Psychiatric Practice Reaches Settlement in FCA Suit to End Allegations of Employing Physician on OIG Exclusion List
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On February 23, 2022, a psychiatric practice and its owner agreed to pay $310,874 to resolve allegations they improperly hired and employed a physician who was excluded from federal healthcare programs. The physician who was hired was on the OIG’s exclusion list, the “List of Excluded Individuals and Entities” (LEIE). As a result, the government took the position that claims for services the physician provided filed against government programs were illegal pursuant to the false Claims Act (FCA). Details were disclosed in a Press Release by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut.
Geriatric & Adult Psychiatry, LLC (GAP), along with the owner, entered into a civil settlement agreement to resolve their liability under the federal and state False Claims Acts, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release.
Past Conviction Overlooked.
In 2006, the physician had been convicted in the Southern District of Florida of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. Because of his conviction, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) excluded him from all federal healthcare programs. Such exclusion includes Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, Veterans Administration (V.A.), and Indian Health Service (I.H.S.) programs.
When the OIG excludes an individual or entity from federal health care programs, no payments may be made for items or services furnished by that excluded individual. Additionally, the law prohibits any person or organization that receives such funds from employing or contracting with a person on the LEIE, in any way. To avoid potential liability, it is advised that health care providers check the List of Excluded Individuals/Entities (LEIE) on the OIG website: http://oig.hhs.gov/exclusions.
In addition, the OIG has issued a Special Advisory Bulletin to providers who might employ or contract with an excluded individual or entity to provide guidance. To review this OIG Bulletin, click here.
For more helpful information, click here.
Despite this, to medical group hired the former physician as the clinical director in 2016 where he served in that position until 2021. During that time, both the practice and its owner billed and sought reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and the Railroad Retirement Medicare Program. Additionally, GAP’s reimbursements were used to pay the physician’s salary and benefits.
Payment Prohibition & Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs).
Health care providers receiving funds from federal health care programs must check to see if potential employees and contractors are excluded by searching the LEIE to ensure that person is not listed. Providers have mistakenly assumed that exclusion does not apply to an individual or entity that provides services that extend beyond direct patient care; this is wrong. Payment prohibition extends to anyone who chooses to employ or contract with an excluded individual or entity in any capacity. Providers who violate this prohibition are required to pay back all federal health care program funds inappropriately received and may also be subject to civil monetary penalties (CMPs) and action under the False Claims Act (FCA).
Furthermore, payment of an excluded individual’s salary, benefits, or expenses, directly linked to federal health care program funds is expressly prohibited. Click here to read my prior blog and learn more about this.
Little Known Fact: You Must Actively Apply to Get Taken Off the LEIE.
A little-known fact, often overlooked, is that a person or entity on the LEIE must actually apply to be removed from it, no matter how short the period of exclusion. Thus if a person is excluded and placed on the LEIE for only two years, they must apply to the OIG after that period of time, completing its detailed, notarized application, and be removed from the list. Removal is not automatic.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Defending Against Action to Exclude an Individual or Business from the Medicare Program and Assisting in Reinstatement Applications.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have experience in dealing with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and defending against action to exclude an individual or business entity from the Medicare Program, in administrative hearings on this type of action, in submitting applications requesting reinstatement to the Medicare Program after exclusion, and removal from the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE).
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Yankowski, Peter. “Officials: Hamden psychiatric practice to pay $310,000 settlement over employee who lost medical license.” Stamford Advocate. (February 23, 2022). Web.
Health Law Weekly. “Psychiatric Practice, Owner Pay $310K for Employing “Excluded” Individual.”American Health Law Association (AHLA). (February 25, 2022). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714; Phone: (407) 331-6620; Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.
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