Medicaid audit

Florida Nursing Home Owner Arrested for Alleged $395,000 Medicaid Fraud Scheme

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A Miami-Dade nursing home owner was arrested for allegedly committing $395,000 worth of Medicaid fraud. The Florida Attorney General (AG) accused the nursing home owner of using the billing names of non-existent businesses to submit fraudulent invoices. The fake invoices were then allegedly paid with Medicaid funds. The nursing home owner was arrested on October 17, 2013, by the AG’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) and the Miami-Dade Police Department.

To read the press release from the AG, click here.

Nursing Home Owner Allegedly Pocketed Medicaid Money.

According to the AG, the nursing home owner recorded forty-seven (47) fraudulent operating expense charges and submitted the cost report to the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). The owner is accused of then writing checks to these phony businesses to “pay” the expense charges. The AG alleges that the nursing home owner was just paying himself. AHCA referred the case to the MFCU.

If convicted, the nursing home owner faces up to 90 years in prison and more than $1.9 million in fines.

MFCU and State and Federal Auditing Agencies.

The MFCU receives referrals from many other state and federal agencies. Often, matters that could be resolved as simple billing errors get escalated to criminal charges when Medicaid providers are interviewed and give evidence against themselves. Admitting to any misconduct, no matter how slight, may lead to far more serious criminal charges.

Click here for tips on how to respond to a Medicaid audit.

Take Fraud Charges Seriously.

In many cases those subject to Medicaid or Medicare fraud audits and investigations refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter or they decide not to spend the money required for a top quality attorney to defend them.

If you are accused of Medicare or Medicaid fraud, realize that you are in the fight of your life. Your liberty, life and profession are at stake. Do not delude yourself. This is extremely serious. Be prepared to give up whatever you have if you can avoid a conviction.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits, Investigations and other Legal Proceedings.

Medicaid fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the state MFCU, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), the FBI, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Often other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and other law enforcement agencies participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today. Often Medicaid fraud criminal charges arise out of routine Medicaid audits, probe audits, or patient complaints.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Have you heard of the MFCU? Would you know how to properly respond to a Medicaid audit? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Source:

Ray, Whitney. “Miami-Dade Nursing Home Owner Arrested for $395,000 in Medicaid Fraud.” My Florida Legal. (October 17, 2013). From: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/F652FC98C9E1BA0C85257C0700530C42
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 Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

AHCA Expert Not Allowed to “Use His Discretion” in Deciding Claims Were Improper in Medicaid Appeal Hearing

FACTS: The Agency for Health Care Administration’s (“AHCA”) Office of Medicaid Program Integrity audited Dr. Rao, an authorized provider of Medicaid services, for claims between July 1, 2007, and June 30, 2009, and found him to be in violation of certain Medicaid provider policies. AHCA prepared a Final Audit Letter on June 1, 2011, notifying Dr. Rao that he had been overpaid by the Medicaid program by $110,712.09 for services provided during the audit period. Dr. Rao’s administrative hearing challenging AHCA’s overpayment determination was pending before DOAH. On August 17, 2012, Dr. Rao filed an unadopted rule challenge, alleging that AHCA’s overpayment determination was based on unadopted rules regarding the medical necessity of long-term monitored electroencephalograms (LTM EEGs).

OUTCOME: The ALJ found that AHCA’s peer review expert applied certain standards to the Medicaid claims he examined in conducting the Medicaid audit, but “exercised his discretion as to whether to apply them based on the specifics of each patient’s medical records.” The ALJ dismissed the unadopted rule challenge, explaining that “where application of agency policy is subject to the discretion of agency personnel, the policy is not a rule. . . . The medical standards at issue in this case are not self-executing and require the exercise of discretion in their application.” The ALJ noted that “the medical standards of practice must be applied on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the services provided were medically necessary, and provided both an appropriate level of care and standard of care ‘customarily furnished by the physician’s peers and to recognized health care standards” as required by section 409.9131(2)(d), Florida Statutes.

Source:

Radhakrishna K. Rao et al. v. AHCA, DOAH Case No. 12-2813RU (Final Order Aug. 20, 2013).

About the Author: The forgoing case summary was prepared by and appeared in the DOAH case notes of the Administrative Law Section newsletter, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Dec. 2013), a publication of the Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar.

OIG Audit Finds Federal Database of Terminated Medicaid Providers Needs Improvement

LLA Headshot smBy Lenis L. Archer, J.D., M.P.H., The Health Law Firm

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to establish a process for sharing information about terminated Medicaid providers. The federal database, called Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program State Information Sharing System (MCSIS), is designed to prevent terminated health care providers from billing another state’s program. However, an audit by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG), released in March 2014, states the MCSIS is not working as intended.

The MCSIS is supposed to collect data from every state Medicaid program on providers that were terminated from Medicaid for cause. However, the report found that the HHS OIG is not receiving data from 17 states or the District of Columbia. It was also found that a majority of the data does not meet the ACA criteria.

To read the entire report from the HHS OIG, click here.

Specific Issues Within Database.

According to the OIG, only 27% of the 6,439 MCSIS records involve terminated Medicaid providers. The database is filled with providers who had not been terminated, but rather had died, retired, left the state or stopped working with Medicaid of their own accord. It is also reported that about one-third of the records are not related to for-cause provider terminations. A majority of the data comes from California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and New York. According to Reuters, more than half of the records submitted did not include a National Provider Identification number, which is critical to any state trying to identify a terminated provider.

Click here to read the entire article from Reuters.

Recommendations to Improve Database.

CMS is now exploring options to implement mandatory state reporting. The agency has begun requiring that states submit termination letters for each provider entered in the MCSIS, and that CMS employees review each letter to ensure the provider belongs in the system.

What This Means for Medicaid Providers.

As CMS works to improve this database, those providers who have fallen through the cracks due to the reporting lag will now face repercussions for exclusion. Exclusion from Medicaid could mean exclusion from Medicare and other federal providers. It is important that health care providers know their status regarding exclusion, and contact an experience attorneys to assist them in having their names removed from exclusion lists.

To read more on the devastating consequences of exclusion, click here for a previous blog.

Contact Attorneys Experienced in Defending Against Action to Exclude an Individual or Business from the Medicare or Medicaid Programs.

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 or Medicaid  Programs, 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 (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

As a health care provider, do you know your status regarding exclusion? Are you aware of the consequences of being excluded? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pell, M.B. “U.S Database for Tracking Medicaid Fraud Fall Short, Auditor Says.” Reuters. (March 27, 2014). From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/27/us-usa-medicaid-database-idUSBREA2Q08D20140327

Levinson, Daniel. “CMS’s Process for Sharing Information About Terminated Providers Needs Improvement.” Department of Health and Human Service Office of Inspector General. (March 2014). From: http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-06-12-00031.pdf

About the Author: Lenis L. Archer is as attorney with 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, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Be Prepared for a Medicaid Audit Request

By Lance O. Leider, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Health Law

Florida healthcare providers servicing Medicaid patients are at a higher risk for audits than anywhere else in the country.  The reason is that Florida has become synonymous with healthcare fraud.  As a result, auditing and subsequent overpayment demands are some very real possibilities.

Should you find yourself, your facility, or your health practice the subject of a Medicaid audit by your state Medicaid agency or audit contractor, there are a few things you should know.

The most important thing is that just because you are being audited, it does not mean that you or your business has done anything wrong.  State and federal governments conduct audits for many different reasons.  Typical ones include: special audits of high-fraud geographic areas, auditing of particular billing codes, randomly selected provider auditing, and complaints of possible fraud.

How to Know If You Are the Subject of an Audit.

An audit will usually begin with the provider receiving an initial audit request, usually by letter or fax.  This request will serve to notify the recipient that it is the subject of an audit.  The initial letter will not always identify the reason for the audit. It will contain a list of names and dates of service for which the auditors want to see copies of medical records and other documentation.

This stage of the process is crucial because it is the best opportunity to control the process.  Once the records are compiled and sent to the auditor, the process shifts, and you are now going to have to dispute the auditor’s findings in order to avoid a finding of overpayment.

The biggest mistake that someone who is the subject of an audit can make is to hastily copy only a portion of the available records and send them off for review.  The temptation is to think that since the records make sense to you, they will make sense to the auditor.  Remember, the auditor has never worked in your office and has no idea how the records are compiled and organized.  This is why it is imperative to compile a thorough set of records that are presented in a clearly labeled and organized fashion that provide justification for every service or item billed.

Steps to Take After an Initial Audit Request. 

The following are steps that you should take in order to compile and provide a set of records that will best serve to help you avoid any liability at the conclusion of the audit process:

1. Read the audit letter carefully and provide everything that it asks for.  It’s always better to send too much documentation than too little.

2. If at all possible, compile the records yourself.  If you can’t do this, have a compliance officer, experienced consultant, or experienced health attorney compile the records and handle any follow-up requests.

3. Pay attention to the deadlines.  If a deadline is approaching and the records are not going to be ready, contact the auditor and request an extension before it is  due.  Do this by telephone and follow up with a letter (not an e-mail).  Send the letter before the deadline.

4. Send a cover letter with the requested documents and records explaining what is included and how it is organized as well as who to contact if the auditors have any questions.

5. Number every page of the records sent from the first page to the last page of documents.

6. Make a copy of everything you send exactly as it is sent.  This way there are no valid questions later on as to whether a particular document was forwarded to the auditors.

 7. Send the response package using some form of package tracking or delivery confirmation to arrive before the deadline.

Compiling all of the necessary documentation in a useful manner can be an arduous task.  If you find that you cannot do it on your own, or that there are serious deficiencies in record keeping, it is recommended that you reach out to an attorney with experience in Medicaid auditing to assist you in the process.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid and Medicare Audits.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with 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, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Internal Medicine Specialists Should Be Aware of Impending Medicare Audits

6 Indest-2008-3Coming to a medical practice near you. . . It’s scary, it’s horrible, and it could cost you a lot of money!

It’s the dreaded Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) audit.

The Horror! The Horror!

First Coast Service Options, the Medicare contractor for Florida, announced a new prepayment audit program that will impact Internal Medicine Specialists. The prepayment program is focused on Initial and Subsequent Hospital Evaluation and Management Services, CPT Codes 99223 and 99233. The program is being launched due to the high CERT error rate associated with these codes.

The audits will start on October 21, 2014.

What is the CERT Program?

CMS created the CERT program to measure the paid claims error rate for Medicare claims submitted to Medicare administrative contractors, carriers, durable medical equipment regional carriers, and Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs). CMS receives more than two billion claims annually. The CERT program randomly selects approximately 120,000 of these claims for review to determine whether the claims were properly paid.

Statistical samples are selected and the CERT documentation contractor (CDC) submits documentation requests to those providers who submitted affected claims. Once the requested documentation has been received, the information is forwarded to the CERT review contractor (CRC) for review. The CRC will review the claims and supporting documentation to measure compliance with Medicare coverage, coding and billing rules. Click here to read my previous blog on the CERT Program.

How Internal Medicine Specialists Can Avoid CERT Audits.

First Coast is only targeting Internal Medicine Specialists as their data analysis suggests the specialty is the primary contributor to an elevated CERT error rate. Errors are normally cause by insufficient documentation to justify the service.

Healthcare providers designated as Internal Medicine with First Coast Service Options need to pay special attention to this audit program and the documentation requirements for billing 99223 and 99233 codes. If you find yourself or your practice the target of a CERT audit, click here for tips on how to respond.

Our Thoughts on the CERT Program.

In working with the CERT Program, we have been pleasantly surprised when our personal phone calls to the CERT auditors have been answered and actual accurate information provided, as well as letters and documents we provided being promptly acknowledged. Like with any other audit, however, we urge those being audited to seek the advice of an experienced health law attorney who may be able to assist in heading off and avoiding a more serious investigation or a large repayment demand.

Comments?

Have you heard of CERT audits? Has your practice encountered a CERT audit? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

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 Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

August 27, 2012, Marks the Start Date of the CMS Recovery Audit Prepayment Review (RAPR)

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On July 31, 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on its website that hospitals should brace themselves for prepayment audits beginning August 27, 2012.

The CMS originally announced the Recovery Audit Prepayment Review (RAPR) Demonstration Project in November of 2011 for a January 1, 2012 start date, then delayed it to June 1, 2012, then again to, “summer of 2012.”

To see the official announcement from the CMS, click here.

 

Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) will Review Claims with High Rates of Improper Billing.

The Recovery Audit Prepayment Review allows Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs), (commonly known to attorneys representing provers as “bounty hunters”) to review claims before they are paid to ensure that the provider has complied with all Medicare payment rules. RACs will conduct prepayment reviews on certain types of claims that have been found to result in high rates of improper payments. The goal is to cut improper payments before they even happen.

The Initial Launch of Recovery Audit Prepayment Reviews will Center Around Seven States.

The Recovery Audit Prepayment Reviews will focus on seven states with high volumes of fraud and error-prone providers. These states are: California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, and Texas. The Recovery Audit Prepayment Reviews will also include four states with a high volume of claim with short inpatient hospital stays. These states are Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Here are the RACs for those states from the CMS:

HealthDataInsights serves California and Missouri
7501 Trinity Peak Street, Suite 120
Las Vegas, NV 89128
(866) 590-5598

Connolly Inc. serves Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and North Carolina
One Crescent Drive, Suite 300-A
Philadelphia, PA 19112
(866) 360-2507

CGI Federal Inc. serves Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio
1001 Lakeside Ave., Suite 800
Cleveland, OH 44114
(877) 316-RACB

Diversified Collection Services serves New York and Pennsylvania
2819 Southwest Blvd
San Angelo, TX 76904
(866) 201-0580

To see the name of the RAC for your state, click here.

 

More States May Look to Be Included in the Recovery Audit Prepayment Review Demonstration Project.

CMS is expecting that the prepayment reviews will help lower error rates by preventing improper payments instead of searching for improper payments after they occur. If these reviews are successful, other states will be included in subsequent roll-outs of the Recovery Audit Prepayment Review Demonstration.

 

Goals for the Recovery Audit Prepayment Review Demonstration.

In 2012, President Obama set three goals for cutting improper payments this year: curbing overall payment errors by $50 billion, cutting Medicare error rate in half and recovering $2 billion in improper payments, according to CMS. The prepayment review program is intended to help achieve those goals. It will also play a big part in preventing fraud, waste and abuse.

The demonstration project will last for three years.

Click here to learn more on the Recover Audit Prepayment Review Demostration.
 

My Concerns with Widespread Prepayment Reviews.

Our concerns with the widespread use of prepayment reviews are many. Prepayment reviews, especially when used where there is no indication of any fraud or a high error rate, can slow down a health provider’s cash flow to the point that it is put out of business. This is especially true for those that are predominately reimbursed by Medicare. The small business provider is at a greater risk.

In addition, the increase in professional time, salaries, copy costs, handling costs and postage greatly increase the administrative burden and the cost of doing business. To date, we have not seen or heard of any proposal by CMS to reimburse the provider for this additional unnecessary and unplanned expense.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid and Medicare Audits.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Sources:

Cheung, Karen. “Prepayment Audits Start Aug. 27.” Fierce Healthcare. (July 31, 2012). From: http://www.fiercehealthcare.com/story/prepayment-audits-start-aug-27/2012-07-31

CMS.gov. “Recovery Audit Prepayment Review.” CMS.gov. (July 31, 2012). From: https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Monitoring-Programs/CERT/Demonstrations.html

 

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 Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

A New Year Means New Audits and Site Visits for Assisted Living Facilities – Protect Yourself Now

00011_RT8By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

For Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs) in Florida, it’s time to do a little brushing up on your compliance material.

Beginning in January 2015, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), Office of Inspector General (OIG), Bureau of Medicaid Program Integrity (MPI), will conduct site visits to determine compliance with the Florida Medicaid Provider General Handbook and the Assistive Care Services Coverage and Limitations Handbook. This is just one of several initiatives aimed at ALFs to curtail fraud, waste, and abuse in the Florida Medicaid program.

Be Prepared.

The goal of a site visit is to determine if providers are rendering and documenting required services; to determine if assistive care services are being rendered by qualified and properly trained staff; to identify quality of care/environmental issues; and, to document and report ALF providers’ deficiencies to any managed care organizations with which the ALF is contracted.

According to the Florida Assisted Living Association (FALA), the majority of MPI sanctions concerning these fines are associated with the failure to have the following completed forms on file for each resident:

1. AHCA Form 1823 – The Health Assessment
2. AHCA Form 035 – The Certification of Medical Necessity
3. AHCA Form 036 – Medicaid Service Plan

Knowing is Half the Battle.

This announcement shows that the government will continue rigorous and thorough enforcement efforts this year. ALFs should consider this a fair warning to get supporting documentation in order. If you’re worried your ALF may not be in compliance, we suggest getting a compliance assessment. If your ALF is being audited we always suggest contacting an experienced health law attorney immediately. For general tips on how to respond to a Medicaid audit, click here for a previous blog.

Comments?

Did you know about these anti-fraud initiatives? Do you feel like your ALF is prepared for a site visit? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Assisted Living Facilities.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent assisted living facilities (ALFs) and ALF employees in a number of different matters including incorporation, preparing contracts, defending the facility against malpractice claims, licensing and regulatory matters, administrative hearings, and routine legal advice.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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 Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1999-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

How to Respond to a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) Investigative Subpoena

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Christopher E. Brown, J.D.

The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) is a division of the Florida Office of Attorney General. It is in charge of investigating and prosecuting health care providers suspected of defrauding the state’s Medicaid program.  When the unit opens a case against a provider, the first step is usually the issuance of an investigative subpoena, requesting specific patient records.  The practice tips below were prepared to assist a health care provider in properly responding to such a subpoena and being prepared to defend oneself.

It is important to remember that the MFCU would not be involved unless criminal fraud was suspected. This is not a routine audit.

1. Speak with an attorney experienced in Medicaid fraud and abuse prior to responding to the government’s requests.

The MFCU does not issue a subpoena without reason.  It is essential that you immediately retain an attorney experienced in Medicaid fraud and abuse claims when served with such a subpoena.  If retained early, an experienced health attorney can review the requested records to determine what concerns the government may have and how best to defend against them.  An experienced attorney can also determine if the subpoena has been properly served and what documents will be most responsive to the government’s requests.  An investigation by the MFCU is a very serious matter that can lead to both the recoupment of Medicaid reimbursements and criminal charges. Administrative action, civil action or criminal charges or all three could result.

2. Do NOT believe the government investigator is on your side.

It is not uncommon for a government investigator to notify you that the subpoena you have been served with is a routine matter and that there is nothing to fear.  The investigator may also tell you that your practice is not the subject of the investigation and that retaining counsel is unnecessary.  A subpoena issued by the MFCU is always a very serious matter and should always be treated as such. Remember, the investigator’s job is to build a case against you and, in our experience, the investigator will use whatever tactics are at his/her disposal to do so.

Do not be lured into the temptation to “explain” or tell “your side of the story.” You will merely be helping the government to make a case against you, one which it might not have been able to prove otherwise.

3. Provide the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with the documents than have been requested and NOTHING more.

It is almost never advisable to provide the MFCU with more documents than requested in the subpoena.  Providing the government investigator with additional information beyond what was requested will only provide the government with more evidence to use against you at a later date.

4. DO NOT provide the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with your original records.

Unless required by the government, do not provide the MFCU with your original records. These investigations can often take years to reach a final resolution, and once the original records have been turned over it is very difficult to get them back. In most cases, if the government is provided with an organized paginated copy of the requested records, it will not require you to produce the originals.

5. Remember: the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has the right to request copies of only Medicaid patient records.

As a general rule, the MFCU has the right to subpoena and review the patient records for Medicaid patients only.  The records of a non-Medicaid patient may not be reviewed by the government without the patient’s prior written consent.

6. If proper and lawful, you must respond to the subpoena.

If the MFCU properly serves you with a lawful subpoena, you must produce the written records within the time prescribed. Extensions of time may be granted, but these need to be requested in advance and documented in writing. If the subpoena is not obeyed, the government will petition a court to compel compliance and you will likely have to pay the government’s attorney’s fees and costs associated with enforcing the investigative subpoena.

7. You and your employees are not required to talk with government investigators or explain the records unless individually subpoenaed.

Remember that a subpoena for records is just that, a subpoena for records. It is not a subpoena for testimonies or interviews.

After your records have been produced, it is important to remember that neither you nor your employees are required to speak with government investigators, absent a specific subpoena for this.  As noted above, it is rarely advisable to volunteer information to the MFCU, and in most cases, this information will be used to build a case against you.

8. Remain patient after complying with the subpoena.

Finally, it is important to remain patient after you have submitted your records to the government for review.  The MFCU investigates hundreds of cases each year, involving thousands of records. It is not uncommon for an investigation to go years without a final determination.  Legal representation is extremely important at this time. The communication between your counsel and the government can make the difference between a civil penalty and criminal charges.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling MFCU Investigations.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, medical groups, clinics, home health agencies, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), group facilities for the developmentally disabled, hospitals, and other health care providers in responding to a MFCU investigation. We also represent health providers in administrative hearings in such matters at both the federal and state levels. We have represented health providers in civil court litigation and in appeals on such matters, as well.

If you are aware of an investigation of you or your practice, or if you have been contacted by the MFCU, contact an experienced health law attorney immediately.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Authors: 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 Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Christopher E. Brown, J.D. is an attorney with 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 Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Physician Argues Definition of “Peer” at Formal Administrative Hearing

peer reviewFACTS: The Agency for Health Care Administration (“AHCA”) is responsible for administering Florida’s Medicaid program and conducting investigations and audits of paid claims to ascertain if Medicaid providers have been overpaid. With regard to investigations of physicians, section 409.9131, Florida Statutes, provides that AHCA must have a “peer” evaluate Medicaid claims before the initiation of formal proceedings by AHCA to recover overpayments. Section 409.9131(2)(c) defines a “peer” as “a Florida licensed physician who is, to the maximum extent possible, of the same specialty or subspecialty, licensed under the same chapter, and in active practice.” Section “109.9131(2)(a) deems a physician to be in “active practice” if he or she has “regularly provided medical care and treatment to patients within the past two years.”

Alfred Murciano, M.D., treats patients who are hospitalized in Level III neonatal intensive care units and pediatric intensive care units in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County hospitals. His practice is limited to pediatric infectious disease. He has been certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in two areas: General Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases. AHCA initiated a review of Medicaid claims submitted by Dr. Murciano between September 1, 2008, and August 31, 2010, and referred those claims to Richard Keith O’Hern, M.D., for peer review. Dr. O’Hern practiced medicine for 37 years, and was engaged in a private general pediatric practice until he retired in December of 2012. During the course of his career, he was certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in General Pediatrics, completed a one-year infectious disease fellowship at the The University of Florida, and treated approximately 16,000 babies with infectious disease issues. However, he was never board certified in pediatric infectious diseases, and at the time he reviewed Dr. Murciano’s Medicaid claims, Dr. O’Hern would have been ineligible for board certification in pediatric infectious diseases. In addition, Dr. O’Hern would have been unable to treat Dr. Murciano’s hospitalized patients in Level III NICUs and PICUs.

After Dr. O’Hern’s review, AHCA issued a Final Agency Audit Report alleging Dr Murciano had been overpaid by $l,051.992.99, and that he was required to reimburse AHCA for the overpayment. In addition, AHCA stated it was seeking to impose a fine of $210,398.60.

OUTCOME: Dr. Murciano argued at the formal administrative hearing that Dr O’Hern was not a “peer” as that term is defined in section 409.9131(20)(c). The ALJ agreed and issued a Recommended Order on May 22, 2014, recommending that AHCA’s case be dismissed because it failed to satisfy a condition precedent to initiating formal proceedings. While recognizing that AHCA is not required to retain a reviewing physician with the exact credentials as the physician under review, the ALJ concluded Dr. O’Hern was not of the same specialty as Dr. Murciano.

On July 31, 2014, AHCA rendered a Partial Final Order rejecting the ALJ’s conclusion that Dr. O’Hern was not a “peer.” In the course of ruling that it has substantive jurisdiction over such conclusions and that its interpretation of section 409.9131(2)(c), Florida Statutes, is entitled to deference, AHCA stated that it interprets the statute “to mean that the peer must practice in the same area as Respondent, hold the same professional license as Respondent, and be in active practice like Respondent.” AHCA concluded that “Dr. O’Hern is indeed a ‘peer’ of Respondent under the Agency’s interpretation of Section 409.9131(2)(c), Florida Statutes, because he too has a Florida medical license, is a pediatrician and had an active practice at the time he reviewed Respondent’s records. That Dr. O’Hern did not hold the same certification as Respondent, or have a professional practice identical to Respondent in no way means he is not a ‘peer’ of Respondent.” AHCA’s rejection of the ALJ’s conclusion of law regarding Dr. O’Hern’s “peer” status caused AHCA to remand the case back to the ALJ to make the factual findings on the claimed overpayments that were not made in the Recommended Order because of the ALJ’s conclusion that Dr. O’Hern did not qualify as a “peer.”

On August 18, 2014, the ALJ issued an Order respectfully declining AHCA’s remand. AHCA then filed a Petition for writ of Mandamus in the First District Court of Appeal, asking the court to direct the ALA to accept the remand and to enter findings of fact and conclusions of law with regard to each overpayment claim. The court assigned case number 1D14-3836 to AHCA’s Petition, and the case is pending.
Source:

AHCA v. Alfred Murciano, M.D., DOAH Case No. 13-0795MPI (Recommended Order May 22, 2014), AHCA Rendition No. 14-687-FOF-MDO (Partial Final Order July 31, 2014)
About the Author: The forgoing case summary was prepared by and appeared in the DOAH case notes of the Administrative Law Section newsletter, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Dec. 2014), a publication of the Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar.

Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges Florida Adventist Hospitals Overbilled Millions of Dollars

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A whistleblower lawsuit based on information from a former Florida Hospital Orlando billing employee and a former staff physician alleges that seven of Adventist’s Florida hospitals overbilled the federal government between 1995 and 2009, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in false or padded medical claims, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel and other sources.

To read the entire False Claims Act complaint filed, click here.

Hospital Allegedly Used Improper Coding to Overbill Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare.

The suit claims that seven Adventist Florida hospitals allegedly used improper coding to overbill Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare. In addition, the lawsuit alleges the hospitals also overbilled for a drug used in MRI scans and billed for computer analyses that were never performed.

The article states that the plaintiffs are a bill-coding and compliance officer, and a radiologist that were either employed or affiliated with Florida Hospital Orlando between 1995 and 2009. They allege the discrepancies occurred during those years. The lawsuit was filed in July 2010, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Hospitals that allegedly partook in the overbilling include: Florida Hospital Orlando, Florida Hospital Altamonte, Florida Hospital East Orlando, Florida Hospital Apopka, Florida Hospital Celebration Health, Florida Hospital Kissimmee and Winter Park Memorial Hospital.

The U. S. district court judge has set the trial in this case for December 2013.

Click here to read the Orlando Sentinel article.

Steep Fines if Found Liable. 

If the health system is found liable for the false claims it would be responsible for repaying the excess money received, for paying civil penalties of $5,500 to $11,000 per false claim, and damages.

Under the False Claims Act, Whistleblowers Encouraged to Speak Up.

Whistleblowers stand to gain substantial amounts, sometimes as much as thirty percent (30%), of the award under the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. Sect. 3730). Such awards, often reaching into millions of dollars, encourage employees to come forward and report fraud.

You can learn more on the False Claims Act on the Department of Justice (DOJ) website.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Medicaid and Medicare Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

In addition to our other experience in Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare cases, attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblowers cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To learn more on our experience with Medicaid and Medicare quit tam or whistleblower cases, visit our website.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Jameson, Marni. “Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges Florida Hospital Filled Millions in False Claims.” Orlando Sentinel. (August 8, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-08-08/health/os-whistleblower-lawsuit-florida-hospital-20120808_1_adventist-health-suit-claims-celebration-health/2

Gamble, Molly. “Whistleblower Suit Alleges Florida Adventist Hospitals Overbilled Tens of Millions.” Becker’s Hospitals Review. (August 9, 2012). From: http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/legal-regulatory-issues/whistleblower-suit-alleges-florida-adventist-hospitals-overbilled-tens-of-millions.html

Flagler Live and Kaiser Health News. “Florida Hospital Flagler Spared Sister Hospitals’ Fraud Lawsuit and Medicare Penalties.” Flagler Live. (August 13, 2012). From: http://flaglerlive.com/42723/adventist-lawsuit-medicare/

Amanda Dittman and Charlotte Elenberger, M.D. v. Adventist Health Systems/Sunbelt, Inc. No. 6:10-cv-01062-JA-GJK (July 15, 2010), available at: http://flaglerlive.com/wp-content/uploads/whistleblower-lawsuit-adventist.pdf

Justice.Gov. “The False Claims Act.” Department of Justice. From: http://www.justice.gov/civil/docs_forms/C-FRAUDS_FCA_Primer.pdf

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 Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Load More Posts