Two Nursing Home Co-Conspirators Sentenced in $19 Million Fraud Kickback Scheme

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

On July 9, 2018, two co-conspirators in a $19.4 million healthcare fraud scheme involving a nursing home chain, American Senior Communities, were sentenced in Indiana federal court. Both pled guilty to various conspiracy and money laundering charges.

The Multi-Million Dollar Scheme.

Prosecutors allege that the men reached side deals with vendors who handled things like nurse call systems, food and medical supplies for the nursing home chain. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the kickback scheme generated nearly $19.4 million that the men spent on vacation homes, private planes, golf trips, Rolex watches, gold bullion and casino chips. Both were charged in 2016, along with two others for their roles in the same scheme. Read more about their involvement here.

The Sentencing.

The DOJ said Steven Ganote received a five-year sentence with two years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $7 million in restitution. Additionally, Joshua Burkhart was handed a four-month sentence with two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $420,000 in restitution. Each of the men is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and health care fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS).

To learn more about these types of illegal kickback schemes, click here to read one of my prior blogs on health care fraud.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in cases of medical billing fraud, overbilling, 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:

Fowler, Haylay. “Nursing Home Schemer Sentenced In $19M Kickback Scheme.” Law360. (July 9, 2018). Web.

Kass, Dani. “Ex-Nursing Home Execs Indicted In $16M Kickback Scheme.” Law360. (October 12, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Medical billing fraud, fraudulent billing representation, fraudulent billing attorney, representation for overbilling, representation for submitting false claims, False Claims Act (FCA) violations, representation for submitting false claims, false claims lawyer, FCA defense attorney, Anti-Kickback Statute(AKS) violations, AKS representation, AKS attorney, representation for fraudulent reimbursement, representation for illegal kickback scheme illegal kickback scheme attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, health fraud defense lawyer, health law defense attorney, health law, The Health Law Firm

“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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Qui Tam Cases: If You Are Thinking About Blowing the Whistle, Follow These Tips

Headshot of The Health Law Firm's attorney George F. Indest IIIBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

At The Health Law Firm, we have represented many clients that were involved in qui tam cases brought because of false claims under the Medicare False Claims Act (FCA).  We have defended health facilities and health professionals, but we have also brought whistle blower cases against health facilities and health professionals, representing the whistle blower.  If you are thinking about blowing the whistle on any type of fraud or unlawful conduct by your current or former employer, there are important facts that you should know.

Filing a qui tam (whistle blower) case can be complicated, complex, and time consuming.  It’s important to seek experienced legal counsel to guide you through the difficult process. It is crucial that a whistle blower’s attorney have a good working relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office, as well.
Based on years of experience with these types of cases, from both sides, here are some key tips to remember if you are thinking about filing a qui tam or whistle blower suit:

1.     You Are Doing the Right Thing.  It is important to remember in qui tam cases that you are doing the right thing. Qui tam whistle blowers often save taxpayers millions of dollars and help the government recover stolen funds by coming forward with cases of fraud or unlawful conduct.  Additionally, they help to put an end to fraudulent activities and illegal conduct that may harm patients.

2.     Choose an Experienced Attorney.  Because filing a qui tam suit under the False Claims Act (FCA) can be a difficult and complicated task, choosing an attorney with the proper experience is very important. Litigation of whistle blower cases, either prosecuting them or defending them, is a highly complex, technical area of law and not all attorneys have the experience to make the process easier, let alone be successful.

3.     Don’t Drag Your Feet If You Have Evidence of Fraud.  Once you have evidence of fraud, you need to act quickly or you may lose your opportunity to receive a monetary award. The FCA limits the time in which a suit can be filed. Generally, a qui tam suit must be filed within six years of the date the fraud was committed. Most qui tam laws, including the FCA also have a “first to file” rule. This means that a qui tam whistle blower must be the first to file a case in order to be eligible to receive an award.  Additionally, if the fraud becomes public knowledge or the government discovers the fraud on its own, it is too late for the whistle blower.

4.     Whistleblowers Are Legally Protected from Retaliation by the False Claims Act.  One concern clients have when filing a qui tam suit, is the effect it might have on their future professional career as well as their personal life.
First, because the case is filed under seal, there is no record of any kind that even shows a case has been filed, much less the name of the person filing it.  The U.S. Attorney and its investigators (including the FBI and the OIG Special Agents) will know, but they ain’t telling.  It often takes several years before the court will order the case unsealed. Second, the False Claims Act contains a provision that prohibits any type of retaliation against the whistle blower. The act  makes it unlawful for any employer to retaliate against you for exercising your rights as a whistle blower.  Additionally, if it occurs, you will have a separate right to sue an employer just for the retaliation.  I saw a whistle blower case recently which the court dismissed because there wasn’t specific information contained in the complaint about any false claim being submitted.  However, because the employer had retaliated against the whistle blower, the court did not dismiss the whistle blower’s claim for wrongful retaliation against the employer.  This was a big mistake by the employer.

5.     Silence is Golden in Qui Tam Cases. Do not discuss your case with anyone but your lawyer. Do not tell your friends. Do not tell your family. Do not even disclose that you are thinking of filing a lawsuit. Public discussions can be detrimental to your case. Qui tam suits are filed under the “seal” provision of the FCA, which prohibits the disclosure of any aspect of the case to anyone without prior court approval.

6.    Most Important, Documentation of Actual False Claims is Required. Recent court cases have strictly emphasized the requirement that you must have documented proof of actual false claims being submitted to the government.  Whether these are copies of claims, copies of superbills, copies of explanations of benefits (EOBs), copies of ledgers, copies of book keeping documents or whatever, you must have several actual claims that are false that were submitted for payment.  You must be able to specifiy these by patient name, date of service, CPT code billed, amount billed, etc.  Internal memos, policies and procedures, billing guidance and instructions, medical record entries, and other documents that show the employer’s intent to defraud the government are useful in showing a conspiracy, or organized scheme to falsely bill. However, you must also have copies of false claims documentation, as well.

Remember: Those who file qui tam cases under the FCA are valuable and important for our nation’s health care system. They help stop health care fraud and help the government recover billions of dollars. They prevent the theft or waste of millions of dollars that could be spent on actual, needed health care.  They also help prevent harm that may be caused to patients from receiving substandard treatment, unnecessary procedures and treatments or no treatment. Through qui tam lawsuits, whistle blowers have stopped harmful practices that endanger the health and lives of Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare and VA patients.

For more information, read my prior blog on whistleblowers who report fraud.

Contact an Experienced Health Law Attorney to Assist in Whistle blower/Qui Tam Cases.

If you have knowledge of false claims being filed against Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE/CHAMPUS or any other type of government program, please contact us, and we will be happy to assist you. Our law firm represents health professionals and health care organizations almost exclusively. Yet, we have been involved in a number of whistle blower/qui tam cases, in which we represent the person who files the claim.
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.

KeyWords: False Claims Act, FCA defense attorney, legal representation for FCA violations, legal representation for Medicare false claims, legal representation for false billing, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare fraud, legal representation for Medicare audit, whistle blower attorney, complex health care litigation defense attorney, whistle blower defense attorney, whistle blower defense lawyer, legal representation for whistle blower suits, legal representation for qui tam suits, qui tam relator attorney, qui tam relator lawyer, qui tam relator legal counsel, health care fraud defense attorney, complex health care litigation defense lawyer, legal representation for health care professionals, health law defense attorney, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm, whistle blower plaintiff attorney, health care professionals defense counsel, health care professional defense lawyer, health care professional defense lawyer, medical professionals defense counsel, medical professionals defense lawyer, medical professional defense lawyer

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Kmart Agrees to Pay $32.3 million to Settle Whistle Blower’s False Claims Act Suit

PS 3 Indest-2009-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 22, 2017, Kmart Corporation agreed to pay $32.3 million to settle a whistle blower lawsuit alleging its pharmacies caused federal health programs to overpay for prescription drugs by not telling the government about discounted prices. The department store chain withheld certain information from Medicare Part D, Medicaid and Tricare, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said.

The Whistle Blower False Claims Act (FCA) Suit.

The new agreement resolves allegations arising from a 2008 lawsuit brought under the qui tam, or whistle blower, provisions of the False Claims Act (FCA). This provision permits private citizens with knowledge of fraud against the government to bring an action on behalf of the United States and to share in any recovery.

The 2008 lawsuit, which was filed by a former Kmart pharmacist, alleged that Kmart pharmacies offered discounted generic drug prices to cash paying customers through various club programs. The pharmacies then knowingly failed to disclose those prices when reporting to federal health programs. According to the suit, in one case, Kmart had sold a 30-day supply of a generic version of a prescription drug for $5 to customers of its discount program, but then filed for reimbursement from the government for $152 for that same drug for its Medicare customers.
To read more on the 2008 suit, click here.

The settlement agreement with the United States is a part of a global $59 million settlement that includes a resolution of state Medicaid and insurance claims against Kmart. The former pharmacist will receive a whistle blower award of $9.3 million. The case was heard in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Illinois.

To read the DOJ’s press release on this case in full, click here.

To read about a similar case of a pharmacy inflating prices to government health care programs, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Who Knew Medicare Part D Claims Could Yield Such Big Whistle Blower Settlements?

Who knew Medicare part D claims could yield such big whistle blower settlements? I know I didn’t. I didn’t even think about such claims until I read this case. This could mean some serious compliance issues for big chain stores that have pharmacies (note that I said “could”). Walmart, Publix, Albertsons, Costco, Sam’s Club, Winn Dixie, Engel’s, and every other chain that owns and operates pharmacies, may be in jeopardy.

Contact an Experienced Health Law Attorney to Assist in Whistleblower/Qui Tam Cases.

If you have knowledge of false claims being filed against Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE/CHAMPUS or any other type of government program, please contact us, and we will be happy to assist you. Our law firm represents health professionals and health care organizations almost exclusively. Yet, we have been involved in a number of whistleblower/qui tam cases, in which we represent the person who files the claim (the whistle blower). We have also defended health professionals and institutions in litigation of whistle blower complaints filed against them.

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

Sources:

McCausland, Phil. “Kmart to pay $32.3M to settle health care-related whistleblower case.” NBC News. (December 22, 2017). Web.

The Associated Press. “Kmart to pay $32.3 million to settle prescription drugs case.” ABC News. (December 22, 2017). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: False Claims Act case, legal representation for whistle blower suits, legal representation of plaintiffs in whistle blower cases, legal representation of defendants in whistle blower cases, legal representation in complex health care litigation cases attorney lawyer, legal representation in federal and state courts attorney lawyer, whistle blower defense attorney, legal representation in qui tam lawsuits, qui tam defense attorney, pharmacy defense attorney, pharmacist defense attorney, pharmacy defense lawyer, pharmacist defense lawyer, pharmacy defense counsel, pharmacist defense counsel, Board of Pharmacy license defense attorney, Board of Pharmacy license defense lawyer, Board of Pharmacy license defense counsel, FCA defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare false claims, legal representation for false billing, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare fraud, legal representation for Medicare audit, complex health care litigation defense attorney, health care fraud defense attorney, complex health care litigation defense lawyer, legal representation for health care professionals, health law defense attorney, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm, whistle blower plaintiff attorney, health care professionals defense counsel, health care professional defense lawyer, health care professional defense counsel, whistle blower defense attorney, whistle blower defense lawyer, legal representation for whistle blower suits, legal representation for qui tam suits, qui tam relator attorney, qui tam relator lawyer, qui tam relator legal counsel

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

By |2018-03-28T18:29:34-04:00May 15th, 2018|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Massachusetts Mental Health Centers Submitted False Claims According to Suit

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

On January 5, 2018, the state of Massachusetts lodged a False Claims Act (FCA) suit in federal court against the operators of a number of mental health centers. In the suit, it is alleged that they improperly billed the state Medicaid program for services provided by unlicensed, unqualified and unsupervised employees.

The complaint seeks to recover MassHealth’s payments to South Bay Mental Health Center Inc. and its subsequent owners for claims they knew were false. Allegedly, they billed for services provided by unlicensed social workers who weren’t properly supervised even though it violated statutory and regulatory requirements.

The Complaint.

The complaint alleges that from at least August 2009 to the present, defendant South Bay failed to comply with applicable statutes and regulations regarding licensure and supervision requirements for staff. Additionally, the centers allegedly employ a number of staff therapists and clinic directors who aren’t licensed as social workers or mental health counselors. Unlicensed social workers can provide mental health services to MassHealth members as long as they are supervised by an independently licensed clinical social worker. This was not the case for the vast majority of South Bay’s unlicensed therapists, the complaint alleges.

The filing continues, “As a result of the noncompliance, from at least August 2009 to the present, defendant South Bay, either with actual knowledge or deliberate ignorance of or reckless disregard for the truth, submitted or caused to be submitted false claims for services to the MassHealth program in violation of [the Massachusetts False Claims Act].”

According to the suit, South Bay could have ensured that the staff at each center was properly credentialed during the hiring process and made sure that workers who needed supervision had it, but the company declined to do so.

The suit was originally brought forth in 2015 by relator Christine Martino-Fleming, who served as coordinator of staff development and training at South Bay. South Bay fired her in September 2014 after she raised concerns about the company’s regulatory violations, according to court documents.

Here is the complaint in full for Christine Martino-Fleming v South Bay Mental Health Centers, et al.

There have been an increasing number of Medicare and Medicaid audits being initiated against psychologists and other mental health professionals.
To gain more insight on these types of audits click the link above to read one of my prior blogs.

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm represent physicians, nurses and other health professionals who desire to file a False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) case. This case just shows that even physicians can and should bring such claims and be rewarded for their whistle blowing activities. However, the attorneys of The Health Law Firm also defend physicians, medical groups and health facilities who have been sued in False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) cases or have had administrative or civil complaints filed against them to recover civil monetary penalties. 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. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistle blower cases, as well.

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

Sources:

Posses, Shayna. “Mental Health Centers Submitted False Claims, Mass. Says.” Law360. (January 5, 2017). Web.

Foley, Elizabeth. “Supreme Court to Decide What Qualifies as “False” under the False Claims Act.” Barrett and Singal Law Firm. (January 8, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999, and is also a registered service mark.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved

By |2020-02-13T14:32:53-05:00May 15th, 2018|Categories: Mental Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |1 Comment

New DOJ Memo Shifting Government Policy in False Claims Act Cases Should make Healthcare Providers Happy!

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

On January 29, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a new internal memorandum that we believe signals a backing-off of government support for False Claims Act cases. The memorandum sent by Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, references “vast reams” of government agency guidance explaining the government’s views and interpretation of various laws. It includes laws related to requirements for accurate billing of Medicare and Medicaid by healthcare providers.

The “Brand Memorandum.”

In the memo, Brand said the DOJ “may not use its enforcement authority to effectively convert agency guidance documents into binding rules.” The memo is a product of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move in November 2017, to curtail “regulation by guidance.”

It states that it specifically applies to civil enforcement of laws, including the False Claims Act (FCA), that the Associate Attorney General oversees.

Click here to view the DOJ’s Brand Memorandum in full on our website.

Implications of the Brand Memorandum.

Brand’s memorandum stopped short of completely forbidding the use of agency guidance in support of DOJ cases. The memorandum indicates that, while violations of agency guidance can’t be used to prove violations of law, they can still be used “to help prove that the party had the requisite knowledge” of its legal obligations, Brand wrote.

FCA cases can be affected by many types of guidance. Medicare contractors provide guidance on billing when appropriate and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues guidance on illicit off-label promotion. Additionally, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issues guidance and bulletins related to kickbacks and improper physician referrals.

To learn more about the DOJ’s role in health care fraud and compliance, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Visit our website to find out how The Health Law Firm can assist you with Medicaid fraud defense, Medicare fraud defense and False Claims Act defense cases.

What Will the Long Term Effects Be?

We see these latest actions by the DOJ to announce a policy of allowing big corporations unbridled discretion to steal from the tax payers. We believe it signals a change to discouraging False Claims Act cases from being brought. It is difficult to see why DOJ is easing off of matters that help the prosecution of False Claims Act cases, especially those by individual relators (whistle blowers). Whistle blower or qui tam cases brought by hundreds of individual whistle blowers are now recovering billions of dollars each year in Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Why would anyone want to stifle such a successful program?

It is argued by DOJ that the DOJ’s budget is limited and U.S. Attorneys need to be freed up to go after serious crime, but that is exactly why the False Claims Act was passed in the first place. If the government doesn’t have the resources, personnel or, more importantly, the interest in pursuing those who files false claims and state form the tax payer, then private whistle blowers or relators are authorized to do this. All the government has to do is to decline to intervene in the case and then the relator can go ahead and pursue the case on its own, without costing the government anything. It was because of war profiteers’ treating the U.S. treasury as a piggy bank, to be looted anytime they felt like it, that caused the False Claims Act’s passage in the Civil War era.

There is also a big concern that if there is less guidance on such complex topics as how to properly document valid medical services and procedures delivered to patients, then how can busy doctors, health care professionals and health facilities hope to understand what is require of them. It is my understanding that such “guidance” is for just such a purpose, to guide those who are trying to comply.

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:

Overley, Jeff. “New DOJ Memo Will Make Waves In Fraud Cases.” Law360. (January 29, 2018). Web.

“New DOJ Memo Will Make Waves In Fraud Cases.” Institute for Legal Reform. (January 29, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Fraudulent billing defense attorney, fraudulent billing representation, Medicare fraud defense attorney, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, representation for health care fraud, representation for Medicare fraud, representation for Medicaid fraud, False Claims Act (FCA) attorney, FCA defense attorney, FCA representation, false filling representation, false billing defense attorney, health care fraud defense attorney, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) guidance representation, DOJ investigation representation, DOJ defense attorney, DOJ investigation defense attorney, OIG investigation representation, OIG defense attorney, health care professional defense attorney, health care professional representation, health care compliance representation, health care compliance attorney, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

U.S. Court in Florida Dismisses Whistleblower’s Complaint Against Nuclear Pharmacy

PS 4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On September 28, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida dismissed a relator’s (whistle blower’s) False Claims Act (FCA) complaint against a nuclear pharmacy in Tampa. The court found that the relator failed to plead fraud with the required amount of specificity that the law requires.  The case awas filed against GE Healthcare, Inc.’s nuclear pharmacy.

The Allegations.

GE Healthcare operates 31 nuclear pharmacies in the United States, where it produces radiopharmaceuticals through a process of compounding drugs.  The relator was a board-certified nuclear pharmacist who formerly worked at GE Healthcare, Inc.’s nuclear pharmacy in Tampa, Florida. The relator’s allegations included the manner in which GE compounded and labeled radiopharmaceuticals. More specifically, the whistle blower claimed that GE sold diluted and expired drugs. Additionally, the whistle blower alleged that GE falsely inflated the reimbursement rate for certain drugs by providing false sales data to Medicare.

GE argued that the realtor’s claims should be dismissed pursuant to the FCA’s public disclosure bar because the allegations overlapped with an action filed by a different relator, James Wagel, in 2006. To read about this FCA case, click here.

The Court’s Decision. 

The court found that Sunil Patel’s allegations were not “based on” or “substantially the same as” the allegations in the prior public disclosures. However, the court dismissed the realtor’s claims on another ground:  failing to plead the allegedly fraudulent claims with sufficient particularity. According to the court, the allegations that defendant “presented or caused to be presented” a false claim fell “well short of alleging ‘exact billing data.'”  In other words, the relator failed to plead one or more false claims by giving the specifics, such as date, amount, patient, billing code, amount paid by the government, etc.  The court found that the relator identified no “particular facts about the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where,’ ‘when,’ and ‘how’ of fraudulent submissions to the government.”

The case is United States ex rel. Patel v. GE Healthcare Inc., No. 8:14-cv-120-T-33TGW (M.D. Fla. Sept. 28, 2017).

Click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar FCA case involving a pharmaceutical company.

Specifics of the False Claims Are Required for Any Qui Tam Whistle Blower’s Case.

This is one of the biggest short comings we see in potential clients who contact us with information about false claims being submitted by their employers or other healthcare providers.  They do not have the specifics of any single false claim.  Yet the law requires this or a whistle blower’s case can get dismissed by the court outright.  You can do an awful lot of work investigating, pleading and litigating a whistle blower’s case only to have the court dismiss it without its ever getting anywhere near a trial.  Even if a scheme or system is inherently fraudulent, you must be able to show one or more claims that were submitted were actually false claims.

We advise health care professionals who consult us with possible False Claims Act/whistle blowers cases, be sure you have the details, and preferably copies of the documents, that show a false bill was submitted to the government.  This can be a CMS Form 1500 or an explanation of benefits that the patient and the insurer or facility receives back.  Sometimes you can get these form the patient if you do not have access to these from the employer.  But without a false claim and, preferably, a number of false claims, you don’t really have a False Claims Act suit.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Qui Tam or Whistle Blower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. 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. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

Sources:

Fraud and Compliance. “U.S. Court in Florida Dismisses Whistleblower Action Against Nuclear Pharmacy.” AHLA Weekly. (October 6, 2017). Web.

Mayo, Rebecca. “Evidence of likely submission not enough to prove FCA violation.” Wolters Kluwer Health Law Daily. (October 2, 2017). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Health care fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of health care fraud, False Claims Act (FCA) attorney, FCA defense attorney, False Claims attorney, legal representation for FCA investigations, legal representation for FCA complaints, Whistleblower attorney, Whistleblower defense attorney, legal representation for Whistleblower investigations, legal representation for Whistleblower complaints, qui tam attorney, qui tam defense attorney, legal representation for qui tam cases, legal representation for qui tam investigations, FCA legal representation, relator attorney, relator defense attorney, health law defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

U.S. Court in Florida Dismisses Whistleblower’s Complaint Against Nuclear Pharmacy

PS 4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On September 28, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida dismissed a relator’s (whistle blower’s) False Claims Act (FCA) complaint against a nuclear pharmacy in Tampa. The court found that the relator failed to plead fraud with the required amount of specificity that the law requires.  The case awas filed against GE Healthcare, Inc.’s nuclear pharmacy.

The Allegations.

GE Healthcare operates 31 nuclear pharmacies in the United States, where it produces radiopharmaceuticals through a process of compounding drugs.  The relator was a board-certified nuclear pharmacist who formerly worked at GE Healthcare, Inc.’s nuclear pharmacy in Tampa, Florida. The relator’s allegations included the manner in which GE compounded and labeled radiopharmaceuticals. More specifically, the whistle blower claimed that GE sold diluted and expired drugs. Additionally, the whistle blower alleged that GE falsely inflated the reimbursement rate for certain drugs by providing false sales data to Medicare.

GE argued that the realtor’s claims should be dismissed pursuant to the FCA’s public disclosure bar because the allegations overlapped with an action filed by a different relator, James Wagel, in 2006. To read about this FCA case, click here.

The Court’s Decision. 

The court found that Sunil Patel’s allegations were not “based on” or “substantially the same as” the allegations in the prior public disclosures. However, the court dismissed the realtor’s claims on another ground:  failing to plead the allegedly fraudulent claims with sufficient particularity. According to the court, the allegations that defendant “presented or caused to be presented” a false claim fell “well short of alleging ‘exact billing data.'”  In other words, the relator failed to plead one or more false claims by giving the specifics, such as date, amount, patient, billing code, amount paid by the government, etc.  The court found that the relator identified no “particular facts about the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where,’ ‘when,’ and ‘how’ of fraudulent submissions to the government.”

The case is United States ex rel. Patel v. GE Healthcare Inc., No. 8:14-cv-120-T-33TGW (M.D. Fla. Sept. 28, 2017).

Click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar FCA case involving a pharmaceutical company.

Specifics of the False Claims Are Required for Any Qui Tam Whistle Blower’s Case.

This is one of the biggest short comings we see in potential clients who contact us with information about false claims being submitted by their employers or other healthcare providers.  They do not have the specifics of any single false claim.  Yet the law requires this or a whistle blower’s case can get dismissed by the court outright.  You can do an awful lot of work investigating, pleading and litigating a whistle blower’s case only to have the court dismiss it without its ever getting anywhere near a trial.  Even if a scheme or system is inherently fraudulent, you must be able to show one or more claims that were submitted were actually false claims.

We advise health care professionals who consult us with possible False Claims Act/whistle blowers cases, be sure you have the details, and preferably copies of the documents, that show a false bill was submitted to the government.  This can be a CMS Form 1500 or an explanation of benefits that the patient and the insurer or facility receives back.  Sometimes you can get these form the patient if you do not have access to these from the employer.  But without a false claim and, preferably, a number of false claims, you don’t really have a False Claims Act suit.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Qui Tam or Whistle Blower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. 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. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

Sources:

Fraud and Compliance. “U.S. Court in Florida Dismisses Whistleblower Action Against Nuclear Pharmacy.” AHLA Weekly. (October 6, 2017). Web.

Mayo, Rebecca. “Evidence of likely submission not enough to prove FCA violation.” Wolters Kluwer Health Law Daily. (October 2, 2017). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Health care fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of health care fraud, False Claims Act (FCA) attorney, FCA defense attorney, False Claims attorney, legal representation for FCA investigations, legal representation for FCA complaints, Whistleblower attorney, Whistleblower defense attorney, legal representation for Whistleblower investigations, legal representation for Whistleblower complaints, qui tam attorney, qui tam defense attorney, legal representation for qui tam cases, legal representation for qui tam investigations, FCA legal representation, relator attorney, relator defense attorney, health law defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Health Care Software Double-Bills Government For Anesthesia Services According to FCA Suit

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

On November 2, 2017, a relator in a Florida federal False Claims Act (FCA) case, claimed that Epic Systems’ (Epic) health software wrongly defaults to double-billing for anesthesia services. As a result, the government is being overbilled by hundreds of millions of dollars, according to relator Geraldine Petrowski.

The Relator’s Allegations.

In an amended complaint, the relator alleges Epic billing software, used by hundreds of hospitals in the United States, defaults to charging for both the applicable “base units” for anesthesia provided on a procedure, as well as the actual time taken for the procedure. “This unlawful billing protocol has resulted in the presentation of hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent bills for anesthesia services being submitted to Medicare and Medicaid as false claims,” Petrowski said.

The relator served as WakeMed Health’s hospital liaison for the health care system’s implementation of Epic’s software in 2014. It was during that time in which she came across the anesthesia billing issues, and developed “major concerns” about incorrect billing, she said.

According to the complaint, she met with representatives of Epic to point out the double-billing issue, but was told that the issue is present in all other similar systems and that “everyone bills base units.” Following the meeting, Epic failed to correct its billing software, making it probable that at least most of its customers are continuing to double-bill for anesthesia services.

To read the amended complaint in full, click here.

False claims are a growing problem costing the government billions of dollars each year, and the government is not shy about striking back. Punishments for defrauding the system can be quite severe. To learn more about a similar case of overbilling, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. 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. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

Sources:

Wilson, Daniel. “Epic’s Software Double-Bills Gov’t For Anesthesia: FCA Suit.” Law360. (November 2, 2017). Web.

Fisher, John. “Agressive Anesthesia Billing Advice Can Be Costly.” Ruder Ware Health Law Blog. (January 12, 2012). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Massachusetts Mental Health Centers Submitted False Claims According to Suit

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

On January 5, 2018, the state of Massachusetts lodged a False Claims Act (FCA) suit in federal court against the operators of a number of mental health centers. In the suit, it is alleged that they improperly billed the state Medicaid program for services provided by unlicensed, unqualified and unsupervised employees.

The complaint seeks to recover MassHealth’s payments to South Bay Mental Health Center Inc. and its subsequent owners for claims they knew were false. Allegedly, they billed for services provided by unlicensed social workers who weren’t properly supervised even though it violated statutory and regulatory requirements.

The Complaint.

The complaint alleges that from at least August 2009 to the present, defendant South Bay failed to comply with applicable statutes and regulations regarding licensure and supervision requirements for staff. Additionally, the centers allegedly employ a number of staff therapists and clinic directors who aren’t licensed as social workers or mental health counselors. Unlicensed social workers can provide mental health services to MassHealth members as long as they are supervised by an independently licensed clinical social worker. This was not the case for the vast majority of South Bay’s unlicensed therapists, the complaint alleges.

The filing continues, “As a result of the noncompliance, from at least August 2009 to the present, defendant South Bay, either with actual knowledge or deliberate ignorance of or reckless disregard for the truth, submitted or caused to be submitted false claims for services to the MassHealth program in violation of [the Massachusetts False Claims Act].”

According to the suit, South Bay could have ensured that the staff at each center was properly credentialed during the hiring process and made sure that workers who needed supervision had it, but the company declined to do so.

The suit was originally brought forth in 2015 by relator Christine Martino-Fleming, who served as coordinator of staff development and training at South Bay. South Bay fired her in September 2014 after she raised concerns about the company’s regulatory violations, according to court documents.

Here is the complaint in full for Christine Martino-Fleming v South Bay Mental Health Centers, et al.

There have been an increasing number of Medicare and Medicaid audits being initiated against psychologists and other mental health professionals.
To gain more insight on these types of audits click the link above to read one of my prior blogs.

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm represent physicians, nurses and other health professionals who desire to file a False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) case. This case just shows that even physicians can and should bring such claims and be rewarded for their whistle blowing activities. However, the attorneys of The Health Law Firm also defend physicians, medical groups and health facilities who have been sued in False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) cases or have had administrative or civil complaints filed against them to recover civil monetary penalties. 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. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistle blower cases, as well.

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

Sources:

Posses, Shayna. “Mental Health Centers Submitted False Claims, Mass. Says.” Law360. (January 5, 2017). Web.

Foley, Elizabeth. “Supreme Court to Decide What Qualifies as “False” under the False Claims Act.” Barrett and Singal Law Firm. (January 8, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999, and is also a registered service mark.
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Kmart Agrees to Pay $32.3 million to Settle Whistle Blower’s False Claims Act Suit

PS 3 Indest-2009-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 22, 2017, Kmart Corporation agreed to pay $32.3 million to settle a whistle blower lawsuit alleging its pharmacies caused federal health programs to overpay for prescription drugs by not telling the government about discounted prices. The department store chain withheld certain information from Medicare Part D, Medicaid and Tricare, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said.

The Whistle Blower False Claims Act (FCA) Suit.

The new agreement resolves allegations arising from a 2008 lawsuit brought under the qui tam, or whistle blower, provisions of the False Claims Act (FCA). This provision permits private citizens with knowledge of fraud against the government to bring an action on behalf of the United States and to share in any recovery.

The 2008 lawsuit, which was filed by a former Kmart pharmacist, alleged that Kmart pharmacies offered discounted generic drug prices to cash paying customers through various club programs. The pharmacies then knowingly failed to disclose those prices when reporting to federal health programs. According to the suit, in one case, Kmart had sold a 30-day supply of a generic version of a prescription drug for $5 to customers of its discount program, but then filed for reimbursement from the government for $152 for that same drug for its Medicare customers.
To read more on the 2008 suit, click here.

The settlement agreement with the United States is a part of a global $59 million settlement that includes a resolution of state Medicaid and insurance claims against Kmart. The former pharmacist will receive a whistle blower award of $9.3 million. The case was heard in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Illinois.

To read the DOJ’s press release on this case in full, click here.

To read about a similar case of a pharmacy inflating prices to government health care programs, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Who Knew Medicare Part D Claims Could Yield Such Big Whistle Blower Settlements?

Who knew Medicare part D claims could yield such big whistle blower settlements? I know I didn’t. I didn’t even think about such claims until I read this case. This could mean some serious compliance issues for big chain stores that have pharmacies (note that I said “could”). Walmart, Publix, Albertsons, Costco, Sam’s Club, Winn Dixie, Engel’s, and every other chain that owns and operates pharmacies, may be in jeopardy.

Contact an Experienced Health Law Attorney to Assist in Whistleblower/Qui Tam Cases.

If you have knowledge of false claims being filed against Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE/CHAMPUS or any other type of government program, please contact us, and we will be happy to assist you. Our law firm represents health professionals and health care organizations almost exclusively. Yet, we have been involved in a number of whistleblower/qui tam cases, in which we represent the person who files the claim (the whistle blower). We have also defended health professionals and institutions in litigation of whistle blower complaints filed against them.

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

Sources:

McCausland, Phil. “Kmart to pay $32.3M to settle health care-related whistleblower case.” NBC News. (December 22, 2017). Web.

The Associated Press. “Kmart to pay $32.3 million to settle prescription drugs case.” ABC News. (December 22, 2017). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

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