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& Medical Provider Attorneys

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.

Work In Healthcare? You Could Face Steep Fines Or Jail Time For Healthcare Fraud

Healthcare FraudNewly Released Health Care Fraud Report shows that HHS/DOJ Enforcement Efforts Remain Strong

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently released their annual joint report outlining the results of their healthcare fraud enforcement efforts throughout FY 2015.

The Report shows that during that period the DOJ opened 983 new criminal health care fraud investigations and over 800 new civil health care fraud investigations. Additionally, HHS investigations resulted in 800 criminal actions against individuals or entities that engaged in crimes related to Medicare and Medicaid, and 667 civil actions, CMP settlements, and administrative recoveries related to provider self-disclosure matters.

Over the course of the year, the government won or negotiated over $1.9 billion in health care fraud judgment and settlements.

High Number Of Fraud Convictions

The Report also highlights the activity of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force whose efforts resulted in over 300 guilty pleas and 48 defendant convictions throughout the year, and over 260 defendants going to jail. The Report summarizes several successful enforcement actions by the Strike Force including:

  • 2 physicians owners of a mental health clinic were each sentenced to 10+ years in prison for certifying that certain Medicare patients qualified for partial hospitalization services when they did not and paying kickbacks to group home operators and patient recruiters in exchange for referring Medicare patients;
  • An owner of a DME company was sentenced to 84 months in prison for paying kickbacks to medical clinics for fraudulent prescriptions for DME which the patients did not need; and
  • 2 home health directors were sentenced to over 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $18.6 million in restitution after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and payment of kickbacks in exchange for Medicare referrals and home health service prescriptions.

You Could Personally Be Fined Or Go To Jail

The government is clearly cracking down and the healthcare industry should heed the warning. The Report indicates that any individual in the healthcare realm, whether physician or hospital CFO, could incur steep fines, penalties and even serve jail time for violating the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute, Stark Law and False Claims Act.

Jeyaram & Associates can help you assess and minimize your risk under these healthcare fraud and abuse laws. If you have any questions please contact Danielle Hildebrand at Dhildebrand@jeylaw.com or 678.325.3872.

To review the Report it is available here.

Free Introductory Home Health Visits Don’t Violate Anti-Kickback Law

Anti-Kickback StatuteInspector General: No Kickback violation for free home health introductory visits

The Office of the Inspector General issued an advisory opinion clearing the way for home health providers who provide “introductory” home visits to individuals who eventually become their clients. The OIG advised that home healthcare providers who contact  patients after being selected by that patient and provide information to those patients about their services, do not violate the federal Anti-Kickback statute.

The Federal Anti-Kickback law makes it a criminal offense to knowingly and willfully offer, pay, solicit or receive anything of value in exchange for inducing or rewarding referrals of items or services reimbursable by a Federal health program

The OIG’s office stated that the “primary purpose of the Introductory Visit is to facilitate the patient’s transition to home health services in an effort to increase compliance with the post-acute treatment plan.” In addition, the OIG”s noted that during the “Introductory” visit, the health care provider ‘”does not provide any type of  any federally reimbursable diagnostic or therapeutic services during the Introductory Visits,” which occur where a patient is receiving care whether it’s a physician’s office, hospital or personal home. Further, the home health provider is not involved in any way in the patient’s selection process and “Introductory Visits” do not provide any actual or economic benefit to the patients. .

It’s important to reiterate, that healthcare providers should not contact the patient prior to receiving notification from the  patient that they have been selected nor can the “Introductory Visits” be a covered service under Medicare or Medicaid, or reimbursed by third-party payors. These actions could violate the Anti-Kickback statute.

To read the full opinion, click here.

For more information, please contact Kimberly Sheridan at 678-708-4703.

Avoid Being A Target Of HIPAA Audits | Here’s How

HIPAA AuditPhase 2 OCR HIPAA Audits Are Here – What Providers Should Do to Prepare

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has taken the first step in the next round of HIPAA audits.

OCR has begun to send out surveys in order to collect information from providers, health plans, and clearinghouses in preparation for phase 2 of their HIPAA audits. From the hundreds of entities receiving surveys, OCR will select over 200 providers and over 100 health plans to be audited.

It is more important than ever to make sure that you have complied with the HIPAA Rules. Here are the top 3 areas every provider should address:

1. When was the last time you conducted a Risk Assessment? If it has been more than a year or two, you should conduct a comprehensive Risk Assessment now.

If you are a small to medium sized office you can take advantage of HHS’s security risk assessment tool available on their website: HHS.gov SRA Tool

2. Have you recently reviewed your HIPAA policies and procedures to ensure that they are up to date and are being followed? There are three main areas that need to be addressed in your policies: Security Standards, Privacy Standards and Breach Notification Standards.

    • Security Standards – focus on how you keep Protected Health Information (PHI) secure, whether it is stored and/transmitted electronically or in some other form. Your practice must have appropriate safeguards in place (for example, requiring the use of secure passwords to access electronic health records and encrypting all devices that might contain e-PHI).
    • Privacy Standards – do you conduct periodic trainings for personnel regarding privacy practices? Do you have records that such trainings have been completed by all personnel? Is your Notice of Privacy Practices current and made available to your patients?
    • Breach Notification Standards – do you have a policy in place that outlines the steps for identifying and reporting a breach? Such a policy should address steps to take to investigate and contain the problem, as well as a means for identifying how many people were affected, who those individuals are, and how to send out breach notices. Keep in mind that under the Breach Notification Rule, providers must provide notice of a breach within a certain time frame. Your procedures for responding to a breach should allow for adequate time to meet this deadline.

3. Keeping track of your Business Associates and Business Associate Agreements – During the audit process OCR might ask for a list of business associates and their contact information. All providers should have this readily available. It is also important to have written Business Associate Agreements that are up to date and can be made available to OCR upon request.

If you have any questions about any HIPAA requirements or the approaching OCR audits our attorneys can help. Please contact Danielle Hildebrand at dhildebrand@jeylaw.com.

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The information on this site should not be construed as formal legal advice and is not intended to create or constitute a lawyer-client relationship.

 

DCH’s “Engagement Process” Now Official

DCH Policy As of July 2015, the Department of Community’s Health’s “Engagement Process” became an official part of its Policy and Manual, section 402.5(b).

The “Engagement Process” offers providers an opportunity to discuss findings of an audit or other proposed adverse action and to possibly resolve the matter prior to any request for an Administrative Review during an Engagement Conference.

However, we strongly advise you to contact an attorney prior to requesting an Engagement Conference to help ensure the best possible outcome. 

Here is what you need to know:

  • PURPOSE: The purpose of the Engagement Conference is to discuss a proposed adverse action “with the goal of informally resolving the matter.”
  • WHO INITIATES: You. A provider may request an Engagement Conference following receipt of Initial Findings of Notice of Proposed Adverse Action letter
  • PROVIDER TIME DEADLINE: This request must be in writing within seven (7) calendar days of receipt; and submitted to Engagement@dch.ga.gov.
  • DCH TIME DEADLINE: The Engagement Conference must be held with twenty-one (21) calendar days of the receipt of the Request.
  • WAIVER: If you do not participate in the Engagement Conference and fail to provide the Department prior written notice of your absence, you waive your right to an Engagement Conference. Notice should be submitted to Engagement@dch.ga.gov. This waiver does not preclude you from requesting an Administrative Review.
  • SETTLEMENT:“The Engagement Conference is considered settlement talks, and therefore, is not admissible in any pending or future proceeding, including Administrative Review or Administrative Hearing.” This includes conduct during conferences, notes, and correspondence.
  • ACCEPTANCE/REJECTION: You have seven (7) calendar days from the date of the Conference to accept or reject the offer in writing.
    • Acceptance must be in writing and waives your right to an administrative review.
    • If you reject the offer, you have the Right to Request an Administrative Review pursuant to Policy and Procedures Manual Sections 402.6 and 505.

Remember to print a copy of any communication you have with DCH and always ask for a “read receipt” when you send an email to DCH.

If you have received a Proposed Adverse Action from the Department, please contact Kimberly Sheridan at ksheridan@jeylaw.com or 678-708-4703 for assistance.

Physicians Need To Be Prepared For Increased Medicare & Medicaid Fraud Scrutiny

doctor-in-handcuffs-caption-1HHS increases resources to root out and penalize fraud:  Review existing financial arrangements NOW

On June 30th the federal Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General announced that it has created a specialized unit comprised of attorneys focused on Medicare and Medicaid fraud. This announcement comes on the heels of the OIG Special Fraud Alert reminding physicians of anti-kickback liability for illegal compensation related to arrangements with healthcare institutions.

Physicians should be prepared for increased scrutiny and an uptick in enforcement actions for kickback violations. According to OIG official Lisa Re, the new unit will be targeting kickback cases and will be going after not only the individual or organization paying the kickbacks but also the recipient of the kickbacks, e.g., the physicians.

Physicians who have financial arrangements that violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute would not only be subject to fines in the form of Civil Money Penalties, but could also be excluded from the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Now is the time for physicians to review existing or proposed financial arrangements to ensure that they do not pose any risk of violating the Anti-Kickback Statute.

If you have any questions about a particular arrangement our attorneys can help. Please call Danielle Hildebrand or DJ Jeyaram at 678-325-3872 for legal counsel.

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

 

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.

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.