BY DANIEL GAITAN | firstname.lastname@example.org
CHICAGO – The owner of a now-shuttered Illinois hospice company was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in federal prison for running an elaborate $20 million hospice scheme.
Businessman and attorney Seth Gillman admitted to using his hospice company, Passages Hospice, LLC., to exploit some of Illinois’ most vulnerable.
“I am ashamed of what I did and I am sorry for it and I have no excuse,” Gillman told the court, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Gillman and several key staff members reportedly offered bonuses to Passages employees who participated in the multi-year scheme to fraudulently bill Medicare for hospice services.
Hospice is care designed to provide comfort, not cure, to terminally ill patients in their last months or days of life.
However, Passages plotted with area nursing homes to designate some patients near death — including many who were not terminally ill.
This higher level care increased Passages’ Medicare reimbursement. Passages served patients throughout the Midwest and billed Medicare more than $90 million from 2008-2012.
“A lot of my patients really didn’t need to be on hospice,” a former employee told Life Matters Media. “A lot of the patients that I had didn’t need to be on continuous care, and they would just shove me in there.”
Gillman took home millions and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle that included luxury sports cars and “ingesting cocaine on a daily basis.”
Caregiver Cindi Chadwick said she was told by employees of Passages that her sister was dying and had only weeks left to live. They encouraged Chadwick to enroll Janet Schumpert, who is blind, deaf and mentally ill, into their hospice program.
“She was a prime victim for them,” Chadwick told LMM. Schumpert was a resident of Asta Care Center, which Passages owned.
“They had told me that she had Stage IV esophageal cancer, so they only gave her six to eight weeks to live,” Chadwick said. “They called in Passages Hospice, and naturally, I went along with it. Who is going to say that somebody has cancer when they don’t?”
Chadwick became suspicious after six months of hospice care had passed, and Schumpert appeared fine without receiving chemotherapy. Soon after, she set up a care plan meeting with the nursing home. At that time, she was told that her sister had thyroid cancer instead.
When a news report about Gillman’s fraud case appeared on her Facebook feed, she began to put the pieces together. “I got a call from her nurse who said, ‘I’m no longer going to be treating your sister,’ ” Chadwick explained.
Schumpert just turned 60 and is cancer-free. Even though Chadwick paid for funeral arrangements, she is most upset about the emotional costs associated with believing her sister would soon die.
Motivated By Greed
Last year, Gillman pleaded guilty to felony health care fraud. He also agreed to an $18 million civil judgment to be paid to the federal government, along with $9 million in restitution to Medicare.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin said Gillman was motivated by greed.
In November 2013, during an event celebrating Passages’ programs, Gillman told LMM every patient is like a grandmother.
“Give patients everything they need, even that little extra that makes life worth living.”
That turned out not to be the case.
Related Coverage: Exclusive: Passages Hospice Was ‘Corrupt To The Top,’ Says Former Employee
Passages Hospice Trial Date Set: Victim Shares Story
Hospice Patients More Likely To Be Discharged From For-Profit Programs