HHS/DOJ Partner With Private Health Plans To Further Ramp Up Health Care Fraud Heat!

July 30, 2012

Health care providers and payers should ensure that practices for billing private payers can withstand the scrutiny of federal and state health care fraud enforcers after the July 26, 2012 announcement of a ground-breaking new public-private antifraud initiative between federal and state health care fraud fighters and a private insurers under which  private insurers will share an unprecedented amount of private health claims data, fraud detection practices, and other coöperation with federal and state official fraud prevention and prosecution efforts.

Government Health Care Fraud Fighters Partner With Private Insurers

The Federal health care fraud fighting departmental duo of the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) Justice (DOJ) last week expanded their network of fraud fighting resources by launching a “ground-breaking” partnership among the federal government, State officials, several leading private health insurance organizations, and other health care anti-fraud groups to prevent health care fraud. HHS and DOJ say the following organizations and government agencies are among the first to join this partnership:

  • America’s Health Insurance Plans
  • Amerigroup Corporation
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
  • Coalition Against Insurance Fraud
  • Federal Bureau of Investigations
  • Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General
  • Humana Inc.
  • Independence Blue Cross
  • National Association of Insurance Commissioners
  • National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units
  • National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association
  • National Insurance Crime Bureau 
  • New York Office of Medicaid Inspector General
  • Travelers
  • Tufts Health Plan
  • UnitedHealth Group
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • U.S. Department of Justice
  • WellPoint, Inc.

HHS & DOJ Say Partnering With Private Insurers Will Give Ongoing Anti-Fraud Efforts Even More Punch

In announcing the new partnership on July 26, 2012, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder touted this new voluntary, collaborative public-private arrangement as the “next step” in the Obama administration’s efforts to combat health care fraud.

“This partnership is a critical step forward in strengthening our nation’s fight against health care fraud,” said Attorney General Holder.  “This Administration has established a record of success in combating devastating fraud crimes, but there is more we can and must do to protect patients, consumers, essential health care programs, and precious taxpayer dollars.  Bringing additional health care industry leaders and experts into this work will allow us to act more quickly and effectively in identifying and stopping fraud schemes, seeking justice for victims, and safeguarding our health care system.”

 “This partnership puts criminals on notice that we will find them and stop them before they steal health care dollars,” Secretary Sebelius said.  “Thanks to this initiative today and the anti-fraud tools that were made available by the health care law, we are working to stamp out these crimes and abuse in our health care system.”

Partnership Allows Feds To Use Private Payer Claims Data, Knowledge & Other Fraud Detection Resources

According to HHS and DOJ, the new partnership is designed to share information and best practices in order to improve detection and prevent payment of fraudulent health care billings. Its goal is to reveal and halt scams that cut across a number of public and private payers. HHS and DOJ say the partnership will private insurers to share their anti-fraud insights more easily with investigators, prosecutors, policymakers and other stakeholders and law enforcement officials more effectively to identify and prevent suspicious activities, better protect patients’ confidential information and use the full range of tools and authorities provided by the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act) and other statutes to combat and prosecute illegal actions.

One unprecedented element of this partnership will involve the sharing of information on specific schemes, utilized billing codes and geographical fraud hotspots between the public and private partners.  The partners say the planned sharing of claims data and other information will help partners prevent, detect and respond to potential health care billing fraud by:

  • Helping partners to take action, to prevent losses to both government and private health plans before they occur;
  • Improving their ability to spot and stop payments billed to different insurers for care delivered to the same patient on the same day in two different cities;
  • In the future to use sophisticated technology and analytics on industry-wide healthcare data to predict and detect health care fraud schemes. 

Presumably, this will involve the extension of the use of state-of-the-art technology and data mining practices like those the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) already uses to review claims, to track suspected fraud trends and flag suspected fraudulent activity.

Partnership Expands Use & Reach of New Affordable Care Act & Other Health Care Fraud Detection & Enforcement Tools & Collaboration

The partnership builds upon and extends the reach and use of expanded legal tools created by the Affordable Care Act and other laws that Federal and state officials are using in their highly publicized war against health care fraud, waste and abuse in Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and, increasingly, private insurance plans.  Using these and other new tools, convictions under the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program increased by over 27% (583 to 743) between 2009 and 2011, and the number of defendants facing criminal charges filed by federal prosecutors in 2011 increased by 74% compared with 2008 (1,430 vs. 821).

The Affordable Care Act and other legislative changes and related programs have significantly strengthened the powers of HHS, DOJ and other federal and state agencies to investigate and prosecute health care fraud.  Among other things, these amendments and programs included :

  • Qui tam and other whistleblower incentives and programs that encourage employees, patients, competitors and others to report suspicious behavior;
  • Require providers, plans to self-identify, self-report and self-correct false claims and certain other non-compliance;
  • Increase the federal sentencing guidelines for health care fraud offenses by 20-50% for crimes that involve more than $1 million in losses;
  • Create penalties for obstructing a fraud investigation or audit;
  • Make it easier for the government to recapture any funds acquired through fraudulent practices;
  • Make it easier for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate potential fraud or wrongdoing at facilities like nursing homes;
  • Under the risk-based provider enrollment rules, providers and suppliers wishing to take part in Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP who federal officials view as posing a higher risk of fraud or abuse now must undergo licensure checks, site visits and other heightened scrutiny including ongoing monitoring as part of the new Automated Provider Screening (APS) system CMS implemented in December 2011.  The APS uses existing information from public and private sources to automatically and continuously verify information submitted on a provider’s Medicare enrollment application including licensure status Secretary to impose a temporary moratorium on newly enrolling providers or suppliers of a particular type or in certain geographic areas if necessary to prevent or combat fraud, waste, and abuse. 
  • Increased information sharing and coördination of investigations and enforcement among states, CMS, and its law enforcement partners at the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and DOJ including the highly publicized activities of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint effort between HHS and DOJ to fight health care fraud.
  • The power of CMS, in consultation with OIG, to suspend Medicare payments and require States to suspend Medicaid and SCHIP payments to providers or suppliers during the investigation of a credible allegation of fraud;
  • The deployment and use of the sophisticated data collection and mining technologies of CMS’ new Fraud Prevention System, which since June 30, 2011 has used advanced predictive modeling technology to screen all Medicare fee-for-service claims before payment and target investigative resources on areas that this profile identifies as reflecting heightened risks of health care fraud vulnerability to allow regulators and prosecutors to more efficiently identify and respond to suspected fraudulent claims and emerging trends;
  • Focused fraud prevention, detection and enforcement activities on Home Health agencies, Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) suppliers and certain other categories of providers and suppliers that federal officials view as historically presenting heightened concerns;
  • Expansion of the overpayment detection and recovery activities ofthe Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) program to Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D programs; and
  • Various other tools.

Health Plan Partnership Latest Wrinkle In Fed’s Efforts To Use Private Whistleblower & Other Resources To Find Fraud

The partnership with the health plans is the latest wrinkle in a growing network of private relationships and outreach that HHS and DOJ use to discover health care fraud.  By partnering with health plans, HHS and DOJ have recruited the health plans to help federal officials find and redress potential fraud in public and private health plans. 

HHS and DOJ already know the value of getting private citizens to watch for and report suspected illegal behavior.  Indeed, expended qui tam and other whistleblower activities already are paying off big for federal officials.  For example, a former executive’s qui tam claim helped bring about the settlement announced in June, 2012 under which Christus Spohn Health System Corporation recently  paid more than $5 million to settle Justice Departmentclaims that it profited from violations of the False Claims Act by inappropriately admitted patients to inpatient status for outpatient procedures.  The investigation leading to the settlement began in March 2008 after Christus – Shoreline’s former director of case management filed a lawsuit under seal under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act alleging the six hospitals were submitting false claims to the Medicare program by billing for services that should have been performed on an outpatient basis as if they were more expensive inpatient services. The allegations stated that these hospitals were routinely billing outpatient surgical procedures as if they required an inpatient level of care even though the patients often were discharged from the hospital in less than 24 hours.   The federal False Claims Act empowers private citizens with knowledge of fraud against the United States to present those allegations to the United States by bringing a lawsuit on behalf of the United States under seal. If the government’s investigation substantiates those allegations, then the private citizen is entitled to share in any recovery. In this case, that person will receive 20% of the $5,100,481.74 recovery.   

With qui tam and other reports of suspected fraud an increasingly frequent and valuable tool in the federal and state wars on health care fraud, officials have added a wide range of programs encouraging and in some cases financially rewarding individuals and businesses that report circumstances leading to fraud convictions.  The partnership with health plans reflects the latest wrinkle in these efforts.

Health Care Providers & Health Plans Must Act To Manage Risks

In response to the growing emphasis and effectiveness of Federal officials in investigating and taking action against health care providers and organizations, health care providers covered by federal false claims, referral, kickback and other health care fraud laws should consider auditing the adequacy of existing practices, tightening training, oversight and controls on billing and other regulated conduct, reaffirming their commitment to compliance to workforce members and constituents and taking other appropriate steps to help prevent, detect and timely redress health care fraud exposures within their organization and to position their organization to respond and defend against potential investigations or charges.  In light of the growing qui tam risks, health care providers also should tighten internal investigation, exit interview and other human resources and business partner oversight, reporting and investigation policies and practices to help find and redress potential fraud or other qui tam, retaliation and similar  exposures early and more effectively.  

For More Information Or Assistance

If you need help reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes advising hospitals, nursing home, home health, rehabilitation and other health care providers and health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies; prevent, conduct and investigate, and respond to peer review and other quality concerns; and to respond to Board of Medicine, Department of Aging & Disability, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, HHS, DOD and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns.

A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need help responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to obtain information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer, see here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


AHRQ Issues New Guide for Use of Interactive Preventive Care Record

July 19, 2012

A new guide from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) titled An Interactive Preventive Care Record (IPHR): A Handbook for Using Patient-Centered Personal Health Records to Promote Prevention provides practical steps for healthcare professionals to follow when deploying IPHRs as components of electronic health records.  AHRQ and other government and private health care technology advocates hope that the IPHR will help boost and promote care delivery practices that promote health and wellness among patient populations.

AHRQ touts the resource as a guidebook of  targeted advice for practice leaders, informatics staff, and practice personnel on selection, implementation and maintenance of electronic health records and practices to help them work as a team to promote full utilization of IPHRs.

To get the handbook, see here

For More Information Or Assistance

For help  reviewing and updating your health care compliance, workforce, internal controls and risk management policies, technology, operations, practices or programs; assessing the strength of your organizations existing operations, risk management and compliance controls under these laws or other healthcare regulatory or operational issues or concerns, please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail here or via telephone at 469.767.8872.   To review  and register to receive other helpful updates or for more information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see here.

Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes advising hospitals, nursing home, home health, rehabilitation and other health care providers and health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies; prevent, conduct and investigate, and respond to peer review and other quality concerns; and to respond to Board of Medicine, Department of Aging & Disability, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, HHS, DOD and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns.

A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need help responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to get information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer, see here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. All rights reserved.


Nextcare Inc. $10 Million False Claims Act Settlement Shows Qui Tam Role In False Claims Act Prosecutions

July 11, 2012

A False Claims Act settlement announced last week with Arizona-based urgent care chain NextCare Inc. provides another illustration of the growing exposure that qui tam and other reports of illegal practices by employees, contractors and other business partners create for health care and other companies.

Last week, Justice Department officials announced that NextCare Inc agreed to pay $10 million to settle federal and state allegations that it submitted false claims initially raised in a lawsuit filed against NextCare Inc. by former NextCare employee Lorin Cohen.    

The settlement resolves allegations that NextCare violated the False Claims Act by:

  • Submitting false claims to Medicare, TRICARE, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and the Medicaid programs of Colorado, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina and Arizona, by billing for unnecessary allergy, H1N1 virus and respiratory panel testing and
  • Upcoding when billing for urgent care medical services.

As a condition of the settlement, NextCare Inc. will become subject to a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with HHS-OIG. 

Investigated and prosecuted as part of the Federal government’s highly touted HEAT initiative, the Nextcare Inc. settlement emphasize both the strong commitment by the Department of Justice and HHS to find a prosecute Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud and the growing importance of qui tam actions and other insider reports of legal violations to the success of these actions. 

Qui tam and other fraud reports made by employees or other business partners have become a significant tool in the Federal government’s war against health care fraud.  Under the False Claims Act, private citizens acting as relators can bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in the recovery.   Ms. Cohen will receive $1.614 million as her share of the recovery.

Through the False Claims Act alone, the Justice Department has recovered more than $7.7 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.   The Justice Department’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 are over $11.3 billion.   

In response to the Nextcare Inc. settlement and other enforcement actions, health care providers should strengthen both their health care compliance and employment management processes.  In addition to working to promote compliance with the False Claims Act and other health care laws, health care providers need to implement strong internal investigation, audit, and employee and contractor management procedures to help self-discover and address potential compliance or other liability concerns. 

As part of these efforts, health care providers generally should not only provide hotlines for reporting suspected fraud or other misconduct.  Many health care providers also can benefit by adopting and enforcing strong policies that require employees, contractors and other business partners to timely report and cooperate in the investigation and redress of potential health care fraud or other legal violations, should promptly investigate and redress as needed alleged noncompliance, and should retaliation against individuals making these reports in good faith.   GSK and other enforcement actions show that Federal officials are acting on this promise. 

For More Information Or Assistance

For help designing, enforcing or defending your organization’s health care compliance, workforce and risk management policies, practices or programs; assessing the strength of your organizations existing risk management and compliance controls under these laws or other healthcare laws and regulations; or in addressing other compliance or health care concerns, please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail here or via telephone at 469.767.8872.   To review  and register to receive other helpful updates or for more information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see here.

Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes advising hospitals, nursing home, home health, rehabilitation and other health care providers and health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies; prevent, conduct and investigate, and respond to peer review and other quality concerns; and to respond to Board of Medicine, Department of Aging & Disability, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, HHS, DOD and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns.

A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need help responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to get information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer, see here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. All rights reserved.


Pharmas Face New Pressure To Put Patients Before Profits After GlaxoSmithKline Record $3 Billion Health Care Fraud, FDCA Conviction & Settlement

July 11, 2012

Pharmaceutical companies will need to carefully study and consider how to react to “groundbreaking” business practice reforms global health care giant GlaxoSmithKline LLC (“GSK”) has agreed to implement as part of the record $3 billion criminal and civil agreement resolving federal health care fraud and drug marketing charges following its July 2, 2012 guilty plea in U.S. v. GlaxoSmithKline PLC Complaint.  Justice Department and Food & Drug Administration (FDA) officials have signaled they expect industry businesses to “follow suit” by adopting business practice reforms that GSK has agreed to implement in the five year Corporate Integrity Agreement it entered into as part of collection of criminal plea agreements and accompanying civil settlements that is resulting in the largest combined federal and state health care fraud recovery in a single global resolution against a pharmaceutical company in the history of the United States.  Meeting this expectation will require most pharmaceutical companies to significantly change research and marketing, compensation and other workforce management, board governance and other fundamental business practices well-beyond the reforms already being implemented in response to the past decade’s enforcement war against the industry.

Snapshot of U.S. v. GlaxoSmithKline PLC Civil & Criminal Charges & Settlement

After GSK plead guilty on July 2, 2012 to criminal charges it illegally marketed three drugs, the Federal Court in Massachusetts on July 5, 2012 approved a Justice Department sentencing recommendation that incorporated the settlement agreement. In recommending approval of the settlement agreement, the Justice Department told the Court GSK’s commitment to ‘put patients before profits’ by make sweeping reforms to its marketing and other business practices justified approving the settlement agreement in lieu of imposition of probation or other sanctions.

To resolve the criminal charges, GSK agreed to pay a criminal fine of $956,814,400, and criminal forfeiture in the amount of $43,185,600, for a total amount of $1 billion. Along with its criminal guilty plea, GSK also agreed to pay amount additional $2 billion to the U.S as restitution to the federal health care programs and other civil payments and implement an unprecedented list of business practice changes that will revolutionize its sales, marketing and drug efficacy study practices.

GSK Misdemeanor Guilty Plea

On July 2, 2012, GSK plead guilty to three misdemeanor violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA):

  • Regarding Paxil, GSK plead guilty to distribution of a misbranded drug due to false and misleading labeling, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 331(a), 333(a)(1) & 352(a);
  • Regarding Wellbutrin, GSK plead guilty to distribution of a misbranded drug due to inadequate directions for use, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 331(a), 333(a)(1) & 352(f)(1); and
  • Regarding Avandia, GSK will plead guilty to failure to report data to the FDA, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 331(e), 333(a)(1) & 355(k)(1).

The misdemeanor guilty pleas resolved Justice Department criminal charges GSK engaged is a series of serious violations of federal law in the marketing of Paxil, Wellbutrin and Avandia.

GSK $2 Billion Civil Settlement Payments

The criminal sentence approved by the Court is part of a broader series of criminal, civil and administrative agreements reached between GSK and federal officials.

The civil and administrative agreements included in the package deal include three civil settlements that resolve health care fraud and qui tam claims arising from GSK’s marketing, sales and health program billings relating to various drugs.

Under the civil settlement agreement, GSK will make sweeping business practice reforms specified in a corporate integrity agreement as well as pay $2 billion in civil damages to federal and state health care programs, which is the largest civil recovery from a drug company in a single global resolution.

Under the settlement package negotiated to resolve these civil claims, GSK has agreed to pay $2 billion in civil damages.  The $2 billion of civil damages include:

  • $1,043,000,000 in civil damages to resolve allegations relating to false claims arising from the off-label promotion and kickback allegations relating to Paxil, Wellbutrin, Advair, Lamictal, Zofran, Flovent, Imitrex, Lotronex and Valtrex;
  • $657,000,000 in civil damages to resolve allegations relating to misrepresentations about Avandia;
  • $300,000,000 in civil damages to resolve allegations relating to false reporting of best prices.

The settlement package actually includes three civil settlement agreements.

  • One civil settlement resolves allegations relating to false claims to federal health care programs resulting from marketing and promotion practices, including off-label marketing of Paxil, Wellbutrin, Advair, Lamictal and Zofran for uses that were not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration and paid kickbacks to doctors to induce them to prescribe Advair, Flovent, Imitrex, Lotronex, Paxil, Wellbutrin, and Valtrex and other drugs, critically undermining the doctors’ independent clinical judgment.
  • A second civil settlement resolves allegations that GSK promoted Avandia to physicians and other health care providers with false and misleading representations, causing false claims to be submitted to federal health care programs in the marketing and sale of Avandia.
  • A third settlement resolves allegations that GSK reported false best prices to the Department of Health and Human Services and as a result underpaid quarterly rebates owed under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program. Under federal law, pharmaceutical companies are required to give Medicaid the best price on medications that they offer to any customer.   The Justice Department contends that GSK improperly “bundled sales” arrangements that included steep discounts known as “nominal prices” and yet failed to take such contingent arrangements into account when calculating and reporting its best prices to HHS.

Whistleblower Claims Played A Role, Resolved By Settlement

A review of the settlement emphasize both the strong commitment by the Department of Justice and HHS to find a prosecute Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud and the growing importance of qui tam actions and other insider reports of legal violations to the success of these actions. 

Qui tam and other fraud reports made by employees or other business partners have become a significant tool in the Federal government’s war against health care fraud.  Under the False Claims Act, private citizens acting as relators can bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in the recovery.  Furthered in part by a series of qui tam claims, whistleblower suits clearly played a role in many of the GSK charges.

The off-label civil settlement also resolves allegations set forth in the following lawsuits filed against GSK under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3730:

  • U.S. ex rel. Thorpe et al. v. Smith Kline Beecham Inc. and GlaxoSmithKline PLC d/b/a GlaxoSmithKline, Civil Action No. 11-10398 (D. Mass, transferred from D. Colo.) (filed 1/1/03);
  • U.S. ex rel. Gerahty et al. v. GlaxoSmithKline PLC and SmithKline Beecham Corp. d/b/a GlaxoSmithKline, (D. Mass.), Civil Action Number 03-10641 (D. Mass.) (filed 4/7/03);
  • U.S. ex rel. Graydon v. GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Civil Action No. 11-10741 (D. Mass.) (filed 6/5/09);
  • U.S. ex rel. LaFauci v. GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Civil Action No. 11-10921 (D. Mass.) (filed 8/7/09).

Get more details here.

 

Corporate Integrity Agreement Requires GSK To “Put Patients Before Profits” Thru “Groundbreaking” Business Practice Reforms

Pharmaceutical industry businesses should view with grave concern the statements made by Carmen Ortiz, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts in announcing agreement that with Federal officials “hope the rest of the pharmaceutical industry follows suit” in “putting patients before profits” by adopting the “groundbreaking” business practice reforms set forth in the a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.  Given the ongoing aggressive investigation and enforcement of federal drug and health care fraud laws by the Justice Department and Food and Drug Administration and the Justice Department’s stated hope that the rest of the pharmaceutical industry will adopt similar reforms to those GSK has committed to implement in connection with its sentence, pharmaceutical companies will want to carefully examine the “groundbreaking” marketing and other business practice reforms that GSK has committed to implement for insights about what federal prosecutors and regulators expectation expect companies involved in the industry to do to reform their marketing, research and other practices.

In encouraging the Court to approve a total of $1 billion of criminal penalties as the sanction for the criminal charges, Justice Department officials argued GSK’s commitment under the related civil resolution agreement to make “groundbreaking” business practice reforms to ensure better behavior by its sales force, and to ensure full, fair and accurate reporting of scientific data from GSK studies justified the penalty in lieu of probation or other sanctions.   

The Justice Department officials announcing the settlement enhanced accountability, increased transparency and wide- ranging monitoring activities conducted by both internal and independent external reviewers. Specifically, among other things, the agreement requires:

  • Abolishment of incentive sales compensation; instead, the sales force will be compensated based on business acumen, customer engagement, and scientific knowledge of GSK products;
  • Clawback of up to 3 years of annual performance pay (annual bonus and long term incentives) for executives discovered to be involved in significant misconduct;
  • Publication of all GSK human research studies, not just those with positive outcomes for GSK drugs;
  • Publication of final clinical trial protocols to allow outside researchers to meaningfully analyze the results of GSK studies;
  • Removal of commercial influence on the determination of which GSK studies will be conducted; instead, studies will be conducted on scientific merit;
  • Removal of commercial influence on the determination of which GSK studies will be published and when; instead, studies will be published when the study is complete, not to create a buzz around a drug;
  • Annual certifications by the GSK’s Board of Directors that the GSK compliance program is effective, and by GSK’s U.S. President that the compliance measures continue and reportable incidents have been properly reported.

GSK & Other Prosecutions Reflect Need To Tighten Compliance

Pharmaceutical companies take seriously the need to maintain compliance and tighten marketing and other procedures to promote their ability to defend against the growing risk of federal prosecution signaled by the GSK and other enforcement actions. 

In announcing the GSK settlement, Justice Department officials touted the GSK case as demonstrating its “continuing commitment to ensuring that the messages provided by drug manufacturers to physicians and patients are true and accurate and that doctors’ decisions as to what drugs are prescribed to sick patients are based on best medical judgments, not false and misleading claims or bad science.”

The GSK and other enforcement actions show that Federal officials are acting on this promise.  Even before announcing the $3 billion resolution with GSK, the Justice Department and other federal officials accumulated an impressive and growing record of successful investigation and prosecutions.  The Justice Department health care fraud union in Boston that lead the GSK prosecution over the past three years already had recovered more than $5.5 billion in settlements, judgments, fines, restitution, and forfeiture in health care fraud cases under the False Claims Act and the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act before it announced the GSK settlement.  Coupled with the overall increase in fraud and FDCA enforcement against pharmaceutical industry providers specifically and health care providers generally nationwide, the GSK decision makes clear that pharmaceutical and other health industry clients need to prepare to withstand ever-tightening expectations and rising enforcement.

In response to the GSK settlement and guilty plea, pharmaceutical companies will need to review their existing and former practices to identify pre-existing and ongoing exposures, and decide what steps to take, if any, to mitigate these risks.  In addition to considering what, if any, of the reforms outlined in the GSK Corporate Integrity Agreement to implement and how, these organizations also should consider the workforce management and other internal controls that will help promote compliance with these policies and manage potential whistleblower and other liabilities.

In addition to working to promote compliance with the False Claims Act and other health care laws, pharmaceutical companies and health care providers need to implement strong internal investigation, audit, and employee and contractor management procedures to help self-discover and address potential compliance or other liability concerns.  These processes and policies should involve but not be limited to hotlines and other processes for reporting suspected fraud or other misconduct.  Most companies also should consider adopting and enforcing strong policies that require employees, contractors and other business partners to timely report and cooperate in the investigation and redress of potential health care fraud or other legal violations, should promptly investigate and redress as needed alleged noncompliance, and should retaliation against individuals making these reports in good faith. 

For More Information Or Assistance

For help  reviewing and updating your Stark Law, Anti-Kickback Statute, or other health care compliance, workforce, internal controls and risk management policies, practices or programs; assessing the strength of your organizations existing risk management and compliance controls under these laws or other healthcare laws and regulations; or in addressing other compliance or health care concerns, please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail here or via telephone at 469.767.8872.   To review  and register to receive other helpful updates or for more information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see here.

Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes advising hospitals, nursing home, home health, rehabilitation and other health care providers and health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies; prevent, conduct and investigate, and respond to peer review and other quality concerns; and to respond to Board of Medicine, Department of Aging & Disability, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, HHS, DOD and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns.

A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need help responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to get information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer, see here.

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©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. All rights reserved.


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