Georgia's Trusted Healthcare
& Medical Provider Attorneys

Archives for June 2015

Increase In Medicare Part D Fraud Investigations

medicare-fraud1On June 18th, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a nationwide sweep by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force in 17 districts. This sweep represents the largest criminal healthcare fraud takedown in the history of the Department of Justice.

The investigations led to charges against 243 individuals, including 46 doctors and 197 other medical personnel. These individual are charged with participating in Medicare fraud schemes, including prescription drug fraud, totaling approximately $712 million in false billings.

On the heels of this announcement, the Office of Inspector General issued two new reports citing its findings of numerous nationwide violations of Medicare part D, Medicare’s drug benefit program. The reports show that more than 1,400 pharmacies submitted questionable billings for opioid drugs and also point to questionable billing practices in 1,432 retail pharmacies. The OIG is calling for more action from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to implement a greater number of its recommendations for fighting fraud and abuse in Part D.

The timing of these reports signals that the prescription drug benefit in Medicare part D will continue to be on the radar for investigation and enforcement actions.

To best protect against facing investigation for violations of federal and state healthcare regulations, providers must create, consistently practice and enforce strong internal compliance programs. If you need assistance with developing a compliance program or have any questions about healthcare fraud, please call or email Kimberly Sheridan at 678-708-4702.

 

OIG Reports

https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-02-15-00190.pdf

https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-03-15-00180.pdf

 

Former DCH Attorney Joins Jeyaram & Associates

Screen shot 2015-06-26 at 2.55.32 PMMr. Harrison Kohler joins Jeyaram & Associates as counsel. Mr. Kohler brings extensive criminal defense and administrative hearing experience to the firm. He represented the Department of Community Health (DCH) for nine years in both administrative hearings and negotiations with attorneys for Medicaid providers.

Prior to joining DCH, Mr. Kohler served as an Assistant Attorney General, which included 10 years as a prosecutor in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. During that time, he had 90 jury trials, including both criminal and civil, in 15 different superior courts and two federal districts in Georgia.

Further, Mr. Kohler has orally argued approximately 50 appellate cases. He successfully argued Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42 (1992), in the United States Supreme Court. In 1996 the Supreme Court Historical Society named Georgia v. McCollum as one of the most significant oral arguments heard by the United States Supreme Court between the years 1955 and 1993.

Prior to pursuing a legal career, Mr. Kohler  served three years in the United States Army, including a year in Vietnam. He was awarded the combat medical badge and the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. Mr. Kohler has also been recognized by his peers as he’s earned the AV Peer Review Rating, which identifies a lawyer with “very high to preeminent legal ability, is a reflection of the firm’s expertise, experience, integrity and overall professional excellence.”

Please help us welcome Harrison to the firm!

Physicians’ Compensation For Certain Referrals Could Violate Anti-Kickback Statue

Anti-KickbackOIG Reminds Physicians That They Will Be Held Liable For Illegal Payments Under The Anti-kickback Statute

On June 9, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a Special Fraud Alert warning against potential liability for physicians who enter into certain financial arrangements with healthcare institutions.

The Fraud Alert states that “if even one purpose of the arrangement is to compensate a physician for his or her past or future referrals” the compensation arrangement would violate the federal Anti-kickback statute.

The Fraud Alert discussed a recent settlement regarding an arrangement between several physicians and a healthcare institution. It emphasized that the following factors resulted in an OIG determination that there was improper remuneration:

  • Payments to physicians took into account the physician’s volume or value of referrals and did not reflect fair market value for the services performed
  • Physicians did not actually provide the services called for under the arrangement
  • The arrangement relieved the physician of a financial burden that such physician would have otherwise incurred, e.g., a healthcare institution paid for the physician’s office staff at his or her practice

Although the Fraud Alert does not change any existing laws, it is a reminder that physicians (not just the hospitals) will be held liable for illegal payments. Physicians should heed OIG’s warning and ensure that arrangements with healthcare institutions do not violate any laws. All arrangements must not only comply with the federal Anti-kickback statute, but also other fraud and abuse laws such as the Stark Law, the Civil Money Penalties Law (CMP Law), and the state law Stark and Anti-kickback counterparts.

The Special Fraud Alert can be found here.

If you are a physician with questions about a current or proposed arrangement with a healthcare institution, please call Danielle Hildebrand or DJ Jeyaram at 678-325-3872 for legal counsel.

CMS Proposes Changes In Rules For CMOs

For the first time in more than a decade, the Centers CMOfor Medicare and Medicaid Services issued proposed changes in rules affecting Care Management Organizations

On June 1, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) published a proposed rule affecting Care Management Organizations (CMOs) that administer Medicaid benefits.  This is the first major overhaul of the managed care system since 2002.  Most believe these changes are long overdue as CMOs now cover approximately 74 percent of all Medicaid enrollees making managed care the dominant delivery system for Medicaid.

According to CMS, the Proposed Rule will “improve beneficiary communications and access, provide new program integrity tools, support state efforts to deliver higher quality care in a cost-effective way, and better align Medicaid and CHIP managed care rules and practices with other sources of health insurance coverage.”

The Rule targets seven main areas:

  • Improvement of the beneficiary’s experience
  • State delivery system reform
  • Quality improvement
  • Program and fiscal integrity
  • Managed long-term services and supports (MLTSS) programs
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Alignment with Medicare Advantage and Private Coverage Plans

Public comments are due July 27, 2015. CMS has published a Fact Sheet outlining the Proposed Rule that can be found here.

We urge CMOs to familiarize themselves with the Proposed Rule and take advantage of the time period for public comment. If you have any questions involving the Proposed Rule, please contact Kimberly Sheridan at 678.325.3872.

 

CMS Proposes New Quality Reporting Measures for Medicare Payment

MedicareThe Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed a rule regarding Medicare payments for inpatient rehabilitation facilities. Through this new rule, CMS introduces new quality measures that will be tied to reimbursement.

Such quality measures generally focus on overall performance with respect to specific components of the health status of patients, like new or worsening pressure sores, and certain events, such as falls causing major injuries.

A facility’s failure to submit the information regarding these quality measures would result in a reduction in Medicare payments to that facility.

In the CMS publication, the government estimates the new quality reporting requirements will cost inpatient rehab facilities around $24 million. However, because the rule also proposes a modest rate increase, the government estimates that the changes under the rule will result in $130 million increase in payments to those facilities.

The Proposed Rule can be found here.

If you have questions regarding these new quality reporting requirements, please contact DJ Jeyaram or Danielle Hildebrand at 678.325.3872.

What Physicians Need to Know About the Stark In-Office Ancillary Services Exception

Stark LawThe Federal Stark Law generally prohibits physicians from referring Medicare/Medicaid payable Designated Health Services (DHS) to any organization in which they have a financial interest, including their own medical practice. Because the Stark prohibition applies when physicians refer their patients within their own practice to obtain DHS, such an arrangement must meet the requirements of an exception in order to comply with the law.

If you are a physician practice that intends to offer to your patients related services which are also DHS, for example, imaging or laboratory services, you might be able to rely upon the In-Office Ancillary Services (IOAS) exception. This exception is designed to protect the provision of Designated Health Services that are truly ancillary to the medical services being provided by your physician practice.

In order to take advantage of this exception, your practice must meet three specific requirements related to

  1. supervision
  2. location
  3. billing

Additionally, multi-physician practices must be considered a “group practice” as provided in the Stark Law.

Physicians providing MRIs, CT and PET scans through their medical practices must also provide a disclosure and notice to patients. Such notice must be in writing and provided at the time of the referral. The notice must disclose to the patient that he or she may obtain those services from other suppliers and provide a list of those suppliers in close proximity to the physician’s office.

Although this exception enables physicians to offer a number of ancillary services and still maintain compliance with the Stark Law, this exception is likely to be restricted in the future. The Department of Health and Humans Services’ (HHS) FY ‘16 proposed budget indicates that HHS intends to limit which practices may offer therapy services, advanced imaging, radiation therapy and anatomic pathology services. Only “clinically integrated” practices that demonstrate cost containment would be able to use the IOAS exception when offering such services.

Additional information on the HHS FY ‘16 Budget Proposal can be found at http://www.hhs.gov/budget/fy2016-hhs-budget-in-brief/hhs-fy2016budget-in-brief-cms-medicare.html.

If you have any questions about the IOAS exception or need legal advice with respect to offering ancillary services through your practice please contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@jeylaw.com or Danielle Hildebrand at Dhildebrand@jeylaw.com.