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So, the ZPIC Medicare Auditor Wants to Talk to You? What You Should Expect

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

You are a physician, nurse or other health care provider who bills Medicare. You have received that dreaded letter from the Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) for Medicare advising you that it is auditing you for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). You know that the words “Program Integrity” by themselves mean that possible fraud is being investigated, at least that is the suspicion giving rise to this particular audit.

To read an earlier blog which I wrote on tips for responding to ZPIC audits, click here.

You have dutifully contacted an experienced health law attorney to aid you in responding to the ZPIC’ s request for records and information. You have obtained all of the requested medical records documentation, authoritative medical journal articles and other information that may be useful in supporting the care you delivered and for which you billed, added explanatory notes (clearly and contemporaneously dated, of course) where necessary or where records were missing, and done all you can to fully and completely respond to the audit.

After the Initial Audit Response and Site Visit.

Now, several weeks later, the ZPIC auditor/investigator contacts you and advises you that he would like you to come to his office to answer a few questions. The ZPIC auditor/investigator states that this is “just routine” and should only take approximately 20 minutes.

After discussing this with your attorney, knowing that you have committed no fraud and that your medical records are in pretty good shape to support your billing, you decide to go to the ZPIC office for the interview. (Note: I know that many attorneys would recommend against this action, but often we advise a client, with the right set of facts, of course, to do this.) What should you expect?

What to Expect When You Show up to Be Interviewed by the ZPIC Auditor.

Although we cannot guarantee you that you will experience the same as we have in the past, this is what happened often enough with us where it seems to be somewhat common practice in such audits.

1. Expect the ZPIC office to be in a building with good security, including magnetic/electronic scanning for guns and weapons, like at the airport or court house. Do not attempt to take any type of weapon inside the building, including pen knives on key chains and tear gas or pepper spray canisters.

2. Bring a valid government identification card with your photograph. If you are with an attorney or a consultant, that person will also need one. One of the first things that will happen is that you will be asked to show your identification cards to prove you are who you say you are.

3. Be sure you have your correct office address on file with Medicare. If the auditors show up at an address you have listed and your practice is not there, you will either get a letter automatically terminating your Medicare billing privileges or you will be called down for this interrogation by the ZPIC. This is a primary reason for such ZPIC interrogations. Be sure your physical office address, including suite number, apartment number, office number, etc., are correctly reflected in the Provider Enrollment and Chain/Ownership System (PECOS), the electronic portal through which Medicare providers enroll in Medicare.

4. You aren’t going to be interviewed by just one person and it isn’t going to be just “20 minutes.”

5. In most cases, there will be three or more auditors/investigators involved in the interview with you. This is why it is a good idea to bring your attorney and her paralegal so that you also have some support, as well. The least number of auditor/investigators that we have ever seen involved in such interviews is two. Don’t be surprised if there are three or four.

6. The questioning and interviewing will take much longer than you expected. Plan on taking the rest of the day off so that you are not rushed and do not feel pressured to get it over with fast. It is not going to be over with fast.

7. Don’t joke around with the ZPIC auditors. This is a very serious matter. Many talented government investigators will attempt to joke and make light of things in order to get you to let your guard down. Do not play into this. Be serious and act seriously at all times.

8. You are not in an endurance contest. Ask for bathroom breaks, water breaks or just a break to talk with your attorney, as many times as you desire. Do this at least once each hour. This will help to keep your blood circulating and keep you alert.

9. You will be confronted with what the ZPIC auditors believe they have found that violates Medicare regulations. This may include, for example, billing services for patients who were dead at the time, billing for services on dates after the patient was no longer qualified to receive them, billing for services that were billed by another provider, etc. Do not guess at why this happened if you did not know for a fact. You can advise the investigator that you will take down the investigation, look into it and provide the information to him or her at a later date.

10. Don’t be surprised if the ZPIC auditor has incorrect information. Often the ZPIC will have confused information on two different Medicare beneficiaries with the same names or whose Medicare numbers were incorrectly recorded. For example, in one recent ZPIC investigator interview with my client, the investigator accused the physician of billing for services provided to a patient who had been deceased for two years. The physician had just seen the patient on a follow-up visit a month prior to the interview. The ZPIC had confused a dead patient who had the same name with the live patient. This is not uncommon.

11. Don’t be surprised if the ZPIC auditor asks you about other Medicare provider’s billings for the same patient. This also happened to a client of mine in a recent case. The ZPIC investigator questioned why the XYZ company would have billed for the same services as those provided by my client, a solo practitioner. My client did not know. He correctly told the auditor that he did not know why the other party had billed Medicare for the same services, but he had provided the services to his patient and he had billed for the services. He could not know whey someone else did something.

12. If there have been intervening factors affecting your billing practices, disclose these to the investigator. In one case, my client had changed software for her electronic health records and billing. One of the reasons this was necessary was because of bugs that made the billings sometimes unreliable. Records more than four (4) years old were no longer available. The client disclosed this.

13. Be sure you are able to reconcile the number of patients seen per day, the number of hours the CPT codes billed to Medicare are supposed to reflect, and that these seem reasonable. If you are billing time-based CPT codes for patients that it would take you 27 hours to see in a day, you are in trouble. You must know this ahead of time and either have a reasonable answer to address the problem (e.g., an incorrect date entry in the billing software caused two days worth of services to accidentally be billed for the same date of service) or correct the over-billing error.

14. Know what rules, regulations and guidelines apply to the billings for the CPT codes you are billing. Check to see if there are local coverage decisions (LCDs) from your area Medicare Administrative Carrier (MAC) or National Coverage Decisions (NCDs) from CMS and know them. Be sure you have followed them and are following them.

15. Know the licensure rules and regulations for your profession, as well as the Medicare guidelines for billing for your profession. Sometimes billing for what an assistant, trainee, or ancillary provider does is allowed, and sometimes it isn’t. If you bill for what an assistant does, be sure you know the rules and are properly billing. The ZPIC investigator certainly will ask questions about this.

16. Your health record entries, assessments, evaluations, progress notes, etc., are required to be made contemporaneously with your delivery of the services. This generally means within 24 hours, as a rule of thumb. Records made a week or a month later are not considered to be reliable or accurate. So be sure you have made and are making your records contemporaneously with seeing the patient or providing the services.

17. Check the location code for the claims you have submitted. Make sure they reflect the correct site that the services were delivered. There could be differences in payments based on the site/location code. You will be asked about this if there are discrepancies.

18. If you identify problems and issues when preparing for your ZPIC interview, go ahead and correct them. This way you will be able to show you have made an honest mistake, have changed your procedures and the mistake(s) will not happen again in the future. Sometimes this may require terminating your billing company, purchasing new software, retaining a professional consultant, asking for an educational site visit from the MAC, and obtaining additional continuing education on billing practices and procedures for you and your staff (some of which CMS offers online).

We have many helpful resources on our webpage and YouTube page. Click here to view our video Q&A on ZPIC audits for more information.

To read an additional blog I wrote on preparing for an audit, click here.

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

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

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

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: Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), ZPIC audit defense attorney, ZPIC defense lawyer, representation for ZPIC investigations, representation for ZPIC audit, ZPIC audit lawyers, ZPIC representation, ZPIC investigation representation, Medicare audit defense legal counsel, Medicare audit attorney, legal representation for ZPIC letters, legal representation for ZPIC audits, Medicare and Medicaid audits, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid audits, health care fraud defense attorney, preparing for ZPIC audit, legal representation for health care fraud, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), legal representation for CMS investigations, Office of Inspector General (OIG), health care professional defense attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, legal representation for fraud investigations, reviews for The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, additional documentation requests (ADRs) for pre-payment and post-payment reviews, initiation of Medicare suspension of payments lawyer, healthcare fraud representation, allegations of healthcare fraud, representation for CMS investigations, representation for healthcare investigations, representation for overbilling, False Claims attorney, FCA lawyer, FCA attorney, representation for submitting False Claims

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Miami Man to Remain Jailed for Trial in Nation’s Largest Medicare Fraud Case

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

On December 3, 2018, a Florida judge ruled that a Miami businessman who has been jailed for more than two years on $1 billion health care fraud charges, must remain in custody through his trial next year. U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. found no violation of his due process rights and denied Philip Esformes’ motion to dismiss several money laundering charges.

Trial Date is Set.

A February 11, 2019, trial date has been set for one of the nation’s biggest Medicare fraud cases that Esformes allegedly orchestrated through nursing homes and assisted living facilities he owned. According to the government, the scheme resulted in $1 billion in false billing and at least $464 million in improper reimbursement payments from Medicare and Medicaid.

Esformes, has been in federal custody since his arrest in July 2016, and prosecutors voiced concerns early on about him being a risk for flight, possible witness tampering and his substantial resources enabling him to live comfortably overseas.

Judge Scola found that the bid for release deserved reconsideration, but ultimately found delays in the case were more attributable to giving the defense time to review the overwhelming quantity of evidence than time spent addressing the government’s conduct. He also agreed with the government that the duration of Esformes’ detention is not grounds for release under binding precedent.

Additionally, the judge rejected Esformes’ motion to dismiss nine counts of alleging money laundering concealment. Esformes had argued that the government improperly based transactions cited in other counts as alleged payments or receipts of kickbacks. You can read more about that here.

Despite problems with the conduct of prosecutors and agents, the judge is keeping the fraud case on track. The Miami businessman is charged with conspiracy, obstruction, money laundering and health care fraud. Click here to read the U.S. Department of Justice’s press release on this case.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs about a billion dollar fraud scheme in Florida.

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

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., as well as in civil and administrative litigation attempting to recoup claims that have been paid. 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 Medicare and Medicaid Program.

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

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

Hale, Nathan. “Miami Man To Remain Jailed For Trial In $1B Medicare Fraud.” Law360. (December 3, 2018). Web.

Weaver, Jay. “Miami federal judge keeps massive Medicare fraud case on track for trial in January.” Miami Herald. (November 14, 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: Medicare fraud defense representation attorney, legal representation for defense of Medicare fraud charges, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for allegation of defrauding the government, legal representation for submitting false claims, Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare billing defense attorney, health care clinic fraud audit, legal representation for false billing, legal representation for allegations of unnecessary procedures, legal representation for Medicare audits, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation for Medicaid fraud, audit defense lawyer, healthcare fraud representation, healthcare fraud lawyer, legal representation for Medicaid audit, Medicaid audit defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid investigation defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid investigations, OIG investigation defense attorney, legal representation for OIG investigations, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, DOJ representation, representation for DOJ investigations, licensure defense lawyer, reviews of the Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health law defense attorney

“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.
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Walgreens Agrees to Pay $269 Million to Settle Two FCA Suits

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

On January 22, 2019, Walgreens agreed to pay more than $269 million to settle allegations of False Claims Act (FCA) violations for overbilling of various drugs. The deals are some of the largest pay-outs ever by a retail pharmacy, according to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).

The Two Settlements.

There were two separate complaints involving Walgreens to settle federal and state lawsuits that accused the pharmacy of overbilling federal healthcare programs. Both were unsealed by U.S. District Court judges in Manhattan, according to the DOJ.

In the first settlement, Walgreens agreed to pay $209.2 million to the U.S. and several state governments for improperly billing Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs. The pharmacy is accused of excessive dispensing of insulin pens to beneficiaries who didn’t need them, according to U.S. officials. It reaped improper payments by understating the amount of treatment days covered by supplies of insulin pens. That allowed it to bill for prescriptions that should have been denied as premature, the DOJ said. Click here to visit our website and read the complaint and the stipulation for the first settlement.

In the second settlement, Walgreens agreed to pay $60 million to settle claims of overbilling Medicaid programs through bogus Medicaid price reporting. The retail pharmacy never disclosed or charged the lower drug prices it offered the public through a pharmacy discount program.

According to the DOJ, Walgreens obtained inflated reimbursement amounts because it failed to disclose discounted drug prices in its “Prescription Savings Club.” However, federal prosecutors said Walgreens didn’t disclose the discounted drug price when filing for reimbursement from Medicaid. Click here to visit our website and read the complaint and stipulation for the second settlement.

There are two whistleblowers in the insulin pen case, they will receive a roughly 19 percent cut of the $41 million portion of the settlement that will go to state, a reward of close to $8 million for blowing the whistle. The whistleblower in the Medicaid price reporting case, will receive a $11.4 million reward, according to his attorney. Not bad for a days work!

Walgreens released a statement, saying it was glad to have the matters resolved but admitted to no wrongdoing.

This isn’t the first time Walgreens has been involved in an FCA lawsuit. Click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar case.

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:

Overley, Jeff. “Walgreens Pays $269M In Milestone FCA Deals.” Law360. (January 22, 2019). Web.

Thomas, Patrick. “Walgreens to Pay $269 Million on Claims It Overcharged Federal Programs.” WSJ. (January 22, 2019). 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: healthcare fraud, healthcare fraud representation, healthcare fraud defense lawyer, Medicare Fraud, legal representation for Medicare fraud, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for allegation of defrauding the government, legal representation for submitting false claims, Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare billing defense attorney, health care clinic fraud audit, legal representation for false billing, legal representation for Medicare audits, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation fr Medicaid fraud, legal representation for Medicaid audit, Medicaid audit defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid investigation defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid investigations, OIG investigation defense attorney, legal representation for OIG investigations, False Claims Act (FCA), FCA attorney, FCA representation, FCA defense lawyer, whistleblower representation, whistleblower defense attorney, qui tam lawyer, qui tam defense attorney, qui tam representation, legal representation for pharmacies, legal representation for pharmacists, pharmacy representation, pharmacists defense attorney, pharmacy defense lawyer, Board of Pharmacy representation, Board of Pharmacy defense lawyer, reviews of the Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health law defense attorney

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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DOJ Announces $2.8 Billion Recovered Funds From Healthcare Cases in 2018

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

On December 21, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it recovered more than $2.8 billion from False Claims Act (FCA) (also known as “qui tam” or “whistleblower cases”) cases in 2018. Of the $2.8 billion in settlements and judgments that the government obtained during the year through FCA cases, more than $2.5 billion involved health care fraud. These cases included drug and medical device manufacturers, managed care providers, hospitals, pharmacies, hospice organizations, laboratories, and physicians.

Health Care Fraud.

The DOJ’s largest recoveries involving the health care industry in 2018 came from the drug and medical device industry. In one example, AmerisourceBergen Corporation paid a whopping $625 million to settle charges filed under the whistleblower provisions of the FCA. The charges alleged that it illegally distributed misbranded drugs for cancer patients. Of that amount, $581.8 million was paid to the federal government and $43.2 million was paid to state Medicaid programs. Click here to read more on that.

Whistleblower Complaints.

Of the $2.8 billion recovered in 2018, more than $2.1 billion arose from lawsuits filed under the qui tam provisions of the FCA. The government paid out $301 million to the whistleblowers who exposed fraud and false claims by filing these actions. There was a total of 645 qui tam suits filed in 2018. Click here to see the DOJ’s 2018 statistics.  To view the DOJ’s press release on fraud for the fiscal year 2018, click here.

Health Care Fraud is a Serious Matter.

We have been consulted by many individuals, both before and after criminal convictions for health care fraud or related offenses. In many cases, those subject to Medicare fraud audits and false claims investigations refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter. Some may even decide not to spend the money required for a highly experienced health attorney to defend them.

Click here to read one of my previous blog posts regarding health care fraud.

The government is serious about combating health care fraud. It created a Medicare Fraud Strike Force in March 2007, in an effort to further prevent and eliminate fraud and abuse of government health care programs. False claims are a growing problem in the program, costing the government billions of dollars each year. Accordingly, punishments for defrauding the system can be quite severe.

If you are accused of health care fraud, realize that you are in a fight for your life. Your liberty, property/possessions and profession are all at stake. Often it is possible to settle allegations of fraud by agreeing to pay civil monetary penalties and fines. If given such an opportunity, the Medicare provider should consider whether it is worth the risk of facing decades in prison. Be prepared to give up whatever you need to in order to avoid a conviction and preserve your liberty.

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

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and others who may desire to file a qui tam, False Claims Act or whistleblower suit. We work with physicians, nurses and other professionals to investigate, document and file such 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. We have represented number of doctors and other licensed health professionals as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases. Our attorneys are also available to defend physicians, medical groups and health care providers in qui tam or whistleblower cases.

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

Sources:

Bantz, Phillip. “US Justice Department Recovered $2.8 Billion From False Claims Act Cases in 2018.” Law.com. (December 28, 2018). Web.

“Health Care Dominates FCA Judgments and Settlements in 2018.” The National Law Review. (December 31, 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: healthcare fraud, healthcare fraud representation, healthcare fraud defense lawyer, Medicare fraud, legal representation for Medicare fraud, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for allegation of defrauding the government, legal representation for submitting false claims, Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare billing defense attorney, health care clinic fraud audit, legal representation for false billing, legal representation for Medicare audits, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation fr Medicaid fraud, legal representation for Medicaid audit, Medicaid audit defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid investigation defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid investigations, OIG investigation defense attorney, legal representation for OIG investigations, False Claims Act (FCA), FCA attorney, FCA representation, FCA defense lawyer, whistleblower representation, whistleblower defense attorney, qui tam lawyer, qui tam defense attorney, qui tam representation, reviews of the Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health law defense attorney

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

DOJ Announces $2.8 Billion Recovered From Healthcare FCA Cases in 2018

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

On December 21, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it recovered more than $2.8 billion from False Claims Act (FCA) (also known as “qui tam” or “whistleblower cases”) cases in 2018. Of the $2.8 billion in settlements and judgments that the government obtained during the year through FCA cases, more than $2.5 billion involved health care fraud. These cases included drug and medical device manufacturers, managed care providers, hospitals, pharmacies, hospice organizations, laboratories, and physicians.

Health Care Fraud.

The DOJ’s largest recoveries involving the health care industry in 2018 came from the drug and medical device industry. In one example, AmerisourceBergen Corporation paid a whopping $625 million to settle charges filed under the whistleblower provisions of the FCA. The charges alleged that it illegally distributed misbranded drugs for cancer patients. Of that amount, $581.8 million was paid to the federal government and $43.2 million was paid to state Medicaid programs. Click here to read more on that.

Whistleblower Complaints.

Of the $2.8 billion recovered in 2018, more than $2.1 billion arose from lawsuits filed under the qui tam provisions of the FCA. The government paid out $301 million to the whistleblowers who exposed fraud and false claims by filing these actions. There was a total of 645 qui tam suits filed in 2018. Click here to see the DOJ’s 2018 statistics.  To view the DOJ’s press release on fraud for the fiscal year 2018, click here.

Health Care Fraud is a Serious Matter.

We have been consulted by many individuals, both before and after criminal convictions for health care fraud or related offenses. In many cases, those subject to Medicare fraud audits and false claims investigations refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter. Some may even decide not to spend the money required for a highly experienced health attorney to defend them.

Click here to read one of my previous blog posts regarding health care fraud.

The government is serious about combating health care fraud. It created a Medicare Fraud Strike Force in March 2007, in an effort to further prevent and eliminate fraud and abuse of government health care programs. False claims are a growing problem in the program, costing the government billions of dollars each year. Accordingly, punishments for defrauding the system can be quite severe.

If you are accused of health care fraud, realize that you are in a fight for your life. Your liberty, property/possessions and profession are all at stake. Often it is possible to settle allegations of fraud by agreeing to pay civil monetary penalties and fines. If given such an opportunity, the Medicare provider should consider whether it is worth the risk of facing decades in prison. Be prepared to give up whatever you need to in order to avoid a conviction and preserve your liberty.

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

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and others who may desire to file a qui tam, False Claims Act or whistleblower suit. We work with physicians, nurses and other professionals to investigate, document and file such 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. We have represented number of doctors and other licensed health professionals as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases. Our attorneys are also available to defend physicians, medical groups and health care providers in qui tam or whistleblower cases.

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

Sources:

Bantz, Phillip. “US Justice Department Recovered $2.8 Billion From False Claims Act Cases in 2018.” Law.com. (December 28, 2018). Web.

“Health Care Dominates FCA Judgments and Settlements in 2018.” The National Law Review. (December 31, 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: healthcare fraud, healthcare fraud representation, healthcare fraud defense lawyer, Medicare fraud, legal representation for Medicare fraud, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for allegation of defrauding the government, legal representation for submitting false claims, Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare billing defense attorney, health care clinic fraud audit, legal representation for false billing, legal representation for Medicare audits, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation fr Medicaid fraud, legal representation for Medicaid audit, Medicaid audit defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid investigation defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid investigations, OIG investigation defense attorney, legal representation for OIG investigations, False Claims Act (FCA), FCA attorney, FCA representation, FCA defense lawyer, whistleblower representation, whistleblower defense attorney, qui tam lawyer, qui tam defense attorney, qui tam representation, reviews of the Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health law defense attorney

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Miami Man to Remain Jailed for Trial in Nation’s Largest Medicare Fraud Case

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

On December 3, 2018, a Florida judge ruled that a Miami businessman who has been jailed for more than two years on $1 billion health care fraud charges, must remain in custody through his trial next year. U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. found no violation of his due process rights. He also denied Philip Esformes’ motion to dismiss several money laundering charges.

Trial Date is Set.

A February 11, 2019, trial date has been set for one of the nation’s biggest Medicare fraud cases that Esformes allegedly orchestrated through nursing homes and assisted living facilities he owned. According to the government, the scheme resulted in $1 billion in false billing and at least $464 million in improper reimbursement payments from Medicare and Medicaid.

Esformes, has been in federal custody since his arrest in July 2016, and prosecutors voiced concerns early on about him being a risk for flight, possible witness tampering and his substantial resources enabling him to live comfortably overseas.

Judge Scola found that the bid for release deserved reconsideration, but ultimately found delays in the case were more attributable to giving the defense time to review the overwhelming quantity of evidence than time spent addressing the government’s conduct. He also agreed with the government that the duration of Esformes’ detention is not grounds for release under binding precedent.

Additionally, the judge rejected Esformes’ motion to dismiss nine counts of alleging money laundering concealment. Esformes had argued that the government improperly based transactions cited in other counts as alleged payments or receipts of kickbacks. You can read more about that here.

Despite problems with the conduct of prosecutors and agents, the judge is keeping the fraud case on track. The Miami businessman is charged with conspiracy, obstruction, money laundering and health care fraud. Click here to read the U.S. Department of Justice’s press release on this case.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs about a billion dollar fraud scheme in Florida.

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

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., as well as in civil and administrative litigation attempting to recoup claims that have been paid. 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 Medicare and Medicaid Program.

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

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

Hale, Nathan. “Miami Man To Remain Jailed For Trial In $1B Medicare Fraud.” Law360. (December 3, 2018). Web.

Weaver, Jay. “Miami federal judge keeps massive Medicare fraud case on track for trial in January.” Miami Herald. (November 14, 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: Medicare fraud defense representation attorney, legal representation for defense of Medicare fraud charges, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for allegation of defrauding the government, legal representation for submitting false claims, Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare billing defense attorney, health care clinic fraud audit, legal representation for false billing, legal representation for allegations of unnecessary procedures, legal representation for Medicare audits, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation for Medicaid fraud, audit defense lawyer, healthcare fraud representation, healthcare fraud lawyer, legal representation for Medicaid audit, Medicaid audit defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid investigation defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid investigations, OIG investigation defense attorney, legal representation for OIG investigations, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, DOJ representation, representation for DOJ investigations, licensure defense lawyer, reviews of the Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health law defense attorney

“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.

 

Jury Convicts Doctor and Medical Billing Company Owner for $28 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On May 1, 2017, a federal jury in Michigan found a Detroit-area doctor and owner of a medical billing company guilty of perpetrating a $28 million health care fraud scheme. The scheme involved billing Medicare for pain treatments that weren’t actually provided, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said.

Health Care Fraud Scheme.

Dr. Johnny Trotter and Elaine Lovett were both convicted after a four-week jury trial on one count of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud and three counts of health care fraud. In addition to the fraud scheme, both Trotter and Lovett also worked to dodge Medicare’s investigation into Trotter, according to the DOJ.

Evidence at the trial showed that between May 2008 and May 2014, both Trotter and Lovett fraudulently billed for services that were never provided. These services were predominantly nerve block injections, which treat pain by numbing groups of nerves.

In 2009, Medicare grew suspicious and began to require that claims submitted by Trotter satisfy a medical review prior to payment pre-payment review). As a result, both Trotter and Lovett conspired to dodge this investigation by starting fake medical centers, according to the prosecution said.

Trotter and Lovett attempted to hide their involvement by recruiting family members and employees to serve as “straw owners” of the companies. Meanwhile, the two fraudsters continued receiving payment for services that weren’t provided, the government said.

To learn more about health care fraud and the repercussions of Medicare fraud, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Watch our short video blog on Medicare fraud and the audit process here.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medicare and Medicaid Fraud.

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

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

Sources:

Kennedy, John. “Jury Convicts 2 Over $28M Medicare Pain Treatment Fraud.” Law360. (May 1, 2017). Web.

“Jury Convicts 2 Over $28M Medicare Pain Treatment Fraud.” Lexis Nexis. (May 1. 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: Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare fraud, legal representation for Medicare fraud investigation, Medicare Strike Force, legal representation for fraudulent claims, prepayment review attorneys, legal representation for submitting false claims, Medicare overbilling defense attorney, Medicare audit defense lawyer, legal representation for allegations of Medicare fraud, health care fraud defense attorney, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare termination, Medicarelegal representation for Medicare exclusion, OIG exclusion defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys

“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.

Jury Finds Four New Orleans Doctors and Others Guilty for Participation in $13.6 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

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

On May 9, 2017, a federal jury found four New Orleans doctors and two others guilty for their participation in a Medicare fraud scheme. According to prosecutors the defendants netted more than $13.6 million in fraudulent Medicare reimbursements.

Details of the Scheme.

The six defendants worked for or with Abide Home Care Services (Abide) in New Orleans. Federal prosecutors said Abide routinely falsified diagnoses so Medicare reimbursements were inflated. Abide also falsified medical records that supported medically unnecessary home health services, prosecutors said. Abide was owned by Lisa Crinel, who pleaded guilty to her role in the scheme in 2015.

In exchange for their role in the scheme, Abide made monthly payments to the doctors that were falsely characterized as medical consultant or director fees. Abide also hired Dr. Michael Jones’ wife Paula Jones and inflated her salary payments to pay for fraudulently certifying documents. Additionally, Jonathan Nora scheduled doctor visits with Abide “well knowing” that the referral did not come from the beneficiary’s own health care professional.

The Trial.

After a month long trial, a federal jury returned guilty verdicts against the six individuals charged with committing Medicare fraud. Found guilty were Dr. Henry Evans, Dr. Michael Jones and his wife Paula Jones, Dr. Shelton Barnes, Dr. Gregory Molden and Jonathon Nora. Click here to read the press release issued by Acting U.S. Attorney Duane Evans’s Office in Eastern District of Louisiana.

The Consequences.

Dr. Evans was found guilty of five counts of health care fraud. Dr. Michael Jones, Paula Jones, Dr. Barnes, Dr. Molden and Jonathan Nora each were found guilty of conspiracies to commit health care fraud, defrauding the United States, receiving and paying kickbacks and health care fraud, according to the U.S. Attorneys Office. The four doctors and Nora were convicted of additional individual counts of health care fraud. Dr. Shelton Barnes was additionally convicted of obstruction of a federal audit.

Dr. Barnes faces a maximum penalty of up to 170 years in federal prison; Dr. Molden faces up to 115 years; Dr. Michael Jones faces up to 95 years; Dr. Evans faces up to 50 years in federal prison; Paula Jones faces up to 15 years; and Nora faces up to 25 years. Each also faces a maximum fine of up to $250,000 for each count.

Doctors Beware.

In our practice we have represented a number of doctors who have been exploited by nonphysicians intent on committing fraud. They will often target older and semi-retired physicians. The goal is merely to get their name and identification number to use in falsifying medical records and claims. If the deal you are being offered seems like too good of a deal, involves little or no work on your part to receive a large check each month or involves working for nonphysicians or individuals you do not know, you should beware. Always know who you are working for, the location of their actual place of business and residence, and with whom (physician-wise) they have done business before. You do not want to spend the later years of your life in prison, after pursuing an honorable career for decades.
Health Care Fraud Should Not Be Taken Lightly.

We have been consulted by many individuals, both before and after criminal convictions for fraud or related offenses. In many cases, those subject to Medicare fraud audits and investigations refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter. Some may even decide not to spend the money required for a highly experienced health attorney to defend them.

The government is serious about combating health care fraud. It created a Medicare Fraud Strike Force in March of 2007, in an effort to further prevent and eliminate fraud and abuse of government health care programs. False claims are a growing problem in the program, costing the government billions of dollars each year. Accordingly, punishments for defrauding the system can be quite severe.

If you are accused of Medicare fraud, realize that you are in a fight for your life. Your liberty, property/possessions and profession are all at stake. Often it is possible to settle allegations of Medicare fraud by agreeing to pay civil monetary penalties and fines. If given such an opportunity, the Medicare provider should consider whether it is worth the risk of facing decades in prison. Be prepared to give up whatever you need to in order to avoid a conviction and preserve your liberty.

To read further about the seriousness of Medicare fraud, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Additionally, you can watch our informational video blog on Medicare fraud, here.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare 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.
Sources:

Lane, Emily. “4 New Orleans doctors, 2 others convicted in $13.6 million Medicare fraud scheme.” The Times-Picayune. (May 10, 2017). Web.

“4 New Orleans doctors, 2 others convicted in $13.6 million Medicare fraud scheme.” Health Leaders Media. (May 11. 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: Legal representation for Medicare fraud, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for allegations of defrauding the government, legal representation for submitting false claims, Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare billing defense attorney, health care clinic fraud audit, legal representation for illegal kickbacks, Medicare false claims defense attorney, legal representation for false billing, legal representation for allegations of unnecessary procedures, legal representation for Medicare audits, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health law defense attorney

“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.

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