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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.

Bill Would Eliminate Several Certificate Of Need (CON) Requirements

Certificate of NeedGeorgia House Bill 1055 Would Eliminate “Certificate of Need” (“CON”) Requirements For Several Types Of Healthcare Facilities

Georgia House Bill 1055 would cause a substantial change in the way the state regulates healthcare providers. Georgia’s CON program is administered by the Department of Community Health (DCH). A CON is required for entities before building, acquiring or expanding healthcare services and facilities. Read the full bill here.

Roots of CON Requirements Almost 40 Years Old

Georgia first created its CON program in 1979 in response to the federal “Health Planning Resources Development Act” of 1974. The federal act was later repealed, but many states including Georgia continue to have CON requirements.

The goal of Georgia’s CON program was to “ensure access to quality health care services and to ensure that health care services and facilities are developed in an orderly and economical manner and are made available to all citizens and that only those health care services found to be in the public interest shall be provided in this state.” § 31-6-1. However, since then, the efficacy of CON programs has been questioned, and bills have been introduced seeking to change Georgia’s CON program one way or another nearly every year.

Larger Healthcare Providers Argue CONs Increase Barriers To Expanding

Larger hospitals oppose measures to weaken CON requirements which restrict potential competitors. Hospitals argue they need to use profits from surgical procedures to subsidize less profitable care they are required to provide to the uninsured. On the other hand, physicians and smaller healthcare facilities tend to advocate weakening or eliminating CON requirements because those requirements create barriers to offering services in certain healthcare areas. If House Bill 1055 passes, it would significantly reduce barriers for building multi-specialty surgery centers. Physicians contend changes like this would help lower healthcare costs.

Get Help With CON Requirements

Unless House Bill 1055 passes, Georgia’s CON program will continue to loom large for health care providers of all sizes. At Jeyaram & Associates, we have extensive experience with the CON process and related Letter of Determination and Letter of Non-Reviewability requirements and can help your practice. Contact DJ Jeyaram at DJ@Jeylaw.com  or Jonathan Anderson at Janderson@Jeylaw.com.

 

“Two Midnight Rule” Clarifies Reimbursements For Hospitals

Hospital ReimbursementIn 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the so-called two-midnight rule in an attempt to clarify when a patient should be designated to inpatient status versus outpatient status.

Hospitals are paid differently for treating inpatients versus outpatients. The rule addressed when surgical procedures, diagnostic tests and other treatments are generally considered appropriate for inpatient hospital admission under Medicare Part A.

The two-midnight rule attempts to set a bright line test: only patients that doctors expect to spend two nights in the hospital are considered inpatient.

Although the rule was set to take effect on October 1, 2015, CMS recently announced that it would postpone the enforcement on inpatient status reviews. The rule will now go into effect December 31, 2015.

Additionally, CMS proposed that it will consider stays a physician expects to last less than two midnights to be an inpatient admission relying on the judgment of the physician and the documentation justifying the stay on a case-by-case basis. For many in the healthcare industry, this appears to be a small step in the right direction.

Lastly, CMS announced that it will shift the responsibility of educating physicians and enforcement of the two-midnight rule to quality improvement organizations (QIO) from recovery auditors.

If you have questions about the Two Midnight Rule, please contact Kimberly Sheridan at ksheridan@jeylaw.com or 678-708-4702

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.

 

CMS Proposes 2 New Stark Exceptions

drIf adopted, the new exceptions will provide physicians with more options when setting up financial arrangements with hospitals.

On July 15, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published several proposed changes to the Stark regulations as well as two new exceptions. The changes made pursuant to the proposed rule would clarify certain requirements which must be met for many of the Stark Law exceptions.

One notable change would impact several Stark exceptions (e.g., office space and equipment rental, personal service arrangements, physician recruitment arrangements, etc.) which require that an arrangement be either “in writing” or memorialized in a “written agreement.” If adopted, the proposal would make the writing requirement uniform throughout by replacing “written agreement” with “in writing.” CMS’s comments further clarify that a formal contract is not required. Rather, if under the circumstances it is appropriate, the writing requirement may be satisfied with a collection of “contemporaneous documents evidencing the course of conduct between the parties.”

CMS also provides clarification on how to satisfy Stark exception requirements that are conditioned on having an arrangement that lasts at least one year. According to CMS, a “formal contract or other document with an explicit ‘term’ provision is generally not necessary to satisfy the [one-year-term] element.” An arrangement that lasts at least one year satisfies the requirement.

The two new Stark Law exceptions involve payments related to employment of non-physician practitioners and timeshare arrangements for the use of office space, equipment, supplies, etc. The first exception would allow hospitals, Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Centers to subsidize physicians for the cost to employ physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse midwives up to a certain amount. The goal of the proposed exception is to promote the expansion of access to primary care services.

The other proposed exception would protect timeshare arrangements if certain requirements are met. Such arrangements would need to be between a hospital or physician organization (licensor) and a physician (licensee) for the use of the licensor’s premises, equipment, personnel, items, supplies, or services. Additionally, the licensed premises, equipment, personnel, items, supplies, and services would need to be used predominantly for evaluation and management services to patients of the physician.

If adopted, the new exceptions will provide physicians with more options when setting up financial arrangements with hospitals. However, CMS also clarifies and broadens certain limitations — the percentage of a hospital that may be owned by physicians will now encompass all physician owners, regardless of whether a physician owner refers patients to the hospital.

The CMS publication can be read here.

If you have any questions about the CMS guidance and proposed changes, our attorneys can help. Please contact Danielle Hildebrand at dhildebrand@jeylaw.com at 678-325-3872