SEC probe means no fines for Amedisys

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Amedisys Inc. is headquartered in Baton Rouge on South Sherwood Forest Boulevard. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Amedisys Inc. is headquartered in Baton Rouge on South Sherwood Forest Boulevard.

Company finalized settlement in May

Investors showed little reaction Tuesday to news that a federal regulator’s four-year investigation of home health giant Amedisys Inc. won’t result in any penalties, with the Baton Rouge company having already agreed to a $150 million settlement with a separate agency.

The home nursing firm’s shares closed at $15.79, down 29 cents, or 1.8 percent, on a down day for stock markets. Amedisys issued a two-sentence statement before the markets opened, saying that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had completed its investigation and had not recommended any enforcement action.

Neither the investigation’s results nor the market’s response were surprising, said Brian Tanquilut, a health care services analyst with Jefferies LLC. The SEC generally looks at whether a company misrepresents its financial results.

“In this case, if Amedisys were overbilling government, obviously its revenue would have been overstated. ... But because the DOJ (Department of Justice) settlement had no admission of guilt or wrongdoing then the SEC did not really have a case,” Tanquilut said.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation was the last of three federal investigations announced into Medicare billing procedures at Amedisys.

In 2011, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee issued a report saying Amedisys abused the Medicare bonus system at best and committed fraud at worst.

The committee action was triggered by The Wall Street Journal’s analysis of publicly-traded home nursing firms. The Journal found the number of home therapy visits closely tracked the level required to trigger lucrative bonus payments from Medicare. The Senate committee did not levy any penalties against Amedisys.

In May, Amedisys finalized a $150 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over Medicare bills. Among other things, the Justice Department alleged that Amedisys inflated its Medicare payments by charging the agency for medically unnecessary treatments and for treating patients that were not homebound.

Amedisys disputed the Justice Department’s allegations. The company said it agreed to pay the $150 million to avoid the cost of a lengthy legal fight.

Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter, @tedgriggsbr.