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Firm Started By Sen. President Gaetz Accused Of Medicare Fraud

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the hospice company founded by Senate President Don Gaetz, accusing it of Medicare fraud, going back to when Gaetz was still with the firm.

The lawsuit, filed May 2 in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City and reported Thursday by The Miami Herald, alleges Vitas Hospice Services and Vitas Healthcare Corp. have misspent millions in taxpayer money collected from Medicare.

Gaetz, R-Niceville, sold the company in 2004 to current owner Chemed and no longer has any interest in the firm. But the suit alleges Chemed's Vitas Health unit billed Medicare for services it didn't provide since 2002.

The suit alleges that "since at least 2002, Vitas, and since at least 2004 Chemed (after acquiring Vitas),submitted or caused the submission of false claims to the Medicare program by both: (a) billing Medicare for more costly crisis care services when certain patients did not need crisis care services or when Vitas, in fact, did not provide such services, or Vitas provided inappropriate medical care, and (b) admitting certain patients who were not eligible to receive hospice services (instead of curative care), because the patients did not have a life expectancy of six months or less if their illnesses ran their normal course," the complaint says.

A spokeswoman for Gaetz told the Herald that the complaint involved matters "long after" he left the company. The company also vows to fight the suit.