Government Enforcement

On June 30, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the 2022-2023 California state budget, which included a trailer bill, Senate Bill 184 (the Bill) which makes numerous statutory revisions impacting health programs and consumers. The Bill establishes the Office of Health Care Affordability (OHCA) within the Department of Health Care Access and Information to combat rising health care costs. California will join other states such as Massachusetts, Oregon, and Nevada in implementing a health care cost commission.

Continue Reading California Governor Signs Trailer Bill to State Budget Increasing Oversight of Health Care Entities Statewide

This fall, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill No. 2673 (the Bill), which amends various sections of the California Health and Safety Code relating to hospice agencies. Among other things, the Bill prohibits hospice agency license transfers; adds requirements for hospice agency license applicants; increases oversight authority by the California State Department of Public Health (the Department); and updates the moratorium on new hospice agency licenses.

Continue Reading California Governor Signs Bill Further Increasing Oversight of Hospice Agencies

On December 27, 2022, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule (Proposed Rule) which proposes certain policy and technical changes to Medicare regulations, including a notable change to the current standard under the “60-Day Rule” for identifying a Medicare overpayment. Specifically, CMS indicated that it is proposing to (i) “adopt by reference” the federal False Claims Act’s (FCA) definitions of “knowing” and “knowingly” as governing when an overpayment is identified, and (ii) eliminate the “reasonable diligence” standard that has been in place, but subject to challenges, for a number of years.

Continue Reading No More Reasonable Diligence? CMS Proposes to Change Standard for Identifying Medicare Overpayments to Align with False Claims Act

As the year comes to a close, the government has signaled a specific focus on clinical laboratories for 2023.  On December 6, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a Report entitled, “Labs With Questionably High Billing for Additional Tests Alongside COVID-19 Tests Warrant Further Scrutiny” (Report).  The Report discusses why the study pertaining to the billing of additional tests alongside COVID-19 testing was conducted, how it was conducted, and what the key takeaways of the study are.  This was followed by OIG’s issuance in mid-December of a Data Brief reviewing Medicare Part B spending on lab tests entitled, “Medicare Part B Spending on Lab Tests Increased in 2021, Driven by Higher Volume of COVID-19 Tests, Genetic Tests and Chemistry Tests” (Data Brief). 

Continue Reading OIG Issues Reports Reviewing Laboratory Billing Practices and Noting Increased Spending by Medicare Part B on Laboratory Tests

On December 9, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (OIG) (collectively, the Agencies) formalized their long-standing partnership to fight anti-competitive conduct in healthcare markets by signing a memorandum of understanding (the MOU) to enhance cross-agency collaboration.  Although the Agencies have conducted parallel investigations in the past, the timing of the MOU indicates that health care industries will receive increased scrutiny from both in 2023.  Companies can proactively mitigate this risk with thorough compliance training that explains what constitutes misconduct and the grave civil and criminal penalties that can ensue.    

Continue Reading Timing is Everything:  The Antitrust Division and OIG Sign Cross-Agency Agreement as Government Investigations Are Expected to Surge

On October 17, 2022, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a $13 million settlement with health care services provider Sutter Health, which arose from alleged violations of the federal False Claims Act (FCA).  These alleged FCA violations relate to Sutter Health billing the United States for toxicology screening tests performed by other labs.

Continue Reading DOJ Announces $13 Million Settlement Related to Improper Billing for Lab Tests

On September 6, 2022, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) published Advisory Opinion 22-17 (Advisory Opinion), in which it declined to impose sanctions against a regional 501(c)(3) not-for-profit health care system that operates four hospitals (Health System) and a clinic that provide services to geographic areas that have been designated as medically-underserved areas and health professional shortage areas (together, the Requestors).  The Health System had supported the establishment of the clinic, which is registered as a Free Clinic and been designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Look-Alike (Clinic), (but is neither a FQHC nor does it receive funds under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act). The arrangement involves the forgiveness of a credit line note entered into by the Health System with the Clinic. The OIG concluded that although the arrangement would constitute prohibited remuneration under the federal anti-kickback statute (AKS) if the requisite intent were present, the arrangement and the safeguards in place did not warrant the imposition of sanctions.

Continue Reading Advisory Opinion 22-17: OIG Declines to Impose Sanctions on a Health System for Forgiveness of Credit Line Note Owed by Clinic

On October 17, 2022, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in three cases asking the court to resolve a circuit split regarding the application of the particularity pleading requirement for allegations of fraud in False Claims Act (FCA) cases, as required under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b). The cases are: Johnson, et al. v. Bethany Hospice, 21-462; U.S., ex rel. Owsley v. Fazzi Associates, Inc., et al., 21-936; and Molina Healthcare, et al. v. Prose, 21-1145. Molina also presented a second question over which circuits had split, regarding the correct interpretation of Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar and whether a request for payment without specific representations can be actionable under an implied false certification theory. (Petition for Writ of Certiorari).

Continue Reading Supreme Court Denies Certiorari in Three FCA “Particularity” Cases

On October 18, 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced two settlements with CHC Holdings, LLC, an Oklahoma limited liability company doing business as Carter Healthcare (Carter), and two former senior corporate officers, resolving alleged violations of the federal False Claims Act (FCA), Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), and Physician Self-Referral Law (commonly referred to as the “Stark Law”). One case settled claims that Carter had made improper payments to referring physicians in Oklahoma and Texas, while the other case settled claims that Carter had made false billing claims in Florida. Both matters were initiated by qui tam whistleblower complaints filed under the FCA. Carter agreed to pay more than $30 million to resolve the allegations.

Continue Reading Home Health Company and Two Corporate Officers Settle False Claims Act Allegations for Over $30 Million

On October 5, 2022, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) published Advisory Opinion 22-19 (Advisory Opinion), in which it determined that a proposed oncology drug discount arrangement could constitute grounds for the imposition of sanctions under the federal anti-kickback statute (AKS). The OIG concluded that while beneficiary access to potentially life-saving medications is essential, the provisions of the proposed arrangement “would present more than a minimal risk of fraud and abuse” under the AKS.

Continue Reading Advisory Opinion 22-19: OIG Warns That Proposed Drug Cost Subsidization Arrangement May Warrant Sanctions