrell to locate patients” for her home healthcare business.
We followed Futrell for several days all over the Dallas area. She made trips to several different banks. She met people outside of stores, in apartment complex parking lots, at people’s houses, and without even getting out of her car – handed people something they would put in their pockets. We saw Futrell counting cash in a parking lot. On one occasion she had someone filling-out paperwork on the trunk of her car in front of a convenience store.
FOX 4 caught up with Futrell outside a north Dallas business complex.
“I have some questions for you about the business you are conducting right now,” Becky Oliver said to Futrell.
“Ma’am, I am not talking to you,” Futrell responded, as she walked away from our camera.
“Why are you not talking to us?” asked Oliver.
“We have some very serious allegations we’d like to address with you,” Oliver continued.
“No ma’am. Not me you don’t,” said Futrell as she continued to walk away.
“What about patient referrals? What are you doing with patient referrals right now,” asked Oliver.
“No ma’am. I don’t,” said Futrell.
“You aren’t doing anything with patient referrals?” asked Oliver.
“No ma’am,” replied Futrell.
“We have you on undercover video Miss Futrell,” Oliver explained.
“Not me you don’t,” said Futrell.
“Yes we do,” said Oliver. “We have some serious things we need to talk to you about,” Oliver continued.
“No ma’am. Not me you don’t,” said Futrell as she hurried to get in to her car.
“We have you on tape, Ollie,” said Oliver, as Futrell shut her car door.
On the undercover video, Futrell tells the potential patients that, if she can get them approved, there will be visits twice a month without even knowing a medical necessity or what a doctor would recommend.
“We’ll come twice, since it’s me and you,” Futrell said to an undercover patient. “We’ll do twice out of a month.” “You don’t really have to come…” the undercover patient responded. “Well, we have to. We have to,” said Futrell. “We have to, you know, because we don’t know who is watching or what,” Futrell continued.
And if the patients sign up, Futrell promises, “I’ll personally take care of you. Now you can’t beat that.”
Paying a person on Medicare a kickback, bribe, or rebate is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a $25,000 fine for each offense.
In a case unrelated to Futrell and Alliance Healthcare Services, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently busted Dallas home health care operator, Florence Onyegbu of DePromise Home Health Services in Lewisville, for paying Medicare patients $100 - $200 a month to sign-up for home healthcare and allow her submit Medicare claims. The feds say the patients did not qualify for Medicare services and yet Onyegbu filed more than $1.8Million in false claims. Onyegbu pleaded guilty and now faces up to five years in prison and more than $1Million in restitution.
If you have a story tip for the FOX 4 I-Team to investigate, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 214-720-3365 or 214-720-3361
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