Owner of nursing care agency charged with fraudby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The owner of a nursing care agency has been charged with fraud for allegedly billing the state Medical Assistance program for skilled nursing services that were never provided.
Barbara Ann Currin of Brooklyn Park, who owns Ometta Vent Care Services, billed the state for $2.7 million over an 18-month period to care for 25 patients, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday by Attorney General Lori Swanson.
The complaint said that besides billing for skilled services that weren't provided, Currin also had less skilled attendants deliver services while billing the state as if they were registered nurses. Currin also billed the state for one-on-one care for a patient even when shared services were provided at the same time to patients living together, the complaint said.
During a four-month in 2008, Ometta Vent Care billed the state for more than 15,000 hours of registered nursing services even though the company's own time sheets showed registered nurses worked only 813 hours, according to the complaint.
At the time, the Medical Assistance program serving low-income Minnesotans paid providers about $40 per hour for one-on-one nursing services provided by a registered nurse. Only about $16 per hour can be billed for a personal care attendant.
According to a news release from Swanson's office, Ometta Vent Care employed 10 of Currin's family members. Ten patients being cared for needed ventilators to breathe and 13 had care plans calling for 24-hour care.
The Minnesota Board of Nursing suspended Currin's practical nurse license in June.
Larry Reed, an attorney who had represented Currin before the nursing board, said he just learned about the criminal charges Wednesday and had no immediate comment.
State officials began investigating Ometta Vent Care after a patient complained she was receiving round-the-clock care from a personal care attendant instead of a registered nurse as required by her care plan.