Archives: Department of Justice

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HHS Extends Compliance Deadline for Providers Receiving CARES Act Provider Relief Funds and Reminds Providers of June 3 Deadline Related to Additional Relief Fund Payments

On May 22, 2020 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a 45-day extension of the deadline for providers who receive payments from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund to accept the Terms and Conditions attached to such payments. Providers now have up to 90 days from the date a payment is received to accept the Terms and Conditions or return the funds to HHS.  In its announcement, HHS reiterated its prior position that “Providers that do not accept the Terms and Conditions after 90 days of …

OIG Will Not Impose Administrative Sanctions for AKS Violations for Conduct Covered by Certain Blanket Waivers of the Stark Law

On April 3, 2020 the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a Policy Statement to notify health care providers and other parties subject to the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) that the OIG will not impose administrative sanctions for potential AKS violations for COVID-19-related arrangements that are covered by some – but not all – of the Blanket Waivers of the Physician Self-Referral (Stark) Law issued on March 30 (see here for our analysis of the Blanket Waivers).…

DOJ and FTC Issue Joint Statement on Antitrust Enforcement and the COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 24, 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a joint statement on COVID-19-related antitrust enforcement highlighting ways “firms, including competitors, can engage in procompetitive collaboration that does not violate the antitrust laws” to protect public health and safety. The DOJ and FTC emphasized their commitment to facilitating antitrust compliance for businesses that are responding to the national emergency. In furtherance of this position, the agencies gave examples of collaborative activities designed to improve health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic that are unlikely …

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 …

DOJ and FTC Announce Draft Vertical Merger Guidelines

On January 10, 2020, The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced new draft vertical merger guidelines for public comment. Once finalized, the draft guidelines will replace the DOJ’s 1984 Non-Horizontal Merger Guidelines and describe how the FTC and the DOJ will analyze and enforce vertical mergers for compliance with the antitrust laws. Vertical mergers combine two or more companies operating at different levels of the same supply chain, e.g., a combination between a hospital and independent physician group, or a health system and a skilled nursing …

DOJ Reaches Settlement with Patient Assistance Foundation Resolving Allegations of FCA Violations

On January 21, 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a $3 million settlement with Patient Services, Inc. (PSI) to resolve allegations of False Claims Act (FCA) violations. The DOJ alleged that PSI enabled three pharmaceutical companies to pay kickbacks to patients by funneling money to patients taking drugs manufactured by those same pharmaceutical companies. In addition to the $3 million, PSI has entered into a three-year integrity agreement with Health and Human Services’s Office of the Inspector General. The settlement involved no determination of liability.…

DOJ Announces $26.67 Million Settlement with Laboratory to Resolve FCA Allegations

On November 26, 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a $26.67 million settlement with a laboratory testing corporation, Boston Heart Diagnostics Corporation (Boston Heart). The settlement resolves allegations of False Claims Act (FCA) violations related to alleged payments for patient referrals in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and the Physician Self-Referral Law (PSR Law) – commonly known as the Stark Law – and other improper billing.…

DOJ Announces Physician Self-Referral (Stark) Law Settlement in Excess of $46 Million with California Health System and Surgical Group

On November 15, 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had reached a settlement with Sutter Health (Sutter) and Sacramento Cardiovascular Surgeons Medical Group Inc. (Sac Cardio) to resolve alleged violations of the Physician Self-Referral Law (PSR Law), commonly known as the Stark Law. Sutter is a California-based health services provider; Sac Cardio is a Sacramento-based practice group of three cardiovascular surgeons. The total settlement in excess of $46 million includes $30.5 million from Sutter to resolve allegations of an improper financial relationship specific to compensation arrangements with Sac …

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 …

Allscripts Announces $145 Million Preliminary Settlement with DOJ Related to an Investigation of Practice Fusion, a Recently Acquired EHR Company

In its second quarter Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, Allscripts addressed its announced agreement in principle with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to resolve investigations into certain alleged practices of Practice Fusion, an electronic health records (EHR) vendor acquired by Allscripts in February 2018 for $100 million. Allscripts indicated the agreement is still subject to further negotiation and government approval, and would likely include additional non-monetary terms, including a deferred prosecution agreement, if a finalized settlement is reached.…

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 …

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 …

Series of 2019 Enforcement Actions Highlight Continued Federal and State Scrutiny of Health Care Billing in Connecticut

Since the beginning of 2019, federal and state authorities in Connecticut have announced a number of enforcement actions targeting alleged health care fraud in the state. These cases are a reminder to providers of heightened criminal and civil scrutiny of arrangements implicating health care fraud and abuse laws in the state, and also reflect the extensive federal-state cooperation between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Office of the Attorney General (AG) in investigating fraud and abuse. That federal-state cooperation is part of Connecticut’s Interagency Fraud Task Force, an initiative started …

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.…

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 …

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 …

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 …

In Amicus Brief, Government Discourages Supreme Court Review of Pro-Relator Ninth Circuit FCA Decision, but Pledges to Seek Dismissal of Case Upon Remand

On November 30, 2018, the Solicitor General of the United States filed a long-awaited amicus brief in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s request for the government’s view of the False Claims Act (FCA) case U.S. ex rel. Campie v. Gilead Sciences, Inc. (see here for previous analysis of the Ninth Circuit decision in the case, and here for discussion of the Supreme Court’s request).

In its brief, the Solicitor General states that the conclusion of the Ninth Circuit – that “the fact of continued government payments did not by …

Ninth Circuit Issues Long-Awaited Interpretation of Escobar Two-Part Test

In late August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a long-awaited decision in U.S. ex rel. Rose v. Stephens Institute that interprets key aspects of the implied false certification theory of False Claims Act (FCA) liability under the Supreme Court’s 2016 Escobar decision. As the Ninth Circuit explains in its decision, Escobar “unsettled” Ninth Circuit law related to the standard for proving falsity and materiality in an FCA case. The Ninth Circuit therefore sought to reconcile its precedents with Escobar in Rose, which was before …

Private Equity Firm Named as Defendant in False Claims Act Case Targeting A Portfolio Company

A recent complaint filed by the United States Department of Justice against a private equity firms regarding an alleged kickback further illustrates new concerns private equity should be aware of in the healthcare arena and working with counsel to mitigate such concerns.  A February 23, 2018 press release from the DOJ regarding United States ex rel. Medrano and Lopez v. Diabetic Care Rx, LLC dba Patient Care America, et al., No. 15-CV-62617 (S.D. Fla.), available here, describes how the complaint was made against a pharmacy, several of its executives …

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.…

Seeking Dismissal of False Claims Qui Tam Actions – Seven Factors Clarify the Standard of Dismissal Used By the Department of Justice

The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Division (Department)  issued a Memo dated January 10, 2018 (Granston Memo), directing Department of Justice attorneys to more seriously consider dismissing False Claims Act (FCA) cases filed by whistleblowers.  The Granston Memo enumerated several factors that prosecutors should consider when evaluating dismissal of qui tam actions.   As the number of qui tam actions filed under the False Claims Act has substantially increased, the Granston Memo is an important tool in response to the strained government resources needed to evaluate, participate, and/or monitor these cases. …

“Brand Memo” from the U.S. Department of Justice: Reading Between the Lines

On January 25, 2018, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand issued a memo on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prohibiting certain DOJ uses of federal agency guidance documents in affirmative civil enforcement (ACE) cases (the “Brand Memo”). ACE cases include lawsuits brought by the DOJ on behalf of the United States to recover money lost to fraud or other misconduct, or to impose penalties for violations of Federal health, safety, civil rights or environmental laws, for example, False Claims Act enforcement by the DOJ.

The “Brand …

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