By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issues investigative subpoenas through the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). This agency investigates allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse against Medicare, Medicaid, and other federally funded healthcare programs. These subpoenas are very broad, usually requiring the production of thousands of pages of documents. Click here to see a sample of a subpoena duces tecum issued by the OIG.
Immediate Action to Take If the OIG Issues a Subpoena.
Immediately review the subpoena in detail to see what it requests and from whom. A subpoena may be issued to or served on the wrong person or organization. If so, have your attorney contact the issuer and attempt to resolve the matter. Document everything in writing. Whatever you do, do not ignore it.
A review of the requested documents will give you and your experienced healthcare attorney an idea of what type of case is being investigated by the OIG. That is one reason that it is important to immediately retain the services of a healthcare attorney experienced in responding to such subpoenas and dealing with the OIG’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Many Different Scenarios Can Lead to Investigations and Subpoenas.
If someone has filed a False Claims Act (FCA) complaint or lawsuit, also known as a whistleblower or qui tam suit, this may be why the OIG is investigating. Suspicion of violating Medicare and Medicaid participation rules, including the Conditions of Participation or the Conditions for Payment (Federal Regulations), can also lead to investigations and subpoenas. If you have committed violations of program requirements such that the government can seek Civil Monetary Penalties, this may give rise to such investigation. If you are suspected of Medicare fraud, including upcoding or billing for medically unnecessary supplies or services, this may lead to an investigation. A patient complaint about not receiving services or equipment billed to Medicare is a surefire way to investigate. Regardless, the matter is serious, so you should retain experienced health care counsel.
Follow These Helpful Steps to Ease the Process:
1. Immediately review the subpoena to ensure you know the expected delivery date of the requested documents. Be sure to respond in writing via a reliable courier or another method of tracking your sending of the documents and their receipt.
2. Immediately retain the services of an experienced healthcare attorney to start dealing with the OIG or the U.S. Attorney’s Office involved in the case.
3. Immediately start assembling the requested documents in the subpoena so they may be reviewed by your attorney before they are organized, labeled, numbered, and produced. This will take longer than you think.
4. Request an extension of time to respond, if needed, before the due date for the production of the documents. These are routinely given, especially for large document productions. Document the extension of time in writing.
5. Completely read the instructions given in the subpoena regarding how documents produced are to be organized, page-numbered, labeled, copied, and delivered. It is essential to produce them this way.
6. If documents are archived, in storage, require the reinstallation of old software to reproduce, or otherwise will take a long time to produce, you may request a “rolling production.” This is an agreement to produce the documents as you obtain them.
7. In reviewing the documents, attempt to determine precisely what the OIG and U.S. Attorney may be investigating. This will afford you time to begin preparation for your defense and will allow you to request a modification of what it is necessary to produce in many instances.
8. It is preferable for you not to personally communicate with OIG special agents, FBI agents, other investigators, or attorneys working for the OIG or U.S. Attorney’s Office. Anything you say to them, orally or in writing, can be used against you in the case. Also, any incorrect or false information you provide, orally or in writing, can result in a felony charge under 18 U.S.C. Sect. 1001. Have your attorney do all communication.
9. Remember, you do not have to produce any documents in your custody. Likewise, you do not have to create documents to produce.
10. Never alter, destroy, or create documents for which the subpoena is issued after you have received the subpoena. Consider all documents to be “frozen” in time. Also, immediately notify whoever is in charge of your document retention or document destruction program (if you have one) to ensure no further documents are destroyed or deleted.
11. If you do not have a document destruction program for obsolete documents as you read this, you need to create one (subject to number 10 immediately above). Make sure it addresses e-mails, electronically stored documents, and paper copies. Do not keep any documents for longer than you are required to keep them by law (including Federal Regulations).
12. Provide an explanation for any documents or categories of records that you should have but were destroyed by natural disasters, fires, etc. Include documentation (fire department, police report, insurance company appraisal, etc.) that shows this. Do not ever lie or exaggerate it.
For additional information, read one of our recent blogs on preparing for a healthcare audit request.
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 toll-free (888) 331-6620 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620.
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