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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 …

Connecticut Enacts Law Revising Various Department of Public Health Statutes

On June 13, 2018, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed into law Public Act No. 18-168 “An Act Concerning the Department of Public Health’s Recommendations Regarding Various Revisions to the Public Health Statutes” (PA 18-168). This legislation makes a number of changes to state laws concerning public health and the responsibilities of the Department of Public Health (DPH), including laws affecting advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), advance directives, the scope of practice for podiatry, respiratory care, reportable events at nursing homes, and the supervision of physician assistants. …

FDA Approves Marijuana-Derived, CBD-Containing Drug Epidiolex to Treat Certain Epilepsy-Associated Seizures

On June 25, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, an orally administered drug derived from the marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa. The drug is approved for use for patients two years and older, for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, both of which are rare and severe forms of epilepsy. It is the first drug that FDA has approved for Dravet patients.…

Connecticut Legislature Again Addresses Opioid Crisis

On June 14, 2018, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed into law Public Act No. 18-166 “An Act Concerning the Prevention and Treatment of Opioid Dependency and Opioid Overdoses in the State” (PA 18-166).

This legislation seeks to address the ongoing opioid crisis in Connecticut in part by: (i) implementing a new opioid overdose reporting requirement for hospitals and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, (ii) establishing a statutory framework under which health care practitioners and pharmacists may partner with law enforcement or other government agencies, EMS providers, or …

Connecticut Enacts Law to Limit Automatic Prescription Refills for Medicaid Beneficiaries

On June 1, 2018, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed into law Public Act 18-77 “An Act Limiting Auto Refills of Prescription Drugs Covered Under the Medicaid Program and Requiring the Commissioner of Social Services to Provide CHIP Data to the Health Information Technology Officer” (PA 18-77). This legislation allows the Department of Social Services (DSS) to prohibit pharmacies from automatically refilling certain prescription drugs for Medicaid beneficiaries and prohibits DSS from paying for refills of such drugs unless it receives a request for payment from the beneficiary …

Connecticut Legislature Revises DSS Provider Audit Processes

On June 1, 2018, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed into law Public Act No. 18-76 “An Act Concerning Audits of Medical Assistance Providers” (PA 18-76), which makes several changes to the Medicaid provider audit process conducted by or on behalf of the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS). PA 18-76 is effective July 1, 2018.…

Connecticut Legislature Operationalizes New Health Oversight Agency: The Office of Health Strategy

On May 14, 2018, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed into law Public Act No. 18-91 “An Act Concerning the Office of Health Strategy” (PA 18-91), a bill that operationalizes the Office of Health Strategy (OHS), a new health oversight agency in Connecticut. OHS is a division of the Department of Public Health (DPH) “for administrative purposes only” that was provisionally established by the Connecticut General Assembly within the budget implementer bill passed in a special session in late 2017 and accorded responsibility for developing and implementing a …

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 …

US District Court Holds Medical Executive Committees Can Sue And Be Sued

On April 27, 2018, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey held that the Medical Executive Committee (“MEC”) of a hospital, which is comprised of doctors that decide who is given privileges within the hospital, can sue and be sued. Nahas v. Shore Med. Ctr., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70785.…

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 …

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.…

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.…

CMS Considers 7-Day Limit on Initial Opioid Prescriptions under Part D

In a Draft Call Letter issued February 1, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it is considering a number of new strategies to address opioid overutilization within the Medicare Part D program.  CMS is particularly concerned with chronic overuse among beneficiaries taking high levels of prescription opioids (e.g., beneficiaries prescribed opioids with a 90 morphine milligram equivalent (MME) dose or higher per day), beneficiaries with multiple prescribers, and “opioid naïve” patients (i.e., patients newly prescribed opioids).

CMS’s strategies include consideration of a 7-day supply limit …

Connecticut Supreme Court Recognizes Common-Law Cause of Action for Unauthorized Disclosure of Confidential Medical Information

In a long-awaited decision concerning the confidentiality of medical records and patient privacy, the Connecticut Supreme Court recently concluded that the physician-patient relationship establishes a duty of confidentiality to a patient in Connecticut, and that unauthorized disclosure of confidential information obtained for the purpose of treatment in the course of that relationship gives rise to a cause of action in tort, unless the disclosure is otherwise permitted by law.

In Byrne v. Avery Center for Obstetrics and Gynecology, P.C., the Court considered – for a second time – the …

OIG Advisory Opinion Allows Medical Center to Share Cost Savings with Neurosurgeons for Curbing Spinal Fusion Surgery Costs

On January 5, 2018, the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) posted a favorable Advisory Opinion, permitting an arrangement involving payment by a Medical Center to a multi-specialty physician Group for cost-reduction measures achieved through the efforts of certain Neurosurgeons, relating to the selection and use of products during spinal fusion surgeries (Program).  Payment under the Program was calculated as a percentage of cost savings realized by the Medical Center over a three-year period.  Though not yet paid at the time of the OIG advisory opinion, …

CMS Announces First Advanced Alternative Payment Model Under MACRA: Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Advanced

On January 9, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation announced a new voluntary bundled payment model called Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Advanced (BPCI Advanced).  BPCI Advanced is the first Advanced Alternative Payment Model (Advanced APM) launched under the Quality Payment Program that was implemented as part of the Medicare Access and Chip Reauthorization Act (MACRA). …

CMS Issues Guidance on Texting Patient Information

On December 28, 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a memo to state survey agency directors clarifying its position on the use of text messaging among health care providers. In its memo, CMS stated that it does not permit texting of patient orders by health care providers, as texting of patient orders does not comply with the applicable Medicare conditions of participation (COPs), specifically 42 C.F.R. § 489.24. Instead of texting patient orders, CMS states that its preference is for health care providers to either hand-write …

REMINDER: Annual Reporting Deadline Approaches for Connecticut Hospitals and Hospital Systems

Hospitals and hospital systems in Connecticut must file annual reports by January 15, 2018 describing (1) the activities of their group practices (e.g., medical foundations or faculty practice plans), and (2) their respective affiliations with other hospitals or hospital systems.

Under Section 19a-486i of the Connecticut General Statutes, hospitals and hospital systems in Connecticut are obligated to file the separate reports in writing on an annual basis with the Connecticut Attorney General (AG) and Department of Public Health (DPH).  Previously, the reports had been due by December 31 each year, …

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.…

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