Archives: Fraud and Abuse

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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 …

CMS issues Request for Information on the burdens the Stark Law may Impose on Care Coordination

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking input from the public on the burden the Stark Law may impose on patient care and recommendations on how to address any undue impact, specifically on care coordination.

The Stark Law, also known as the physician self-referral law, prohibits a physician from making referrals of a Medicare of Medicaid patient to an entity providing designated health services with which he or she (or an immediate family member) has a financial interest.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma …

OIG Posts Telemedicine Advisory Opinion

The Office of Inspector General (OIG), Health and Human Services issued an Advisory Opinion allowing an arrangement proposed by a federally qualified health center look-alike (FQHC look-alike) to provide free technology items and services to a clinic run by a county Department of Health (County Clinic), that would facilitate telemedicine encounters (the Arrangement).  Although the OIG found that the Arrangement could potentially implicate the anti-kickback statute (AKS), the OIG concluded that it would not impose administrative sanctions.…

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 …

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 …

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 …

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.…

Bipartisan Budget Act Revises Stark Law, Increases Penalties for AKS and CMP Law Violations, and Expands Telehealth Coverage

On February 9, 2018, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (the Act), which included a number of important health law provisions..

AKS and CMP Violations

Under the Act, Congress doubled the statutory civil fines for certain violations of the Anti-kickback Statue (AKS) and adjusted certain fines under the Civil Monetary Penalty (CMP) Law. The Act also increased the maximum criminal penalty from $25,000 to $100,000 and increased the maximum incarceration period from five years to ten years.…

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.…

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.…

“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 …

CMS Issues Temporary Enrollment Moratorium on Home Health Agencies and Non-Emergency Ambulances in Selected States

On January 29, 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a temporary moratorium on enrolling Part B non-emergency ambulance providers/suppliers and home health agencies, subunits and branch locations in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  CMS is taking this measure “to prevent and combat fraud, waste and abuse.”  The moratorium also extends to the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP).  According to CMS, the action is taken pursuant to Sections 1866(j)(7), 1902(kk)(4), and 2107(e)(1)(D) of the Social Security Act and CMS regulations at 42 …

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.…

OIG Rescinds Advisory Opinion Due to Requestor’s Failure to Disclose Information

On November 28, 2017, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) rescinded advisory opinion 06-04, in which it had previously determined that a charity’s (Requestor) proposal to provide assistance to financially needy Medicare beneficiaries did not warrant the imposition of sanctions. The OIG explained that “public interest requires rescission” after finding that Requestor failed to comply with earlier factual certifications that were material to the original advisory opinion.

Under the program, the Requestor provides assistance with premiums and cost-sharing obligations for patients with two specific chronic diseases. Most of the …

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 Denies Arbitration in a False Claims Act Case

On September 11, 2017, the Ninth Circuit in US and State of Nevada ex rel. Welch v. My Left Foot Children’s Therapy, LLC, upheld the denial of the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration in a False Claims Act (FCA) relator case, holding that an employee-relator’s FCA claims did not fall within the scope of the arbitration agreement with her former employer.  The FCA claims were based on allegations that the employer had filed fraudulent Medicaid claims.

The Court first looked to the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) in determining that …

OIG Issues Advisory Opinion to Pharmacy

On September 7, 2017, the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued an Advisory Opinion to the owner of a retail pharmacy chain (Pharmacy) that would allow Federal health care program beneficiaries to participate in a paid membership program (Program).  The Program would include discounts and rebates on certain prescriptions and, where offered, on selected clinic services.

The Program was being offered previously to customers who satisfied certain eligibility criteria and paid an annual fee to join, but Federal program beneficiaries had not been permitted to enroll. In seeking the …

House Bipartisan Act Would Amend Stark Law and Medicare Part B

On July 25, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by voice vote a bipartisan bill which is now in the Senate’s hands for consideration, the Medicare Part B Improvement Act of 2017. The bill would amend the Stark Law (Section 1877(h)(1) of the Social Security Act) and impact other provisions governing Medicare Part B.

The bill would amend the Stark Law:

  • to provide that the writing requirement for certain compensation arrangements may be satisfied by means determined by the HHS Secretary, including “a collection of documents, including contemporaneous

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).…

New OIG Advisory Opinion Allows Waiver of Cost Sharing in Research Studies

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently issued Advisory Opinion 17-02, allowing waivers or reductions of cost-sharing amounts owed by financially needy Medicare beneficiaries in connection with certain clinical research studies conducted at a non-profit medical center.  In the advisory opinion, the OIG reiterated its longstanding concern about routine waivers of Medicare beneficiary cost-sharing amounts in the absence of financial hardship, and noted this can lead to liability under the anti-kickback statute (AKS).  The research studies were conducted utilizing protocols under the Medicare Coverage with Evidence Development (CED) framework …

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