Double dipping can get you into a lot of trouble. Everyone knows that once you bite into that French fry, it’s unseemly to dip it back into a shared container of ketchup. Double billing is one of the top medical billing errors that people receive on their statements. Naturally, it’s incorrect to be charged for the same procedure or medication twice. Nicole Steiner should have kept all of this in mind. She recently engaged in some illegal double dipping of her own.
As reported by the District of Connecticut branch of the United States Department of Justice this week, the 32 year-old, pleaded guilty to a health care fraud offense. However, it wasn’t Steiner’s first. As she made the guilty plea, she was awaiting sentencing in another health care fraud case.
Steiner entered her first guilty plea this past April.
Formerly known as Nicole Balkas, the Edison, New Jersey resident pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud back in April of 2021. It was related to her operation of Helping Hands Academy, LLC. Located in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the center provided applied behavior analysis services to children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It was enrolled as a participating provider in the Connecticut Medicaid Program.
“From December 2018 to October 2020, Steiner submitted and caused to be submitted fraudulent claims to Medicaid for applied behavior analysis services that were purportedly provided to Medicaid clients,” reports the DoJ, “She submitted claims for dates of service when no applied behavior analysis services of any kind had been provided to the Medicaid clients identified in the claims.”
Steiner also inflated numbers for otherwise legitimate claims.
When applied behavior analysis had been provided to the Medicaid clients identified in the claims, Steiner inflated the number of hours for many of them. As well, she submitted false Medicaid claims in 2020 using a former employee’s name and performing provider number.
Inevitably, the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) terminated Helping Hands Academy as a provider. DSS administers the Medicaid program in Connecticut. Even still, Steiner was relentless and continued to make several false statements. She submitted an altered document to DSS in order to rescind the termination and to receive payment for her previously submitted claims.
In all, Medicaid suffered a loss of $551,311.85 due to Steiner’s admitted conduct.
After entering her guilty plea, Steiner was released on a $50,000 bond. However, that wasn’t enough to deter her from committing more fraud. While awaiting sentencing in her case, Steiner was a silent partner in another company that provided applied behavior analysis services to children diagnosed with ASD. It was called New Beginnings Children’s Behavioral Health LLC.
“Steiner was responsible for billing claims to Medicaid, managing payroll, and recruiting and screening potential employees, and she and had access to and used her business partner’s email and other online accounts to operate the company,” the DoJ details, “Steiner and the company engaged in health care fraud by billing Medicaid for thousands of dollars in services not rendered and, in particular, billing for services not rendered by Steiner.”
Steiner was arrested on May 2, 2022.
She is scheduled to be sentenced on October 21, 2022 and faces maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years for the new case. Part of the sentencing must be imposed consecutively to the sentence she receives in her initial health care fraud case. Pending sentencing, concludes the DoJ report, Steiner is released on a $250,000 bond in home detention and under electronic monitoring.
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