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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DOJ Announces Settlement with EHR Company to Resolve Criminal and Civil Kickback Investigations Tied to Opioid Prescribing

On January 27, 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a $145 million settlement with Practice Fusion Inc., an electronic health records (EHR) software company that resolves parallel criminal and civil investigations involving allegations of kickbacks, false claims, and non-compliance with federal EHR program requirements. We previously discussed a preliminary settlement in this case here, and in announcing the finalizing of that settlement the DOJ has shed more light on the allegedly improper conduct at issue. According to the DOJ, this is the first criminal action ever brought against …

OCR Announces Second $85,000 Settlement for Alleged Violations of the Individual Right of Access under HIPAA

On December 12, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced its second “HIPAA Right of Access Initiative” settlement of alleged HIPAA violations.

The HIPAA Right of Access Initiative is a recent effort by OCR to monitor compliance with HIPAA requirements addressing patient rights to prompt access to medical records, in a readily producible format, without being subject to excessive fees. OCR announced its first settlement under the Right of Access Initiative in September 2019 (see our analysis of that settlement here), …

CMS Proposes to Newly Define Commercially Reasonable, and Tweak Definition of Fair Market Value, in New Physician Self-Referral Law (Stark Law) Regulations

On October 17, 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) formally published its proposed rule (PSR Rule) to update exceptions to the Physician Self-Referral Law (PSR Law, also known as the Stark Law). For our initial overview of the PSR Rule (and of the Office of Inspector General’s corresponding proposal to update the Anti-Kickback Statute) see here. The PSR Rule contains a number of important proposals to update the PSR Law, including putting forward a definition of the term “commercially reasonable” and revising the definition …

Government Releases Proposed Rules on Physician Self-Referral Law (Stark Law), Anti-Kickback Statute and CMP Law; Significant Regulatory Changes Intended to Encourage Care Coordination and Value-Based Care

On October 9, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its long-awaited proposals (the Proposed Rules) to update regulatory exceptions and safe harbors, for the federal Physician Self-Referral Law (also known as the Stark Law), the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), and the beneficiary inducement Civil Monetary Penalties Law (CMP). The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule to update exceptions to the Physician Self-Referral Law (the PSR Rule), and the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a proposed rule to update the …

DOJ Reaches $21.36 Million Agreement with Compounding Pharmacy, Two of its Executives, and Managing Private Equity Firm to Resolve FCA Allegations

On September 18, 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a $21.36 million settlement with compounding pharmacy Patient Care America (PCA), as well as PCA’s Chief Executive, PCA’s former Vice President of Operations, and a private equity firm (PE Firm) that managed PCA on behalf of investors. The settlement resolves a False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit alleging involvement in a kickback scheme designed to generate unnecessary referrals for prescription pain creams, scar creams, and vitamins reimbursed by TRICARE, the federal health care program for military members and their families. No …

Government Continues to Closely Scrutinize Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices

On September 4, 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a $15.4 million settlement with pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt ARD LLC (Mallinckrodt) to resolve alleged violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) in two whistleblower suits filed under the False Claims Act (FCA). The settlement addresses allegations of AKS violations between 2009-2013 by sales representatives of a company later acquired by Mallinckrodt via the “wining and dining” of physicians to induce Medicare prescriptions of that company’s drug. Interestingly, the settlements do not cover related allegations within those FCA suits that Mallinckrodt improperly …

Eleventh Circuit Endorses Objective Falsehood Standard for False Claims Cases Concerning Physician Judgment of Hospice Eligibility

“A mere difference of opinion between physicians, without more, is not enough to show falsity.”

In a 3-0 decision issued September 9, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a three-year-old district court ruling in United States v. AseraCare, Inc. that a Medicare claim for hospice services cannot be deemed false under the False Claims Act (FCA) based on a difference in clinical judgment. This decision – apparently the first circuit-level determination of the “standard for falsity [under the FCA] in the context of the Medicare …

For First Time Ever, Government Brings HIPAA Enforcement Action Alleging Violations of Right to Access Medical Records

On September 9, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that it had settled its first ever HIPAA enforcement action arising from alleged violations of the individual right to access health information under HIPAA. OCR entered into a settlement with Bayfront Health St. Petersburg (Bayfront) in response to allegations that it failed to provide a mother with timely access to medical records concerning her unborn child. Under the terms of a resolution agreement, Bayfront agreed to pay $85,000, and enter into a …

Spurred by Opioid Crisis, Government Proposes Additional Changes to Substance Use Disorder Confidentiality Regulations to Facilitate Provision of Coordinated Care

On August 26, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to “better align” its substance use disorder (SUD) confidentiality regulations at 42 C.F.R. Part 2 (Part 2) with the needs of providers and patients, and to “facilitate the provision of well-coordinated care” for individuals with SUD.…

Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine Makes Significant Changes to Regulations Governing Licensure and Practice of Medicine

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine (BORM) recently approved significant changes to regulations governing the licensure and practice of medicine. The new regulations became effective on August 9, 2019. Physicians and health care organizations in Massachusetts would be well-advised to review the updated regulations closely – among the new provisions are regulations that potentially will affect current practices regarding the delegation of services to non-licensed individuals, procedures for obtaining informed consent, and other aspects of medical practice.…

DOJ Intervenes in FCA Suit Against Spinal Device Manufacturer and Senior Executives that Allegedly Paid Kickbacks to Surgeons

In a complaint filed on July 22, 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (DOJ) intervened in a qui tam False Claims Act (FCA) suit against Life Spine Inc. (Life Spine), and senior executives of Life Spine. DOJ alleges that the company – a maker of spinal implants, devices and equipment – offered and paid kickbacks in the form of consulting fees, royalties, and intellectual property acquisition fees to surgeons to induce the use of its products in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS). DOJ …

Rhode Island Removes Supervision Requirements for PAs in Favor of Expanded “Collaboration” Standard for PA Practice

On July 15, 2019, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed into law “An Act Relating To Businesses and Professions – Physician Assistants” (H5572/S0443), which significantly revises the supervision requirements and expands certain aspects of the scope of practice for physician assistants (PAs) in Rhode Island, effective immediately. Among other things, the Act removes the current supervision requirements for PAs, changes the nature of the relationship between PAs and physicians to a “collaborative” arrangement, and removes the requirement that hospitals and other health care practices have written …

Eighth Circuit Affirms Preliminary Injunction Blocking Physician Practice Acquisition in North Dakota

On June 13, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a preliminary injunction granted to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and North Dakota Attorney General (NDAG) blocking the proposed acquisition of Mid-Dakota Clinic, P.C. (MDC) – a multispecialty physician group in North Dakota – by Sanford Health, a large South Dakota-based health system (Sanford). This decision may foreclose continued pursuit of MDC by Sanford, and represents another success for the FTC in challenging health care consolidation (see our previous analysis of the granting of the injunction …

DOJ Enters into $225 Million Settlement with Opioid Manufacturer to Resolve Criminal and Civil Investigations

On June 5, 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a global settlement with Insys Therapeutics (Insys) that preliminarily resolves criminal and civil cases against the opioid manufacturer in a number of jurisdictions. Under the terms of the settlement, Insys agreed to pay a total of $225 million – $195 million in civil remedies and $30 million in criminal restitution (comprising a $2 million fine and $28 million in forfeiture). In addition to the monetary penalties, Insys entered into a five year deferred prosecution agreement with DOJ, as well as …

Supreme Court Rejects HHS Proposal that Could Have Significantly Lowered Certain Medicare DSH Payments to Hospitals

In a 7-1 decision released June 3, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a proposal of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would have had the effect of significantly reducing Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments to thousands of hospitals for care furnished to low income patients in 2012.

In Azar v. Allina Health Services, Et Al., the Supreme Court held that HHS needed to comply with statutory notice and comment rulemaking procedures under the Social Security Act (Act) when making interpretive changes, because HHS sought …

OIG Issues Alert to Warn of ‘Free’ Genetic Testing Scams Seeking to Steal Information

On June 3, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a fraud alert to notify consumers about genetic testing fraud schemes (the Alert). According to the OIG, fraudulent actors are using the provision of free genetic testing kits to obtain Medicare information from unwitting consumers, and then using the stolen information for purposes of fraudulent billing and/or identity theft.…

OCR Issues Fact Sheet Listing Circumstances in which Business Associates May Face Direct Liability for HIPAA Violations

In a development that may – understandably – have been overlooked by many heading into Memorial Day weekend, on May 24, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Fact Sheet on Direct Liability of Business Associates under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The Fact Sheet provides an important reminder to covered entities, business associates, and their counselors regarding the circumstances in which OCR may – and may not – take enforcement actions directly against business associates for …

U.S. Supreme Court Clarifies Scope of False Claims Act Statutes of Limitations

In a unanimous decision issued on May 13, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court sought to resolve lingering confusion over the statute of limitations under the False Claims Act (FCA) for qui tam suits in which the federal government declines to intervene. In Cochise Consultancy, Inc. v. United States Ex Rel. Hunt, the Court held that a relator’s claim may be brought within 3 years after the government was made aware of underlying material claims, even where the government did not intervene in the case, because 10 years had not …

Seeking to Incentivize Self-Disclosures, DOJ Issues Guidance on Credit for Cooperation with FCA Investigations

On May 7, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) provided important new guidance addressing cooperation credit that may be available to defendants in False Claims Act (FCA) investigations (Guidance).  The Guidance – issued in the form of an update to DOJ’s Justice Manual – explains how defendants in an FCA investigation may be awarded credit by DOJ for certain disclosures, cooperation, and remedial activities.

The Guidance is intended to incentivize companies and individuals to (i) be forthcoming with the government upon discovery of potential FCA violations, (ii) aid ongoing …

Massachusetts Reaches $10 Million in Settlements Tied to Medicaid Billing for Home Health Services

On April 30, 2019, the Office of the Attorney General of Massachusetts (AG) announced that it had entered into two settlements totaling over $10 million with home health care companies to resolve allegations of submission of false claims to MassHealth – the Commonwealth’s Medicaid program. The AG entered into an $8.3 million settlement with Avenue Homecare Services of Dracut, and a $2.13 million settlement with Amigos Homecare of Lawrence, to resolve allegations that they billed MassHealth for unauthorized home health services.…

HHS Exercises Discretion to Reduce Maximum Annual Civil Money Penalties for Certain HIPAA Violations

On April 26, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Notification of Enforcement Discretion (Notice) regarding imposition of Civil Money Penalties (CMPs) under HIPAA. In the Notice, HHS announces that it has revisited its prior interpretation of the standards for assessment of CMPs under the HITECH Act, and is exercising its discretion to reduce the maximum amount of CMPs that may be assessed annually for HIPAA violations based on culpability.

The official version of the Notice is dated April 30, 2019 and is available here

OCR Issues Five New HIPAA FAQs on Health Information Apps

On April 18, 2019, the Department of Health & Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued five new FAQs addressing the applicability of HIPAA to the use of software applications (apps) by individuals to receive health information from their providers.

The new FAQs are available here under the Header “Access Right, Apps and APIs.”

In the FAQs, OCR:

  • Emphasizes that an individual’s right to access her/his protected health information (“PHI” or “ePHI”) under HIPAA generally obligates a covered entity to send PHI to a designated app, even if the

Texas Health System MD Anderson Seeks 5th Circuit Review of HHS Determination that HIPAA Required Encryption of its ePHI

On April 8, 2019, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDA) filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit seeking review of a decision by the Department of Health & Human Services’s (HHS) Departmental Appeals Board (DAB) Appellate Division to uphold $4.35 million in civil money penalties (CMPs) assessed against MDA by HHS for alleged violations of HIPAA’s Security and Privacy Rules.

The DAB’s decision, issued on February 8, 2019, affirmed a 2018 decision by an Administrative Law Judge that sustained CMPs issued …

OIG Approves of Free In-Home Follow-Up Care Program Targeting High Risk CHF and COPD Patients in Advisory Opinion

On March 6, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a favorable advisory opinion that allows a nonprofit medical center (“Center”) to offer free, in-home follow-up care after a recent hospital admission for qualifying patients (the “In-Home Program”). In Advisory Opinion No. 19-03, the OIG concluded that although services furnished to qualifying patients under the In-Home Program would constitute remuneration to patients under the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and the Civil Monetary Penalties law (CMP), the OIG would not impose sanctions on the …

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