Policy: Entitlements

Idaho company denies bilking Medicaid

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A south-central Idaho home-meal delivery service accused by state and federal officials in a lawsuit of overbilling Medicaid by nearly $900,000 is denying the allegations.

The Times-News reports in a story on Saturday that attorneys for Kimberly-based Homestyle Direct LLC filed a response to the federal lawsuit on Feb. 19.

The attorneys say Homestyle Direct owners Robert and Mariann Griffith delivered home meals to dead or hospitalized clients, but they only did so because they were unaware of changes in the status of the clients. The response said the company adjusted billing and gave credit for the delivered meals.

The lawsuit filed Jan. 6 in U.S. District Court in Boise contends the company from January 2007 to February 2011 overbilled Medicaid by about $888,000. The lawsuit seeks triple damages and penalties.

"It's alleged that in providing meals to eligible recipients, that the business submitted claims to the state of Idaho and to the Medicaid program that were ineligible for reimbursement and that they did so knowingly or in reckless disregard of the fact that they were false claims," U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said at the time the lawsuit was filed.

The lawsuit also contends the business sent desserts that didn't meet nutritional requirements for Medicaid reimbursement; falsified shipping dates for meals billed to Medicaid; and billed for unnecessary or ineligible meals.

The company said it billed Medicaid for desserts, but it says Idaho Medicaid officials told the company the billing was within Medicaid rules.

The 23-page lawsuit cites a form the company gave to new clients requiring them to cancel meal delivery or be charged for meals delivered when they were not at home.

"Defendants knew that their meal recipients were aged and in fragile health, and likely to be hospitalized or moved to a nursing home," the lawsuit said, contending defendants "were reckless in failing effectively to check on the status of their recipients and ensure that the recipients were available (or alive) to receive the meals."

The meals in some cases were left on doorsteps of people who were hospitalized or otherwise not at home.

Delivery to some homes stopped when a client's Medicaid authorization lapsed. The company said it was following directions from Idaho Medicaid when it sent extra meals to those clients to make up for missed meals when the client was reauthorized to be on Medicaid.

A scheduling conference on the lawsuit is planned for April 10 by telephone.

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