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Justice Dept. must pay HCR legal fees

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HCR ManorCare will be reimbursed for its legal fees in a 2015 case alleging Medicare fraud.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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The Department of Justice has been ordered to pay the legal fees of HCR ManorCare Inc. in a 2015 case in which the government accused the Toledo-based skilled nursing home operator of knowingly collecting millions in Medicare payments for treatments that were medically unjustified.

The lawsuit, initially filed by three whistle-blowers and later joined by the government, alleged over 1,200 false claims were submitted by ManorCare from Oct. 1, 2006, to May 31, 2012. The lawsuit claimed ManorCare “knowingly and routinely submitted” false claims for unnecessary rehabilitation services.

ManorCare had challenged both the veracity of the DOJ case and the reliability of the government’s expert witness, Rebecca Clearwater. In an Oct. 27 ruling, U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Carroll Buchanan agreed with ManorCare, striking a report submitted by Ms. Clearwater and lambasting the DOJ.

“I have looked at this stuff, and I'm appalled, I'm embarrassed, I'm ashamed that the Department of Justice would rely on this kind of nonsense by a nurse reviewer to get involved in a qui tam case and cost these defendants millions of dollars in legal fees,” Judge Buchanan said.

The judge called the case a “huge waste of money” but did not dismiss it. A summary judgment hearing in the case is set for Thursday.

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