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Homestyle Direct

Screenshot of HomestyleDirect.com.

KIMBERLY • Federal prosecutors say a local meal delivery service bilked Medicaid out of nearly $900,000.

Homestyle Direct, based in Kimberly, illegally billed Medicaid for $888,152, delivered meals to deceased clients, lied to clients about Medicaid requirements, and continued to deliver meals to clients who used Medicaid even when they were hospitalized, prosecutors say.

The company violated the False Claims Act and several state laws, says a lawsuit filed in federal civil court in Boise on Tuesday.

Homesyle Direct cooks menu items weekly in its kitchen, then flash-freezes them and packs them in dry ice for delivery and shipping. The meals are delivered to the elderly and homebound. Some are covered by Medicaid; some pay for the meals themselves.

Mariann and Robert Griffith own Homestyle Direct, and Mariann Griffith handled billing while her husband signed the Medicaid Provider Agreement, federal court documents say.

The two have been served with a summons and must respond to the suit within 21 days.

Court documents allege:

• Homestyle Direct billed Medicaid for deceased clients and shipped meals to their homes. The company “recklessly” billed Medidaid nearly $6,000 after the deaths of 67 clients.

• The company sent meals without knowing if the recipient had died or otherwise no longer needed deliveries. The company failed to follow up with clients who didn't answer their phones and knew many clients were in fragile health and were likely to be moved to a hospital. For customers on Medicaid, the company automatically sent more meals the following month, even if the customer did not re-order. For private-paying customers, the company did not send more meals unless they re-ordered.

• The company sent some clients desserts only but billed Medicaid as if meals had been delivered. Medicaid doesn’t reimburse for desserts because they don't meet nutritional requirements. From January 2007 to May 2010, the company billed Medicaid $442,269 for desserts it claimed were meals.

• The company told clients that Medicaid required them to sign a form saying they could be billed for food and a delivery fee if they are away from home, hospitalized or lose their Medicaid eligibility and food is not delivered. Medicaid has no such requirement. The company also delivered meals, leaving them on doorsteps, when customers did not give permission for food to be left.

• Homestyle Direct billed Medicaid for ineligible meals. Sometimes the meals were not authorized by the company's clients or the client was in the hospital or other health facility.

• The company billed for meals with falsified dates of service. For example, the company billed some meals as if they were sent at the beginning of the month, when they weren't sent until the end of the month.

• The documents say Medicaid paid Homestyle Direct about $7.84 million for claims for meals for 2,829 recipients. In 2009, Medicaid paid Homestyle Direct about $2.6 million more than it paid the next highest-paid provider for home-delivered meals. The amount billed per client by the company was 1½. to two times greater than other home-delivery providers.

In the documents, prosecutors ask that Homestyle Direct stop violating Idaho Code and pay three times the damages plus thousands of dollars in fines.

A scheduling conference is set for April 10 by telephone in Boise.

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