Zone 4 Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) for Medicare and Medicaid Programs is Health Integrity, LCC

2 Indest-2009-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Health Integrity, LCC, was named the Zone 4 Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) for the Medicare and Medicaid programs. As the ZPIC for Zone 4, Health Integrity has been performing benefit integrity activities aimed to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid data matching programs.

A ZPIC is a business entity that contracts with Medicare and Medicaid and works with state Medicaid agencies, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and law enforcement officials to identify improper billing and utilization patterns throughout Zone 4.

ZPIC Zone 4 includes Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

What is a ZPIC?

ZPICs are private companies contracted by the CMS, used to conduct audits for Medicare and Medicaid overpayments. ZPICS also detect, investigate and gather evidence of suspected fraud and abuse to be turned over to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for criminal or civil prosecution.. When you hear “ZPIC,” think “fraud.”

ZPIC audits are initiated by:

1. Whistleblower or qui tam lawsuits,
2. Probe audits,
3. Other audit agency findings,
4. Beneficiary/patient complaints,
5. Hotline complaints, or
6. Complaints and notices from other government programs.

How to Handle a ZPIC Audit.

When a physician, medical group or other health care provider receives a notice of an audit and site visit from a ZPIC, things happen fast with little opportunity to prepare. A ZPIC will routinely fax a letter to the practice shortly before the end of a business day the day before a site visit/audit to that practice. Auditors will request to inspect the premises, will photograph all rooms, equipment, furniture, and diplomas on walls. They will usually request copies of several patient records to review later. They will request copies of practice policies and procedures, treatment protocols, all staff licenses and certifications, drug formularies, medications prescribed, and medications used in the office. ZPIC auditors will inspect any medication/narcotic lockers or storage cabinets and will request drug/medication invoices and inventories. You will usually be contacted for follow-up information and documentation after the audit and will eventually be provided a report and, possibly, a demand for repayment of any detected overpayments.

For a checklist on what to do after you receive initial notification of a ZPIC audit, read our two-part blog. Click here for part one and click here for part two.

The Health Law Firm’s Success in a North Carolina Medicaid Action.

In October 2012, The Health Law Firm assisted a North Carolina Medicaid provider in reducing an overpayment demand made by the North Carolina Medicaid program by more than ninety-eight percent (98%). We were brought on to assist the provider in challenging an initial audit. We assembled and submitted documents to the auditor and assisted the client in presenting evidence at the hearing. The final result of the hearing reduced the Medicaid overpayment amount from $1.4 million to just $24,083. To read more on this successful Medicaid action, click here.

State Included in Zone 4.

ZPIC Zones are broken up by state. Health Integrity serves as the Zone 4 ZPIC. As indicated above Zone 4 includes Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

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?

Have you ever received notification of a ZPIC visit or audit? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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.

Department of Justice Seeks up to $600 Million in Whistleblower Case Against Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, Florida

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is asking for between $350 million and $600 million in damages and penalties from Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal. A Halifax employee filed the whistleblower lawsuit in 2009, accusing the hospital of illegal kickbacks to doctors, improper admissions and unnecessary spinal surgeries. The DOJ joined the case in 2011. Click here to read a previous blog on the DOJ joining the lawsuit.

If the government wins this case, it would amount to the largest whistleblower case of its kind in the nation.

Claims Against Halifax.

Halifax is accused of overbilling Medicare by inappropriately admitting patients and having financial arrangements with some of its doctors that violated a federal anti-kickback law.

The federal Stark Law prohibits Medicare and Medicaid payments for hospital services that are prescribed by doctors who have profit-sharing agreements with the hospital. The law was made to ensure that referrals are made for medical reasons only, without financial motives. However, according to the lawsuit, Halifax had agreements with its doctors that gave them a financial incentive to generate hospital revenues.

The whistleblower was recently interviewed in an Orlando Sentinel article. She claims neurosurgeons at Halifax allegedly received illegal kickbacks tied to their performance. The whistleblower claims a similar pattern existed with six of the hospital’s oncologists. The suit also alleges one surgeon performed spinal fusion surgeries that were not medically necessary.

To read more from the whistleblower in an Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

Halifax Denies All Claims.

Halifax denies all of the DOJ’s allegations. The hospital has filed two motions to dismiss the case. However, both have been denied. According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, the case is set for trial in November 2013. Click here to read the entire article from The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Whistleblowers Who Report Fraud and False Claims Against the Government Stand to Receive Large Rewards.

Since the Halifax whistleblower filed her action under a federal law, she is entitled to recoup fifteen percent (15%) to twenty-five percent (25%) of the damages. Similarly, individuals working in the health care industry, whether for hospitals, nursing homes, medical groups, home health agencies or others, often become aware of questionable activities. Often they are even asked to participate in it. In many cases the activity may amount to fraud on the government.

In a two-part blog, I explain types of false claims, the reward programs for coming forward with a false claim, who can file a whistleblower/qui tam lawsuit and what is needed to be a successful whistleblower. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

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 whistleblower 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.

Comments?

What do you think of this qui tam/whistleblower lawsuit? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Swisher, Skyler. “Justice Department Seeks up to $600 Million in Lawsuit Against Halifax.” The Daytona Beach News Journal. (June 3, 2013). From: http://www.news-journalonline.com/article/20130603/NEWS/306039975/1040?p=1&tc=pg

Jameson, Marni. “Halifax Hospial Whistleblower at Forefront of $200M Alleged Fraud.” Orlando Sentinel. (April 15, 2013). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-04-15/news/os-halifax-hospital-whistleblower-20130415_1_marlan-wilbanks-illegal-kickbacks-halifax-health

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.

Update All of Your Addresses with Medicare Immediately!

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

Have You Checked Your Addresses on File with CMS/Medicare Recently?

Do you remember the last time you checked all four of the addresses you should have on file for any individual or any group/company Medicare number you may have?  The consequences of not updating these addresses can be severe.  In addition to your mailing (or correspondence address), and your billing address, you also should have a physical address that is complete, accurate and timely.  The telephone number for that physical address should also be in the system.  You must ensure that not only is the street address accurate, but also that any suite, office or apartment number on it is accurate.  Check the zip code, too, just to be certain you did not transpose digits when you entered it.

Auditors, surveyors, inspectors and investigators are often sent out by Medicare and its contractors, including the Medicare Administrative Contractors (or “MACs”) and the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (or “ZPICs”), to the physical address on file.  This is done as a fraud prevention tool to make sure that medical practices, durable medical equipment companies (DMEs), home health agencies (HHAs), and other businesses that receive payments from Medicare are legitimate and are actually operating.

Termination of Medicare Billing Privileges Often Results From Incorrect Addresses.

Site inspections and audits are also conducted by sending auditors on short notice or no notice to the physical address on file.  If your physical address is incomplete (e.g., no suite number) or wrong (e.g., incorrect street address) or is not up to date (e.g., you moved and forgot to update it), the consequences could be severe.  What we have seen most often recently is an action that terminates the Medicare billing privileges.  The provider then is not allowed to reapply for a period of two (2) years from the date of termination.

Update All of Your Addresses with Medicare Immediately.

I urge you to personally and immediately go into the Medicare Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) and the National Plan & Provider Enumeration System (NPPES) NPI Registry and print out a copy of the existing information to check it.  If your address is incorrect or incomplete, immediately submit a correction or have your administrator practice manager do this.

If anything is incorrect, including an incorrect or incomplete name for your medical group, corporation or business, immediately have this corrected, as well.  Everything should be consistent, and all of your state licenses and corporation/company information on file with your Secretary of State should also contain the same information, as well.

What to Do if You Receive a Notice of Termination of Your Medicare Provider Number.

Have you received a notice of termination of your Medicare provider number? Medicare has been revoking the Medicare billing privileges of many different Medicare providers including physicians, medical groups, home health agencies (HHAs), pharmacies, and durable medical equipment (DME) providers, based on returned mail sent to old addresses which have not been updated or based on inspection team site visits to old, incorrect addresses.

Often the termination is retroactive to an earlier date when the change or move may have been determined to have occurred. Even if the mailing address is correct or was changed, the physical address of the business must have been updated, as well. It is usually an incorrect or old physical address which causes this to occur.

The effect of this termination includes:

1. You are prohibited from reapplying to Medicare for at least two (2) years.

2. You may have to pay back any monies received from the Medicare Program since the effective date of the termination (often many months prior to the notification letter).

3. Other auditing agents may be notified such as the Medicare Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPIC) and the state Medicare Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).

4. You may no longer contract with Medicare or anyone who does.

5. You may and probably will be terminated from the approved provider panels of health insurance companies with which you are currently contracted.

6. You may and probably will be terminated from skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and home health agencies (HHAs) with which you have contracts.

7. You may and probably will have your clinical privileges terminated by hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) where you have them.

What you should not do includes:

1. Don’t bother to write letters or start e-mailing anyone, including CMS or the Medicare Administrative Contractor (or MAC) (previously called the “carrier” or “fiscal intermediary”).

2. Don’t bother to call the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) or the MAC.

3. Don’t bother to file a new CMS Form 855 (application) or a CMS Form 855C (change).

4. Don’t bother to start communicating with CMS or the MAC about your situation and what you need to do about it.

5. Don’t bother to complete and file the short, one-page Corrective Action Plan (CAP) form that is on the CMS or Carrier/MAC website (unless you are close to the deadline and don’t have representation; then you must.)

What we recommend is:

1. Immediately go into the Medicare Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) and the National Plan & Provider Enumeration System (NPPES) NPI Registry and print out a copy of the existing information. Then update or correct any incorrect information on you or your company, if you can. Print out the information as it existed before and print out the information after you have corrected it. (Note: Medicare will act shortly after the letter to you to terminate your access to this, so it may be too late).

2. Hire an experienced health attorney immediately to assist you in putting together and submitting a comprehensive Corrective Action Plan (CAP), a Request for Reconsideration (RFR) and a request for an Appeal Hearing.

3. Note that there is a thirty (30) day deadline for submitting the CAP and a sixty (60) day deadline for requesting an appeal hearing. Do not miss these.

4. Implement formal, written internal policies and procedures to prevent a recurrence of the type of error, oversight or event that caused the termination.  Train your management and staff on these.

The CAP should address every element of the applicable conditions of participation (COP) contained in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). It should include and be supported by all relevant documents, including but not limited to:

1. Documents showing how the error occurred or past efforts to comply.

2. Surety bond guarantees and documents (where required).

3. Insurance coverage documents showing current coverage (general liability, professional liability, vehicle/auto liability).

4. Current licenses and permits.

5. Certificates of good standing and latest annual reports for any corporation or limited liability company.

6. Print-outs from PECOS/NPPES Registry discussed above.

7. Accident reports, insurance claims, police reports, fire reports or other documentation showing why a relocation was required (if this was an issue).

8. Certificates of compliance training for you and your staff, if available.

9. Copies of policies and procedures that you have adopted to keep there from being a recurrence of the situation that led to the termination.

10. An authorization form for your consultant or attorney to represent you in the matter.

All copies should be clear, legible, complete, straight, no corners cut off and no handwriting on them, to the greatest extent possible.

Organize, Label and Index Professionally.

Everything should be professionally assembled, typed, indexed and labeled. It should include a table of contents or an index. Number every page. It should be submitted to the MAC (or the agency/address given in the termination letter) by two (2) reliable means that document both sending and receipt. Keep copies of everything, including postal receipts, airbills, Federal Express labels, courier receipts, etc. It must be received at the address given in the termination letter you received (usually MAC) by the deadline given above. Keep copies of online tracking reports and return receipts.

In most instances, should you show a legitimate reason for the error, show you are currently in compliance, and show what remedial measures you have taken to keep there from being a repeat, the MAC will accept your corrective action plan (CAP) and will reinstate your Medicare number, as things stand currently.

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

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions.  They also represent them in preparing and submitting corrective action plans (CAPs), requests for reconsideration, and appeal hearings, including Medicare administrative hearings before an administrative law judge.  Attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent health providers in actions initiated by the Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs), in False Claims Act cases, in actions initiated by the state to exclude or terminate from the Medicaid Program or by the HHS OIG to exclude from the Medicare Program.

Call now at (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 or visit our website 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.

Disclaimer:  Please note this article is for general education and information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or solicitation for clients.  Our opinions stated herein are just that, our opinion.

Florida Hospice to Pay $1 Million to Settle Whistleblower Lawsuit Over False Billing Claims

10 Indest-2008-7By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Hernando-Pasco Hospice (HPH Hospice) in Hudson, Florida, agreed to pay $1 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by submitting false claims for services to the Medicare and Medicaid Programs. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, the hospice allegedly admitted patients that did not meet the requirements for end-of-life care. This lawsuit was originally filed in 2010, by two former hospice employees. The announcement was made on July 22, 2013.

Click here to read the entire press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

Hospice Accused of Admitting Ineligible Patients to Meet Targets.

HPH Hospice is accused of admitting ineligible patients in order to meet targets imposed by the management team, according to federal authorities. The settlement also resolves allegations that the hospice billed the government at higher rates than it was entitled to receive. It’s also accused of providing illegal kickbacks by giving services to skilled nursing facilities at no cost, in exchange for patient referrals.

Two former employees of the hospice first stepped forward with these allegations. The employees were longtime social workers at HPH Hospice. They filed a lawsuit alleging the facility’s management instructed the staff to make false or misleading statements in patients’ medical records to make them appear eligible for hospice care. The two former employees will share $250,000 of the settlement.

HPH Hospices Claims No Wrongdoing.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the HPH Hospice spokesperson said the allegations were completely false. The organization stated that the settlement was the better option for patients and staff. As a result of these allegations, HPH Hospice said that it has hired three registered nurses to review and monitor all admission documentation, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

To read the entire Tampa Bay Times article, click here.

Under the False Claims Act, Whistleblowers Can Come Out on Top.

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 read our two part blog on whistleblowers. Click here for part 1, and click here for part 2.

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.

Comments?

What do you think about this settlement agreement? Do you think settling was a better option for the hospice? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “HPH Hospice to Pay $1 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations.” Department of Justice. (July 22, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/flm/press/2013/july/20130722_HPH.html

Tillman, Jodie. “Hernando-Pasco Hospice Agrees to Pay $1 Million to Settle False Billing Cliams.” Tampa Bay Times. (July 22, 2013). From: http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/hernando-pasco-hospice-agrees-to-pay-1-million-to-settle-false-billing/2132592?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

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.

Federal Jury Convicts South Florida Doctors of Medicare Fraud

 

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

Two South Florida doctors, one Miami-area therapist, and two other individuals were convicted by a federal jury for their participation in a Medicare fraud scheme. The scheme allegedly involved more than $205 million in fraudulent billings by American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC), a corporation which provided mental health care services. The jury reached a decision on June 1, 2012. To see the Department of Justice press release, click here.

The two doctors and the therapist were each found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. The other two individuals were each found guilty of one count of health care kickbacks. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled. The maximum penalty for each conspiracy count and each count of health care fraud is ten years in prison plus a fine. The maximum penalty for each count of health care kickbacks is five years in prison plus a fine.

Doctors, Therapist, and Others Allegedly Created False Documents for Medicare Reimbursements.

One of the federal indictments charged more than 14 separate defendants with criminal violations. To see this indictment click here.

Allegedly, ATC billed Medicare for hundreds of millions of dollars in services, for thousands of patients who were not qualified. The charges alleged fraudulent documents were created by the doctors and others associated with ATC. The doctors allegedly would sign patient documents without having seen or treated the patients.

ATC operated partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) throughout Florida and would allegedly bill Medicare for PHP treatments for patients in the names of the doctors. Included in these submissions to Medicare were claims for patients who were allegedly ineligible for PHP treatments. ATC allegedly did not provide legitimate PHP treatment, but illegally changed patient medical records to justify claims that were submitted.

ATC Executive Sentenced to 50 Years in Prison.

Since ATC was shut down nearly two years ago, 35 defendants have faced charges relating to the alleged fraud scheme. The majority of the defendants have pleaded guilty. Last year a third doctor pleaded guilty, accepting responsibility for more than $19 million of false claims submitted by the clinics.

Four ATC executives were sentenced to 50 years, 35 years, 35 years, and 91 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in the fraud scheme.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare and Medicaid Fraud Cases.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions. They also represent them in preparing and submitting corrective action plans (CAPs), requests for reconsideration, and appeal hearings, including Medicare administrative hearings before an administrative law judge.

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:

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Doctors, Therapist, and Recruiters from Miami-Area Mental Health Care Corporation Convicted for Participating in $205 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme.” FBI. (June 01, 2012). Press Release. From:
http://www.fbi.gov/miami/press-releases/2012/doctors-therapist-and-recruiters-from-miami-area-mental-health-care-corporation-convicted-for-participating-in-205-million-medicare-fraud-scheme

Weaver, Jay. “Two South Florida Doctors, 3 Others Convicted on Medicare Fraud Charge.” Miami Herald. (June 01, 2012). From
http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/01/2827660/miami-medicare-fraud-jurors-tell.html#storylink=misearch/

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.

ZPICs Seek “Voluntary” Agreements from Physicians for Auto-Denial Edits for Home Health Services

MLS Blog Label 2By Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law, and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the primary purpose of Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) is to investigate instances of suspected fraud, waste, and abuse.  The specific actions employed by ZPICs to fulfil this mission include:

–  Investigating potential fraud and abuse for CMS administrative action or referral to law enforcement;
–  Conducting investigations in accordance with the priorities established by Center for Program Integrity’s (CPI) Fraud Prevention System;
–  Performing medical review, as appropriate;
–  Performing data analysis in coordination with CPI’s Fraud Prevention System;
–  Identifying the need for administrative actions such as payment suspensions and prepayment or auto-denial edits; and,
–  Referring cases to law enforcement for consideration and initiation of civil or criminal prosecution.

However, it appears that some of the ZPICs have been overly proactive in identifying the need for payments suspensions and are asking providers to voluntarily agree to payment suspensions for certain claims.

Click here to read more on ZPICs from CMS.

Physicians Being Targeted by ZPICs for Auto-Denial Edits.

Recently, physicians have been approached by ZPICs and asked to voluntarily agree to a payment edit on their National Provider Identifier (NPI) that would automatically deny any claim for payment for home health services that listed the physician as the ordering, attending, or referring physician.  A ZPIC requesting a specific physician to voluntarily cease ordering any home health services appears to go further than identifying the need for administrative action including a payment suspension.

The activities a ZPIC may use to fulfil its obligations to CMS are:

–  Request medical records and documentation;
–  Conduct interviews;
–  Conduct onsite visits;
–  Identify the need for a prepayment or auto-denial edits and refer these edits to the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MAC) for installation;
–  Withhold payments; and,
–  Refer cases to law enforcement.

The following functions are reserved for the MACs and not functions of the ZPICs.

–  Provider outreach and education;
–  Recouping monies lost to the Trust Fund (the ZPICs identify these         situations and refer them to the MACs for the recoupment);
–  Medical review not
–  Complaint screening; for benefit integrity purposes;
–  Claims appeals of ZPIC decisions;
–  Claim payment determination;
–  Claims pricing; and
–  Auditing provider cost reports.

While a ZPIC may refer a provider to the MAC for the imposition of an auto-denial edit, some ZPICs seem to have taken this process a step further and are attempting to have physicians voluntarily agree to the auto-denial edits.

Issues with Agreeing to an Auto-Denial Edit.

A physician who voluntarily agrees to an auto-denial edit could create significant problems for his or her patients and practice.  A physician agreeing to an auto-denial edit would need to cease ordering home health services and would need to refer the patients that need home health services to another physician.  Any physician that has been approached by a ZPIC seeking a voluntary auto-denial edit should consult competent legal counsel before agreeing to the auto-denial edit.

We have heard if ZPIC representatives allegedly intimidating or attempting to intimidate physicians who routinely order home health services for patients into agreeing to such auto-denial edits.

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?

Have you heard of these auto-denial edit requests from ZPICs? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Authors: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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.

$24 Million Medicaid Fraud Scheme Alleged by Connecticut Attorney General

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

Connecticut’s Attorney General, George Jepsen, alleges that 28 individuals, dental practices and corporations were involved in a $24 million Medicaid fraud scheme. He filed a civil action  on May 31, 2012. It is the first case the state has initiated under the Connecticut False Claims Act. The Connecticut False Claims Act gives the state the ability to seek compensation for taxpayers from those who submit false claims for reimbursements they are not eligible to receive. To view the Connecticut False Claims Act, click here.

The complaint seeks restitution, treble damages and civil penalties as well as a permanent injunction against the unlawful acts and practices alleged in the complaint. To view the complaint, click here.

Accused Individual Allegedly Found Ways to Bill Medicaid for Services, Despite Being Excluded from Medicare and Medicaid Programs.

According to the complaint, one of the individuals involved in the alleged fraud scheme was previously convicted of a felony in another state for submitting false health care claims. He was then permanently excluded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) from participation in Medicare and Medicaid, as a result of his conviction. Any entity with which he serves as an employee, administrator, operator or in any other capacity, were also excluded from state healthcare programs.

The state alleges that, despite the exclusion, he established a number of dental practices in Connecticut that were operated by practicing dentists who billed Medicaid for services.

Allegedly, the excluded individual was actively involved in managing the practices and received millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements. The dental providers allegedly knew of the exclusion and did not disclose it on enrollment and re-enrollment forms for the Connecticut Medical Assistance Program.

Florida Has Similar False Claims Act.

Florida has a Medicaid False Claims Act similar to the one that Connecticut has. Florida’s Medicaid False Claims Act can be found here. However, in Florida, a separate provision of the state’s Medicaid law provides an award to a whistle-blower of up to 25% of any recovery. This is in Section 409.9203, Florida Statutes. In addition, Florida has a law that allows civil recovery for criminal acts such as Medicaid fraud, which is sometimes used by the Florida Attorney General and private individuals to recover money lost as a result of certain criminal conduct. For the Florida Civil Remedies for Criminal Actions law, click here.

As a general rule state false claims acts are modeled after the federal False Claims Act used to pursue Medicare fraud. For the federal Medicare Fraud False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid and Medicare Fraud Cases.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, nurses, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits, hearings and recovery actions. In addition The Health Law Firm represents health providers in Medicare exclusion actions and in being reinstated to the Medicare Program or being removed from the exclusion list.

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

Sources:

Rees, Nick. “Jepsen alleges $24M Medicaid fraud.” Legal Newsline. (June 4, 2012). From: http://www.legalnewsline.com/news/contentview.asp?c=236342

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.

Adventist Health System Settles Whistleblower Lawsuit

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

On December 18, 2013, Adventist Health System/Sunbelt Inc., the parent company of Orlando-based Florida Hospital, settled a whistleblower lawsuit, according to court documents. The whistleblower lawsuit, filed in 2010, stated that seven Adventist hospitals in Florida overbilled the federal government between 1995 and 2009, allegedly resulting in tens of millions of dollars in false claims, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel and other sources.

Click here to read the Order of Dismissal.

Previous reports from the Orlando Sentinel stated that the lawsuit could have damages of more than $100 million, but the details of the settlement are not yet available.

Alleged Details in the Case Against Adventist Health System.

The lawsuit claims that seven Adventist hospitals in Florida 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 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.

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

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.

This case was scheduled to go to trial in December 2013.

Click here to read more on this case from my previous blog.

Most Qui Tam Claims Filed by Employees.

From our review of qui tam cases that have been unsealed by the government, it appears most of these are filed by physicians, nurses or hospital staff employees who have some knowledge of false billing or inappropriate coding taking place. Normally the government will want to see some actual documentation of the claims submitted by the hospital or other institution. Usually physicians, nurses or staff employees have access to such documentation. Whistleblowers are urged to come forward as soon as possible. In many circumstances, documentation that shows the fraud “disappears” or cannot be located once it is known that a company is under investigation.

To learn more on whistleblower/qui tam cases, read our two-part blog. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

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.

Comments?

Individuals working in the health care industry often become aware of questionable activities. Often they are even asked to participate in it. In many cases the activity may amount to fraud on the government. Has this ever happened to you? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Aboraya, Abraham. “Adventist Health Whistleblower Lawsuit Settled.” Orlando Business Journal. (December 19, 2013). From: http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/blog/2013/12/adventist-health-whistleblower-lawsuit.html

United States of America and State of Florida ex rel., Amanda Dittman and charlotte Elenberger, M.D. vs Adventist Health System/Sunbelt, Inc. Case No. 6:10-cv-1062-Orl-28GJK. Order of Dismissal. (December 18, 2013). From: http://assets.bizjournals.com/orlando/pdf/document.pdf

Jameson, Marni. “Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges Florida Hospital Filed 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-whistleblower-lawsuit

Amanda Dittman and Charlotte Elenberger, M.D. v. Adventist Health Systems/Sunbelt, Inc. No. 6:10-cv-01062-JA-GJK. False Claims Act Complaint. (July 15, 2010). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/whistleblower-lawsuit-adventist.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.

Walgreens 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

Walgreens has reached a $7.9 million settlement with the United States and participating states that resolves allegations that Walgreens violated the False Claims Act. The DOJ announced the settlement on April 20, 2012. To view the DOJ’s press release concerning the settlement with Walgreens, click here. To view the False Claims Act, click here.

Walgreens Allegedly Offered Illegal Inducements to Medicare and Medicaid Beneficiaries.

The settlement was reached after Walgreens was accused of offering illegal inducements to beneficiaries of government health programs (Medicare, Medicaid, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), and TRICARE ). Walgreens allegedly offered gift cards to government health program beneficiaries when they transferred a prescription from another pharmacy to Walgreens. The government maintains that such inducements are a violation of state and federal laws.

Walgreens Pays Back Individual State Medicaid Programs.

Since the initial settlement was announced by the DOJ, Walgreens has begun to pay back individual state Medicaid programs that were impacted by the alleged inducements. State and federal laws prohibit such inducements to buy services and goods provided under Medicaid. Walgreens is now paying the states for prescription claims it submitted for reimbursement to Medicaid that were a result of the alleged inducements. Some of the states involved include California, Indiana, Michigan, and Missouri.

Whistleblowers Initiated Government Investigation of Walgreens’ Gift Card Inducements.

The allegations were brought to the government by two whistleblowers. Two separate whistleblower lawsuits were filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act and state False Claims Act statutes. The whistleblowers will receive $1,277,172 from the United States for their role in filing the qui tam actions.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with False Act Claims 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:

Cohen, Bryan. “Whistleblower Lawsuits Against Walgreens Settled.” LegalNewsline. (June 12, 2012). From: http://www.legalnewsline.com/news/236427-whistleblower-lawsuits-against-walgreens-settled

Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Walgreens Pharmacy Chain Pays $7.9 Million to Resolve False Prescription Billing Case.” Department of Justice. (April 20, 2012). Press Release. From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/April/12-civ-505.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.

Duke University Health System Pays $1 Million to Settle Allegations of False Claims in Whistleblower Lawsuit

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On March 21, 2014, Duke University Health System in Raleigh, North Carolina, settled a whistleblower/qui tam lawsuit, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The lawsuit, filed in 2012, stated that the three-hospital academic medical center is alleged to have fraudulently inflated its Medicare bills by unbundling a number of cardiac services and billing for physician assistants’ (PAs) time illegally. Duke University Health System agreed to pay $1 million to resolve these allegations.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Duke University Health System Accused of Submitting False Claims to Federal Health Care Programs.

According to the complaint, the lawsuit was originally filed by a former health care bill coder and quality-control auditor for Duke’s revenue-cycle subsidiary, Duke Patient Revenue Management Organization. The former employee accused Duke University Health System of allegedly making false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE by billing the government for services provided by PAs during coronary artery bypass surgeries when the PAs were acting as surgical assistants, which is not allowed. The whistleblower also alleged the medical center increased billing by unbundling claims when the unbundling was not appropriate. These unbundled claims were associated with cardiac and anesthesia services, according to the complaint.

To read the whistleblower’s complaint filed in December of 2012, click here.

According to the DOJ, the claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Whistleblowers Who Report Fraud and False Claims Against the Government Are Usually Employees.

Doctors, nurses or staff employees working for hospitals, nursing homes, medical groups, home health agencies or others, often become aware of questionable activities. They are sometimes even asked to participate in it. In many cases the activity may amount to health care fraud.

It does not matter who you are. You may even be actively involved in the wrongdoing. This does not disqualify you from reporting the false claims activity or receiving a reward for doing so. In order to encourage employees with knowledge of fraudulent activity to come forward, the government will usually not seek to prosecute or punish that person in any way.

Normally the government will want to see some actual documentation of the claims submitted by the hospital or other institution. Usually physicians, nurses or staff employees have access to such documentation. Whistleblowers are urged to come forward as soon as possible. In many circumstances, documentation that shows the fraud “disappears” or cannot be located once it is known that a company is under investigation.

Of course, the larger the amount of money the government has been defrauded the more likely it will be that the government will be interested in pursuing the case and the larger the reward the whistleblower will receive if there is a recovery.

To read more on whistleblower cases, read my previous blogs. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

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.

Comments?

What do you think of this settlement? Do you think whistleblower lawsuits are becoming more common? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Carlson, Joe. “Duke Pays $1 Million to Settle Whistle-Blower Case.” Modern Healthcare. (March 25, 2014). From: http://bit.ly/1g3W7yw

Department of Justice. “Duke University Health System, Inc. Agrees to Pay $1 Million For Alleged False Claims Submitted to Federal Health Care Programs.” Department of Justice. (March 21, 2014). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/nce/press/2014/2014-mar-21.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.

“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.

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