Government Enforcement

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

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 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 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

On September 26, 2022, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a $900 million settlement with pharmaceutical company Biogen Inc., which arose from alleged violations of the federal False Claims Act (FCA) and Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) tied to payments from the company to physicians, which were allegedly intended to induce prescription of Biogen’s drugs. The matter initiated as a qui tam whistleblower complaint filed by an employee under the FCA.

Continue Reading DOJ Announces $900 Million Settlement Tied to Speaker Bureau Payments to Physicians

Certain COVID-19 emergency declaration blanket waivers are being phased out by the federal government, and health care providers should take steps to determine whether current arrangements are compliant. As background, in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency CMS previously enacted extensive temporary COVID-19 Emergency Declaration Blanket Waivers for Health Care Providers. However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have now determined that various regulatory requirements must be restored in order to protect the health and safety of residents in long-term care facilities.

Continue Reading NOTICE TO PROVIDERS: CMS Phasing Out Certain COVID-19 Regulatory Waivers in Long-Term Care Facilities, Hospices, and ESRD Facilities

On February 9, 2022, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a $3.8 million settlement with Catholic Medical Center (CMC) of Manchester, New Hampshire. This settlement resolves allegations that CMC violated the False Claims Act (FCA) and federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS). The allegations were originally brought in a qui tam lawsuit filed by a physician who is a former employee of CMC.
Continue Reading DOJ Announces $3.8 Million Settlement to Resolve Allegations of False Claims Act and Anti-Kickback Statute Violations

Since the beginning of 2019, federal and state authorities in Connecticut have announced a number of enforcement actions targeting alleged health care fraud in the state. These cases are a reminder to providers of heightened criminal and civil scrutiny of arrangements implicating health care fraud and abuse laws in the state, and also reflect the extensive federal-state cooperation between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Office of the Attorney General (AG) in investigating fraud and abuse. That federal-state cooperation is part of Connecticut’s Interagency Fraud Task Force, an initiative started in 2013 to prosecute fraud that includes multiple Connecticut agencies, as well as DOJ and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) within the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).
Continue Reading Series of 2019 Enforcement Actions Highlight Continued Federal and State Scrutiny of Health Care Billing in Connecticut

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 Memo” cited to guidance policy in a November 16, 2017 memo issued by the U.S. Attorney General, which prohibited the DOJ from issuing its own guidance documents that would effectively bind the public without undergoing notice-and-comment rulemaking. The Brand Memo explained that the principles from that earlier-issued policy were relevant to more than just the DOJ’s own guidance documents — in particular, with regard to ACE cases:
Continue Reading “Brand Memo” from the U.S. Department of Justice: Reading Between the Lines