Company: SEC inquiry done

LHC announces no penalties expected from investigation

In October 2011, the Senate Finance Committee released a report that criticized LHC and Amedisys.

LHC Group Inc., of Lafayette, said Tuesday the Securities and Exchange Commission has completed a two-year investigation of the company’s Medicare billing policies, and the agency is not expected to penalize the home health provider.

LHC previously reported the SEC investigation in July 2010.

The Senate Finance Committee and SEC launched investigations of four publicly traded home health companies in 2010, including Amedysis Inc., of Baton Rouge, following The Wall Street Journal’s analysis of Medicare payments to the firms. The story questioned whether home health companies had ordered unnecessary patient visits in order to collect thousands of dollars in Medicare bonuses.

SEC officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday. LHC spokeswoman Amy Stevens said the news release announcing the investigation’s end would be the company’s only comment.

Amedisys made no announcement related to the investigations on Tuesday.

LHC’s announcement, which would appear to end the federal investigations into LHC’s Medicare billing practices, had little impact on the company’s stock price.

LHC closed Tuesday at $19.67, up 19 cents, in light trading.

In October 2011, LHC announced it would pay the federal government $65 million to settle a whistle-blower lawsuit involving its Medicare billing between 2006 and 2008. The U.S. Department of Justice said the company billed for unnecessary services. LHC denied any wrongdoing, and said it settled to avoid a multiyear legal battle with the federal government, which regulates home health providers.

That same month, the Senate Finance Committee released a report that criticized LHC and Amedisys. At best, the companies abused the Medicare home health bonus program, according to the report. At worst, the companies may have defrauded Medicare at the expense of taxpayers.

In its third-quarter earnings report, LHC said it could not predict whether the Senate committee would take any further action. During the first nine months of the year, LHC spent $1.2 million, or 6 cents per share, for legal and other expenses related to previously announced investigations, including the Senate committee and SEC probes.