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PHOENIX (AP/CBS5) -
A Phoenix-based hospice has agreed to pay $12 million to resolve allegations of submitting false claims to Medicare, federal authorities said.
The U.S. Justice Department announced the settlement Wednesday involving Hospice of Arizona L.C. along with a related entity, American Hospice Management LLC, and parent corporation American Hospice Management Holdings LLC.
The Medicare hospice benefit is available for patients who have a life expectancy of six months or less if their disease runs its normal course.
Hospice of Arizona and its related entities were accused of submitting false Medicare claims between September 2002 and December 2010 for patients who didn't need end-of-life care or for whom the hospice billed at a higher reimbursement rate than entitled.
"The hospice industry relies on the Medicare Trust Fund, and payments for unnecessary services jeopardize its financial viability," said U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
This resolution is part of the government's emphasis on combating healthcare fraud and another step for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, in May 2009.
Hospice of Arizona officials say the settlement doesn't include any admission of wrongdoing.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) contributed to this report.