By Ann Marie Shambaugh
Carmel-based Nightingale Home Healthcare filed a lawsuit Feb. 5 against the Indiana State Department of Health and U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services claiming that racial or ethnic discrimination played a factor in a decision to cut Medicare funding to the company in late 2015.
“The Defendants have used their governmental positions to subject Plaintiffs, a home healthcare company, a hospice agency, and their owner, a physician, to a campaign of harassment and retaliation based on race, ethnicity and/or national origin, and his prior complaints about their discriminatory statements and conduct,” the lawsuit states.
Nightingale issued a press release Feb. 5 that states the company’s CEO, Dr. Dev A. Brar, is “known by his friends and employees as a patriot and proud American but is Indian by origin.”
“It hurts me deeply to file this lawsuit against the State Department of Health and its employees who have been relentlessly pursuing me for personal reasons, but I can no longer remain silent as the government continues to harass me, harm my company and endanger the care of hundreds of Hoosiers who depend on the services we provide,” Brar said in a statement.
The Office of the Indiana Attorney General is representing ISDH, and public information officer Bryan Corbin said in an email that they will review the assertions and file an appropriate response in court.
“Allegations in a civil lawsuit are the opinion of the plaintiffs’ lawyers filing them and may be refuted in court. The plaintiffs’ lawyers have the burden of proof, not the government defendants,” Corbin stated.
Nightingale filed for bankruptcy in December 2015 after an Indiana State Department of Health report claimed it put patients in “immediate jeopardy.”
The findings of the ISDH survey, which took place in October and November 2015, led to Medicare threatening to stop making reimbursement payments to Nightingale if the company didn’t correct the problems within 23 days.
The parties involved eventually agreed on a plan to address the issues, but when ISDH reevaluated Nightingale in December 2015 it determined “immediate jeopardy” remained.
With nearly 80 percent of the company’s patients on Medicare and another 21 percent on Medicaid, Nightingale argued that it would not be able to continue operating if the reimbursements did not come through.
A judge granted a 90-day preliminary injunction beginning Jan. 25 that allows Nightingale to receive reimbursements as it continues to address the situation. A bankruptcy court has set a final hearing on the preliminary injunction for April 27.
Nightingale formed in 1996 and has become one of the largest home healthcare providers in Indiana. It provides jobs for more than 300 people and serves nearly 900 patients.