CMS To Host Provider Webinar To Celebrate National Health IT Week

September 13, 2013

In celebration of the third annual National Health IT Week is September 16-20, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will host several webinars and launching new eHealth tools and resources that it intends to help providers participate in eHealth programs.  These programs may be of interest to providers as well as payers who are interested in what providers are doing to use eHealth tools.

Details of Webinar

The eHealth Provider Webinar will be held on Thursday, September 19th from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET.  CMS plans to present an overview of the eHealth programs and its eHealth initiative—an initiative that aligns health IT and electronic standards programs on:

  • Administrative Simplification
  • eRx Incentive Program
  • ICD-10
  • Quality Measurement

A portion of the webinar will also be dedicated to Q&A.

Registration Information

Space is limited.  Register now to secure your spot for the eHealth Provider WebinarOnce registration is complete, you will receive a follow-up email with step-by-step instructions on how to log-in to the webinar.  Listserv messages are sent prior to each webinar session with registration information.

If you’d like to view past webinars, the PowerPoint presentations and recordings can now be accessed on the Resources page of the eHealth website.  For more information about CMS’ eHealth Initiatives, visit the CMS eHealth website for the latest news and updates on CMS’ eHealth initiatives.

For More Information Or Assistance

If you need assistance responding to this invitation or with other health industry regulatory, enforcement or other developments, reviewing or tightening your policies and procedures, conducting training or audits, responding to or defending an investigation or other enforcement action or with other health care related risk management, compliance, training, 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 25 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes extensive work advising, representing and training health industry and other clients on HIPAA and other privacy, data protection and breach and other related matters.  She also advises 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. Scribe for the ABA JCEB annual Technical Sessions meeting with OCR for the past three years, Ms. Stamer also is recognized for her extensive publications and programs including numerous highly regarding publications and programs on HIPAA and other privacy and data security concerns as well as a wide range of other workshops, programs and publications on other compliance, operational and risk management, and other health industry matters. Ms. Stamer also has extensive other public policy and regulatory experience with HHS and other U.S. federal and state agencies as well as internationally. Her insights on these and other related matters 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. If you need assistance 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 about 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.  

©2013 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


Tell HHS What You Think-Comment On HHS Strategic Plan Now!

September 9, 2013

Health care providers, health plans, employers and others concerned about the regulatory and enforcement activities of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) can make their concerns known by speaking up now.  Share your input on the draft HHS strategic plan that will guide HHS’ regulatory and enforcement agenda for the next 4 years.

Every 4 years, HHS updates its strategic plan, which describes its work to address complex, multifaceted, and ever-evolving health and human service issues, including:

  • Health Care
  • Research and Innovation
  • Prevention and Wellness

HHS is inviting public input on the draft HHS Strategic Plan for FY 2014-2018. The comment period is open until October 15, 2013.  Individuals or organizations wishing to respond to this invitation can read the HHS Strategic Plan FY 2014-2018 (Draft) and submit your comments several ways including:

For More Information Or Assistance

If you need assistance responding to this invitation for comment or other health industry regulatory, enforcement or other developments, reviewing or tightening your policies and procedures, conducting training or audits, responding to or defending an investigation or other enforcement action or with other health care related risk management, compliance, training, 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 25 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes extensive work advising, representing and training health industry and other clients on HIPAA and other privacy, data protection and breach and other related matters.  She also advises 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. Scribe for the ABA JCEB annual Technical Sessions meeting with OCR for the past three years, Ms. Stamer also is recognized for her extensive publications and programs including numerous highly regarding publications and programs on HIPAA and other privacy and data security concerns as well as a wide range of other workshops, programs and publications on other compliance, operational and risk management, and other health industry matters. Ms. Stamer also has extensive other public policy and regulatory experience with HHS and other U.S. federal and state agencies as well as internationally. Her insights on these and other related matters 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. If you need assistance 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 about 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.  

©2013 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


$12M+ Settlement Recoveries In 2 Health Care Fraud Whistleblower Claims Shows Providers, Owners, Management & Staff Must Manage Compliance & Risks

November 23, 2012

The Justice Department’s announcement that it will recover more than $11.3 million in False Claims Act recoveries under two settlements announced on November 20, 2012 provides yet another sharp reminder to health care providers of the critical need to carefully manage billing, referral and other practices to manage health care fraud related exposures.

On November 20, the Justice Department announced that Morton Plant Mease Health Care Inc. and its affiliated hospitals (Morton Plant) will pay $10,169,114 to the federal government to resolve allegations that Morton Plant facilities violated the False Claims Act by submitting false claims for services rendered to Medicare patients.  The same day, the Justice Department also announced its achievement of a $1.286 million settlement with Harmony Care Hospital, Inc. and its owner Harmony Care Hospice Inc. (Harmony) and Harmony owner and chief executive officer Daniel J. Burton of allegations that the South Carolina-based company submitted false claims to Medicare for patients under care at its hospice facilities.  

Both settlements show the role that disgruntled current or former employees or other whistleblowers increasingly play in these and other health care fraud investigations as well as the significant exposures that health care providers, their owners and management risk by engaging or failing to investigate and resolve practices that Federal officials consider to violate the False Claims Act or other federal health care fraud laws.

Morton Plan Settlement

The Morton Plant settlement resolves whistleblower allegations that, between July 1, 2006 and July 31, 2008, Morton Plant improperly billed for certain interventional cardiac and vascular procedures as inpatient care when those services should have been billed as less costly outpatient care or as observational status.   See United States ex rel. Randi Ferrare v. Morton Plant Mease Health Care, Inc., No. 08:cv:01689-T-266MSS (M.D. Fl.).

Morton Plant owns and operates, or is affiliated with, Morton Plant Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Morton Plant North Bay Hospital, St. Anthony’s Hospital, Mease Countryside Hospital and Mease Dunedin Hospital.  These hospitals are part of the BayCare Health System in Florida’s Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

The Morton Plant action arose from a qui tam, or whistleblower, lawsuit filed by Randi Ferrare, a former director of Health Management Services at Morton Plant Hospital.   Under the False Claims Act, private citizens, known as relators, can bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.  Ms. Ferrare will receive over $1.8 million as her share of the government’s recovery.

Harmony $1.2 Million Settlement

The Harmony settlement arises out of a qui tam action filed against Harmony Care Hospice Inc. (Harmony) and Harmony owner and chief executive officer Daniel J. Burton have agreed to pay the United States $1,286,999.32 to settle allegations that the South Carolina-based company submitted false claims to Medicare for patients under care at its hospice facilities.

The Harmony settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by former Harmony employees Mona Singletary and Lynda Fulton under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act.   The qui tam case is captioned United States ex rel. Singletary, et al. v. Harmony Care Hospice, Inc., et al. , Case No. 2:10-cv-01404-PMD (D.S.C.).

Hospices provide palliative care – medical treatment that concentrates on reducing the severity of a disease’s symptoms – to patients who decide to forego curative care of their illness.   Medicare beneficiaries are entitled to hospice care if they have a terminal prognosis of six months or less. The United States alleged that Harmony and Burton knowingly submitted or caused to be submitted false claims for patients who did not have such a prognosis and thus were not eligible for hospice care.

Under the Harmony settlement agreement, its owner and chief executive officer, Burton is individually liable for $200,000 of the settlement amount.  The balance of more than $1 million will be paid by Harmony.  As part of the settlement, Harmony and Burton will enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Office of Inspector General (OIG), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to address the allegations raised in the qui tam complaint.  Together, Singletary and Fulton will receive $244,529.87 as their share of the government’s recovery.

Whistleblowers Key Prosecutorial Tool

The approximately $2 million paid out to whistleblowers under these two settlements drives home the growing importance that current or former employees, officers or other insiders increasingly play in federal and state health care fraud prosecutions. Whistleblowers like Ferrare, Singletary and Fulton are increasingly common and valuable tools that the federal government uses to find and prosecute alleged health care fraud.  By promoting the availability of qui tam and other recoveries and broadly advertising their payment, federal prosecutors and investigators are priming the pump for future investigations and prosecution. See also Nextcare Inc. $10 Million False Claims Act Settlement Shows Qui Tam Role In False Claims Act Prosecutions; Oklahoma’s Harmon Memorial Hospital, Physician Pay $1.5M Qui Tam Health Care Fraud Settlement.

The two settlements also show the growing zealousness of the federal war on health care fraud.  Both cases were investigated by the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in May 2009.

The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover more than $10.1 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 $13.9 billion.  Federal officials have and continue to rack up an ever-increasing list of civil settlements and judgments using the False Claims Act and other civil enforcement tools.  See e.g., See, e.g., Feds Health Fraud Suit Against Psychiatrists Shows Risks Providers Run From Aggressive Referral or Billing Activities; Recent OIG Audit Reports Provide Insights Where Fraud Audits Likely To Look Next; Hospital Chain HCA Inc. Pays $16.5 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations That HospitalPharmas Face New Pressure To Put Patients Before Profits After GlaxoSmithKline Record $3 Billion Health Care Fraud, FDCA Conviction & Settlement.

In addition to the high dollar civil judgments and settlements recovered. by the HEAT Task Force, federal prosecutors also are racking up a growing list of criminal convictions and sentences.  See e.g., Health Care Providers Warned To Raise Defenses As Feds Charge 91 Individuals Bilked Medicare For Approximately $430 Million; Detroit-Area Doctor Charged for Role in Alleged $40 Million Medicare Fraud SchemeFive More Individuals Charged in Detroit for Alleged Roles in $24.7 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme; 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.

For instance, along with the Morton Plan and Harmony civil settlements, the Justice Department also announced on November 20, 2012 that a registered nurse pleaded guilty November 20 and a former program coordinator pleaded guilty November 19 for their roles in a $63 million mental health care fraud scheme involving defunct health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN) in Miami.  See here.

These and other investigations and enforcement actions show that health care providers, their owners, officers, providers and other staff need to take seriously health care reimbursement, referral and other health care fraud and compliance responsibilities, as well as to carefully manage workforces to mitigate exposures to qui tam and other health care fraud exposures.

These activities are intended to send a strong message to health care providers that bill Medicare, Medicaid, or other public or private health care programs that they must be prepared to defend any charges billed to these or other federal health care programs and to defend their other business practices.

Providers Urged To Manage Risks

In response to these threats, health care providers should take steps to strengthen their billing, referral, audit, medical and other recordkeeping and other compliance and risk management practices to enhance their ability to defend or prevent these exposures.  While most providers already are moving to tighten these practices, the move to electronic health records, changing rules and other pressures are undermining the sufficiency of these efforts.  This investigation shows that beyond mere aggressive billing practices, federal officials also are targeting for enforcement physicians and other health care providers that participate in financial or other referral incentive or reward practices prohibited by the anti-kickback, STARK or other relevant law as well as the filing of Medicare, Medicaid or other health claims for undelivered, unnecessary or otherwise uncovered care or services. 

Amid these and other enforcement actions, all health industry players should exercise care to steer clear of activities that might violate federal health care fraud rules as well as consider whether corrective or other action might be necessary to address risks of prior activities that with the benefit of hindsight taking into account the current enforcement climate reflect potential exposures.  Providers should carefully monitor existing Medicare, Medicaid and other federal and state program reimbursement, terms of participation, reimbursement and other guidance; Office of Inspector General (OIG), Justice Department and other agency audit and enforcement activities and other developments that could impact on the defensibility of their billing, referral or other practices and tighten compliance and oversight as necessary to mitigate risks.

In the case of physicians and certain other professionals, these plans need to include both efforts to manage potential government investigation risks and management of their practices to mitigate peer review or other disciplinary or practice regulatory oversight that often arises when the practices and hospitals start tightening oversight and controls on practices as part of their own efforts to protect their organizations from fraud or other audits. 

While almost all health care providers can find room to improve their documentation and tighten other compliance, it also is important that providers also plan for how they will finance the cost of defending an audit or other investigation.  Often, the financial cost of defending these and other charges prevents physicians or other health care providers from lodging effective defenses of legitimate practices.  To help avoid this quagmire, providers generally will want to explore getting special liability coverage, indemnification or other protection as part of their planning arrangements.

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, audit, administer and defend billing, referral, privacy, staffing and recruitment 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 available at here.

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.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.  All other rights reserved.


Feds Health Fraud Suit Against Psychiatrists Shows Risks Providers Run From Aggressive Referral or Billing Activities

November 16, 2012

A civil lawsuit seeking millions of dollars of damages  from a Chicago-area psychiatrist provides a clear warning to physicians and other health care providers of the significant potential legal risks that can arise if they improperly receive compensation or other perks for participating in conferences, prescribing treatments or engage in other arrangements that violate federal or state anti-kickback or other health care fraud laws.On November 15, 2012, the Justice Department sued Chicago-area psychiatrist Dr. Michael J. Reinstein in the Northern District of Illinois with receiving illegal kickbacks on at least 50,000 claims and filing at least 140,000 false Medicare and Medicare Claims for antipsychotic medications he prescribed for thousands of mentally ill patients in area nursing homes.  The suit against Dr. Michael J. Reinstein seeking triple damages under the False Claims Act, plus a civil penalty of $5,500 to $11,000 for each alleged false claim. See here.

The lawsuit involves Reinstein’s use of clozapine, a rarely-used medication that has serious potential side effects and is generally considered a drug of last resort, particularly for elderly patients. While clozapine has been shown to be effective for treatment-resistant forms of schizophrenia, it is also known to cause numerous side effects, including a potentially deadly decrease in white blood cells, seizures, inflamation of the heart muscle, and increased mortality in elderly patients.

According to the suit, 69-year old Reinstein has provided psychiatric medical services in the Chicago area since 1973. According to the lawsuit, Reinstein routinely prescribed antipsychotic and other psychiatric medications knowing that, because most of his patients are indigent nursing home residents, pharmacies dispensing the medications submitted claims to Medicaid, and beginning in 2006, to Medicare Part D. Reinstein also submitted Medicare and Medicaid claims for pharmacologic management of his patients, knowing that he did not engage in substantive evaluations of his patients’ medical and psychiatric conditions to properly manage their medications. Instead, he allegedly prescribed medications to his patients based on his receipt of kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies.

Prior to August 2003, Reinstein prescribed Clozaril, the trade name for clozapine manufactured by Novartis, and he often had more than 1,000 patients using the medication at any given time. For many years, Novartis paid Reinstein to promote Clozaril, the complaint alleges. After Novartis’ patent for Clozaril expired in 1998, Reinstein resisted pharmacy and drug company efforts to switch his patients to generic clozapine and he continued to be the largest prescriber of Clozaril to Medicaid recipients in the United States. In July 2003, Novartis notified Reinstein that was withdrawing its support for Clozaril, and ended the regular payments that it had been making to Reinstein. 

In August 2003, Reinstein finally agreed to switch his patients to generic clozapine manufactured by Miami-based IVAX Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the suit alleges, if IVAX agreed to pay Reinstein $50,000 under a one-year “consulting agreement;” pay his nurse to speak on behalf of clozapine; and fund a clozapine research study by a Reinstein-affiliated entity known as Uptown Research Institute. IVAX agreed and Reinstein immediately began switching his patients from Clozaril to IVAX’s clozapine. He quickly became the largest prescriber of generic clozapine in the country.

“Reinstein’s inordinate prescribing of clozapine stands in stark contrast to its extremely limited use by other physicians,” the lawsuit states. While generally only four percent of schizophrenia patients who were prescribed antipsychotics received clozapine, during the time Reinstein was alegedly accepting kickbacks from IVAX, more than 50 percent of his patients were prescribed IVAX’s clozapine. At one nursing home, Reinstein had 75 percent of the 400 residents on IVAX’s clozapine.

Between 2003 and 2006, the lawsuit charges Reinstein requested, and IVAX provided, additional direct and indirect benefits to Reinstein and his associates, including paying airfare, lodging, meals, and entertainment expenses for a pharmacy owner and spouse, Reinstein’s nurse, his accountant and spouse, his administrative assistant and spouse, and Reinstein and his wife to travel to IVAX’s headquarters in Miami. IVAX also paid for Reinstein and his entourage to go on a fishing trip, a boat cruise, and a golf outing; annual renewal of Reinstein’s $50,000 “consulting agreement;” and tickets to sporting events and free IVAX-manufactured medication for Reinstein’s personal use.

In January 2006, IVAX became a subsidiary of Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries, Ltd., an Israeli company. About seven months before the merger, Reinstein began moving large numbers of his patients to a form of clozapine manufactured by a competitor of IVAX/Teva. In April 2006, Teva paid all expenses for Reinstein and his entourage to travel to Miami, including a $2,300 boat cruise, and at least two dinners costing more than $1,700 each. During this trip Teva employees asked Reinstein what the company could do to induce Reinstein to prescribe more clozapine, and Reinstein suggested that Teva hire an associate of his from Chicago, the lawsuit alleges. Teva agreed and in the months after the hiring Reinstein put several hundred patients back on Teva’s clozapine. From 2007 to 2009, the suit alleges, Teva and Reinstein entered into annual “speaker agreements” that resulted in Teva paying Reinstein more than $100,000.

Based on this alleged conduct, the suit charges Medicaid received and paid more than 100,000 false claims from various pharmacies for IVAX/Teva clozapine prescriptions written by Reinstein between August 2003 and July 2011 as a result of illegal kickbacks he solicited and received from IVAX and Teva. Between 2006 and July 2011, Medicare Part D received and paid more than 40,000 false claims involving similar kickback-induced prescriptions. Likewise, between August 2003 and July 2011, Reinstein allegedly submitted more than 40,000 false claims and received payment from Medicaid for purported pharmacologic management, as well as more than 10,000 similar false claims to Medicare.

This lawsuit is one a growing list of civil and criminal investigations and enforcement actions by federal and state prosecutors targeting health care providers using expanded health care fraud laws and investigatory and prosecutorial powers granted under the Affordable Care Act and other legislation to help bring down health care costs. 

Through these and other flashy prosecutions, as well as a continuous campaign of audits and other activities, federal officials are trying to reduce Medicare and other health care expenditures, both by prosecuting health care providers for intentionally submitting false claims, as well as using the treat of audits, program, disqualification or civil or criminal prosecution to scare health care providers to reduce legitimate billings that could trigger a federal audit or other federal scrutiny. 

Federal officials are aided in these efforts by an arsenal of new health care fraud statistical profiling and other health care fraud detection and enforcement tools granted by Congress in recent years that make it easier for federal officials to target and successfully prosecute or bring other sanctions against health care providers whose billing or other business practices come under scrutiny. 

Coupled with the ever-lengthening list of civil settlements and civil monetary penalties, program disqualifications, and audits, Federal officials use high profile criminal sweeps like those announced today both to send a message to health care providers generally, and as a tool to pressure and encourage health care providers to accept settlements proposed by federal auditors and prosecutors to avoid the potential threat of more serious criminal, civil or administrative prosecutions. 

These activities are intended to send a strong message to health care providers that bill Medicare, Medicaid, or other public or private health care programs that they must be prepared to defend any charges billed to these or other federal health care programs and to defend their other business practices. 

In response to these threats, health care providers should take steps to strengthen their billing, referral, audit, medical and other recordkeeping and other compliance and risk management practices to enhance their ability to defend or prevent these exposures.  While most providers already are moving to tighten these practices, the move to electronic health records, changing rules and other pressures are undermining the sufficiency of these efforts.  This investigation shows that beyond mere aggressive billing practices, federal officials also are targeting for enforcement physicians and other health care providers that participate in financial or other referral incentive or reward practices prohibited by the anti-kickback, STARK or other relevant law as well as the filing of Medicare, Medicaid or other health claims for undelivered, unnecessary or otherwise uncovered care or  services. 

Amid these and other enforcement actions, all health industry players should exercise care to steer clear of activities that might violate federal health care fraud rules as well as consider whether corrective or other action might be necessary to address risks of prior activities that with the benefit of hindsight taking into account the current enforcement climate reflect potential exposures. 

In the case of physicians and certain other professionals, these plans need to include both efforts to manage potential government investigation risks and management of their practices to mitigate peer review or other disciplinary or practice regulatory oversight that often arises when the practices and hospitals start tightening oversight and controls on practices as part of their own efforts to protect their organizations from fraud or other audits. 

While almost all health care providers can find room to improve their documentation and tighten other compliance, it also is important that providers also plan for how they will finance the cost of defending an audit or other investigation.  Often, the financial cost of defending these and other charges prevents physicians or other health care providers from lodging effective defenses of legitimate practices.  To help avoid this quagmire, providers generally will want to explore getting special liability coverage, indemnification or other protection as part of their planning arrangements.

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, audit, administer and defend billing, referral, privacy, staffing and recruitment 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:

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


Health Care Providers Warned To Raise Defenses As Feds Charge 91 Individuals Bilked Medicare For Approximately $430 Million

October 4, 2012

Health Care Providers Warned To Raise Defenses As Feds Charge 91 Individuals Bilked Medicare For Approximately $430 Million

A total of 91 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Brooklyn, Baton Rouge and Chicago are facing health care fraud charges for their alleged participation in false Medicare billings totaling approximately $429.2 million to Medicare fraud schemes under federal indictments unsealed in a joint Department of Justice and HHS Medicare Fraud Strike Force nationwide takedown jointly announced by Attorney General Eric Holder, Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and other agencies today (October 4, 2012). Coming on the heels of President Obama’s touting of the health care fraud fighting success of his Administration during his debate with Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, the indictments are the latest warning to health care providers of the advisability of tightening their Medicare and other health care billing and other compliance practices.

Highlights of The Latest Strike Force Action

Together, dozens of charged individuals were arrested or surrendered as federal officials unsealed indictments charging more than $230 million in home health care fraud; more than $100 million in mental health care fraud and more than $49 million in ambulance transportation fraud; and millions more in other frauds.

The defendants charged are accused of various health care fraud-related crimes, including conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes and money laundering.  The charges are based on a variety of alleged fraud schemes involving various medical treatments and services such as home health care, mental health services, psychotherapy, physical and occupational therapy, durable medical equipment (DME) and ambulance services.

According to court documents, the defendants allegedly participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary and oftentimes never provided.  In many cases, court documents allege that patient recruiters, Medicare beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so that the providers could submit fraudulent billing to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary or never provided.  Collectively, the doctors, nurses, licensed medical professionals, health care company owners and others charged are accused of conspiring to submit a total of approximately $429.2 million in fraudulent billing.

“Today’s coordinated actions represent one of the largest Medicare fraud takedowns in Department of Justice history, as measured by the amount of alleged fraudulent billings,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer.  “We have made it one of the Department’s missions to hold accountable those who abuse the Medicare program for personal profit.  And there are Medicare fraudsters in prisons across the country – some who will be there for decades – who can attest to our determination, and our effectiveness.”

In Miami, a total of 33 defendants are charged for their alleged participation in various fraud schemes involving a total of $204.5 million in false billings for home health care, mental health services, occupational and physical therapy, and DME.  In one case, three defendants are charged for participating in a fraud scheme at LTC Professional Consultants and Professional Home Care Solutions Inc. which led to approximately $74 million in fraudulent billing for home health care.  In another case, five defendants are charged for participating in a fraud scheme at Hollywood Pavilion which led to $67 million in fraudulent billing for mental health services. 

Sixteen individuals, including three doctors and one licensed physical therapist, are charged in Los Angeles with participating in various fraud schemes involving a total of $53.8 million in false billings.  In one case, four defendants are charged for allegedly participating in a fraud scheme at Alpha Ambulance Inc., which led to approximately $49.2 million in fraudulent billing for ambulance transportation.  The case represents the largest ambulance fraud scheme ever prosecuted by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  According to court documents, the defendants provided beneficiaries ambulance rides that were medically unnecessary.

In Dallas, 14 individuals – including two doctors and two registered nurses – are charged for their alleged participation in various fraud schemes involving a total of $103.3 million in false billings.  In one case, three defendants – a medical doctor and two registered nurses – are charged with participating in a fraud scheme at Raphem Medical Practice and PTM Healthcare Services which led to approximately $100 million in fraudulent billing for home health care services.  According to court documents, Dr. Joseph Megwa signed approximately 33,000 prescriptions for more than 2,000 unique Medicare beneficiaries from 2006 to 2011.  Many of these Medicare beneficiaries had primary care physicians who never certified home healthcare services for them.  In order to handle the volume of prescriptions, Megwa allegedly signed stacks of documents without reviewing them.

Seven individuals are charged in Houston for their participation in a fraud scheme at a hospital which led to $158 million in fraudulent billing for community mental health center services.  According to court documents, the defendants who served as administrators at the hospital paid kickbacks – in the form of cigarettes, food and coupons redeemable for items available at the hospital’s “country stores” – to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for those beneficiaries’ attendance at the hospital’s partial hospitalization programs (PHP).  Allegedly, beneficiaries watched television, played games and engaged in other non-PHP activities rather than receiving the services for which the hospital billed Medicare.  Previously, on Feb. 22, 2012, the assistant administrator of the hospital, Mohammad Kahn, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and paying kickbacks related to $116 million worth of fraudulent claims submitted to Medicare.  After his guilty plea, an additional $42 million in fraudulent claims were discovered that are included in today’s totals.

In Brooklyn, 15 individuals, including one doctor and four chiropractors, are charged for their alleged participation in various fraud schemes involving a total of $23.2 million in false billings.  In one case, nine defendants, including a medical doctor, are charged with participating in a fraud scheme at Cropsey Medical Care PLLC which led to approximately $13.8 million in fraudulent billing for physical therapy and related services. According to court documents, the defendants paid cash kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for physical therapy that was not medically necessary and on some occasions never provided to beneficiaries.

In Baton Rouge, four defendants, including a licensed practical nurse, are charged for their roles in fraud schemes involving approximately $2.4 million in false claims for medically unnecessary durable medical equipment. 

In Chicago, two defendants, including a dermatologist and a psychologist, are charged for their roles in fraud schemes involving, according to court documents, millions of dollars in false claims for medically unnecessary laser treatments and psychotherapy services. 

In addition to the criminal indictments, HHS also used recently expanded health care fraud powers granted as part of the Affordable Care Act to suspend and took other administrative action against 30 health care providers following a data-driven analysis that HHS claims showed “credible allegations of fraud.”  Under the Affordable Care Act, HHS is able to suspend payments until the resolution of an investigation.

According to today’s announcement the charges and other actions announced today resulted from coordinated health care fraud investigations conducted by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force as part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.

Federal officials now credit strike force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,480 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion since strike force operations began in March 2007.

Charges Part of Widening War Against Health Care Providers

The charges unsealed today are the latest and among the most sweeping of an ever-lengthening list of flashy prosecutions and federal program disqualification actions that federal officials are conducting against health care providers using expanded health care fraud laws and investigatory and prosecutorial powers granted under the Affordable Care Act and other legislation. 

Through these and other flashy prosecutions, as well as a continuous campaign of audits and other activities, federal officials are trying to reduce Medicare and other health care expenditures, both by prosecuting health care providers for intentionally submitting false claims, as well as using the treat of audits, program, disqualification or civil or criminal prosecution to scare health care providers to reduce legitimate billings that could trigger a federal audit or other federal scrutiny. 

Federal officials are aided in these efforts by an arsenal of new health care fraud statistical profiling and other health care fraud detection and enforcement tools granted by Congress in recent years that make it easier for federal officials to target and successfully prosecute or bring other sanctions against health care providers whose billing or other business practices come under scrutiny. 

Coupled with the ever-lengthening list of civil settlements and civil monetary penalties, program disqualifications, and audits, Federal officials use high profile criminal sweeps like those announced today both to send a message to health care providers generally, and as a tool to pressure and encourage health care providers to accept settlements proposed by federal auditors and prosecutors to avoid the potential threat of more serious criminal, civil or administrative prosecutions. 

These activities are intended to send a strong message to health care providers that bill Medicare, Medicaid, or other public or private health care programs that they must be prepared to defend any charges billed to these or other federal health care programs and to defend their other business practices. 

In response to these threats, health care providers should take steps to strengthen their billing, referral, audit, medical and other recordkeeping and other compliance and risk management practices to enhance their ability to defend or prevent these exposures.  While most providers already are moving to tighten these practices, the move to electronic health records, changing rules and other pressures are undermining the sufficiency of these efforts.

In the case of physicians and certain other professionals, these plans need to include both efforts to manage potential government investigation risks and management of their practices to mitigate peer review or other disciplinary or practice regulatory oversight that often arises when the practices and hospitals start tightening oversight and controls on practices as part of their own efforts to protect their organizations from fraud or other audits. 

While almost all health care providers can find room to improve their documentation and tighten other compliance, it also is important that providers also plan for how they will finance the cost of defending an audit or other investigation.  Often, the financial cost of defending these and other charges prevents physicians or other health care providers from lodging effective defenses of legitimate practices.  To help avoid this quagmire, providers generally will want to explore getting special liability coverage, indemnification or other protection as part of their planning arrangements.

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, audit, administer and defend billing, referral, privacy, staffing and recruitment 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:

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


Recent OIG Audit Reports Provide Insights Where Fraud Audits Likely To Look Next

September 24, 2012
Healthcare providers, Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) intermediaries, State Medicaid and CHIP fund recipients, Medicare and Medicaid Advantage Plan and others wanting to get a leg up on potential audit targets likely to draw the attention of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) and their health care fraud auditors and investigators may get valuable insights by monitoring OIG audit reports of Medicare Intermediaries and others.  Reports of deficiencies uncovered in these audits and recommendations to tighten procedures and seek repayments often prompt demands for repayment and tighter payment and audit guidelines and procedures.
The following are some of the most recently-issued OIG audit reports:
  • New York Claimed Some Unallowable Costs for Services by New York City Providers under the State’s Developmental Disabilities Waiver Program (A-02-10-01027)

OIG says the New York State Department of Health (DOH) claimed Federal Medicaid reimbursement for some Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) waiver program services provided by New York City providers that did not comply with certain Federal and State requirements. http://go.usa.gov/rk8V.

Based on sample results, OIG estimates that DOH improperly claimed $7.8 million in Federal Medicaid reimbursement for OPWDD waiver program services during calendar years 2006 through 2008. Federal law authorizes Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) waiver programs. A State’s HCBS waiver program must be approved by CMS and allows a State to claim Federal reimbursement for services not usually covered by Medicaid.

Of the 100 beneficiary-months in the random sample, DOH properly claimed Medicaid reimbursement for OPWDD waiver program services during 86 beneficiary-months. However, DOH claimed Medicaid reimbursement for services that did not comply with certain Federal and State requirements for the remaining 14 beneficiary-months. OIG reported the claims for unallowable services were made because DOH and OPWDD’s policies and procedures for overseeing and administering the waiver program were not adequate to ensure that (1) providers claimed reimbursement only for services actually provided and maintained all the required documentation to support services billed and (2) OPWDD waiver program services were provided only to beneficiaries pursuant to written plans of care.

OIG recommended that DOH:

  • Refund $7.8 million to the Federal Government and
  • Work with OPWDD to strengthen policies and procedures to ensure that (a) providers claim reimbursement only for OPWDD waiver program services actually provided and maintain the required documentation to support services billed and (b) OPWDD waiver program services are provided pursuant to written plans of care.

DOH and OPWDD concurred with the recommendations.

  • Medicare Contractors’ Payments to Providers in Jurisdiction 11 for Full Vials of Herceptin Were Often Incorrect (A-03-11-00013)

OIG reported that most payments for one or more full vials of Herceptin that the Medicare contractors made to providers in Jurisdiction 11 (North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia) from January 2008 through December 2010 were incorrect. Herceptin (trastuzumab) is a Medicare-covered biological drug used to treat breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.  http://go.usa.gov/rk9P.

Of the 2,507 selected line items, OIG says 2,029 were incorrect and included overpayments totaling $2.4 million that the providers had not identified or refunded by the beginning of our audit. Providers refunded overpayments on 138 line items totaling $131,000 before our fieldwork. The remaining 340 line items were correct.

The 2,029 incorrect line items included incorrect units of service and a lack of supporting documentation. The providers attributed the incorrect payments to chargemaster errors, clerical errors, and billing systems that could not prevent or detect the incorrect billing of units of service. In some cases, providers could not store unused doses for later use because their pharmacies incorrectly reconstituted the Herceptin. When this occurred, the providers billed Medicare for the entire vial, including waste. The Medicare contractors made these incorrect payments because neither the Fiscal Intermediary Standard System nor the Common Working File had sufficient edits in place during our audit period to prevent or detect the overpayments.

OIG recommended that Palmetto GBA, LLC (Palmetto), the Medicare Administrative Contractor for Jurisdiction 11:

  • (1) Recover the $2.4 million in identified overpayments,
  • Implement a system edit that identifies for review line items for multiuse-vial drugs with units of service equivalent to one or more entire vials, and
  • Use the results of this audit in its provider education activities.

Palmetto concurred with the OIG findings and recommendations and described corrective actions that it had taken or planned to take.

  • Texas Did Not Report Excess Contractor Profits in Accordance With Federal Regulations (A-06-10-00062) 

A Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) is a system of software and hardware used to process Medicaid claims and manage information about Medicaid beneficiaries, services, and providers. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (State agency) contracts with a fiscal agent, Affiliated Computer Services/Texas Medicaid Health Partnership (ACS/TMHP), to process claims through the MMIS. The contract between the State agency and ACS/TMHP requires a prospective price redetermination (PPR) audit to establish whether ACS/TMHP earned profit in excess of the 11 percent allowed by the contract.

OIG reports it found that the State agency did not refund $2.6 million (Federal share) of the $26.7 million in excess profits identified through the PPR audit in accordance with Federal requirements. During fiscal year 2009, the State agency claimed expenditures for 20 MMIS projects with total costs of $71.3 million. All of these expenditures were allowable and claimed at the appropriate reimbursement rate; however, the State agency did not obtain prior approval for 2 of the 20 projects. Also, the State agency did not obtain prior approval for 16 additional projects. The total budgets for the 18 projects for which the State agency did not obtain prior approval totaled $59 million ($32.9 million Federal share).  http://go.usa.gov/rkXW.

OIG recommended that the State agency:

  • (1) Refund to the Federal Government $2.6 million for excess profits related to the PPR audit,
  • Ensure that prior approval is obtained on future projects as required by Federal regulations, and
  • Obtain retroactive approval for the 18 projects that did not have the required prior approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The State agency agreed with OIG’s first and third recommendations and described corrective actions it had taken or planned to take. Regarding the second recommendation, the State agency described the process by which it seeks CMS approval for certain projects.

  • Review of Medicare Outpatient Billing for Selected Drugs at Self Regional Healthcare (A-09-12-02032)

For the 61 line items reviewed, OIG reported that Self Regional Healthcare did not bill Medicare for injections of selected drugs in accordance with Federal requirements, resulting in overpayments totaling $130,000.  http://go.usa.gov/rkX.d.

  • Review of Medicare Outpatient Billing for Selected Drugs at Methodist Healthcare – Memphis Hospitals (A-09-12-02022)   

For 60 of the 82 line items reviewed, OIG reported it found that Methodist Healthcare – Memphis Hospitals did not bill Medicare for injections of selected drugs in accordance with Federal requirements, resulting in overpayments totaling $178,000.  http://go.usa.gov/rkNY.

  • Medicare Part D Made Some Incorrect Payments to Community Insurance Inc. for Institutional Beneficiaries in 2008 (A-05-11-00042)

OIG reports that the Medicare Part D program incurred drug costs for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries during Skilled Nursing stays that should have been covered under Part C in 2008. Community Insurance Inc’s incurrence of the $23,000 in gross drug costs as Part D costs had an overpayment effect of $13,000 as well as a $9,000 reconciliation effect at year end.  http://go.usa.gov/rkNB

  • North Shore Community Health, Inc., Claimed Unallowable Costs Against Recovery Act Grants (A-01-11-01502)

OIG reported it could not determine whether $2 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) grant costs claimed by North Shore Community Health, Inc. (North Shore), was allowable under the terms of the grants and applicable Federal regulations. North Shore did not track and account for Recovery Act expenditures separately from other (Federal and non-Federal) operating expenses; therefore, it could not demonstrate that it spent Recovery Act grant funds for allowable costs.  http://go.usa.gov/rk85.

OIG says this deficiency occurred because North Shore did not:

  • (1) Maintain a financial management system that provided for accurate, current, and complete disclosure of the financial results of its Recovery Act grants and
  • Separately track and account for Recovery Act funds.  

OIG recommended that the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) require North Shore to refund $2 million to the Federal Government, or work with North Shore to determine whether any of the costs that it claimed against Recovery Act grants were allowable, and ensure North Shore:

  • (1) Develops a financial system that provides for the accurate, current, and complete disclosure of the financial results of each HHS-sponsored project or program and
  • Tracks and accounts for each grant’s expenditures separately from other operating expenditures.

North Shore stated that it adjusted its internal financial reporting process to be in compliance with Federal requirements.

Under the Recovery Act, P.L. No. 111-5, enacted February 17, 2009, HRSA received $2.5 billion, including $2 billion to expand the Health Center Program to serve more patients, stimulate new jobs, and meet the expected increase in demand for primary health care services among the Nation’s uninsured and underserved populations.

  • OIG Says Lawndale Christian Health Center Claimed Unallowable Costs Under Recovery Act Grants (A-05-11-00057)

Lawndale Christian Health Center claimed $535,000 that was allowable under the terms of the grant and applicable Federal regulations.  However, Lawndale claimed Federal grant expenditures totaling $174,000 that were unallowable.  We could not determine the allowability of costs totaling $637,000 according to the OIG. See http://go.usa.gov/rFQP.

  • Alabama Improperly Claimed Federal Funds for Children’s Health Insurance Program Enrollees Who Had Medicaid or Other Health Insurance Coverage (A-04-11-08008)

OIG reports that Alabama improperly claimed Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Federal financial participation (FFP) for some individuals who were concurrently enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid.   The Federal and State Governments jointly fund and administer both Medicaid and CHIP.  States may not claim CHIP FFP for individuals who are concurrently enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid or who have other health insurance coverage.  See http://go.usa.gov/rFQG.

Based on OIG sample results, OIG estimated that Alabama improperly claimed $1.5 million in CHIP FFP for enrollees who were concurrently enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid from October 1, 2009, through September 30, 2010.  Alabama also improperly claimed $153,000 in CHIP FFP for individuals who had other health insurance coverage from October 1, 2009, through September 30, 2010.

OIG says the concurrent enrollment in CHIP and Medicaid occurred because:

  • Medicaid enrollment could be retroactive for up to 3 months, during which the individual could also have been enrolled in CHIP and
  • Supplemental Security Income eligibility, and consequent Medicaid enrollment, could be retroactive to the original application date, a period during which the individual could also have been enrolled in CHIP. 

Moreover, the State agency did not have adequate internal controls to prevent or promptly correct concurrent enrollments.  The CHIP payments that Alabama claimed on behalf of individuals who had other health insurance coverage occurred because State policy allowed for a coordination of benefits between CHIP and other health insurance coverage.

OIG recommended that Alabama:

  • Refund $1.5 million (Federal share) for FFP claimed on behalf of individuals who were concurrently enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid,
  • Refund $153,000 (Federal share) for FFP claimed on behalf of individuals enrolled in CHIP who had other health insurance coverage,
  • Develop additional policies and procedures to prevent or promptly recoup CHIP payments made on behalf of individuals who are identified as enrolled concurrently in Medicaid, and
  • Revise the current policy that allows for a coordination of benefits between CHIP and other health insurance coverage. 

The OIG notes Alabama disagreed with all of its recommendations. 

  • South Carolina Claimed Some Unallowable Room-and-Board Costs under the Intellectual and Related Disabilities Waiver (A-04-11-04012)

OIG reports that the South Carolina Department of Health & Human Services (State agency) operates a waiver program that provides long-term care and support for individuals with intellectual or related disabilities.  The State agency contracts with the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (the Department) to provide waiver services.  The Department provides these services through contractual arrangements with a network of 39 local Disabilities and Special Needs (DSN) Boards.

OIG reported it found that the State agency claimed Medicaid reimbursement of $6.7 million ($4.8 million Federal share) for unallowable room-and-board costs under the waiver program that the Department operated.  The State agency claimed unallowable room-and-board costs because neither the State agency nor the Department had adequate controls to:

  • Ensure that the Department followed applicable Federal law and guidance or its own guidance or
  • Detect errors or misstatements on the local DSN boards’ cost reports. See http://go.usa.gov/rFQz.

Additionally, OIG says the Department did not prescribe a uniform format for the local DSN boards to follow when preparing the cost reports.  Rather, each local board prepared its cost reports in its own format, making it difficult to identify when unallowable costs were claimed.

OIG recommended that the State agency:

  • Refund to the Federal Government $4.8 million, representing the Federal share of the room-and-board costs that the Department improperly claimed on its waiver cost reports;
  • Instruct the Department to follow Federal law and its own guidance and remove room-and-board related administrative and general costs from future waiver program cost reports;
  • Instruct the Department to develop a uniform cost reporting process and require each local board to follow this process;
  • Instruct the Department to strengthen its cost report review procedures to ensure that it will detect errors or misstatements on the local DSN boards’ cost reports; and
  • Strengthen its own procedures for reviewing the waiver cost reports submitted by the Department. 

The State agency concurred with all of our recommendations and said that it would work with CMS to negotiate repayment of the improperly claimed room-and-board costs.

  • Review of New Mexico Medicaid Personal Care Services Provided by Coordinated Home Health (A-06-09-00064)

The OIG reported that its audit found that the State did not always ensure that Coordinated Home Health’s (Coordinated) claims for Medicaid personal care services complied with certain Federal and State requirements.  Based on sample results, OIG estimated that Coordinated improperly claimed at least $11 million (Federal share) for personal care services during the period October 1, 2006, through September 30, 2008.  http://go.usa.gov/rFUW.

According to OIG, personal care services may be provided to individuals who are not inpatients at a hospital or residents of a nursing facility, an intermediate care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities, or an institution for mental disease.  Examples of personal care services include, but are not limited to, cleaning, shopping, grooming, and bathing.

Of the 100 claims in the OIG sample, OIG reported that 54 complied with requirements, but 46 did not.  Three of the forty-six claims were partially allowable.   The 46 claims contained a total of 60 deficiencies:  49 deficiencies on insufficient attendant qualifications and 11 deficiencies on other  concluded that Coordinated improperly claimed $8,000 for the 46 claims.

  • Based on these findings, OIG recommended that the State:
  • Refund to the Federal Government the $11 million paid to Coordinated for unallowable personal care services and
  • Ensure that personal care services providers maintain evidence that they comply with Federal and State requirements. 

OIG reported that Coordinated disagreed with almost all of OIG’sfindings, and the State disagreed with OIG’s recommended refund amount.  The State also said that some of the documentation requirements are not Federal requirements; they are State requirements, which do not require recovery of payments.

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:

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


Hospital Chain HCA Inc. Pays $16.5 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations That Hospital

September 23, 2012
HCA Inc., one of the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chains, has agreed to pay the United States and the state of Tennessee $16.5 million to settle claims that it violated the False Claims Act and the Stark Statute, the Department of Justice announced September 19, 2012.   The settlement agreement and the litigation it resolves are a reminder to hospitals, physicians and other health care providers of the growing readiness of the Justice Department and other federal and state regulators and enforcement agencies to prosecute health care providers for STARK, anti-kickback back or other violations of federal or state health health care fraud laws.

HCA Settlement & Underlying Charges

As alleged in the settlement agreement, during 2007, HCA, through its subsidiaries Parkridge Medical Center, located in Chattanooga, Tenn., and HCA Physician Services (HCAPS), headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., entered into a series of financial transactions with a physician group, Diagnostic Associates of Chattanooga, through which it provided financial benefits intended to induce the physician members of Diagnostic to refer patients to HCA facilities.   These financial transactions included rental payments for office space leased from Diagnostic at a rate well in excess of fair market value in order to assist Diagnostic members to meet their mortgage obligations and a release of Diagnostic members from a separate lease obligation.  

The Stark Statute restricts financial relationships that hospitals may enter into with physicians who potentially may refer patients to them.   Federal law prohibits the payment of medical claims that result from such prohibited relationships.

The civil settlement resolves a lawsuit, United States ex rel. Bingham v. HCA, No. 1:08-CV-71 (E.D. Tenn.), pending in federal court in the Eastern District of Tennessee under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private citizens to bring civil actions on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.   As part of the civil settlement, HCA has agreed to pay $16.5 million to the United States and the state of Tennessee, with the federal portion representing $15,693,000 of the settlement amount.   The whistleblower will receive an 18.5 percent share.  

Also as part of the settlement, Parkridge Medical Center has entered into a comprehensive five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ensure its continued compliance with federal health care benefit program requirements.

Settlement Part of Expanding Health Care Fraud Prosecution Efforts

This resolution is part of the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and another step for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in May 2009. The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover more than $9.4 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 $13.1 billion.

In announcing the resolution agreement, federal officials emphasized their readiness to prosecute STARK, anti-kickback and other health care fraud statutes. 

“The Department of Justice continues to pursue cases involving improper financial relationships between health care providers and their referral sources, because such relationships can corrupt a physician’s judgment about the patient’s true healthcare needs,” said Stuart F. Delery, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.   

 “Physicians should make decisions regarding referrals to health care facilities based on what is in the best interest of patients without being induced by payments from hospitals competing for their business,” said Bill Killian, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.  

“ Improper business deals between hospitals and physicians jeopardize both patient care and federal program dollars,” said Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.   “Our investigators continue to work shoulder to shoulder with other law enforcement authorities to stop schemes that imperil scarce health care resources.”

Coupled with the ever-lengthening list of civil settlements like the HCA settlement, and civil monetary penalties, program disqualifications, and criminal prosecutions, these announcements send a strong message to health care providers to review their transactions, referral and other relationships, and billing practices and address potential exposures.

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:

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


Euless Healthcare Corporation Owner, Associates Face Conspiracy And Health Care Fraud Charges For Alleged Submission Of $700,000+ In Fraudulent Health Care Claims

November 27, 2011

Three defendants indicted for engaging in various Federal health care fraud offenses related to their involvement in the operation of a North Texas based health care company, Euless Healthcare Corporation, were arrested on November 17, 2011.  The charges highlight the health care fraud risks that health care providers, their owners and leaders face for engaging in activities that Federal officials view as prohibited under health care fraud laws.

According to the Justice Department, a 10-count indictment unsealed against Ovsanna Agopian, aka “Joanna Ovsanna,” “Joanna Smbatyan,” and “Ovsanna Agopian,” Boghos Babadjanian and Tolulope Labeodan charges each defendant wit one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and nine substantive counts of health care fraud.

According to the indictment, Agopian was the principal operator of Euless Healthcare Corporation (EHC), located at 222 West Bedford Euless Road in Hurst. Babadjanian was the owner of EHC and Labeodan was an employee of EHC. The indictment alleges that the three defendants ran a conspiracy to defraud Medicare by submitting claims for office visits and diagnostic tests that were never performed.  The indictment alleges that Agopian recruited doctors to work for EHC by telling them that they would treat beneficiaries in the beneficiaries’ homes. However, the doctors that Agopian recruited never saw beneficiaries at the EHC clinic or beneficiaries’ homes.  Prosecutors claim Agopian directed Labeodan, who is not a medical professional and does not have a Medicare provider number, to take beneficiary files from the EHC clinic and purportedly see beneficiaries. However, many beneficiaries, in whose names EHC submitted claims for reimbursement, have never heard of EHC or any of the doctors Agopian recruited.

Federal prosecutors claim that EHC used those doctors’ Medicare provider numbers to falsely bill Medicare more than $700,000 for office visits and diagnostic test for which the defendants allegedly collected Medicare reimbursement checks totaling more than $370,000. 

According to the Justice Department, the case is being investigated by the Dallas Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) Strike Force, which includes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the FBI and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Since their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,140 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.9 billion.

While health care fraud enforcement remains a lead Federal priority, health care providers in Texas and other HEAT Strike Force targeted regions face heightened exposures to HEAT task force scrutiny and prosecution. 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 assistance 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. If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please 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:

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.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


OCR Audit Program Kickoff Further Heats HIPAA Privacy Risks

November 9, 2011

The kickoff of a new compliance audit pilot program provides another reason for health care providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and their business associates to get serious about compliance with the privacy, security and data breach requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). 

OCR Pilot Audit Program Begins

On November 8, 2011, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced that it will begin auditing HIPAA compliance this month under a new pilot program.

As amended by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 in Section 13411 of the HITECH Act, requires HHS to provide for periodic audits to make sure covered entities and business associates are complying with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules and Breach Notification standards.  To carry out this mandate, OCR is piloting a program to perform up to 150 audits of covered entities to assess privacy and security compliance between November 2011 and December 2012.

The commencement of OCR HIPAA compliance audits is yet another sign that covered entities and their business associates should get serious about HIPAA compliance. The audit program serves as a new part of OCR’s health information privacy and security compliance program.  While OCR says that it presently views the pilot audits as primarily a compliance improvement tool, this does not mean violators should expect a free walk.

Even before the impending audits, HIPAA Privacy exposures of covered entities for failing to comply with HIPAA already had risen significantly.  Earlier this year, OCR imposed a $4.3 Million Civil Money Penalty (CMP) against Cignet Health of Prince George’s County (Cignet) for violating HIPAA.  Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has secured several criminal convictions or pleas under HIPAA’s criminal provisions. Under amendments made by the HITECH Act, state attorneys general also now are empowered to bring civil lawsuits against covered entities and business associates that commit HIPAA violations that injure citizens in their state under certain circumstances. Eventually, individuals injured by HIPAA violations also will get the right to share in a portion of certain HIPAA recoveries.

These and other audit and enforcement activities send a strong message that covered entities and their business associates need to get serious about HIPAA compliance. As stated by OCR Director Georgina Verdugo when announcing the Mass General Resolution Agreement, “To avoid enforcement penalties, covered entities must ensure they are always in compliance with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules,” Verdugo added, “A robust compliance program includes employee training, vigilant implementation of policies and procedures, regular internal audits, and a prompt action plan to respond to incidents.” Learn more here.

For Help With Monitoring Developments, Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

If you need assistance monitoring federal health reform, policy or enforcement developments, or to review or respond to these or other health care or health IT related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, can help.

Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, a member of the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Past Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements Group, 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 extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers, health plans, their business associates and other health industry clients to establish and administer medical privacy and other compliance and risk management policies.  Ms. Stamer also regularly helps clients deal with OCR and other agencies, publishes and speaks extensively on medical and other privacy and data security, 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 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.  Her insights on the required “culture of compliance” with HIPAA are frequently included in medical privacy related publications of the Atlantic Information Service, Modern Health Care, HealthLeaders and many others. Among others, she has conducted privacy training for the Association of State & Territorial Health Plans (ASTHO), the Los Angeles Health Department, the American Bar Association, the Health Care Compliance Association, a multitude of health industry, health plan, employee benefit and other clients, trade and professional associations and others.  You can get more information about her HIPAA and other experience here or may contact her at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

You can review other selected publications and resources and additional information about the employment, employee benefits and other experience of Ms. Stamer 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 available at www.solutionslawpress.com

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.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

 


Rite Aid Agrees to Pay $1 Million to Settle HIPAA Privacy Case As OCR Moves To Tighten Privacy Rules

August 3, 2010

One of the nation’s largest drug store chains, Rite Aid Corporation and its 40 affiliated entities (Rite Aid) will pay $1 million to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights announcement of the HIPAA resolution agreement with Rite Aid and the concurrent negotiation of a separate consent order of potential FTC Act violations between Rite Aid and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) follows HHS’ announcement of proposed changes to its HIPAA Privacy Rules and associated penalties in response to changes enacted under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (HITECH Act).  The Rite Aid settlement and the proposed Privacy Rule changes illustrate the growing penalty risks that health care providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and their business associates (Covered Entities) face for violating the Privacy Rules. 

Rite Aid Resolution Agreement

The Rite Aid resolution agreements settle charges that Rite Aid failed to appropriately safeguard the privacy of its customers when disposing of identifying information on pill bottle labels and other health information. The settlements apply to all of Rite Aid’s nearly 4,800 retail pharmacies and follow an extensive joint investigation by the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the FTC.

OCR opened its investigation of Rite Aid after television media videotaped incidents in which pharmacies were shown to have disposed of prescriptions and labeled pill bottles containing individuals’ identifiable information in industrial trash containers that were accessible to the public in a variety of Rite Aid locations in cities across the United States.  OCR and FTC previously settled a similar case involving the national drug store chain CVS in February 2009.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires covered entities to safeguard the privacy of patient information and other “protected health information” including during its disposal.  In addition to the detailed requirements for protection and safeguarding of protected health information and electronic protected health information under the Privacy Rules, breach notification rules added to HIPAA under the HITECH Act also generally require that Covered Entities investigate and provide timely notification of breach to patients, OCR and in some cases the media when “unsecured protected heath information” is breached.  Meanwhile, the FTC Act and associated regulations require those retailers and certain other parties receiving personal financial information to comply with certain requirements for the protection and use of that information and to provide certain notifications of their privacy polices for protecting personal financial information.

The joint OCR and the FTC investigations raised concerns that:

  • Rite Aid failed to implement adequate policies and procedures to appropriately safeguard patient information during the disposal process;
  • Rite Aid failed to adequately train employees on how to dispose of such information properly; and
  • Rite Aid did not maintain a sanctions policy for members of its workforce who failed to properly dispose of patient information.

Under the HHS resolution agreement, Rite Aid agreed to pay a $1 million resolution amount to HHS and must implement a strong corrective action program under which Rite Aid agreed to:

  • Revise and distribute its policies and procedures regarding disposal of protected health information and sanctioning workers who do not follow them;
  • Train workforce members on these new requirements;
  • Conduct internal monitoring; and
  • Engage a qualified, independent third-party assessor to conduct compliance reviews and render reports to HHS.

In addition, under its FTC consent order, Rite Aid separately agreed to external, independent assessments of its pharmacy stores’ compliance with the FTC consent order.

The HHS corrective action plan will be in place for three years; the FTC order will be in place for 20 years.

Proposed Privacy Rule Changes

The Rite Aid resolution agreement and consent order follows the July 8, 2010 publication by OCR of proposed changes to its existing HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Enforcement Rules in response to amendments enacted under the HITECH Act. Because of the lead time required to implement needed changes in policies, technology and training, Covered Entities need to begin preparations to adjust their health information privacy and data security policies and practices in anticipation of the finalization and implementation of these rules as well as to act quickly to submit their comments about the proposed changes.  .

The more than 220 page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposes to revise the existing Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information (Privacy Rule); the Security Standards for the Protection of Electronic Protected Health Information (Security Rule); and the rules pertaining to Compliance and Investigations, Imposition of Civil Money Penalties, and Procedures for Hearings (Enforcement Rule) issued under HIPAA.

The author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients with HIPAA and other privacy and data security, reimbursement, compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management matters. Ms. Stamer also is regularly conducts training on HIPAA and other health industry compliance, management and operations matters.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here

Other Recent Developments

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the following recent Updates available online by clicking on the article title:

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you. If you need assistance evaluating or responding to the Health Care Reform Law or health care compliance, risk management, transactional, operational, reimbursement, or public policy concerns, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (469) 767-8872, cstamer@Solutionslawyer.net.

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 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry and human resources matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about health industry and other related concerns. 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, 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. For additional information about Ms. Stamer, her experience, involvements, programs or publications, see here.

You can review other recent health care and internal controls resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here. 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 at here or e-mailing this information here. To unsubscribe, e-mail here.

©2010 Solutions Law Press. All rights reserved.


CMS PROPOSES RULES TO IMPLEMENT AFFORDABLE CARE ACT REQUIRED EXPANSION OF MEDICARE PREVENTIVE SERVICES AND OTHER 2011 REIMBURSEMENT CHANGES

July 3, 2010

August 24, 2010 is the deadline for concerned health care providers or others to submit comments on regulations that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently proposed to implement key provisions in the Affordable Care Act of 2010 concerning Medicare reimbursement preventive services, primary care services, certain rural health care services, imaging and certain other services.  Health care providers providing Medicare-covered services should review the proposed regulation available here and an accompanying CMS Fact Sheet on the rule available here to assess its likely implications on their reimbursement and other operations act quickly to share any comments and concerns.

The proposed regulation published by CMS June 26, 2010 would apply to payments under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for services furnished on or after January 1, 2011.  Among other things, it outlines the conditions under which CMS proposes that:

  • Medicare will cover an annual wellness visit
  • Eliminate out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries for most preventive services
  • Add an incentive payment for primary care services furnished by primary care practitioners that can include physicians, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and physician assistants.  Implement a payment incentive program for general surgeons performing major surgery in areas designated by the Secretary as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs)
  • Allow physician assistants to order post-hospital extended care services in skilled nursing facilities
  • Pay certified nurse midwives for their services under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) at the same rates as physicians
  • Update its policies and payment rates for services by physicians, nonphysician practitioners (NPPs) and certain other suppliers that are paid under the MPFS during calendar year (CY) 2011. 
  • Continue recent efforts by CMS to improve the accuracy of physicians’ payment rates by implementing Affordable Care Act mandates to identify services in categories that are at significant risk for inaccurate payment and by further reducing payments in CY 2011 for diagnostic imaging equipment used in diagnostic computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) services
  • Require physicians referring CT, MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) services under the in-office ancillary services exception to the physician self-referral prohibition, to notify patients that they may receive the same services from other suppliers in the area. The physician would also provide a list of alternate suppliers.

The author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients with reimbursement, compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management matters. You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here

Other Recent Developments

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the following recent Updates available online by clicking on the article title:

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you. If you need assistance evaluating or responding to the Health Care Reform Law or health care compliance, risk management, transactional, operational, reimbursement, or public policy concerns, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (469) 767-8872, cstamer@Solutionslawyer.net.

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 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry and human resources matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about health industry and other related concerns. 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, 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. For additional information about Ms. Stamer, her experience, involvements, programs or publications, see here.

You can review other recent health care and internal controls resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here. 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 at here or e-mailing this information here. To unsubscribe, e-mail here.

©2010 Solutions Law Press. All rights reserved.


Federal HEAT & Other Federal Health Care Fraud Efforts Score More Than 15 Successes As OIG Claims $20.97 Billion Saved From Enforcement Activities In December

December 30, 2009

As the interagency Medicare Fraud Strike Force targeting Medicare Fraud scored another series of more than 15 successful criminal enforcement actions across the national during December, 2009, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) credited the Medicare Fraud Strike Force and other stepped up oversight and enforcement activities as helping it achieve $20.97 Billion in Medicare and other federal health care program savings during Fiscal Year 2009 in its Semiannual Report to Congress

The Detroit convictions were among three of more than 15 other criminal enforcement successes reported by the Department of Justice during December.  These and other reports document the rising prosecution and enforcement risks that health care providers face for failing to tailor their billing and other practices to comply with federal health care fraud laws.  In light of the growing enforcement and emphasis of federal prosecutors and regulations on the detection and prosecution of organizations and individuals participating in billing or other activities that violate federal health care fraud laws, health care organizations, their officers, directors, employees, consultants and other business partners should tighten practices and step up oversight to minimize the likelihood that they or their organizations will engage in activities that federal regulators view as federal health care fraud.

December 13 Detroit Criminal Convictions

The U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division (Justice Department), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) jointly announced Friday (December 11, 2009) that Baskaran Thangarasan, Sandeep Aggarwal and Wayne Smith had plead guilty for their roles in connection with several Detroit-area health care fraud scheme.

On December 9, 2009, Thangarasan plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and Aggarwal plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money. On December 11, 2009, Smith plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

  • Thangarasan Guilty Plea To Conspiracy To Commit Health Care Fraud

On December 9, 2009, Thangarasan plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. And Aggarwal plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at sentencing.

According to information contained in plea documents, Thangarasan, a licensed physical therapist, admitted that he began working in approximately September 2003 as a contract therapist for a co-conspirator. This co-conspirator owned and controlled several companies operating in the Detroit area that purported to provide physical and occupational therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries. Thangarasan admitted that he, the co-conspirator and others created fictitious therapy files appearing to document physical therapy services provided to Medicare beneficiaries, when in fact no such services had been provided. According to court documents, the fictitious services reflected in the files were billed to Medicare through sham Medicare providers controlled by Thangarasan’s co-conspirators.

Thangarasan admitted that his role in creating the fictitious therapy files was to sign documents and progress notes indicating he had provided physical therapy services to particular Medicare beneficiaries, when in fact he had not. Thangarasan was paid approximately $50 by co-conspirators per file that he falsified in this manner. Thangarasan also admitted that in the course of the scheme charged in the indictment, he signed approximately 1,011 fictitious physical therapy files, falsely indicating he had provided physical therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries. Thangarasan admitted he knew that the files he helped falsify were used to justify fraudulent billings to Medicare.

In addition, Thangarasan admitted that between approximately September 2003 and May 2006, his co-conspirators submitted claims to the Medicare program totaling approximately $5,055,000 for files that were falsified by Thangarasan. Medicare actually paid approximately $2,325,000 on those claims. Thangarasan admitted that throughout the conspiracy, he was fully aware that Medicare was being billed for occupational therapy services he had falsely indicated he had performed.

  • Aggarwal Guilty Plea to Money Laundering

Aggarwal faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine after admitting in the same case to assisting co-conspirator Suresh Chand in laundering the proceeds of Chand’s Medicare fraud scheme. Chand, who pleaded guilty in September 2009 to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to launder money, admitted to conspiring to submit approximately $18 million in fraudulent physical and occupational therapy claims to the Medicare program. Aggarwal, who admitted working at Chand’s office, acknowledged that his role in the scheme was to set up sham entities at Chand’s direction, with the purpose of using those entities to distribute the proceeds of the fraud to the various co-conspirators. According to plea documents, one such entity was called Global Health Care Management Services. Aggarwal admitted that Global Health Care Management Services, which he helped create, provided no health or management services of any type, but existed solely as a mechanism to conceal the location of fraudulently obtained Medicare proceeds. Aggarwal admitted in his plea that he and Chand laundered approximately $393,000 through this sham entity.

  • Smith Guilty Plea To Conspiracy To Commit Health Care Fraud

At sentencing, Smith face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for his participation in a scheme to falsely bill Medicare.  His indictment charged that he transported and paid Medicare beneficiaries to attend Sacred Hope Center, a Southfield, Mich.-infusion clinic. According to the indictment, the Medicare beneficiaries he paid and transported were paid to sign paperwork indicating that they had received infusions and injections of specialty medications that they did not in fact receive.

According to the indictment, Sacred Hope Center routinely billed the Medicare program for services that were medically unnecessary and/or never provided. The primary owners and operators of Sacred Hope Center have pleaded guilty and admitted purchasing only a small fraction of the medications that the clinic billed the Medicare program for providing. These co-conspirators have also stated that patients were prescribed medications at the clinic based not on medical need, but instead based on which medications were likely to generate Medicare reimbursements.

Other Criminal Enforcement Actions During December

The Detroit convictions are three of nearly 20 successful criminal enforcement activities that DOJ announced during December, 2009.  During the same month, DOJ also announced:

  • On December 20, 2009, sentencing of an Audiologist to six months in prison for Medicare Fraud in California  here
  • On December 17, 2009 , the guilty plea and sentencing of a Houston physician for operating an illegal pill mill here
  • On December 16, 2009, the sentencing in Michigan of the owner of health care agency to 18 months prison in Medicare kickback scheme here
  • On December 15, 2009, the sentencing of a Lexington. South Carolina doctor to perform community service in a health care fraud case  here
  • On December 15, 2009, the guilty plea of a Plymouth, Minnesota man to defrauding Medicaid out of $74,000  here
  • On December 14, 2009, the sentencing of a Miami, Georgia man to more than a decade in Federal prison for million dollar Medicaid fraud here
  • On December 11, 2009, the charging of a durable medical equipment company and six other defendants in Pennsylvania in a Medicare Fraud And Kickback Scheme here
  • On December 11, 2009, the guilty plea of an Aulander, North Carolina woman to $650,000 Health Care Fraud  here
  • On December 7, 2009, the guilty plea of a corporation various health care fraud schemes here
  • On December 6, 2009, the guilty plea of a Dallas, Texas durable medical equipment business owner to aggravated id theft in a Medicare Fraud scheme  here
  • On December 3, 2009, the arrest of the owner of a Florida home health care provider and his alleged accomplice for a scheme to bribe a government contractor  here
  • On December 3, 2009, the conviction of two defendants for Health Care Fraud in Idaho here
  • On December 2, 2009, the entry of an order requiring a Sioux City, Iowa hospital to pay $400,000 to resolve false claims allegations  here
  • On December 1, 2009, the admission by a Maryland man to health care fraud on a hospital in the District of Columbia  here
  • On December 1, 2009, the arrest of a Miami, Florida man for obstructing a Health Care Fraud Investigation here
  • On December 1, 2009, the $125,000  fine of a Michigan chiropractor for Falsifying Records here

HEAT Operations Continued & Expanded

The Detroit and many of these other criminal successes resulted from joint investigations by the FBI and the OIG as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force as part of various interagency Medicare Fraud “Strike Forces” operating in several regions of the U.S. as part of the continuing Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) operations of the FBI, HHS and the Justice Department which DOJ credits with producing more than 250 criminal convictions since their inception,  Based on initial successes of Strike Force operations in Miami (Phase One) and  Los Angeles (Phase Two), the Justice Department and HHS on May 20, 2009 expanded the scope of these operations to include Detroit and Houston Strike Force teams. Recently, DOJ and HHS announced the expansion of its HEAT operations to include Strike Force teams also targeting health care fraud in Brooklyn, New York; Tampa, Florida and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The heightened emphasis on enforcement of federal health care fraud laws reflected in the HEAT program the enactment of recent amendments to the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729 (FCA)  under the “Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009”(FERA).  The FERA amendments increase the likelihood both that whistleblowers will turn in health care providers and other individuals and organizations that file false claims in violation of the FCA and the liability that violators may incur for that misconduct.

The FERA amendments and the HEAT Team and Strike Force activities are part of a broader emphasis in the enforcement of federal health care fraud laws by both the Administration and Congress.  President Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2010 budget seeks to further increase funding for fraud prevention and enforcement by investing $311 million — a 50 percent increase from 2009 funding — to strengthen program integrity activities within the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  The Obama Administration anticipates that all combined, the anti-fraud efforts in the President’s budget could save $2.7 billion over five years by improving oversight and stopping fraud in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, including the Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug programs.  Many state agencies also are stepping up their health care fraud investigations and enforcement.

Health Care Providers Must Step Up Compliance & Risk Management

In light of this new emphasis upon health care fraud detection and enforcement, health care providers now more than ever need to prepare to demonstrate the appropriateness and defensibility of their health care billing and other compliance efforts.

Solutions Law Press author and Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care practitioners and other businesses and business leaders to establish, administer, investigate and defend health care fraud and other compliance and internal control policies and practices to reduce risk under federal and state health care and other laws. You can get more information about the CTT Health Care Practice  and more specifics about Ms. Stamer’s health industry experience here on the CTT Website.

If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402, CTT White Collar Defense Litigation Practice Chair Edwin J. Tomko at etomko@cttlegal.com, or  214.270.1405 or another Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney of your choice.. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in other updates on HEAT activities such as the following:

Other recent updates that also may be of interested published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication include:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved. 


HIT Policy Committee’s Nationwide Health Information Network Workgroup Meets December 16, 2009

December 1, 2009

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) HIT Policy Committee’s Nationwide Health Information Network Workgroup will hold a public meeting on December 16, 2009.  The meeting is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m./Eastern Time at the OMNI Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert Street, NW., Washington, DC. Members of the public care invited to participate live, via telephone, or Webcast.  For details about options for participation, instructions to present input, and other details, see here.

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance with these or other health care public policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management, workforce and other staffing, transactional or operational concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270‑2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising clients and writes and speaks extensively on these and other health industry and other reimbursement, operations, internal controls and risk management matters.  You can review other recent health care and related resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here

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 at here or e-mailing this information here and/or by participating in the SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations Group on LinkedIn.  To unsubscribe, e-mail here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


Senate Finance Committee Releases Statutory Language of America’s Healthy Future Act To Present To Full Senate

October 22, 2009

Americans finally have a chance to read the actual statutory language of the painfully negotiated package of proposed health care reforms that the Senate Finance Committee proposes for adoption.  The Senate Finance Committee leadership finally finished drafting has posted the 1506 page long text of the proposed statutory language of the health care reform provisions of the “America’s Healthy Future Act” on its website here.

When the Senate Finance Committee vote passing the America’s Health Future Act, members of the Senate Finance Committee had not yet had the opportunity to review the actual statutory language to be proposed to implement the package of heatlh care reforms painfully hashed out in their committee.  As the actual statutory language had not been completed at the time a majority of the Democrats and one Republican Senator serving on the Senate Finance Committee voted to send the legislation to the the full Senate, the vote actually was taken based on a narative description of the intended reforms set forth in a revised draft of the “Chairman’s Mark” of the legislation.  Since that time Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and other key Democrat Senators on the Senate Finance Committee have worked behind closed doors to prepare the actual statutory language to be presented to the full Senate.

As proposed, the America’s Healthy Future Act would require sweeping changes to the U.S. health care systems that if adopted will radically impact the roles and responsibilities of every patient, health care provider, health care payor, employer and other American.  Because of the potential implications on the way health care is financed, delivered and administered and the projections that the legislation will cost approximately $1 Trillion, all parties are urged to carefully review the complex and lengthy legislation to gain an understanding of the legislation and to act quickly to make any concerns known to elected leaders in Congress. 

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance with these or other health care public policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management, workforce and other staffing, transactional or operational concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270‑2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising clients and writes and speaks extensively on these and other health industry and other reimbursement, operations, internal controls and risk management matters.  You can review other recent health care and related resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here

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 at here or e-mailing this information here and/or by participating in the SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations Group on LinkedIn.  To unsubscribe, e-mail here.


Senate Finance To Begin Markup Session on Baucus Health Care Reform Proposal On September 22

September 18, 2009

The Senate Committee on Finance plans on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 to being meetings to hash out how to convert into proposed legislation the health care reform proposal outlined in the “Chairman’s Mark America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009” introduced by Committee Chairman Max Baucus on September 16, 2009, the text of which may be reviewed here.

While the Chairman’s Markup outlining the health care reform elements that Chairman Baucus’ proposes for adoption by Congress, the specific legislation that the Chairman proposes to be used to implement these proposals has not yet been introduced.  Deciding the language and other features of such legislation -i.e., actually drafting the statutory language – is a primary purpose of the September 22, 2009 meeting.

Until actually reduced to specific legislative language, it is difficult for members of Congress and the Americans they represent to know and assess the changes proposed and their potential implications.  However, a review of the proposal outlined in the Chairman’s Markup indicates that the adoption of the proposed would impose significant burdens and costs on employers and their employees, while substantially curtailing their health coverage choices.  For instance, the Chairman’s Markup would:

  • Set up insurance “exchanges” through which some individuals and families could receive federal subsidies topurchase coverage;
  • Allow for the creation of “CO-OPs” as an alternative source of coverage
  • Mandate that most legal residents of the United States obtain health insurance and impose an income based penalty for Americans failing to secure that coverage;
  • While not explicitly requiring employers to offer health insurance, the Chairman’s markup would among other things subject businesses with more than 50 workers that did not offer coverage to a penalty for any workers who obtained subsidized coverage through the insurance exchanges also to be established under the legislation. As a rule, full-time employees who were offered coverage from their employer would not be eligible to obtain subsidies via the exchanges but an exception to that “firewall” would be allowed for workers who had to pay more than 13 percent of their income for their employer’s insurance (in which case the employer would also be penalized). Under certain circumstances, firms with relatively few employees and relatively low average wages would also be eligible for tax credits to cover up to half of their contributions toward health insurance premiums.
  • Deter employers and their employees from investing in higher grade coverage that might otherwise be available for purchase in the marketplace by subjecting insurance policies with relatively high total premiums to a 35 percent excise tax on the amount by which the premiums exceeded a specified threshold. In general, that threshold would be set initially at $8,000 for single policies and $21,000 for family policies; after 2013, those amounts would be indexed to overall inflation.
  • Significantly expand eligibility for Medicaid;
  • Significantly tighten tax-exemption requirements for hospitals and other charitable health care organizations;
  • Radically reduce the growth of Medicare’s payment rates for most services (relative to the growth rates projected under current law) and make various other changes to the Medicaid and Medicare programs and the federal tax code to reduce government program costs.  The Congressional Budget Office projects that among the proposed provisions that would result in the largest budget savings are:
    • Make permanent reductions in the annual updates to Medicare’s payment rates for most services in the fee-for-service sector (other than physicians’ services)
    • Set payment rates in the Medicare Advantage program based on the average of the bids submitted by Medicare Advantage plans in each market
    • Reduce Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals that serve a large number of low-income patients, known as disproportionate share (DSH) hospitals
    • Establish a Medicare Commission, which would be required, under certain circumstances, to recommend changes to the Medicare program to limit the rate of growth in that program’s spending. Those recommendations would go into effect automatically unless blocked by subsequent legislative action. Before 2019, such recommendations would be required if the Medicare Trustees project that Medicare spending per beneficiary will grow more rapidly than a measure of inflation (the average of the growth rates of the consumer price index for medical services and the overall index for all urban consumers). After 2019, recommendations would be required if projected growth exceeded the rate of increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita plus 1 percentage point. Because the proposal would prohibit the Commission from modifying eligibility or benefits, its recommendations probably would focus on changes to payment rates or methodologies. The Commission would develop its first set of recommendations during 2013 for implementation in 2015.

Other Recent Developments

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the following recent Solution Law Press Health Care Updates available online by clicking on the article title below:

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance with these or other health care public policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management, workforce and other staffing, transactional or operational concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270‑2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com, Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising clients and writes and speaks extensively on these and other health industry and other reimbursement, operations, internal controls and risk management matters. 

Ms. Stamer has extensive experience in these and other health industry related representation.  You can review other recent health care and related resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here

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 at here, or e-mailing this information to cstamer@cttlegal.com, and/or by participating in the SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations Group

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 at here or e-mailing this information here.  To unsubscribe, e-mail here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 562 other followers

%d bloggers like this: