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

A physician in Washington state pled guilty on September 28, 2022, to a criminal charge of conspiring to accept kickbacks related to fraudulent genetic testing. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the physician ordered certain genetic testing for Medicare beneficiaries that he was not treating and with whom a physician-patient relationship was not established as part of the scheme. According to the plea agreement accepted by the physician, the physician would be connected by telemarketers to the beneficiaries for a few minutes, the physician would order the diagnostic test, the labs would then bill for the test, and another company billed Medicare for the purported telemedicine visit. The physician received almost $168,000 in kickbacks for ordering the medically-unnecessary testing and other services, which resulted in over $18 million being paid by Medicare.

Continue Reading The DOJ Continues to Prosecute Providers for Fraudulent Telemarketing and Telehealth

HHS-OIG issued a new Special Fraud Alert on relationships with “purported telemedicine companies” on July 20, 2022. The Special Fraud Alert comes on the heels of a nationally coordinated takedown charging dozens of individuals criminally for their participation in an allegedly fraudulent scheme related to telemedicine, laboratories, and durable medical equipment (“DME”).[1] However, the alert comes after focus on telemedicine fraud cases in particular since 2019. The Special Fraud Alert identifies several characteristics of concern and common elements that individuals and companies should be aware of.

Continue Reading Suspect Characteristics Identified under a Telehealth Special Fraud Alert

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont recently signed into law Public Act No. 22-58, “An Act Concerning the Department of Public Health’s Recommendations Regarding Various Revisions to the Public Health Statutes” (the Act). The Act is an omnibus bill that includes a number of notable updates to state laws concerning health care and hospitals, certain of which are summarized below.

Continue Reading Connecticut Enacts Legislation Making Various Changes to Public Health Laws

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently undertaken a number of notable actions with respect to vaccines in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Below is an overview of these actions and related COVID-19 vaccine information:

Full Approval of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine for 18+

On January 31, 2022, the FDA announced its full approval (licensing) of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine for individuals 18 and older. The Moderna vaccine had been administered under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA since December 18, 2020.  This is the second COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by the FDA following approval of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine on August 23, 2021. Notably, the approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will be marketed and known as the ‘Spikevax.’

Continue Reading COVID-19 Vaccine Update – February 2022

I. Biden Administration Requirement for Insurance Companies to Cover Cost of At-Home COVID-19 Tests

On January 10, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Safety (HHS) announced that the Biden-Harris administration will be requiring insurance companies and group health plans to cover the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests, so people with private health coverage can get them for free starting January 15, 2022. This new coverage requirement means that most consumers with private health insurance will be able to purchase an at-home COVID-19 test (online or at a pharmacy) and it will either be paid for directly by their health plan or the consumer can submit a claim for reimbursement.

Starting January 15, 2022, insurance companies and health plans will be required to cover eight (8) free over-the-counter at-home tests per covered individual per month, and there will be no limit on the number of tests that are covered if they are ordered or administered by a health care provider following an individualized clinical assessment.

As part of the new requirement, the administration is incentivizing insurers and group health plans to create programs that allow people to get the over-the-counter tests directly through preferred pharmacies, retailers, or other entities with no out-of-pocket costs. Retailers and other entities providing access to consumers for over-the-counter testing should be aware of the requirements. Even if plans and insurers make tests available through preferred pharmacies or retailers, such plans and insurers are still required to reimburse tests purchased by consumers outside of that network, at a rate of up to $12 per individual test (or, if less, the cost of the test)
Continue Reading New COVID-19 At-Home Test Coverage Requirements Increase Need for Heightened Focus on Health Care Entity’s Billing Practices

On November 4, 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the conviction of several South Florida addiction treatment facility operators following a seven-week trial. The initial indictment was filed in September 2020, charging ten defendants for their alleged conduct in committing health care fraud, wire fraud, violations of the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act (EKRA), the Anti-Kickback Statute, and money laundering. The defendants included the co-owners of two entities providing treatment and therapy for substance use disorder, several other management level individuals, a referring chiropractor, and several marketing employees.
Continue Reading DOJ Focused on Toxicology Testing – EKRA and Anti-Kickback Statute Violations Abound

On May 8, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published an interim final rule with comment period (the “Interim Rule”) in the Federal Register, setting forth additional regulatory waivers and other changes to healthcare regulations and policies in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). At a high level, the Interim Rule encompasses topics including expansion of telehealth, support for and expansion of COVID-19 testing, allowing certain licensed professionals to practice at the top of their licenses, Medicare payments for teaching hospitals, changes to the Medicare Shared Savings Program regarding financial methodologies, and application and risk assumption deadlines for accountable care organizations, among other changes. CMS has also updated provider-specific fact sheets on recent waivers and flexibilities, available here. Below are highlights from the Interim Rule.  Providers are encouraged to read all applicable sections of the Interim Rule in their entirety here. Comments may be submitted to CMS within 60 days of the date of publication in the Federal Register.
Continue Reading CMS Interim Rule Makes Sweeping Changes in Response to COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

On April 30, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an interim final rule with comment period published in the Federal Register on May 8, 2020 (the Interim Rule) which – among other things – makes changes to Medicare requirements for ordering COVID-19 laboratory tests, Medicare reimbursement for specimen collection and Medicaid reimbursement for laboratory services.
Continue Reading CMS Interim Rule Makes Changes to COVID-19 Laboratory Test Ordering and Payment For Medicare and Medicaid Providers and Beneficiaries