Texas Doctor Takes Plea Deal on Presigned Prescription Scam

Marcia Frellick

August 29, 2018

An Arlington, Texas physician has reached a plea deal for his role in a hospice scheme that defrauded Medicare and Medicaid out of $60 million, in part by signing blank prescriptions, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Charles Raymond Leach, MD, 65, has agreed to plead guilty in federal court on September 11 to one count of conspiracy to commit heathcare fraud. He surrendered his medical license in June, the Morning News reported.

The investigation involves Novus Health Services and Optim Health Services, based in Frisco, Texas. The companies were run by the same staff, and the hospice provider was one of the largest in North Texas until it shut down in October 2015, according to the newspaper.

Leach joined Novus in April 2014. He became a medical director and was paid by the number of hospice referrals, the newspaper said.

According to the newspaper, hospice providers are subject to an annual cap, based on average cost of hospice care for their Medicare patients. Shorter stays bring more money for the providers.

The Morning News reported that Leach said, as part of the agreement, that he presigned blank prescription forms in bulk. Others filled in patients' names and prescription amounts to get drugs such as hydromorphone and morphine.

"Nurses then used high doses of those drugs to hasten patients' deaths," the Morning News reported, citing court documents.

"Large Number of Victims"

Hospice patients must be certified as terminally ill to be covered by Medicare, but court documents cited by the Morning News said Leach admitted that he classified patients as eligible for hospice when they weren't.

Becker's Hospital Review reported that, as part of the fraud, once the patients were enrolled as hospice patients, they were given 24-hour care, which Medicare reimburses at a higher rate than routine care.

The Morning News report referred to a "large number of victims," but the precise toll of all those affected was unclear.

According to the newspaper, Leach is the fourth to reach a plea agreement in the fraud investigation. Twelve others, including Novus Chief Executive Bradley Harris and his wife, Amy, are expected to face trial in January.

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