The owner of Boston-based Harmony Home Health Care has been sentenced to two to three years in state prison for stealing $2.7 million from MassHealth, Massachusetts’ Medicaid program. Elena Kurbatzky, a 45-year-old registered nurse and the sole owner of Harmony Home Health, was convicted on three counts of Medicaid false claims, three counts of larceny and one count of Medicaid eligibility fraud.
Kurbatzky forged signatures, submitted fraudulent reports, and straight-up lied to squeeze as much money from Medicaid as possible. Her scheme went on for almost two years, from Feb. 2015 to Oct. 2016, but ultimately, the lies caught up with her.
According to Kurbatzky, Harmony treated 38 patients. It’s unclear whether that number is truthful. However, based on her conviction, we do know that most of the services Harmony reported were never actually provided or authorized by doctors. According to the lawsuit, Kurbatzky, and her company:
- Billed MassHealth for services that could not have been provided, because the nurses who supposedly provided the treatment were out of the country (including Kurbatzky herself).
- Regularly reported that a single nurse was providing services to patients in different locations at the same time—a total impossibility.
- Forged doctor signatures on patient plans of care to “authorize” specific treatments.
- Billed Medicaid for physical, speech and occupational therapy for most patients, often without authorization from physicians, and even though the company had no therapists licensed to provide any of these services.
While Harmony Home Health patients were being exploited, Kurbatzky was raking in reimbursements from MassHealth. In total, she collected $2.7 million. No one except Kurbatzky knows what that money was spent on, but there are clues from another, unrelated lawsuit she was involved in.
In 2017, she filed a since-dismissed lawsuit against U.S. Customs and Border Protection, claiming that officials at Logan International Airport had illegally seized her Dolce & Gabbana clothing and jewelry she had purchased in Paris. Kurbatzky was ordered to pay nearly $19,000 in tax on the items, which hints at their value. The average registered nurse makes $67,490 a year—not exactly a designer clothing budget. It’s possible that Kurbatzky was subsidizing her lavish lifestyle with fraudulent reimbursements from MassHealth.
However, Kurbatzky’s big spending days were numbered. The fraud at Harmony Home Health was first uncovered in July 2016 during nationwide investigations initiated by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Eventually, 412 people were charged in the massive enforcement action, including two in Massachusetts: Kurbatzky and her business partner, Natan Zalyapin. They were arrested in July 2017 and indicted on fraud charges later that year. Zalyapin was not convicted with Kurbatzky, and it’s unclear where Zalyapin’s case stands today.
As Kurbatzky’s case continued, investigators discovered that not only was she defrauding Medicaid through her business, but she was receiving benefits illegally, too. Over a few short years, Kurbatzky made millions from Harmony Home Health. However, she failed to disclose this income—which would have made her ineligible for any MassHealth benefits—when she applied for the program.
Then, she claimed that she received medical care (which was never authorized by a doctor) from her own company. In March 2018, Kurbatzky was indicted on additional charges related to Medicaid eligibility fraud.
Kurbatzky represented herself throughout her nine-day trial, and the jury ultimately returned a guilty verdict. In addition to her prison sentence, Kurbatzky will be required to serve three years’ probation after her release and pay up to $1.8 million in restitution.
Although most home health professionals aren’t committing fraud, Kurbatzky isn’t the only nurse to illegally profit off Medicare and Medicaid.
If you know of any healthcare professionals forging records to increase their reimbursement, you can report their actions. Whistleblowers who tip off the government may be entitled to a portion of any money recovered. An experienced False Claims Act lawyer can help you initiate a lawsuit.