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.

Are You Ready for HIPAA and HITECH Audits?

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is launching a pilot program this month to make sure covered entities are in compliance with HIPAA privacy and security rules and breach notification standards, according to the OCR. The OCR will perform up to 150 audits to assess HIPAA compliance.

The HITECH Act requires HHS to perform periodic audits to check for HIPAA compliance. The audits will be conducted from November 2011 through December 2012. Initially these audits will likely focus on hospitals and insurance companies, but HMEs could also be a target.

Though early audits are likely to be educational, in order to get a basic assessment of where providers stand in regards to HIPAA, that doesn’t mean there won’t be repercussions for violations. Because the privacy rule has been established since 2001 and the security rule has been established since 2003, providers can not be completely excused for missteps.

HIPAA violations can result in severe penalties (per section 1177 of HIPAA) including:

• a fine of up to $50,000, or up to 1 year in prison, or both; (Class 6 Felony)
• if the offense is committed under false pretenses, a fine of up to $100,000, up to 5 years in prison, or both; (Class 5 Felony)
• if the offense is committed with intent to sell, transfer, or use individually identifiable health information for commercial advantage, personal gain, or malicious harm, a fine up to $250,000, or up to 10 years in prison, or both. (Class 4 Felony)
• Civil fines can also be imposed by the Secretary of DHHS with a maximum is $100 for each violation, with the total amount not to exceed $25,0000 for all violations of an identical requirement or prohibition during a calendar year. (Class 3 Felony).

Since the final rule for the HITECH Act hasn’t been finalized, the OCR can only expect providers to make decent judgments about the provisions in the interim final rule.

Providers need to review where they’re at with privacy and security compliance and make any improvements. This pilot program of audits will likely be expanded (and the more violations the OCR encounters, the larger the likelihood of strict enforcement), so all providers should be aware of current practices and how to ensure compliance.

For more information about HIPAA and other healthcare audits, visit www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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WellCare Health Plans Reaches Settlement in False Claims Act Case

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

WellCare Health Plans Inc.(WellCare) has reached a $137.5 million settlement with the federal government and nine states. The settlement resolves four lawsuits alleging violations of the False Claims Act.

WellCare is based in Tampa, Florida. The company provides managed health care services for approximately 2.6 million Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries across the United States.

Lawsuits Allege WellCare Submitted False Claims to Medicare, Medicaid Programs.

The lawsuits allege that WellCare submitted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid programs. WellCare allegedly falsely inflated the amount it claimed to be spending on medical care. Allegedly, this was done in order to avoid returning money to Medicaid and other programs in various states, including the Florida Medicaid program and Florida Healthy Kids program. WellCare also allegedly knowingly retained overpayments it had received from Florida Medicaid for infant care. Furthermore, WellCare allegedly falsified data that misrepresented the medical conditions of patients and the treatments they received.

WellCare to Pay the United States and Nine Individual States in Settlement.

WellCare’s settlement requires the company to pay the United States and nine individual states $137.5 million. The nine states are Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New York, and Ohio. The settlement also requires WellCare to pay an additional $35 million if the company is sold or experiences a change in control within three years of the agreement.

Whistleblowers Share in Settlement.

The four lawsuits against WellCare were filed by whistleblowers under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. The qui tam provisions allow individuals to file lawsuits on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.

The whistleblower whose qui tam complaint initiated the government’s investigation will receive approximately $20.75 million. The other whistleblowers will share approximately $4.66 million and will also be entitled to receive an additional share of any contingency payment.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in False Claims Act Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents physicians, medical practices, pharmacists, pharmacies, and other health provider in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving government health programs (Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE). The Health Law Firm also represents health providers in False Claims Act cases.

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

Sources Include:

Kutscher, Beth. “WellCare Agrees to Pay Over $137.5 Million in Settlement.” Modern Healthcare. (Apr. 3, 2012). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20120403/NEWS/304039975#ixzz1yAklA7rutrk=tynt

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Florida-Based WellCcare Health Plans Agrees to Pay $137.5 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations.” U.S. Department of Justice. (Apr. 3, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/April/12-civ-425.html

Voreacos, David. “WellCare to Pay $137.5 Million to Settle False Claims Case.” Bloomberg News. (Apr. 3, 2012). From: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-03/wellcare-to-pay-137-5-million-to-settle-false-claims-case-1-.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.

Settlement Reached in GlaxoSmithKline Healthcare Fraud Case

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

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a prescription drug manufacturer, will pay $3 billion in fines to resolve allegations of healthcare fraud. The settlement was announced by federal prosecutors on July 1, 2012, and in a press release from the Florida Attorney General on July 2, 2012. This is the largest healthcare fraud settlement in U.S. history.

Settlement Resolves Allegations Against GSK Related to Healthcare Fraud.

The settlement resolves allegations that GSK:

  • Marketed the depression drug Paxil for off-label uses, such as use by children and adolescents; 
  • Marketed the depression drug Wellbutrin for off-label uses, such as for weight loss and treatment of sexual dysfunction, and at higher-than-approved dosages; 
  • Marketed the asthma drug Advair for off-label uses, including first-line use for asthma;
  • Marketed the seizure medication Lamictal for off-label uses, including bipolar depression, neuropathic pain, and various other psychiatric conditions; 
  • Marketed the nausea drug Zofran for off-label uses, including pregnancy-related nausea; 
  • Made false representations regarding the safety and efficacy of Paxil, Wellbutrin, Advair, Lamictal, Zofran, and the diabetes drug Avandia;
  • Offered kickbacks to healthcare professionals to induce them to promote and prescribe certain prescription drugs; and
  • Submitted incorrect pricing data for various prescription drugs, thereby underpaying rebates owed to Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs.

GSK Will Also Plead Guilty to Criminal Charges as Part of Settlement.

As part of the settlement, GSK has will plead guilty to criminal charges that it violated the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). Allegedly, GSK introduced Wellbutrin and Paxil into interstate commerce when the drugs contained labels that were not in accordance with their FDA approvals. Additionally, GSK allegedly failed to report certain clinical data regarding Avandia to the FDA.

Florida to Receive Over $56 Million In Settlement.

Florida will receive more than $56 million as part of the settlement with GSK. Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, announced the state’s participation in the settlement on July 2, 2012.

Settlement Stems From Whistleblower Actions.

The settlement is based on four qui tam, or whistleblower, actions brought by individuals pursuant to state and federal false claims. To view the federal False Claims Act, click here. A National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units team, along with several other federal agencies, investigated the matter and conducted settlement negotiations with the defendants. Florida’s civil investigation was handled by the Attorney General’s Complex Civil Enforcement Bureau, which is part of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Healthcare Fraud Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents physicians, medical practices, pharmacists, pharmacies, and other health providers in healthcare fraud cases, including investigations, regulatory matters, litigation, and audits involving government health programs (Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE).

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

Sources Include:

Meale, Jenn. “Attorney General Bondi’s Office Reaches Historic Healthcare Fraud Settlement.” Florida Office of the Attorney General. (July 2, 2012). Press Release. From: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/E494FDADFF113AC885257A2F0068F790

Schmidt, Michael S. and Katie Thomas. “GlaxoSmithKline Agrees to Pay $3 Billion in Fraud Settlement.” New York Times. (July 2, 2012). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/business/glaxosmithkline-agrees-to-pay-3-billion-in-fraud-settlement.html?pagewanted=all

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.

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.

Office of Inspector General (OIG) Scrutinizes Billing at South Florida Mental Health Clinics

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

On August 16, 2012, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on questionable billing by mental health centers. The report focuses on the nation’s mental health clinics that overbilled Medicare in 2010, some by tens of millions of dollars. The majority of these clinics were located in South Florida, Texas and Louisiana.

To see the full report from the OIG, click here.

Two Big Busts in Florida Mental Health Clinics for Medicare Fraud.

According to an article in the Miami Herald: “No area of the country cheats Medicare quite like South Florida.” To see this article from the Miami Herald, click here.

In the report, the OIG specifically named a bust of two Miami-area doctors, one Miami-area therapist and two others for their participation in a Medicare fraud scheme. The case involved the nation’s biggest mental health chain and more than $205 million in fraudulent billing. Executives of the company were sentence in June 2012, to anywhere from 50 years to 91 months.

We previously blogged about this news story. Click here to read that blog. To see a copy of the press release on this case from the Department of Justice (DOJ), click here.

The Miami Herald article outlines the case of another South Florida mental-health clinic. The clinic’s owner, his son, his daughter and five others were found guilty on August 31, 2012, of conspiring to cheat $57 million from the federal program for the elderly and disabled. The owner, his son, an operating officer and another manager were also convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud by collecting $11 million in Medicare payments for therapy services that were not needed or provided from 2007 to 2011.

Click here to see the full press release on this case from the DOJ.

OIG Scrutinizes Medicare for Lack of Regulations.

In the report, the Inspector General (IG) said these two instances of Medicare fraud are examples of the federal program’s “vulnerabilities.” The report scrutinizes the Medicare program for it’s lack of regulating about 200 mental health centers in 25 states that received an estimated $218.6 million in 2010.

Medicare Officials Admit Mental Health Services are Susceptible  to Fraud and Abuse.

In the Miami Herald article, Medicare officials responded to the OIG by acknowledging that mental health services have been vulnerable to fraud and abuse in the past, but said Medicare is currently taking steps to address these issues. These steps include adopting a computer program that will screen prospective clinic operators; it will perform criminal background checks and closely examine claims which are paid within 14 days.

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 health care 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.

Sources:

Weaver, Jay. “Feds Spotlight South Florida Mental Health Clinics for Medicare Fraud.” The Miami Herald. (August 28, 2012). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/08/28/2972637/feds-spotlight-south-floridas.html

Levinson, Daniel. “Questionable Billing By Community Mental Health Centers.” Office of Inspector General. (August 2012). From: /uploads/OIG on Medicare fraud in Mental Health Clinics.pdf

Department of Justice. “Eight Individuals and a Corporation Convicted at Trial in Florida in $50 Million Medicare Fraud.” United States Department of Justice. (August 24, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/August/12-crm-1048.html.

Valle, Alicia. “Doctors, Therapist and Recruiters from Miami-Area Mental Health Care Corporation Convicted for Participating in $205 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme” U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. (June 1, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/fls/PressReleases/120601-03.html

About the Authors: 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.

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.

Hospice of the Comforter Inc., Faces Whistleblower Lawsuit

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

On September 6, 2012, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it will join in a whistleblower lawsuit alleging false Medicare billings against Hospice of the Comforter Inc., (HOTCI). The hospice is located in Altamonte Springs, a suburb of the Orlando area, and provides hospice services to local patients.

To read the entire whistleblower complaint filed, click here.

Allegations in the Lawsuit Against HOTCI.

According to the DOJ, the lawsuit was filed by the former vice president of finance for HOTCI. The case alleges HOTCI submitted false claims to Medicare for hospice care patients who were not terminally ill. The lawsuit also claims an executive at the hospice told employees to admit Medicare recipients for hospice care even before there had been a determination that the patients were eligible for the hospice benefit.

Initial Medicare Audit Allegedly Triggered Discharges.

In an Orlando Sentinel article, the plaintiff states that in an initial audit, in 2010, the government found HOTCI had a billings error rate of eighteen percent (18%), which triggered a second review. The plaintiff is accusing HOTCI of then creating an internal committee to review the eligibility of its Medicare patients. The committee discharged at least 150 patients between 2009 and 2010 as being ineligible for the Medicare hospice benefit.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, a representative from HOTCI said the discharges show that the hospice was taking actions to resolve of the situation on its own and only indicates some hospice patients should have been discharged at a previous point in time – not that they shouldn’t have been admitted at all.

To read the entire Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

Details of the Medicare Hospice Benefit.

According to the DOJ, the Medicare hospice benefit is available to patients who choose palliative treatment (medical care focused on providing patients with relief from pain and stress) for a terminal illness, and are expected to live six months or less. When an individual is admitted to a hospice facility, that individual is no longer entitled to receive services designed to cure the illness, or curative care.

Under the False Claims Act, Whistleblowers Can Make a Profit.

Should the government win this case, HOTCI could face up to $33 million in penalties, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

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 encourage employees to come forward and report fraud.

You can learn more on the False Claims Act on the 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:

Santich, Kate. “Feds Join Whistleblower Lawsuit Against Hospice of the Comforter” Orlando Sentinel. (August 28, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-08-28/health/os-whistleblower-lawsuit-hospice-of-the-comforter-20120828_1_hospice-board-members-hospice-care-hospice-founder

Department of Justice. “United States Intervenes in False Claims Act Lawsuit Against Orlando, Florida-area Hospice.” DOJ. (September 6, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/September/12-civ-1080.html

U.S. ex rel. Stone v. Hospice of the Comforter, Inc., No. 6:11-cv-1498-ORL-22-AAB (M.D. Fla) United State District Court for the Middle District of Florida Orlando Division. (September 12, 2012), available at http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/US%20v%20Hospice%20of%20the%20Comforter.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.

Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleging Medicare Fraud Against Blackstone Medical, Inc., Dismissed

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

A whistleblower lawsuit against Blackstone Medical, Inc., alleging Medicare fraud against Parrish Medical Center, was dismissed by a U.S. District Judge in Tampa, Florida, on August 15, 2012. According to Orthopedics This Week, the case was unsealed on August 8, 2012, but dismissed without prejudice, all pending motions were denied as moot, and the clerk was directed to close the case, just one week after.

To see a copy of the order of dismissal, click here.

Whistleblower Originally Filed False Claims and Kickback Complaint.

According to the lawsuit, the whistleblower was asked to bid on a contract with the Parrish Medical Center in Florida, to provide intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring services. The whistleblower alleges he discovered that a Blackstone Medical, Inc., sales representative and two doctors were using outdated technology that did not allow doctors to actually monitor patients’ neurological activity during procedures.

The plaintiff alleged this discovery uncovered thousands of dollars in Medicare claims being made as part of a kickback scheme, beginning as early as 2002.

To see the original false claims complaint, click here.

Whistleblower Requested Order of Dismissal.

According to an article in Orthopedics This Week, the order of dismissal was in response to the whistleblower’s request for voluntary dismissal without prejudice. This request means that the man keeps his right to come back before the court in the future.

To see the full article from Orthopedics This Week, click here.

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:

Eisner, Walter. “Blackstone Florida Whistleblower Lawsuit Dismissed.” Orthopedics This Week. (August 22, 2012). From: http://ryortho.com/companyNews.php?news=2168_Blackstone-Florida-Whistleblower-Lawsuit-Dismissed

Jon Schiff v. Blackstone Medical, Inc., Case Number 8:11-cv-02430-JSM-TBM United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida Tampa Division (October 26, 2011), available at, http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/Blackstone%20case.pdf.

Jon Schiff v. Blackstone Medical, Inc., et al., Case No: 8:11-cv-2430-T-30TBM United States District Court Middle District of Florida Tampa Division (August 15, 2012), available at, http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/Blackstone%20dismissal.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.

Revised Readmission Penalties are Coming Due to Calculation Errors

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

Back in August of 2012, I wrote that lower Medicare reimbursement rates were coming to more than 2,000 hospitals around the country due to excessive readmission rates. To see that blog, click here.

In October of 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it has discovered errors in its initial calculations. This means, 1,422 hospitals with high readmission rates will lose slightly more money than first expected, according to Kaiser Health News.

Click here to read the entire article from Kaiser Health News.

Hiccup  in Medicare’s Hospital Readmission Reduction Program.

According to Kaiser Health News, the revisions were relatively small, averaging two-hundredths of a percent of a hospital’s regular Medicare reimbursements. Florala Memorial Hospital in Alabama will see the largest increase in its reimbursements, from 0.62 to 0.73 percent.

Originally, Medicare said it would base the penalties on the readmission rates for patients who were discharged from July 2008 through June 2011. According to a notice the CMS published, the mistake happened because the agency accidentally included claims before July 1, 2008, in its evaluations. Click here to see the notice from the CMS.

Program Initiated to Lower Hospitals’ Readmission Rates.

According to CMS, nearly one out of five Medicare patients will return to the hospital within a month of being discharged, these readmissions cost the government $17.5 billion in 2010. Medicare has estimated, with this program, it will recoup about $280 million from hospitals where too many patients return.

To see an updated list of hospital penalties, click here.

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.

Comments?

What do you think about this story? Does this error by the CMS leave you jaded about the program? Leave any thoughtful comments below.


Sources:

Rau, Jordan. “Medicare Revises Hospitals’ Readmissions Penalties.” Kaiser Health News. (October 2, 2012). From: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2012/October/03/medicare-revises-hospitals-readmissions-penalties.aspx

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.

Medicare Put the Hospice Industry Under the Microscope

Patricia's Photos 013By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

It’s no surprise to anyone that Medicare is cracking down on hospices around the country. According to a report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), eighty-two percent (82%) of hospices’ claims did not meet Medicare coverage requirements. That is why Medicare is investigating the industry as a whole. Specific details on what Medicare is looking for can be found in the 2013 OIG Work Plan. Click here to read the 2013 OIG Work Plan.

So far, Medicare has kept true to its word. During the week of January 7, 2013, the federal government announced it is suing a Central Florida hospice for Medicare fraud, according to the Orlando Sentinel. (Click here to read the Orlando Sentinel article.) Also, one of the nation’s largest and most respected hospices located in San Diego, California, is in the middle of a federal audit, according to a Kaiser Health News article. (Click here to read the Kaiser Health News article.) These are just a few examples of what hospices around the country are dealing with.

Central Florida Hospice Dealing with Qui Tam or Whistleblower Case.

The federal qui tam (whistleblower) lawsuit against the Central Florida hospice was reportedly filed by the hospice’s former vice president of finance in September 2011. The Department of Justice (DOJ) joined the whistleblower lawsuit in September of 2012.

The federal lawsuit alleges the hospice CEO ordered employees to admit patients without properly determining whether they were terminally ill, as required by Medicare. Staff was also apparently told to find ways to “edit” patients’ medical files so that the billing appeared legitimate. To learn more on this case, click here to read a blog I wrote on the hospice when the government joined the lawsuit. Click here to read the entire whistleblower complaint.

San Diego Hospice Cuts More Than Just Patients After Medicare Audit.

In 2010, federal officials audited a large hospice located in San Diego, California. Medicare is still investigating the hospice’s 2009-2010 admissions. Since the audit, the hospice has had to drop around 400 patients, due to their ineligibility for hospice care. Cutting patients meant a decrease in profits, which subsequently meant the hospice had to let 260 employees go and close a 24-bed hospital, according to Kaiser Health News.

Hospices Under Scrutiny.

According to the Kaiser Health News article, the hospice industry is booming. In 2011, it’s estimated hospices served 1.65 million people in the U.S., which is about forty-five percent (45%) of all those who died that year. Medicare paid for the hospice benefits of eighty-four percent (84%) of those patients.

Medicare is concerned with the amount of people hospices admit. Hospices normally treat patients with fewer than six months to live. If a patient recovers, Medicare expects the patient to leave the program. Patients may stay in hospice care only if they are re-certified as still likely to die within six months by a physician. It’s thought that enrollment bonuses to employees and kickbacks to nursing homes that refer patients are big factors as to why hospices accept ineligible patients.

Medicare Trying to Keep Up with Fraud and Abuse in Hospice Industry.

Currently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is focused on safeguarding tax payers dollars from fraud. I have recently seen a number of audits initiated against health professionals who treat assisted living facility (ALF), hospice and skilled nursing facility (SNF) residents. Most often these are audits by the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC), because these facilities have been identified as fraught with fraud and abuse. I wrote a two-part blog this topic. Click here for part one and here for part two.

If you are being audited, click here to read some tips we recommend in responding to a Medicare audit.

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

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, nurses, 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.

What Do You Think?

What do you think about Medicare targeting hospices? Do you think it is necessary? Is the hospice business going to suffer because of these investigations? Please leave any thoughtful comment below.

Sources:

Santich, Kate. “Feds Sue Hospice of the Comforter for Medicare Fraud.” Orlando Sentinel. (January 14, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-feds-sue-hospice-of-the-comforter-20130114,0,7827264.story

U.S. ex rel. Stone v. Hospice of the Comforter, Inc., No. 6:11-cv-1498-ORL-22-AAB (M.D. Fla) United State District Court for the Middle District of Florida Orlando Division. (September 12, 2012), available at http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/US%20v%20Hospice%20of%20the%20Comforter.pdf

Dotinga, Randy. “Slowly Dying Patients, Am Audit and A Hospice’s Undoing.” Kaiser Health News. (January 16, 2013). From: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2013/January/16/san-diego-hospice.aspx

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.

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