Georgia's Trusted Healthcare
& Medical Provider Attorneys

Archives for May 2015

Medicaid Fraud Investigations Continue But With Few Indictments

Medicaid FraudMedicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs) are responsible for investigating and prosecuting Medicaid provider fraud and patient abuse and neglect.  As part of its Medicaid plan, each State must establish a MFCU.  These Units are funded by both the Federal and State government with the Federal government reimbursing about 75% of the operating costs. MFCUs receive their referrals for investigation from a wide array of sources: program integrity divisions of the State Medicaid agencies; anonymous tips; whistleblowers; audits; and adult protective service agencies.

Each spring, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, publishes an Annual Report summarizing the statistical data from the investigations and prosecutions conducted and reported by the 50 MFCUs nationwide. According to this Annual Report, in 2014, MFCUs reported 1,318 criminal convictions involving Medicaid providers; three-quarters of these convictions were for fraud. Recoveries in the criminal cases were close to $300 million, and 1,337 providers were excluded from Federal health care programs as a result of criminal conviction.

Out of the more than 1,000 criminal convictions:

  • 413 were Home Health Care Aides
  • 129 were Certified Nursing Aides
  • 64 were Physicians or Doctors of Osteopathy
  • 56 were Counselors/Psychologists
  • 33 were Durable Medical Equipment Suppliers

Nationwide, MFCUs investigated 13,192 cases of Medicaid Fraud but only indicted 1, 185 cases- roughly, 10%.  Of the 1,185 indictments, 956 resulted in convictions, almost 100% conviction rate.   From this data, it appears as if the trend in investigating often but indicting infrequently continued from 2013 to 2014 and that the high conviction rate also continued.

What about in Georgia?  Georgia MFCU was even less reluctant to indict than the nationwide trend but enjoyed the same success rate with convictions:  410 fraud investigations; 4 indictments for fraud and only 9 convictions.

If you are a Medicaid Provider, you very well may find yourself being investigated for fraud, but stay calm and call an experienced healthcare attorney. Remember, you have a very, very small chance of actually being indicted.

If you do  receive a subpoena or phone call from the Georgia Medicaid Fraud Unit, Jeyaram & Associates can help. Contact Kimberly Sheridan at ksheridan@Jeylaw.com or 678.325.3872.

 

Special Needs Trusts & Estate Plans – When’s The Right Time?

DownSyndromeGirlNow.

As a parent or guardian of a child or adult with special needs, one of our main concerns is what will happen to our loved ones when we pass? Who will take care of them? Will they have enough money? Will they be OK?

And while most of us try NOT think about dying, it’s an important step in ensuring that our loved ones will be protected and cared for upon our passing. Putting into place a special needs trust is something we can do to help ensure that our child or adult ward will be well cared for and have a high quality of life.

Too many times we’ve seen families devastated by the sudden loss of parents or guardians. Now is the time to plan and put into place a legal plan that will help protect your loved ones and their government benefits.

Eligibility for many government benefits are determined based on the resources your child or adult ward holds in their name. If they have too many resources, even by just one dollar, they may not qualify for, or may even lose, benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

Even if your child or ward does not currently receive government assistance, he or she may need it in the future. A special needs trust is a way to protect their current resources and future benefits. Through a special needs trust you can leave assets to your child or ward without negatively impacting his or her government benefits.

Government benefits only cover basics such as food, clothing and shelter. Through a special needs trust, a designated trustee for your loved one will be able to provide your child or adult ward with access to things such as:

  • a personal care attendant
  • out of pocket medical and dental expenses
  • vacations
  • home furnishings
  • vehicles
  • hobbies
  • and education.

Jeyaram & Associates has extensive personal and legal experience with setting up special needs trusts and estate plans. Please contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@Jeylaw.com or 678.325.3872

Physicians’ Medicare Payments No Longer Tied To Economy

SRGAfter almost 20 years, Congress finally passed a law repealing the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR ). Under SRG, Medicare payments to physicians were tied to the growth rate in the economy. Because of the sluggish economy during and after the Great Recession, the growth rate formula has resulted in either a reduction or inadequate increase in Medicare reimbursement rates. As a result, Congress recently passed last minute, short-term fixes to ensure that physicians receive the appropriate fees.

With the passage of the new law, physicians will finally see stabilization in Medicare payments. The statute provides for a 0.5% increase for the next five years. Then the government will transition to a new system in which payments will be based on quality, value and accountability – the Merit-based Incentive Payment System.

The repeal of SGR is good news for physicians treating Medicare patients. Because Medicare reimbursement rates have been so unpredictable for the last decade, physician practices  have had little opportunity to arrange for innovative care models. With the new law, physicians have the chance to come up with groundbreaking care delivery models while developing patient care protocols focused on quality and gearing up for the next phase in Medicare reimbursement.

If you are a physician with questions about Medicare reimbursement or enrollment, or need healthcare regulatory advice, please contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@jeylaw.com or Danielle Hildebrand at Dhildebrand@jeylaw.com.

Supreme Court Rules Medicaid Providers Cannot Sue To Enforce Their Rights

US Supreme CourtOn March 31, 2015, in a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center, Inc.[1] This decision essentially precludes all Medicaid providers from bringing a private cause of action to enforce their rights under the Medicaid Act.

Through Medicaid, the federal government subsidizes the States’ providing of medical services to qualified people. To get the federal monies, a state must adopt, and the federal government must approve, its Medicaid plan. Section 30(A) of the Medicaid Act requires that a state Medicaid plan must contain procedures to ensure that reimbursement rates for healthcare providers “are consistent with efficiency, economy, and quality of care and are sufficient to enlist enough providers” to meet the need for care and services in the geographic area.

In Armstrong, a group of providers filed suit under the Supremacy Clause to enforce the provisions of Section 30(A) and to enjoin the Idaho Health and Welfare Department officials from continuing to reimburse the providers at rates lower than rates set forth in a provider cost study that had recommended increasing reimbursement rates. The 9th Circuit ruled that the Supremacy Clause gave the providers an implied right of action to bring suit. The Supreme Court disagreed.

The majority of the Supreme Court reasoned that while the Supremacy Clause instructs the courts to give federal law priority when there is a clash between a federal law and a state law, it does not create a cause of action.

The Majority went on to hold that the providers could not proceed in equity because the power of the federal courts to enjoin unlawful state action must be set out expressly or implicitly in statute. Here, the court reasoned that the Medicaid Act set out an express provision of a single remedy for the State’s failure to comply with the Medicaid act. That remedy is found in 42 U.S.C. Section 1396(c) and stated that the Secretary of Health and Human Services may withhold Medicaid funds if the State is failing to comply with the Medicaid Act.

What are the real life implications of this suggested remedy? As pointed out in Justice Sotomayor’s dissent, the Majority’s suggested remedy-withholding state funds will lead to the very result the law was enacted to prevent: depriving the poor of essential medical assistance.

What is the potential impact of this decision? If low rates cannot be challenged, Medicaid recipients will have fewer choices of health care providers because lower reimbursement rates make it harder for healthcare providers to choose to provide care to Medicaid recipients.[2]

What remedies are left for a provider? In Georgia, a Medicaid provider’s relationship with the State is based in contract, so remedies under the contract may still exist. If you are a provider and have a question about your rights under the Medicaid Act, please contact Kimberly Sheridan at Jeyaram & Associates at 678-709-4703.

[1] For the full opinion, please go to http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-15_d1oe.pdf

[2] http://harvardcrcl.org/supreme-court-threatens-medicaid-reimbursement-accountability/

 

What To Do If You Receive A Medicaid Fraud Subpoena In Georgia

medicaid fraudThe Georgia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) investigates and prosecutes fraud and abuse by providers in the Georgia Medicaid program.  One of the first steps MFCU takes when it opens up a case against a provider is often the issuance of an investigative subpoena, requesting specific patient records.

Often the provider has already been looked at by the Georgia Department of Community Health’s Medicaid Program Integrity Unit which handles intake and triage of cases before turning them over to MFCU. In other words, the provider has somehow managed to get on the State’s radar, and it is serious.

Please keep the following in mind if you receive a Medicaid Fraud subpoena:

1. CALL AN EXPERIENCED HEALTHCARE FRAUD ATTORNEY. This is a highly specialized area of the law, and you need someone to represent you that has experience both in defending criminal matters AND in healthcare law. This area of law is like a hybrid car. Just like it takes gas and electric batteries to power a hybrid car, it takes knowledge of criminal and healthcare law to successfully represent a provider facing a Medicaid fraud investigation.

2. Call an attorney BEFORE you respond to the subpoena or talk to an investigator.

3. Remember: the Investigator is NOT your friend. They are doing a job, and their job is find evidence against you. We recently represented a client who was complying with a subpoena from MFCU. Five investigators showed up to get the documents. Since there was no threat of an armed suspect, one can only guess that the use of five investigators to collect documents had to be an intimidation tactic. Likewise, these investigators tried desperately to butter up the employees to get them to talk, and this was with an attorney standing there. Remember: the investigator is NOT your friend.

4. Be Polite and cooperative. If your attorney determines that the subpoena is lawful and enforceable, you have to turn over the documents requested. This can be quite labor- intensive, but you must comply and polite cooperation can only help you in establishing the tone for whatever next steps will be taken.

5. Make copies of every document and electronic file you turnover to MFCU PRIOR to turning them over.

6. DO NOT provide MFCU with anything more than what they have requested in the subpoena- not one document more. And remember, they are only entitled to the records of Medicaid members.

7. Neither you nor your employees are required to speak with the investigator unless individually subpoenaed. Have an attorney present during any interviews.

8. Don’t panic. While a MFCU subpoena should be taken seriously, in Georgia, in 2014, there were 410 Medicaid Fraud Investigations. Of those investigations, only 4 led to indictment.1 The math indicates that MFCU investigates often but indicts with much less frequency.

If you are receive a subpoena from the Georgia Medicaid Fraud Unit, Jeyaram & Associates can help. Contact Kimberly Sheridan at ksheridan@Jeylaw.com or 678.325.3872.