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DOJ Intends to Increase Healthcare Fraud Penalties By Almost 100%

healthcare fraudThe Department of Justice (“DOJ”) recently announced that it intends to increase healthcare fraud penalties under the False Claims Act (“FCA”) on claims assessed after August 1, 2016.

DOJ’s Justification For The Increase

FCA penalties can already be high since penalties are assessed per-claim. Each false claim presented to the government can be a separate violation. The DOJ’s Interim Final Rule would increase the minimum per-claim penalty from $5,500 to $10,781 and maximum per-claim penalty from $11,000 to $21,563.

This is a steep increase over 96%. While there was a 10% cap on the amount the penalties could increase, that law was amended by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (“2015 Act”). The 2015 Act also included a one-time “catch up provision” requiring the first increase be based changes in the consumer price index since the year the penalties were established.

What The Increase Means To Healthcare Providers

This increase could incentivize whistle-blowers to identify false claims because the whistle-blower may be able to keep a percentage of the money recovered. Healthcare providers billing the government need to ensure that all their practice’s policies and procedures adhere with federal and state regulations. Proactive and preventive measures are the best way to stay out of the government’s cross hairs for fraud.

How To Ensure Federal and State Compliance

We can help. Our attorneys have extensive experience in analyzing and bringing into compliance healthcare providers’ policies and procedures. We’ve helped hundred of providers – from small, independent providers to large national corporations ensure compliance with regulations such as the Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark. Contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872 or Jonathan Anderson at Janderson@JeyLaw.com.

Healthcare Providers Need To Ensure Compliance Under Expansion of False Claims Act

False Claims Act Attorney The U.S. Supreme Court voted unanimously to allow False Claims Act (FCA) liability under the “implied certification theory.”

The implied certification theory means that submitting a claim to the government implies that the entity has complied with all contractual and regulatory requirements.

What The Supreme Court Ruling Means To Healthcare Providers

This decision could have profound repercussions for healthcare providers who bill federal healthcare programs. Healthcare providers must contend with the Stark Law and Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”). Violations of either the Stark law or AKS give rise to FCA liability. Healthcare cases make up approximately two-thirds of federal whistle-blower cases, which are enforced using the FCA.

The Supreme Court did not limit liability under the implied certification theory to conditions of payment. This ruling can potentially mean that a facially valid invoice can violate the false claims act case because of requirements that are not explicitly requirements for payment. If a regulation is a condition of participation but not a condition of payment, a violation can still give rise to FCA liability.

The Supreme Court did rule that liability is limited to “material” violations. Materiality may be shown if it is a provision for which the government routinely denies payment. The Court emphasized that the materiality test is “rigorous” and demanding….”

Healthcare Providers Need To Ensure Compliance 

Healthcare providers, and all contractors billing the government, should ensure they are compliant with all statutory, regulatory and contractual requirements.

Jeyaram & Associates’ attorneys have extensive experience in helping healthcare providers remain compliant with all state and federal regulations. Contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@JeyLaw.com or Jonathan Anderson at Janderson@JeyLaw.com.

Durable Medical Equipment Company’s Pricing Structure Violates Anti-Kickback Statute

DMEDurable Medical Equipment (DME) manufacturers can face serious fines for violating the Anti‑Kickback Statute (“AKS”). In a recent settlement, Respironics, a manufacturer of sleep therapy products, agreed to settle allegations that its bundled pricing structure for sleep apnea masks violated the AKS. Since violations of the AKS give rise to fines under the False Claims Act, DME manufacturers can face trebled damages and fines up to $10,000 per violation.

According to Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, “The payment of illegal remuneration in any form to induce patient referrals threatens public confidence in the health care system. Americans deserve to know that when they are prescribed a device to treat a serious health care problem, the supplier’s judgment has not been compromised by illegal payments from equipment manufacturers.”

Respironics, Inc. provided call center services to DME companies at no cost so long as the patients ordered Respironics masks. DME companies had to pay a monthly fee based on the number of patients who used masks manufactured by Respironics’ competitors. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, this made suppliers more likely to use Respironics masks. Respironics has since changed the pricing structure of its call center services.

A South Carolina pharmacists recognized that the arrangement likely violated the AKS and filed a qui tam (whistle-blower) lawsuit. The U.S. Justice Department intervened along with 29 other states and the District of Columbia.

Respironics agreed to pay $34.8 million in order to settle the lawsuit even without admitting wrongdoing, and the company continues to maintain that its pricing structure fit within the discount Safe Harbor. However, this settlement serves as a powerful reminder that companies must be aware of potential AKS violations. Respironics’ “good-faith belief” that the arrangement met a Safe Harbor did not save it from AKS scrutiny or a multimillion dollar settlement.

If you have any questions or need assistance with healthcare regulatory issues, Jeyaram & Associates attorneys can help. Contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@Jeylaw.com or 678.325.3872.