Troubled Hospice Home Care of Hot Springs Facing Suits by Partners

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Jun. 24, 2013 12:00 am  

Hospice Home Care of Hot Springs opened Arkansas’ first free-standing inpatient hospice center nearly a decade ago.  (Photo by Mauren Kennedy)

Cecilia Troppoli and her sister, Dr. Theresa Travis, started Hospice Home Care Inc. in the early 1990s. Hospice care is for people who have a terminal diagnosis and are expected to live only six months.

HHC’s big move came in 2003 when it started construction on Arkansas’ first free-standing inpatient hospice center, according to a Nov. 7, 2003, article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

At the time HHC was treating about 450 patients in its six locations, the article said.

The 36-bed, 30,000-SF center cost a little more than $5 million to build, and it opened in 2004.

“We’re not doing this to make money,” Lisa Thompson, who was chief operating officer at the time, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in November. “We want this facility to break even. We’re doing this so our patients and families will have a place to go when they can’t stay at home anymore that’s not a hospital or a nursing facility.”

But at the time the center opened, health care workers had concerns about how the company generated revenue.

Troppoli and Travis weren’t available for comment to Arkansas Business.

In 2004, health care workers and patients thought that HHC might be defrauding the federal government in its billing of Medicare, according to a whistleblower lawsuit that Arkansas Hospice Inc. of North Little Rock filed in 2004 in U.S. District Court.

The complaint alleged that HHC billed Medicare for higher priced general inpatient services when the patients actually only received routine care, which has a lower reimbursement rate, according to the lawsuit filed under the federal False Claims Act. The lawsuit alleged that HHC overbilled Medicare between $1.5 million and $3 million between 2002 and 2004.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office intervened in the civil case in 2009. After examining 34 patient files, the U.S. Attorney’s Office found HHC submitted 242 false claims to Medicare, resulting in $1.6 million in false claims.

While not admitting wrongdoing or liability, HHC entered into a settlement with the federal government and agreed to pay $2.7 million to the government and $157,000 to Arkansas Hospice’s attorneys at the law firm Mitchell Blackstock Ivers & Sneddon PLLC of Little Rock.

The case was dismissed in December 2011.



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