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$24 Million Medicaid Fraud Scheme Alleged by Connecticut Attorney General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida Has Similar False Claims Act.

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

Walgreens Reaches Settlement in False Claims Act Case

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

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

Walgreens Allegedly Offered Illegal Inducements to Medicare and Medicaid Beneficiaries.

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

Walgreens Pays Back Individual State Medicaid Programs.

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

Whistleblowers Initiated Government Investigation of Walgreens’ Gift Card Inducements.

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with False Act Claims Cases.

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

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

Sources Include:

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

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

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

WellCare Health Plans Reaches Settlement in False Claims Act Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whistleblowers Share in Settlement.

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

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in False Claims Act Cases.

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

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

Sources Include:

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

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

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

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

Settlement Reached in GlaxoSmithKline Healthcare Fraud Case

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

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

Settlement Resolves Allegations Against GSK Related to Healthcare Fraud.

The settlement resolves allegations that GSK:

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

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

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

Florida to Receive Over $56 Million In Settlement.

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

Settlement Stems From Whistleblower Actions.

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Healthcare Fraud Cases.

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

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

Sources Include:

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

Claims Against Halifax.

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

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

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

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

Halifax Denies All Claims.

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

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

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

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

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

In addition to our other experience in Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare cases, attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To learn more on our experience with Medicaid and Medicare quit tam or whistleblower cases, visit our website.

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

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

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

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

 

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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.

Cardiologists Face Higher Scrutiny by CMS

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

As the U.S. population ages and heart disease continues to be a leading cause of health issues, cardiologists and cardiology practices are finding themselves billing Medicare for more and more visits and procedures.

Along with that increase in reimbursement from Medicare comes an increase in scrutiny.  According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), more than sixteen percent (16%) of total Medicare spending in 2010, was for cardiovascular care.

Some experts predict that this number will increase as cardiologists continue to adopt state-of-the-art technology and procedural techniques when treating their patients.

All of this means that whistleblowers, Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) auditors, Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) auditors, and CMS’s data mining services are going to be more incentivized to come after cardiovascular reimbursements.

To read more on the high scrutiny cardiologists face, click here to read an article on Modern Healthcare.

The Audits Are Coming.

Cardiology physicians and practices need to understand that just because they are doing things the “right way” does not mean that they will not be the subject of an audit. Auditing can be triggered by any number of things ranging from disgruntled employees, competing practices, dissatisfied patients, random audits, above average billing for certain codes, etc. None of these triggers means that a practice is doing anything wrong, but it will have to face an audit nonetheless.

Being prepared before an audit happens can be the most effective defense.  Review some of these prior articles and blogs we have written for tips in establishing audit protocols and handling audits in general:

–  Self Audit Now to Save Your Practice Later
–  Responding to a Medicare Audit – Practice Tips
–  Checklist on What to Do When Notified of a ZPIC or Medicare Audit and Site Visit – Part 1
–  Checklist on What to Do When Notified of a ZPIC or Medicare Audit and Site Visit – Part 2

The Best Defense for an Audit is to be Prepared Before an Audit Happens.

So long as CMS employs a “pay and chase” method of reimbursement, audits will be a permanent part of the healthcare landscape.  Every medical practice should consult with an attorney experienced in handling Medicare, Medicaid and other third party audits in order to develop effective policies and procedures.  By preparing for an audit prior to its occurrence a practice is in the best position to avoid any kind of sanction or overpayment demand.

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?

Do you think cardiologist and cardiology practices are under a higher amount of scrutiny? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Carlson, Joe. “Cardiologists Enmeshed in High-Scrutiny Climate.” Modern Healthcare. (July 8, 2013). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20130708/BLOG/307089995/cardiologists-enmeshed-in-high-scrutiny-climate

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“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.

Oncologist Accused of Billing Medicare for Unnecessary Chemotherapy-Employee Whistleblowers Filed First Claim

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

A Michigan oncologist is accused of deliberately misdiagnosing patients with cancer so he could allegedly administer chemotherapy treatments and bill the government for those treatments, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). For more than two years the oncologist allegedly billed Medicare for $35 million in fraudulent claims. The oncologist was charged on August 19, 2013, with one count of Medicare fraud, according to the DOJ.

On top of submitting false claims to Medicare, a criminal complaint alleges a number of other serious charges. These include hiring doctors who may not have been properly licensed to practice medicine, administering controlled substances to patients at dangerous levels, and delaying hospital care for a patient with serious injuries, among others.

The complaint is allegedly based on interviews with several nurse practitioners, medical assistants and another doctor who worked for the oncologist at Michigan Hematology Oncology Centers (MHO), according to the DOJ. These whistleblowers allegedly approached federal authorities with this information.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

We are aware of similar stories regarding dermatologists misdiagnosing lesions as cancer. Some of these have been widely publicized in media reports, television news and magazine stories, such as “American Greed.”

Whistleblowers Come Forward with Serious Charges Against Oncologist.

The oncologist’s employees allege the doctor submitted fraudulent claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary services, including chemotherapy treatments, Positron Emission Tomograph (PET) scans, and a variety of cancer and hematology treatments for patients who did not need them. According to an article in Time, the complaint also alleges the oncologist administered unnecessary chemotherapy to patients in remission, deliberately misdiagnosed patients as having cancer to justify unnecessary cancer treatment, and administered chemotherapy to end-of-life patients who would not have benefitted from the treatment.

The criminal complaint also alleges, according to Time, that the oncologist distributed controlled substances to patients without medical necessity and employed foreign doctors who might have been unlicensed to practice medicine in the U.S.

According to Time, the complaint also cited one case in which the oncologist’s patient fell and hit his head at the oncologist’s office, and was told he needed chemotherapy before he could be taken to the hospital. The patient allegedly later died from the head injury.

Click here to read the entire Time article.

Oncologist Faces Prison Time and Fine.

According to Detroit News, the oncologist could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 criminal fine if convicted. The oncologist has entered a not guilty plea in this case. At this point, these accusations are just that, allegations. A check of the oncologist’s license status from the Michigan Department of Health (DOH) shows that his license is active.

To read the Detroit News article, click here.

Most Qui Tams Filed by Doctors, Nurses and Employees.

From our review of qui tam cases that have been unsealed by the government, it appears most of these are filed by physicians, nurses or hospital staff employees who have some knowledge of false billing or inappropriate coding taking place. Normally the government will want to see some actual documentation of the claims submitted by the hospital or other institution. Usually physicians, nurses or staff employees have access to such documentation.

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

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Oakland County Doctor and Owner of Michigan Hemotology and Oncology Centers Charged in $35 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice. (August 6, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/August/13-crm-885.html

Pickert, Kate. “Medicare Fraud Horror: Cancer Doctor Indicted for Billing Unnecessary Chemo.” Time U.S. (August 15, 2013). From: http://nation.time.com/2013/08/15/medicare-fraud-horror-cancer-doctor-indicted-for-billing-unnecessary-chemo/

Hunter, George. “Michigan Cancer Doctor Formally Charged in Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Detroit News. (August 19, 2013). From: http://bit.ly/14T8A2A

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.

New York-Based MRI Company to Pay $3.57 Million Settlement to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations in Whistleblower/Qui Tam Case

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On August 27, 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a settlement between the government and New York-based Imagimed LLC, its former owners and its former chief radiologist. This $3.57 million settlement resolves whistleblower/qui tam allegations of false reimbursement claims for radiology scans. The payment also settles accusations that the company violated the Stark Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Imagimed owns and operates 15 magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) facilities under the name Open MRI.

MRI Company Accused of Not Following Proper Safety Precautions and Committing Health Care Fraud.

According to the DOJ, from July 2001 through April 2008, Imagimed, the company’s former owners and the former chief radiologist submitted claims to Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE for MRI scans performed with a contrast dye without the direct supervision of a qualified doctor, as required by federal regulations.

The DOJ also alleges that from July 2005 to April 2008, Imagimed also had sham on-call arrangements with, and gave improper gifts to referring physicians, which is in violation of the Stark Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute.

Local Radiologist Blew Whistle and Receives a Cut of the Settlement.

According to the Associated Press, a local radiologist filed the lawsuit against Imagimed under the False Claims Act. The radiologist will receive $565,500 for coming forward. To read the Associated Press article, click here.

Whistleblowers stand to gain substantial amounts, sometimes as much as thirty percent (30%), of the amount the government recovers under the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. Section 3730). Such awards encourage employees and contractors to come forward and report fraud. To learn more on whistleblower cases, read our two-part blog. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

Most Qui Tams Filed by Doctors, Nurses and Employees.

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

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

Department of Justice. “MRI Diagnostic Testing Company, Imagimed LLC, and Its Former Owners and Chief Radiologist to Pay $3.57 Million to Resolve False Claims Allegations.” Department of Justice. (August 27, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/August/13-civ-958.html

Associated Press. “Federal Authorities Settle MRI Case for $3.75M.” The Wall Street Journal. (August 29, 2013). From: http://online.wsj.com/article/APcf5d7d677786468bb9d446b6c3082e5d.html?KEYWORDS=medicare

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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