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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.

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

Helpful Tips to Speed Up the Medicare Prepayment Review Process

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

For Medicare providers, being notified of an impending audit is not welcome news. Being notified of a prepayment review is even worse. In a prepayment review, the health care provider must submit documentation to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) contractor before ever receiving payment. The health care provider will only receive payment (typically months later) if the contractor is satisfied with the provider’s documentation. This can be financially disastrous for the health care provider, who still must pay day-to-day expenses while waiting for a decision.

CMS Contractors.

If you have received notice of prepayment review, you first need to determine the contractor that has initiated the review. CMS contracts with four types of contractors:

– Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs);
– Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) contractors;
– Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs); and
– Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs).

Both the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) and Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) can initiate prepayment reviews.

MAC Prepayment Reviews.

MACs will initiate prepayment reviews of health care providers suspected of improper billing for services. If the MAC detects anything resembling fraud during the process, the prepayment review can extend for up to a year or more. However, MACs will generally terminate the prepayment review when the health care provider demonstrates a pattern of correct billing. Health care providers who are notified of a MAC prepayment review should consult with an experienced health care attorney from the beginning of the process. An experienced health attorney will be able to assist the health care provider to ensure everything is in place for a speedy prepayment review.

ZPIC Prepayment Reviews.

A MAC may refer a health care provider to a ZPIC for a benefit integrity prepayment review if they suspect fraud. A ZPIC can also initiate a benefit integrity prepayment review based on data analysis.  Unlike MACs, ZPICs generally are less willing to communicate with health care providers about the prepayment review.

Additionally, there are different time limitations for a benefit integrity prepayment review. The MAC prepayment review is governed by Medicare Manual provisions that stipulate a maximum length of time on a prepayment review. However, a benefit integrity prepayment review can last indefinitely, if the basis for the review is not timely and properly addressed by the health care provider.

Further, ZPICs make fraud referrals to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Thus, health care providers should view ZPIC correspondence as the start of a potentially larger investigation. An experienced health care attorney should be contacted immediately after a health care provider receives any contact from ZPIC.

How to Accomplish a Speedy Review.

In many cases, the health care provider will be on Medicare prepayment review until its billing accuracy reaches a certain percentage. However there are other steps to help speed up the Medicare prepayment audit process.

1.  Read all Correspondence from the Contractor Carefully.

Pay close attention to all correspondence sent by the contractor. Make a note of the due date given and make sure your response is sent well within the time limits. Denials will usually occur if a response is not received by the given deadline. Also be sure that you send your response to the correct office.

2.  Be Familiar with Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs).

You should read and be familiar with any and all applicable local coverage determinations (LCDs) and national coverage determinations (NCDs) for any codes, services, supplies or equipment you are billing.

3.  Contact an Experienced Health Care Attorney Immediately.

A health care attorney who is experienced in prepayment reviews will be able to help you file a proper response in a timely fashion. An attorney will also be able to help find out additional information on why you have been placed on prepayment review and exactly what documentation the auditor is looking for. Alternatively, a health care consultant who has actual experience in working on Medicare cases and who has been an expert witness in Medicare hearings may be able to assist, as well.

4.  Contact the Contractor Responsible for the Review.

After you have consulted with an attorney, schedule a call with the contractor responsible for your prepayment review. During the call learn as many details about the audit as you can and find out what the reviewer wants in the documentation.

However, do not:
a. Argue with the auditor.
b. Berate or demean the auditor.
c. Challenge the auditor’s knowledge, competence or credentials.
d. Ask the auditor to prove anything to you.
e. Demand to speak to the auditor’s supervisor.

5.  Do Not File Duplicate Claims.

Keep track of all requests for additional documentation and when they were received. Do not think that you need to file another claim for the same items just because you have not received a response as quickly as other claims where additional documentation was not requested. If you provide duplicate claims, the contractor’s decision can be delayed.

6.  Organize all Submissions and Results.

You must keep track of the date you receive the document request for a claim, the date you submitted the documentation for review, the result of the audit and the date the result was received. This will help you realize how quickly claims are reviewed. If a one claim’s review has taken longer than the others you’ve submitted, you can contact the reviewer to make sure they have received the claim and everything is in order.

7.  Follow-up with the Contractor for Feedback.

Keep in contact with the contractor throughout the review. This will help to maintain the relationship you initiated after first receiving notice of the prepayment review. This will also help you keep track of any issues and resolve them. Be sure to discuss how you can improve your claim submissions to meet the standards of your particular reviewer.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent health care providers in prepayment reviews. 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:

Baird, Jeff. “Q&A with Jeff Baird: How to Prepare for and Survive Prepayment Reviews.” Home Care. (Sept. 13, 2010). From http://homecaremag.com/news/prepayment-review-faq-20100913/

Greene, Stephanie Morgan. “5 Steps to Get Off Pre-Payment Audit – Quickly!” Harrington Managment Group. (Mar. 18, 2011). From
http://homecaremag.com/news/prepayment-review-faq-20100913/

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.

Tag Words: prepayment audit, prepayment review, Medicare audits, Medicare, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS, RAC, Recovery Audit Contractor, ZPIC, Zone Program Integrity Contractor, MAC, Medicare Administrative Contractor, CERT contractor, Comprehensive Error Rate Testing contractor, overpayment, prepayment reviews, First Coast Service Options, Medicare contractor, Medicare fraud, Medicare investigation, Medicare overbilling, OIG

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

August 27, 2012, Marks the Start Date of the CMS Recovery Audit Prepayment Review (RAPR)

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

On July 31, 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on its website that hospitals should brace themselves for prepayment audits beginning August 27, 2012.

The CMS originally announced the Recovery Audit Prepayment Review (RAPR) Demonstration Project in November of 2011 for a January 1, 2012 start date, then delayed it to June 1, 2012, then again to, “summer of 2012.”

To see the official announcement from the CMS, click here.

 

Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) will Review Claims with High Rates of Improper Billing.

The Recovery Audit Prepayment Review allows Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs), (commonly known to attorneys representing provers as “bounty hunters”) to review claims before they are paid to ensure that the provider has complied with all Medicare payment rules. RACs will conduct prepayment reviews on certain types of claims that have been found to result in high rates of improper payments. The goal is to cut improper payments before they even happen.

The Initial Launch of Recovery Audit Prepayment Reviews will Center Around Seven States.

The Recovery Audit Prepayment Reviews will focus on seven states with high volumes of fraud and error-prone providers. These states are: California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, and Texas. The Recovery Audit Prepayment Reviews will also include four states with a high volume of claim with short inpatient hospital stays. These states are Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Here are the RACs for those states from the CMS:

HealthDataInsights serves California and Missouri
7501 Trinity Peak Street, Suite 120
Las Vegas, NV 89128
(866) 590-5598

Connolly Inc. serves Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and North Carolina
One Crescent Drive, Suite 300-A
Philadelphia, PA 19112
(866) 360-2507

CGI Federal Inc. serves Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio
1001 Lakeside Ave., Suite 800
Cleveland, OH 44114
(877) 316-RACB

Diversified Collection Services serves New York and Pennsylvania
2819 Southwest Blvd
San Angelo, TX 76904
(866) 201-0580

To see the name of the RAC for your state, click here.

 

More States May Look to Be Included in the Recovery Audit Prepayment Review Demonstration Project.

CMS is expecting that the prepayment reviews will help lower error rates by preventing improper payments instead of searching for improper payments after they occur. If these reviews are successful, other states will be included in subsequent roll-outs of the Recovery Audit Prepayment Review Demonstration.

 

Goals for the Recovery Audit Prepayment Review Demonstration.

In 2012, President Obama set three goals for cutting improper payments this year: curbing overall payment errors by $50 billion, cutting Medicare error rate in half and recovering $2 billion in improper payments, according to CMS. The prepayment review program is intended to help achieve those goals. It will also play a big part in preventing fraud, waste and abuse.

The demonstration project will last for three years.

Click here to learn more on the Recover Audit Prepayment Review Demostration.
 

My Concerns with Widespread Prepayment Reviews.

Our concerns with the widespread use of prepayment reviews are many. Prepayment reviews, especially when used where there is no indication of any fraud or a high error rate, can slow down a health provider’s cash flow to the point that it is put out of business. This is especially true for those that are predominately reimbursed by Medicare. The small business provider is at a greater risk.

In addition, the increase in professional time, salaries, copy costs, handling costs and postage greatly increase the administrative burden and the cost of doing business. To date, we have not seen or heard of any proposal by CMS to reimburse the provider for this additional unnecessary and unplanned expense.

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

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

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

Cheung, Karen. “Prepayment Audits Start Aug. 27.” Fierce Healthcare. (July 31, 2012). From: http://www.fiercehealthcare.com/story/prepayment-audits-start-aug-27/2012-07-31

CMS.gov. “Recovery Audit Prepayment Review.” CMS.gov. (July 31, 2012). From: https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Monitoring-Programs/CERT/Demonstrations.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.

South Florida Pharmacy Owner Pleads Guilty to $23 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

00011_RT8By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A co-owner and operator of three Miami-area pharmacies pleaded guilty on December 6, 2012, for his part in a $23 million health care fraud scheme. The pharmacy owner allegedly admitted in the Florida Southern Federal District Court to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay illegal health care kickbacks, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release.

Click here to read the entire press release from the DOJ.

Pharmacy Owner Used Kickbacks and Referrals to Allegedly Scam Medicare and Medicaid.

According to court documents, the pharmacy owner allegedly admitted to paying illegal kickbacks to an unnamed number of co-conspirators in return for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiary information. That information was then used to submit fraudulent claims. A majority of the beneficiaries referred to the owner’s pharmacies reportedly resided at assisted living facilities (ALFs) in Miami.

The court documents state that the pharmacy owner also allegedly paid kickbacks to physicians in exchange for prescription referrals which were also billed to Medicare.

Unused and Partially Used Medicine Part of Scheme.

As part of the scheme, the pharmacy owner allegedly instructed drivers working for his pharmacies to pick up unused medications from ALFs around Miami. The medications were then allegedly placed back into pill bottles. Unused and partially used medications were billed back to Medicare and Medicaid, according to court documents.

Click here to read the court documents on this case.

The pharmacy owner and his co-conspirators allegedly submitted more than $23 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Florida Medicaid programs.

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

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

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

Comments?

What do you think of this case? Is the Miami area just a hotbed for Medicare and Medicaid schemes? Please leave any thoughtful comment below.

Sources:

United States of America v. Jose Carlos Morales. Case Number 12-23374, Preliminary Injunction and Supporting Memorandum of Law. (September 14, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/USA%20v%20Morales.pdf

Department of Justice. “Pharmacy Owner Pleads Guilty in Miami for Role in $23 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice . (December 6, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/December/12-crm-1461.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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Fifty-Five Hospitals Around the Country to Pay the Government $34 Million Settlement for False Claims Allegations

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

Fifty-five (55) hospitals in twenty-one (21) states have agreed to pay the Department of Justice (DOJ) more than $34 million to settle allegations of Medicare fraud in a whistleblower case, according to the DOJ on July 2, 2013. The false claims allegations involve a back procedure called a kyphoplasty. The kyphoplasty can be performed safely and effectively as an outpatient procedure. However, it is alleged that hospitals were using more expensive, inpatient procedures to increase Medicare billings.

To read the press release from the DOJ, click here.

A kyphoplasty is used to treat spinal fractures usually caused by osteoporosis.

Fourteen (14) Florida Hospitals to Pay $11 Million to Government.

According to an article on Health News Florida, fourteen (14) Florida hospitals have agreed to pay around $11 million to settle the DOJ’s false claims charges.

One of the Florida hospitals was Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami, which will pay $1.84 million. A number of HCA hospitals in Florida were included in the settlement. These hospitals will pay $7.14 million collectively. Another group that settled was the hospitals in the Morton Plant Mease group, which is part of the Baycare Health System in Tampa Bay. This settlement was listed at $2.37 million.

To see all of the Florida hospitals allegedly involved, click here to read the Health News Florida article.

Whistleblower Lawsuit Filed by Two Former Employees.

According to the DOJ, all but four of the settling facilities were named as defendants in a whistleblower lawsuit brought under the False Claims Act. The lawsuits were filed by a former reimbursement manager for Kyphon and a former regional sales manager for Kyphon. The DOJ stated that Kyphon is the company that allegedly advised hospitals to do kyphoplasty procedures as inpatient instead of outpatient procedures. These two will receive a total of about $5.5 million from the settlements.

If you want to know more about whistleblower/qui tam lawsuits, click here to read the first part of a two-part blog, and click here for the second part.

Previous Settlements from Kyphoplasty Procedures.

A similar settlement was reached in 2012, when 14 hospitals agreed to pay a settlement of more than $12 million to the government for allegedly inflating their profits based on unnecessary hospital admissions, according to the Washington Post. Click here to read that article.

The DOJ stated that it has now reached settlements with more than 100 hospitals, for a total of about $75 million resolving allegations that the facilities fraudulently billed Medicare for kyphoplasty procedures.

The Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) is on Fire.

These settlements are a part of the government’s fight against health care fraud and another win for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT). HEAT’s mission is to focus its efforts on preventing and deterring fraud and to enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. It was created in 2009, by the Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) and the DOJ. To date, the DOJ’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009, are more than $14.7 billion. To learn more about HEAT, click here.

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. 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 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 these settlements? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Fifty-Five Hospitals to Pay U.S. More Than $34 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations Related to Kyphoplasty.” Department of Justice. (July 2, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/July/13-civ-745.html

Associated Press. “Justice Department, 55 Hospitals Reach $34 Million Settlement Over Medicare Fraud Claims.” Washington Post. (July 2, 2013). From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/justice-department-55-hospitals-reach-34-million-settlement-over-medicare-fraud-claims/2013/07/02/3d3d2356-e34e-11e2-bffd-37a36ddab820_story.html

Health News Florida Staff. “14 FL Hospitals to Pay $11 Million.” Health News Florida. (July 2, 2013). From: http://health.wusf.usf.edu/post/14-fl-hospitals-pay-11-million

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.

The RACs, They’re Back! The Return of Medicare Recovery Audits

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

All good things must come to an end. This includes the two-month hiatus from Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) that healthcare professionals enjoyed. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is restarting audits of Medicare fee-for-service claims on a limited basis. The program has been suspended since June 1, 2014, due to expired contracts.

CMS announced the return of RACs on August 4, 2014.

Click here to read the latest announcements on Medicare recovery audits from CMS.

From what we have heard, there were serious problems with some of the audits that had been conducted by the RACs and CMS desired to start over with a clean slate. Just saying!

What Does Limited Basis Mean?

According to CMS, current RACs will conduct a limited number of automated reviews and a small number of complex reviews on certain claims including, but not limited to:

– Spinal fusions;
– Outpatient therapy services;
– Durable medical equipment;
– Prosthetics;
– Orthotics; and
– Supplies and cosmetic procedures.

RACs will not conduct any inpatient hospital patient status reviews for now. In the past, short inpatient stays accounted for 91 percent of the money the program recovered for Medicare.

Controversial Program.

According to an article on HealthData Management, in February 2014, members of congress argued that parts of the RAC program are unfair and violate the way that the Medicare program was intended to operate by raising out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries. To address this concern, CMS established a provider relations coordinator to increase program transparency. This was announced in June 2014, so it is too soon to determine if this position will help providers affected by the medical review process. Click here to read more from HealthData Management.

Healthcare providers have complained that they are fed up with Medicare recovery audits tying up crucial funds and physician time in endless appeals. Currently, appeals can take up to five years. There is also a two-year moratorium in place preventing new appeals from being filed. You may remember my previous blog on the enormous backlog of Medicare recovery audit appeals. Click here to read that post.

What Exactly is a RAC?

RACs are often referred to as “bounty hunters.” They are private companies contracted by CMS, used to identify Medicare overpayments and underpayments, and return Medicare overpayments to the Medicare Trust Fund. Since the program began in 2009, it has brought in more than $8 billion in allegedly fraudulent, wasteful and abusive payments to healthcare providers.

How to Prepare for a Medicare Recovery Audit.

There is no such thing as a routine Medicare audit. The fact is that there is some item you have claimed as a Medicare provider or the amount of claims Medicare has paid in a certain category that has caused you or your practice to be audited.

I previously wrote a blog highlighting some of the actions we recommend you take in responding to a Medicare audit. The most important step you should take is to consult an experienced health law attorney early in the audit process to assist in preparing the response. Click here to read more on how to respond to a Medicare audit.

We Told You RACs Would Be Back.

RACs apparently caught $3.7 billion in allegedly wasteful payments that Medicare made to healthcare providers in 2013, and was allegedly on pace to bring back $5 billion this year. That’s why the government was eager to get RACs back to work.

It is extremely common for state and federal regulators to enforce even the smallest violations, resulting in investigations, monetary fines and penalties. If found in violation, you will not only have to pay fines and face disciplinary action, you will also lose revenue because you will have to spend time dealing with the investigation, instead of practicing medicine. Whether you are trying to prevent Medicare and Medicaid audits, Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) audits, or any other kind of healthcare audits, there are steps you can implement in your practice today that may save you down the line. Click here to read more on self audits.

Comments?

What do you think about the return of Medicare recovery audits? What are you thoughts on Recovery Audit Contractors? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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.

Sources:

Demko, Paul. “Controversial Medicare Recovery Audits Make Limited Return.” Modern Healthcare. (August 5, 2014). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20140805/NEWS/308059962/controversial-medicare-recovery-audits-make-limited-return

Goedert, Joseph. “CMS Restarts Parts of the RAC Program.” HealthData Management. (August 5,2014). From: http://www.healthdatamanagement.com/news/CMS-Restarts-Parts-of-the-RAC-Program-48553-1.html

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

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.

South Florida Man Admits to a $42 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

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

The owner and operator of a Miami home health care agency pleaded guilty for his part in a $42 million home health Medicare fraud scheme, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The 43 year-old man pleaded guilty before a U.S. district court judge to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud on August 2, 2012.

To see the entire press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ), click here.

First Part of the Fraud Operation Involved Kickbacks and Bribes.

The Miami man was the owner of a Florida home health agency that claimed to provide home health care and physical therapy services to eligible Medicare recipients.

In the first part of the scheme, he allegedly would pay kickbacks and bribes to recruiters. In return, the recruiters would provide patients to the home health care agency. His patients, who received Medicare, were used to bill Medicare for $42 million in unnecessary home health care and therapy services, the government alleged.

The plea documents show that patients’ files were falsified to make it appear that these Medicare recipients qualified for the services when many actually did not.

Second Part of the Fraud Operation Included Paying off Doctors.

The second part of this operation involved the owner of the home health agency and his accomplices allegedly paying off doctors. In this exchange, the doctors would allegedly provide the schemers home health and therapy prescriptions, and medical certifications.

The Opertation Busted by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.

In the end, the crimes resulted in $42 million in false and fraudulent Medicare claims that were filed between January 2006 and November 2009, according to the government. Medicare paid approximately $27 million on those false claims, according to plea documents.

As part of his plea agreement, the home health agency owner has agreed to forfeit two residential properties and cash proceeds of the fraud over to the government.

This case was investigated as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. The Strike Force is a joint effort of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) designed to combat fraud through the use of Medicare data analysis techniques.

To learn more on the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits.

Medicare fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the FBI, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Often other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), state Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs) and other law enforcement agencies participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today.

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

Sources:

Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Miami Home Health Care Agency Owner Pleads Guilty in $42 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice. Press Release. (August 2, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/August/12-crm-965.html

CBS Miami “Health Care Agency Owner Pleads Guilty In $42M Medicare Scheme.” Miami CBS 4 Local. (August 2, 2012). From: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2012/08/02/health-care-agency-owner-pleads-guilty-in-42m-medicare-scheme/

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.

Hospitals Allegedly Enforcing Questionable Practices to Increase Bottom Line

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

Doctors and hospitals around the country seem to be butting heads. In the past month, an article in The New York Times and a segment on the television “magazine” show 60 Minutes shed light on some questionable practices being enforced by hospitals on physicians working for them.

I previously wrote a blog on this structural shift in the practice of medicine. Click here to read that blog.

The effects of this trend are examined in these two news stories. Doctors and former employees from a number of hospitals around the country were interviewed and all seem to be dealing with the same issues. The biggest concerns addressed were: pressure to order unnecessary tests, admitting patients to fill hospital quotas and drive hospital profits, and the feeling of being controlled by hospital executives and administrators instead of practicing effective medicine.

Doctors Allegedly Pressured to Fill Emergency Room Beds to Increase Profits.

On December 2, 2012, 60 Minutes aired an investigative segment on one of the largest for-profit hospital chains in the country. Former employees and physicians alleged this hospital system thrived by buying urban-area hospitals and turning them into profit centers by filing empty beds from emergency rooms. A former emergency medicine doctor stated that the hospital in which he worked required an admission rate of twenty percent (20%) for patients seen in the ER and fifty percent (50%) for patients who were 65 years old and older (most of whom are Medicare patients) seen in the ER.

A former hospital system employee interviewed by 60 Minutes claimed he was in charge of auditing the hospital chain in question. He stated that he was convinced that doctors were under an extraordinary amount of pressure to fill hospital beds. He stated that he personally audited hospitals in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma, and concluded there were hundreds of thousands of dollars submitted to Medicare and Medicaid for hospital stays that did not meet standards for reimbursement, including medical necessity.

Doctors interviewed for The New York Times article had similar stories. They stated in interviews that hospital administrators created quotas for how many patients should be admitted, because more admissions allegedly meant more money. Doctors who met or exceeded quotas were rewarded with increased compensation, while doctors who did not felt in danger of losing their jobs.

Click here to read the entire New York times article.

Consequences of Ordering Unnecessary Tests.

The New York Times article looked at a number of lawsuits filed by former employees who allege the hospitals they worked for compensated doctors for ordering more tests than necessary.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently settled with a hospital group in Joplin, Missouri. According to the DOJ press release, the hospital system had to pay more than $9.3 million for rewarding doctors partly based on how many tests they ordered. This is in direct violation of the Stark Law and the False Claims Act.

Click here to read the entire press release from the DOJ.

I recently wrote an article for Medical Economics on the legal ramifications of ordering unnecessary tests. To read that article, click here.

If you want to know more on the Stark Law, click here.

Doctors Feel Controlled By Hospital Executives.

Doctors also stated they felt controlled by hospital executives. This was due, in part, to a corporate wide computer software system that was customized to automatically order an extensive battery of tests, some unnecessary, as soon as a patient walked into the hospital. It’s also stated that the software would prompt a physician to reconsider when he or she decided to send an emergency room patient home.

Most doctors interviewed were upset that the program also generated reports that evaluated each doctor’s performance and productivity.

To watch the segment from 60 Minutes, click here.

Hospitals Say They are Embracing the New Model of Health Care.

The hospital system in question by 60 Minutes maintains that these allegations are not correct. The executive vice president said that as a whole admission rates haven’t changed in four years and are near or below industry averages. The hospital systems believe that by consolidating they are embracing the new model of health care and state patient care comes first.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings.

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

Comments?

Do you think there are constant battles between doctors and hospitals? As a health professional, have you experienced the pressure to admit patients, order unnecessary tests or refer a patient inside your network? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Creswell, Julie and Abelson, Reed. “A Hospital War Reflects a Bind of Doctors in the U.S.” The New York Times. (November 30, 2012). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/business/a-hospital-war-reflects-a-tightening-bind-for-doctors-nationwide.html?pagewanted=all

Kroft, Steve. “Hospitals: The Cost of Admission.” 60 Minutes. (December 2, 2012). From: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50136261n

Department of Justice. “Missouri Hospital System Agrees to Pay $9.3 Million to Resolve False Claims Act and Stark Law Violations.” DOJ. (November 5, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/printf/PrintOut3.jsp

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

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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