According to a criminal complaint unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Detroit, Dr. Hicham Elhorr, 45, masterminded a $40 million scheme involving the submission of fraudulent claims submitted to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary and/or never provided through House Calls Physicians (HCP), a physician home visiting service he owned and operated. Elhorr allegedly submitted claims through HCP for physician home visits for patients who were never seen and for visits conducted by doctors who were not licensed. The complaint alleges Elhorr submitted claims to Medicare for physician home visits purportedly rendered when he was out of the country, when beneficiaries were hospitalized or when the beneficiary was dead.
Elhorr is also alleged to have referred Medicare beneficiaries for medically unnecessary home health services, as well as accepted kickbacks from home health agencies in exchange for writing these referrals. According to court documents, since January 2008, HCP has billed Medicare for approximately $9.2 million. In the same time period, HCP has allegedly referred Medicare beneficiaries for home health services that have resulted in approximately $30.8 million of reimbursements from Medicare.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Catherine K. Dick of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The investigations were conducted jointly by the FBI and HHS-OIG, as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Act To Manage Health Care Fraud Exposures
High profile criminal charges like this one tell only part of the story. While important and growing, the OIG and other civil audit and enforcement are targeting both health care providers that engage in overly aggressive billing and treatment practices while scaring legitimate providers into avoiding legitimate care and its billing in treatment areas subject to high audit and underbilling for fear of the costs and risks associated with drawing government scruitiny. Amid this quagmire, legitimate health care providers must carefully document their care and the underlying justification and manage their billing practices to mitigate fraud exposures while also ensuring that their care meets the requisite standards of care to meet professional standards of care. It’s a tough but critical task for which reimbursement is declining.
As health care fraud enforcement remains a lead Federal priority, health care providers face ever-heightening exposures to HEAT task force scrutiny and prosecution.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,330 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4 billion.
Along with these criminal investigation and enforcement activities, health care providers also face civil monetary penalty, federal program disqualification and other civil and administrative remedies from billing, reimbursement and other health care fraud, billing audits and other enforcement and audit activities.
HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is stepping up audits, tightening pre-payment review, stepping up program disqualifications, and taking other steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
In response to these and other investigation and oversight activities, health care providers should strengthen their compliance practices and oversight and take other special care to position themselves and their billings to defend against possible challenge.
For Help With Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs
If you need help providing compliance or other training, 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. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer medical privacy and other compliance and risk management policies, to 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/ She also regularly designs and presents risk management, compliance and other training for health care providers, professional associations and others. Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, 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. Contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail 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:
- Five More Individuals Charged in Detroit for Alleged Roles in $24.7 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme
- Massachusetts Ear Group To Pay $1.5 Million To Resolve HIPAA Charges
- Personal Consumer Information Protection In Health Care Operations Topic of Stamer’s 11/1 Speech
- ONC Releases First Wave of EHR Test Procedures; More To Come
- OCR Releases HIPAA Compliance Training Tool As Enforcement Risks Rise
- Health Care Orgs Disability Exposure High As $475K Paid To Settle Justice Department Charges Medical Fitness Screenings of EMTs, Others Violated ADA
- HIPAA & Texas Require HIPAA Training! Register for 8/14 HIPAA Update Workshop Now
- HHS/DOJ Partner With Private Health Plans To Further Ramp Up Health Care Fraud Heat!
- AHRQ Issues New Guide for Use of Interactive Preventive Care Record
- Nextcare Inc. $10 Million False Claims Act Settlement Shows Qui Tam Role In False Claims Act Prosecutions
- Pharmas Face New Pressure To Put Patients Before Profits After GlaxoSmithKline Record $3 Billion Health Care Fraud, FDCA Conviction & Settlement
- Baton Rouge Area Women Heading To Prison For DME Health Care Fraud Participation
- Houston Man Gets 24 Month Prison Sentence For Anti-Kickback & Other Health Care Fraud Convictions
- Oklahoma’s Harmon Memorial Hospital, Physician Pay $1.5M Qui Tam Health Care Fraud Settlement
- OCR’s Shares HIPAA Audit Program Protocols As Announces $1.7M Resolution Agreement Against Alaska Medicaid
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 see 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