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. Continue Reading

CMS Revises National Coverage Determination for Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators

On February 15, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a Decision Memo outlining revisions to its 2005 National Coverage Determination (NCD) for Implantable Automatic Defibrillators (ICDs) . The updated NCD  includes changes to the covered indications for ICDs, new patient criteria and exceptions to waiting periods for symptomatic patients with certain histories before an ICD will be considered a covered device by Medicare. The final updates follow CMS’ review of comments received following its release of a Proposed Decision Memorandum in November 2017. The Decision Memo includes the comments received and CMS’ responses to such comments, as well as detailed summaries of the evidence considered by CMS in drafting the updated NCD.

This post was co-authored by Chelsea Sousa, legal intern at Robinson+Cole. Chelsea is not yet admitted to practice law.

CMS Extends Hospital and CAH Attestation Deadline

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has extended the eligible hospital and critical access hospital (CAH) attestation deadline from February 28, 2018 to March 16, 2018. The extension provides additional time to submit attestation data and electronic clinical quality measure (eCQM) data. Eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals attesting to the CMS Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program are required to submit data through the QualityNet Secure Portal (QNet). “Subsection (d) hospitals” that are paid under the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS), CAHs, and Medicare Advantage hospitals are eligible to participate in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. Acute care hospitals (including CAHs and cancer hospitals) with at least a 10% Medicaid patient volume and children’s hospitals  are eligible to participate in the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program. Eligible hospitals and CAHs that are eligible to participate in both the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs may be subject to the Medicare payment reduction for failing to demonstrate meaningful use, and may be able to earn an incentive payment for demonstrating meaningful use successfully.

This post was co-authored by Chelsea Sousa, legal intern at Robinson+Cole. Chelsea is not yet admitted to practice law.

FDA Amends Regulations for Acceptance of Data from Foreign and Domestic Investigation for Medical Devices

On February 21, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a Final Rule, amending its regulations on acceptance of data from investigations for medical devices that are performed outside of the United States as well as modifying certain regulations applicable to data from US-sited investigations. The Final Rule does not go into effect until February 21, 2019 – a full year after promulgation.  The FDA also issued guidance in the form of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) addressing the new regulations.  In the FAQ document, the FDA explained its rationale that more research and marketing applications and submissions are being submitted that are supported by foreign investigations and that it was seeking to make its requirements more uniform. Continue Reading

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.  Continue Reading

Dumpster Diving Leads to $100,000 Fine for Defunct Business Associate Due to Improper Disposal of Medical Records

On February 13, 2018, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced a $100,000 settlement with a court-appointed receiver representing Filefax, Inc. (Filefax) arising from the 2015 discovery of medical records that contained protected health information (PHI) of over two thousand individuals in a dumpster. Filefax, a now-defunct medical records moving and storage company located in Illinois, acted as a business associate under HIPAA.

OCR initiated an investigation in February, 2015, after receiving an anonymous complaint concerning medical records that had been discovered and delivered to a facility for shredding and recycling. OCR’s investigation indicated that Filefax impermissibly disclosed PHI of 2,150 individuals over a two week span in early 2015 by leaving PHI in an unlocked truck in Filefax’s parking lot, or by leaving PHI within medical records sitting outside of Filefax’s business for a third party to collect. Continue Reading

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 law. Continue Reading

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. Continue Reading

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 for initial fills of prescription opioids for the treatment of acute pain, potentially paired with a daily dose maximum (e.g., a limit of 50 MME).  According to CMS, this type of restriction may reduce the number of leftover opioid pills available to an opioid naïve patient, which in turn can reduce the risk that the patient develops an “affinity” for opioids that can lead to misuse and diversion.  CMS also proposes that Medicare Part D sponsors implement formulary-level opioid safety edits at the point-of-sale (POS) at pharmacies of 90 MME, which could only be overridden by a sponsor, and which may be paired with a 7-day supply allowance for initial opioid prescriptions for the treatment of acute pain.

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FDA Issues New Compounding Guidance

In January 2018, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) published two guidance documents on Compounded Drug Products That Are Essentially Copies Of Approved Drug Products under Section 503A and Section 503B of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act). As emphasized in a recent U.S. Department of Justice policy memorandum, FDA noted that its guidance documents do not establish legally enforceable responsibilities and, instead should be viewed only as agency recommendations, unless specific regulatory or statutory requirements are cited.

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