Conor Duffy

Conor Duffy

Conor Duffy is a member of Robinson+Cole’s Health Law Group and the firm’s Data Privacy + Security Team. Mr. Duffy advises hospitals, physician groups, accountable care organizations, community providers, post-acute care providers, and other health care entities on general corporate matters and health care issues. He provides legal counsel on a full range of transactional and regulatory health law issues, including contracting, licensure, mergers and acquisitions, the False Claims Act, the Stark Law, Medicare and Medicaid fraud and abuse laws and regulations, HIPAA compliance, state breach notification requirements, and other health care regulatory matters. Read his full rc.com bio here.

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One-Two Punch: On Consecutive Days, DOJ Announces High Dollar Fraud and Abuse Settlements with Hospitals

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced two significant False Claims Act (FCA) settlements in recent days that signal continued close government scrutiny of billing, coding and referral practices at hospitals.

On August 2, DOJ announced an $84.5 million dollar settlement with Michigan-based health system William Beaumont Hospital. The settlement resolves allegations of non-compliance with the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and Stark Law arising from “improper relationships with eight referring physicians” that led to the submission of false claims to government health care programs.

DOJ alleged that the defendant provided compensation substantially …

DOJ Enters Into Largest-Ever Civil Settlement with Hospital for Drug Diversion

On May 16, 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia announced that it had entered into the “largest hospital drug diversion civil penalty settlement in U.S. History” in the amount of $4.1 million dollars.  The settlement with a Georgia hospital resolves allegations that the hospital “failed to provide effective controls and procedures to guard against theft and loss of controlled substances” that resulted in tens of thousands of 30mg oxycodone tablets being unaccounted for and believed to have been diverted for illegal uses over a four …

DOJ Intervenes in False Claims Act Case Against Insys Therapeutics

The Department of Justice (DOJ), recently intervened in a civil False Claims Act (FCA) case filed against Insys Therapeutics, Inc. (Insys) in the Central District of California that alleges FCA violations arising from the payment of kickbacks in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) as well as other fraudulent activities. Insys is an embattled Arizona-based pharmaceutical manufacturer of a highly-addictive sublingual opioid spray known as Subsys, and is currently the subject of a number of criminal and civil suits ongoing across the country (certain of which were consolidated into this …

DOJ Announces Criminal Conviction of Physician for HIPAA Violation

On April 30, 2018 a Massachusetts physician was convicted of a criminal violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), as well as one count of obstruction of a criminal health care investigation, in a Massachusetts federal court. The convictions relate to the purported sharing of confidential patient information by the physician with pharmaceutical sales representatives that allowed the pharmaceutical company to target patients with specific conditions (and to correspondingly facilitate the receipt of prior authorizations for the company’s drugs from patients’ insurers).…

Supreme Court Order Indicates Interest in Reviewing Campie, the False Claims Act Outlier of the Ninth Circuit

In an order issued on April 16, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court invited the Solicitor General to file a brief “expressing the views of the United States” concerning the 2017 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the False Claims Act (FCA) case U.S. ex rel. Campie v. Gilead Sciences, Inc. (see our previous analysis of the case here). The Campie case is noteworthy because it created a split among the circuit courts as to the scope of the “government knowledge” defense to materiality …

Fifth Circuit Reinstates Provider’s Collateral Challenge to the Medicare Appeal Process

On March 27, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that a health care provider can seek an injunction in federal court against recoupment by Medicare of alleged overpayments despite not exhausting its administrative appeal remedies, in part because the current delay in scheduling of hearings before an Administrative Law Judge could cause the provider to go out of business before it has an opportunity to exhaust its administrative challenge of the recoupment. This decision could provide a template for other providers facing significant …

Government and Microsoft In Agreement that Pending Case Mooted by CLOUD Act

On March 30, 2018, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Microsoft Corporation that seeks to vacate the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the case (which held in favor of Microsoft) and to remand the case with directions to dismiss it as moot. The motion was submitted in response to the passage of the CLOUD Act on March 23, 2018, and the Solicitor General’s subsequent letter to the Court on that same date …

Congress Enacts CLOUD Act within Omnibus Spending Bill to Address Overseas Storage of Electronic Data, Potentially Mooting Supreme Court’s Pending Microsoft Case

On March 23, 2018, the President signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 (H.R. 1625), an omnibus spending bill that includes the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (the CLOUD Act). Among other provisions, the CLOUD Act amends the Stored Communications Act of 1986 (18 U.S.C. §§ 2701-2712, hereinafter the SCA) by adding a new § 2713 which states as follows:…

State Enforcement Actions Demonstrate Continued Scrutiny of Health Care Fraud

A series of criminal and civil enforcement actions announced in recent weeks demonstrate the continued attention that state regulators throughout the Northeast are placing on health care fraud. These actions, and the significant sanctions imposed by courts and the government, can serve as a reminder that violators of health care fraud laws are subject to scrutiny at both the federal and state levels (often simultaneously), and that such violations can create exposure to significant civil and criminal penalties.…

Recent Anti-Kickback Cases Emphasize Government Scrutiny of Speaker’s Bureaus and Lavish Meals Funded by Pharmaceutical and Device Manufacturers

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently resolved two health care fraud cases – one criminal and one civil – that demonstrate the government’s continued scrutiny of lavish meals and “speaker’s bureaus” sponsored by pharmaceutical and device manufacturers as potential avenues for the payment of kickbacks to physicians for referrals of health care items and services. These cases indicate the criminal and civil risk that providing lavish meals or purported speaker’s bureau payment can pose, and the corresponding need to proactively assess the legitimacy of such programs and events.…

Dumpster Diving Leads to $100,000 Fine for Defunct Business Associate Due to Improper Disposal of Medical Records

On February 13, 2018, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced a $100,000 settlement with a court-appointed receiver representing Filefax, Inc. (Filefax) arising from the 2015 discovery of medical records that contained protected health information (PHI) of over two thousand individuals in a dumpster. Filefax, a now-defunct medical records moving and storage company located in Illinois, acted as a business associate under HIPAA.

OCR initiated an investigation in February, 2015, after receiving an anonymous complaint concerning medical records that had been discovered and delivered to a facility for shredding …

Escobar Compels Florida District Court to Overturn $350 Million Jury Verdict Arising from Claims of Inadequate Documentation

Last month, a U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida overturned judgments totaling $347,864,285 returned by a jury under the federal False Claims Act (FCA) and Florida’s state equivalent against the owners and operators of 53 specialized nursing facilities in Florida, determining that the plaintiffs’ allegations failed to satisfy the “demanding” and “rigorous” materiality standard endorsed by the Supreme Court in its 2016 Escobar decision. In an order released January 11, 2018, the District Court reversed the jury’s conclusions and granted the defendants judgment as a matter of …

CMS Announces Change to Student Documentation Requirement Intended to Reduce Burden on Teaching Physicians

On February 2, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released Transmittal 3971 (Change Request 10412), which revises a section of the Medicare Claims Processing Manual (Manual), that provides guidance regarding billing for Evaluation and Management (E/M) services involving students.  According to CMS, the Change Request is part of a broader goal to reduce the administrative burden on practitioners.…

CMS Considers 7-Day Limit on Initial Opioid Prescriptions under Part D

In a Draft Call Letter issued February 1, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it is considering a number of new strategies to address opioid overutilization within the Medicare Part D program.  CMS is particularly concerned with chronic overuse among beneficiaries taking high levels of prescription opioids (e.g., beneficiaries prescribed opioids with a 90 morphine milligram equivalent (MME) dose or higher per day), beneficiaries with multiple prescribers, and “opioid naïve” patients (i.e., patients newly prescribed opioids).

CMS’s strategies include consideration of a 7-day supply limit …

Connecticut Supreme Court Recognizes Common-Law Cause of Action for Unauthorized Disclosure of Confidential Medical Information

In a long-awaited decision concerning the confidentiality of medical records and patient privacy, the Connecticut Supreme Court recently concluded that the physician-patient relationship establishes a duty of confidentiality to a patient in Connecticut, and that unauthorized disclosure of confidential information obtained for the purpose of treatment in the course of that relationship gives rise to a cause of action in tort, unless the disclosure is otherwise permitted by law.

In Byrne v. Avery Center for Obstetrics and Gynecology, P.C., the Court considered – for a second time – the …

REMINDER: Annual Reporting Deadline Approaches for Connecticut Hospitals and Hospital Systems

Hospitals and hospital systems in Connecticut must file annual reports by January 15, 2018 describing (1) the activities of their group practices (e.g., medical foundations or faculty practice plans), and (2) their respective affiliations with other hospitals or hospital systems.

Under Section 19a-486i of the Connecticut General Statutes, hospitals and hospital systems in Connecticut are obligated to file the separate reports in writing on an annual basis with the Connecticut Attorney General (AG) and Department of Public Health (DPH).  Previously, the reports had been due by December 31 each year, …

CMS Approves Laboratory Alerts to Physicians in Rare Stark Law Advisory Opinion

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a rare advisory opinion (CMS-AO-2017-1) under the Stark Law (Section 1877 of the Social Security Act, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1395) earlier this fall, addressing a proposed arrangement under which a web-based diagnostic testing portal sought to provide referring physicians with free alerts related to test results.…

FTC Granted Preliminary Injunction to Block Physician Practice Acquisition

On December 13, 2017 a magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota granted a request of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and North Dakota Attorney General to preliminarily enjoin Sanford Health from completing its proposed acquisition (via its subsidiary Sanford Bismarck) of Mid Dakota Clinic, P.C., a multispecialty physician practice located in and around the cities of Bismarck and Mandan, North Dakota (see our previous analysis of the FTC’s decision to intervene here).…

Fourth and Fifth Circuits Rely on Escobar to Render Important Fraud Decisions

Recent decisions in the Fourth and Fifth Circuit Courts of Appeals demonstrate the central role that the Supreme Court’s Escobar decision continues to play in fraud litigation despite, or as a result of, continued uncertainty as to the application of the “rigorous” and “demanding” materiality standard endorsed in that decision. The decisions discussed below provide additional circuit-level guidance for litigants, but also raise additional questions as to the scope of the Escobar ruling and the efficacy of the implied false certification theory of FCA liability.

First, on September 29, 2017 …

Ninth Circuit Relies on Escobar to Revive False Claims Act Suit Against Pharmaceutical Manufacturer

On July 7, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a federal district court’s dismissal of a False Claims Act (FCA) whistleblower suit in United States ex rel. Campie v. Gilead Sciences, explaining that the district court did not have “the benefit of” the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Escobar at the time the suit was dismissed for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).…

Third Circuit Recognizes Escobar “Heightened Materiality Standard” in Dismissal of False Claims Act Case Tied to Avastin

In May 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit relied on the “heightened materiality standard” endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2016 Escobar decision in dismissing a False Claims Act (FCA) whistleblower suit filed against pharmaceutical giant Genentech related to its billion dollar cancer drug Avastin. In Escobar, the Supreme Court upheld the validity—“at least in some circumstances”—of the “implied false certification” theory of FCA liability, and provided that this theory can attach where at least two conditions are met: a defendant must (1) …

FTC Intervenes in Physician Practice Acquisition in North Dakota

On June 22, 2017 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed an administrative complaint and a request for a preliminary injunction in federal court to block a proposed physician practice acquisition in North Dakota (the Transaction), the agency’s latest intervention in opposition to consolidation at the physician practice level. In this case, the FTC (accompanied by the Attorney General of North Dakota) opposes a proposed acquisition of Mid Dakota Clinic, P.C. (MDC) by Sanford Bismarck (a subsidiary of multi-state health system Sanford Health, collectively Sanford) on the grounds that the Transaction, …

Anthem Terminates Cigna Merger Following D.C. Circuit Setback

On May 12, 2017, Anthem Inc. announced that it had terminated its merger agreement with Cigna Corporation, a deal that would have united the second and third largest sellers of health insurance to large companies in the country. Anthem’s termination of the merger came two weeks to the day after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected Anthem’s appeal of an injunction blocking the merger issued by a U.S. District Court earlier this year. Anthem terminated the merger one week after filing a petition for a writ …

Court Rejects Health Care System’s Efforts to Dismiss Government’s Anti-Steering Managed Care Antitrust Case

On March 30, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina rejected a motion for judgment on the pleadings (akin to a motion to dismiss) by Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) in a novel health care antitrust suit brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and State of North Carolina (collectively, the Government).

The Government filed suit against CHS, a health system consisting of 10 hospitals in and around Charlotte, North Carolina, in June 2016, alleging that contractual provisions mandated by CHS in its contracts with health …

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