Group Practice to Pay $1.85 Million Settlement Tied to Allegations of Improper Unbundled Billing

On February 25, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a settlement with a urology group practice to settle allegations of False Claims Act (FCA) violations tied to the alleged submission of improperly unbundled Medicare claims. The pursuit and settlement of this FCA suit by the DOJ represents at least the second recent enforcement action targeting allegations of improper unbundled billing of services to Medicare, and may therefore indicate heightened governmental interest in those billing practices. See here for our analysis of the previous unbundled billing case. Continue Reading

Department of Justice Intervenes in False Claims Act Suit, Adding Reimbursement Consultant Defendant

On February 19, 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had intervened in a False Claims Act (FCA) whistleblower suit filed against Arriva Medical LLC (Arriva) and its parent that allegedly involves the submission of false claims for medically unnecessary glucometers, and alleged kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries in the form of free glucometers and copayment waivers.  This intervention is particularly noteworthy for the fact that in addition to joining the suit, DOJ announced that it was adding a reimbursement consultant used by Arriva as a defendant to the FCA suit. Continue Reading

Department of Justice Announces Significant False Claims Act Settlements Tied to Electronic Health Records Arrangements

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced two high-dollar False Claims Act (FCA) enforcement actions involving allegedly fraudulent arrangements tied to the implementation and use of electronic health record systems (EHRs). The respective settlements enable recovery by DOJ of over $100 million, and immediately precede the government’s recent proposal of new rules to promote the interoperability of EHRs. The settlements thus serve as an important reminder of the importance of adhering to federal fraud and abuse laws and regulations as hospitals and other health care providers continue to implement EHR technology. Continue Reading

HHS Proposes to Amend AKS Safe Harbors to Exclude PBM Rebates and Incentivize Consumer Drug Discounts

On February 6, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a proposed rule (Proposed Rule) that would amend the safe harbor regulations under the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute. The Proposed Rule is intended to “address the modern prescription drug distribution model” and make sure that the safe harbors “extend only to arrangements that present a low risk of harm to the Federal health care programs and beneficiaries.” Specifically, in the Proposed Rule OIG proposes to alter the definition of  “discounts” under the so-called “discounts safe harbor” at 42 C.F.R. § 1001.952(h) to exclude from protection any reductions in price or other remuneration offered by pharmaceutical drug manufacturers to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), Part D plan sponsors, or Medicaid managed care organizations. Additionally, the Proposed Rule proposes and solicits comment on two new safe harbor provisions: one aimed at reducing the price of pharmaceuticals where reductions in price are reflected at the point of sale to a beneficiary, and a second that would protect certain fixed fee services arrangements between manufacturers and PBMs. Continue Reading

OIG Advisory Opinion No. 19-02 Allows Pharmaceutical Manufacturer to Temporarily Loan Smartphones to Financially Needy Patients to Receive Data from a Digestible Medication Sensor

On January 24, 2019, the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) issued a favorable advisory opinion allowing a pharmaceutical manufacturer (“Manufacturer”) to temporarily loan limited-functionality smartphones to financially needy patients who lack the required technology to receive adherence data from a sensor embedded in a prescribed antipsychotic medication (“the Arrangement”). The OIG concluded that the Arrangement did not constitute grounds for penalties under the Civil Monetary Penalties law (“CMP”) and that although the Arrangement could potentially cause remuneration under the Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”), the OIG would not impose sanctions on the Manufacturer as related to the Arrangement based on the low-risk nature of the Arrangement. Continue Reading

CMS Finalizes Overhaul of the Medicare Shared Savings Program in “Pathways to Success” Final Rule

On December 31, 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a final rule (Final Rule) establishing the “Pathways to Success” program that overhauls the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). The Final Rule largely mirrors CMS’ proposed rule (see our summary here), but with several modifications in response to public comments. Accountable care organizations (ACOs) may participate in the Pathways to Success program beginning July 1, 2019, and those ACOs interested in beginning participation in July must submit to CMS a notice of intent to apply by January 18, 2019. CMS guidance on submission of the NOIA is available here. CMS expects to release application deadlines in the near future.

Significant features of the Pathways to Success program, which are described in detail below, include:

  • Replacement of Track 1, Track 2 and Track 3 with two participation options: the BASIC track (consisting of five levels) and ENHANCED track (similar to the current Track 3),
  • Creation of a “glide path” that requires ACOs to incrementally accept performance-based downside risk over the agreement period,
  • Requiring ACOs experienced with downside risk to assume downside risk, while allowing inexperienced ACOs an option to begin participation with no downside risk before advancing to riskier models,
  • Replacement of the previous three-year participation agreement period with a five-year period,
  • Creation of a six-month performance year from July 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019 to coincide with the one-time mid-year start date,
  • Revisions to the benchmarking methodology to incorporate regional trends from the beginning of an ACO’s participation in the MSSP,
  • Expansion of ACOs’ use of telehealth and availability of the SNF Three-Day Rule Waiver, and
  • Ability for ACOs to provide monetary incentives to encourage beneficiaries to receive certain primary care services.

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OIG Advisory Opinion Allows Charitable Pediatric Clinic to Provide Routine Cost-Sharing Waivers

On January 14, 2019, the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) published the favorable Advisory Opinion 19-01 allowing a charitable pediatric clinic (“Clinic”) to routinely waive cost-sharing amounts for patients in financial need (“Arrangement”). OIG noted that the Arrangement did not meet the regulatory exception for permitted waivers of cost sharing amounts under the Civil Monetary Penalties Law (CMP), but ultimately decided not to impose administrative sanctions in connection with the Arrangement. Continue Reading

Connecticut Superior Court Ruling Addresses 2016 Physician Non-Compete Law

Connecticut’s Superior Court Stamford recently ruled to modify four physician non-compete agreements into compliance with Connecticut’s physician non-compete statute (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 20-14p), which limits certain covenants not to complete involving physicians to one year after employment and in a 15-mile geographic radius from the physician’s primary practice site, among other restrictions. Importantly, the Connecticut non-compete statute applies to non-competes that are “entered into, amended, extended or renewed on or after July 1, 2016.” Continue Reading

HHS Issues Cybersecurity Practices for Health Care Industry

Just before the new year, the Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS) released voluntary cybersecurity practices for health care organizations, which consists of a main document, two technical volumes, and resources and templates that were compiled by more than 150 cybersecurity and health care experts. Continue Reading

DOJ Enters Into $12.5 Million Settlement with For-Profit Health System and its CEO in Connection with Improper Unbundled Billing

On December 11, 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (DOJ) announced that it had entered into a $12.5 million dollar settlement with Pennsylvania-based health system Coordinated Health Holding Company, LLC and its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), to resolve allegations of improper billing for orthopedic procedures. Under the terms of the settlement, the CEO (who is also the founder and principal owner of the for-profit system) agreed to pay $1.25 million dollars personally, and the health system entered into a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with DOJ requiring regular monitoring of its billing practices. Continue Reading

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