The closer investigators look into the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where eight residents died after a power outage in the wake of Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning, the dirtier things look. Court records show that the nursing home was part of the biggest Medicare fraud case ever filed against individuals in U.S. history.
The Hollywood, Florida nursing home is affiliated with Larkin Community Hospital, both of which are owned by Dr. Jack Michel. Larkin and Michel, along with Michael’s former business associate Philip Esformes, were named in a 2004 civil case, which was also filed in Miami.
Michel, Esformes and four others were accused of sending patients from facilities including Michel’s assisted living facilities to Larkin Community, Michel’s Miami hospital, for unnecessary treatment, bilking about $1 billion out of Medicare and Medicaid. Michel received kickbacks as part of the arrangement. Michel, Larkin and three others agreed in 2006 to pay $15.4 million to settle charges with the Department of Justice.
However, after the lawsuit settled, “Philip Esformes and his co-conspirators allegedly continued this criminal activity – adapting their scheme to prevent detection and continue their fraud after the civil settlement,” the Justice Department said in a news release.
Michel bought Larkin in 1998, and purchased the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in June 2015 through a bankruptcy auction. “We look forward to making the enhancements necessary to convert Hollywood Hills into a five-star facility to serve the needs of our community,” Michel said in a news release at the time.
It is currently rated two stars in Medicare’s five-star ranking system. The 5-star Quality Rating system is designed to help consumers, their families and caregivers compare nursing homes more easily. Nursing homes with five starts are considered to have much above average quality and nursing homes with one star are considered to have quality much below average.
Palm Beach Post