Tag Archives: qui tam

Duke University Health System Pays $1 Million to Settle Allegations of False Claims in Whistleblower Lawsuit

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

On March 21, 2014, Duke University Health System in Raleigh, North Carolina, settled a whistleblower/qui tam lawsuit, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The lawsuit, filed in 2012, stated that the three-hospital academic medical center is alleged to have fraudulently inflated its Medicare bills by unbundling a number of cardiac services and billing for physician assistants’ (PAs) time illegally. Duke University Health System agreed to pay $1 million to resolve these allegations.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Duke University Health System Accused of Submitting False Claims to Federal Health Care Programs.

According to the complaint, the lawsuit was originally filed by a former health care bill coder and quality-control auditor for Duke’s revenue-cycle subsidiary, Duke Patient Revenue Management Organization. The former employee accused Duke University Health System of allegedly making false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE by billing the government for services provided by PAs during coronary artery bypass surgeries when the PAs were acting as surgical assistants, which is not allowed. The whistleblower also alleged the medical center increased billing by unbundling claims when the unbundling was not appropriate. These unbundled claims were associated with cardiac and anesthesia services, according to the complaint.

To read the whistleblower’s complaint filed in December of 2012, click here.

According to the DOJ, the claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Whistleblowers Who Report Fraud and False Claims Against the Government Are Usually Employees.

Doctors, nurses or staff employees working for hospitals, nursing homes, medical groups, home health agencies or others, often become aware of questionable activities. They are sometimes even asked to participate in it. In many cases the activity may amount to health care fraud.

It does not matter who you are. You may even be actively involved in the wrongdoing. This does not disqualify you from reporting the false claims activity or receiving a reward for doing so. In order to encourage employees with knowledge of fraudulent activity to come forward, the government will usually not seek to prosecute or punish that person in any way.

Normally the government will want to see some actual documentation of the claims submitted by the hospital or other institution. Usually physicians, nurses or staff employees have access to such documentation. Whistleblowers are urged to come forward as soon as possible. In many circumstances, documentation that shows the fraud “disappears” or cannot be located once it is known that a company is under investigation.

Of course, the larger the amount of money the government has been defrauded the more likely it will be that the government will be interested in pursuing the case and the larger the reward the whistleblower will receive if there is a recovery.

To read more on whistleblower cases, read my previous blogs. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

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

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

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

Comments?

What do you think of this settlement? Do you think whistleblower lawsuits are becoming more common? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Carlson, Joe. “Duke Pays $1 Million to Settle Whistle-Blower Case.” Modern Healthcare. (March 25, 2014). From: http://bit.ly/1g3W7yw

Department of Justice. “Duke University Health System, Inc. Agrees to Pay $1 Million For Alleged False Claims Submitted to Federal Health Care Programs.” Department of Justice. (March 21, 2014). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/nce/press/2014/2014-mar-21.html

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

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

The American Academy of Family Physicians Releases Third List for Choosing Wisely Campaign

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

On September 24, 2013, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) released its third list of commonly prescribed tests and procedures that may not be necessary. This list is part of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation’s Choosing Wisely campaign.

The Choosing Wisely Campaign was initiated to give patients a catalog of procedures, tests and treatments that have been overused, misused or have been identified as ineffective. Since its launch in April 2012, more than fifty (50) medical specialty societies have created lists of procedures, tests and drug treatments that deserve to be questioned before a physician orders them or patients accept them.

The purpose is to help patients become more discriminating about what care they receive. Physicians and health care providers also need to use this information to review the latest research and use that information to help avoid any litigation.

I’ve previously written about the Choosing Wisely campaign. Click here for part one and here for part two.

AAFP’s Updated List of Commonly Prescribed Tests and Procedures That May Not be Necessary.

1. Do not prescribe antibiotics for otitis media in children aged 2-12 years with non-severe symptoms where the observation option is reasonable.

2. Do not perform voiding cystourethrogram routinely in first febrile urinary tract infection in children aged 2-24 months.

3. Do not routinely screen for prostate cancer using a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test or digital rectal exam. Evidence suggests that PSA-based screening leads to an overdiagnosis of prostate tumors.

4. Do not screen adolescents for scoliosis. Potential harms include unnecessary follow-up visits resulting from false-positive test results.

5. Do not require a pelvic exam or other physical exam to prescribe oral contraceptive medications. Hormonal contraceptives are safe, effective, and well tolerated by most women.

Click here to read the AAFP’s previous recommendations.

Health Care Providers and Professionals’ Responsibility to Patients.

A doctor should have the knowledge, skill, training, and confidence to know when such tests and procedures are not warranted. Also, a health care professional or provider should not be swayed by increasing his/her personal bottom line. Specifically, physicians that work in a fee-for-service setting that rewards doctors for performing more procedures are at risk for ordering unnecessary tests or procedures. If a physician persists in ordering these tests solely for the means of increasing profits, he or she should be penalized. If not, the physician should be able to justify them.

Laws Protect Patients from Unnecessary Testing.

This situation may have the side effect of promoting additional litigation against doctors, healthcare clinics and hospitals that provide the unnecessary tests and procedures. Many states have laws that prohibit unnecessary tests and procedures and sanction those who provide them. For instance, Section 766.111, Florida Statutes, provides a private cause of action by a patient against a health provider who orders or furnishes such “unnecessary” diagnostic tests, but unlike other tort and medical malpractice statutes, it allows the prevailing party in such a case to recover attorney’s fees and costs. This law may by itself promote litigation in the face of the lists of tests produced by the specialty groups in the Choosing Wisely campaign.

Look for More Whistleblower/Qui Tam Cases.

As this list continues to grow, I believe that we will see more qui tam/whistleblower and false claims cases.

Qui tam cases have been brought under the federal False Claims Act for the recovery of Medicare payments from hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, diagnostic testing facilities, clinical laboratories, radiology facilities and many other types of healthcare providers. These cases allege that a false claim was submitted to the government. If the test or procedure was unnecessary, then it seems almost axiomatic that a claim for it is false. The plaintiff bringing such cases receives a percentage of the recovery, which often amounts to millions of dollars in successful cases.

Most states now have similar false claims act or qui tam laws providing similar causes of action and recoveries to individual plaintiffs in the case of state Medicaid payments as well.

Because medical necessity is a requirement for practically every Medicare and Medicaid service, as well as most services paid by private health insurers, the lists provided by the specialty may very well be exhibit one in future lawsuits.

We’ve recently written about a couple of whistleblower/qui tam cases stemming from unnecessary procedures. To read a blog on a group of Florida radiation oncology service providers accused of performing unnecessary and improperly supervised procedures, click here. To read a blog on Winter Park Urology’s settlement over allegations stemming from radiation therapy used to treat cancer patients, click here.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

As a health care professional or provider what do you think of the Choosing Wisely campaign? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Hand, Larry. “AAFP Releases Third Choosing Wisely List.” Medscape. (September 25, 2013). From: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/811638

Carman, Diane. “Useless, Costly Medical Procedures Targeted by Choosing Wisely Campaign.” Health Policy Solutions. (October 15, 2013). From: http://www.healthpolicysolutions.org/2013/10/15/useless-costly-medical-procedures-targeted-by-choosing-wisely-campaign/

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

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

Tuomey Healthcare System Ordered to Pay a Reduced $238 Million in Damages for Allegedly Violating Stark Law and False Claims Act

LOL Blog Label 2Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On September 30, 2013, a federal judge ordered Tuomey Healthcare System in Sumter, South Carolina, to pay $238 million in penalties and fines. The hospital system is accused of paying doctors to refer Medicare patients for treatments at the hospital, according to a number of media sources. The judge granted the government’s request to impose Stark law penalties and False Claims Act fines. The lawsuit against Tuomey was initially filed in 2005, by a whistle-blowing physician.

This corrected fine actually lowers the amount originally ordered by the federal judge, reducing it by $39 million. The original judgement was for approximately $277 million. The reduction in the damages was an acknowledgment that there was an error in the calculation of damages by the judge in the case, who awarded more than the government asked for.

Click here to read the entire ruling from the federal judge.

After the judge announced the fines, Tuomey began preparing to file an appeal, according to an article on Modern Healthcare. It is alleged that the hospital may be looking to settle.

Judge Ordered Hospital System to Pay Fines for Violating Stark Law and False Claims Act.

In a 2005 federal whistleblower or qui tam lawsuit, a Tuomey physician stated that a series of 19 deal contracts with specialty physicians in the area violated the federal ban on compensating doctors based on the volume and value of patient business they refer, according to Modern Healthcare. This is considered to be a financial conflict, illegal under federal laws.

The hospital has twice lost its case in U.S. District Court. A 2010, jury came to a $45 million split verdict that was overturned on appeal. In May 2013, a second jury found the hospital responsible for more violations than in the first trial, deciding that the hospital violated the Stark law and the False Claims Act.

It’s alleged that between 2005 and 2009, Tuomey collected $39 million in fraudulent Medicare claims.

To read the Modern Healthcare article, click here.

Open to Settlement.

According to WLTX, the CBS affiliate in Sumter, South Carolina, Tuomey is filing a notice of appeal. It is expected the hospital system is open to settle. According to a former attorney with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Inspector General’s Office (OIG), it will be up to the government if they will settle. The former attorney also stated that with most of the civil litigation division on furlough it might take some time.

Complying with Stark and Other Anti-Fraud Laws.

The federal government has several tools in its toolbox to combat Medicare fraud. Among those are the Stark Act, Anti-Kickback laws, and Civil Monetary Penalty Laws. Each of these typically focuses on a particular type of behavior that is prone to abuse by health care providers.

Primarily, the Stark laws exist to combat the problems that can arise from physician self-referrals. Self-referrals are cases in which a physician orders a test or service and refers the patient to a provider in which the referring physician has a financial interest. This second provider will then bill Medicare for the service, essentially allowing the referring physician to cash in twice. Click here to read our previous blog on compliance with the Stark law.

Paying Kickbacks or Providing Things of Value in Exchange for Patient Referral Now Recognized as Basis for False Claims Act Cases.

U.S. v. Tuomey is just one of several different cases that has recently been decided that allows qui tam or whistleblower recoveries based on providing kickbacks for patient referrals. “Kickbacks” can include any thing or service of value. It can include, for example, tickets to ball games, free meals, sets of surgical scrubs, gift cards, appliances and free medical supplies. A “referral” can include an actual referral of a patient, a consultation to another physician, an order for x-rays, labs or other diagnostic testing, a prescription for medication, medical equipment or other supplies or services, an order for home health or nursing home services or other medical services.

It is the giving of something of value in exchange for the referral that violates the Stark Act and, many times, state laws. The theory is that this unnecessarily increases the amount of medical services that the government pays for without there being any actual medical need for them.

Now, under the decision in Tuomey and other cases, the claims for medical services (and equipment) that were submitted when the services (and equipment) were based on kickbacks, are considered to be false claims. Whistleblowers (qui tam plaintiffs or “relators”) can now file False Claims Act suits based on these theories and share in the government’s recovery. For example, and by way of demonstration only, if the person who filed the qui tam case in Tuomey received only 20% of the amount awarded to the government, that individual would receive approximately $47.6 million as their share. This is still big money to some of us.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Stark Compliance.

If you are involved in referring or providing DHS it is crucial that your arrangements are reviewed for compliance with Stark and other anti-fraud laws.

Violations of these laws can carry severe financial and criminal penalties. One of the best ways to avoid these sanctions is to have your current or potential arrangement reviewed by an attorney who is experienced in these matters.

The Health Law Firm routinely advises healthcare providers on Stark compliance issues for practitioners and providers of all types of DHS. We can advise you on the legality of a particular arrangement and can assist with remedying any perceived compliance issues.

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

Comments?

What do you think of this ruling? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Calson, Joe. “Out-of-Court Settlement for Tuomey may be in te Works Following Ruling Against the System.” Modern Healthcare. (October 1, 2013). From: http://bit.ly/15Lj2uF

United State of America ex rel Michael L. Drakeford, M.D. vs. Tuomey d/b/a Tuomey Healthcare System, Inc. Case Number 3:05-cv-02858-MBS. Federal Judge Order and Opinion. September 30, 2013. From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/Toumey%20Case.pdf

Santaella, Tony. “Tuomey Healthcare Ordered to Pay $276 Million.” WLTX. (October 1, 2013). From: http://www.wltx.com/news/story.aspx?storyid=251321

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

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

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

Hawaii Hospital to Pay More Than $451,000 to Resolve Whistleblower/Qui Tam Allegation of Improper Claims

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

Wahiawa General Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, agreed to pay $451,428 to settle two lawsuits alleging that the hospital improperly billed Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare. The settlement stemmed from a civil whistleblower/qui tam lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by a doctor who allegedly worked at an outpatient clinic operated by Wahiawa General Hospital, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Wahiawa General Hospital signed the settlement agreement on August 29, 2013.

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

Whistleblower Receives Money in Settlement and Attorneys’ Fees Paid by Hospital.

According to the DOJ, the federal and state governments alleged that Wahiawa General Hospital wrongfully submitted claims to Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare from April 2008 through March 2011. The investigation was initiated after a doctor alleged the hospital submitted bills for services provided by resident doctors without the level of supervision required by law.

On top of the more than $451,000 settlement, Wahiawa General Hospital agreed to pay $75,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs to the attorneys who represented the doctor. The doctor will also receive more than $84,600 as part of the settlement, under the False Claims Act. To learn more on whistleblower/qui tam cases, read our two-part blog. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

Most Qui Tams Filed by Doctors, Nurses and Employees.

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

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

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

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

Associated Press. “Wahiawa General Hospital to Pay $450K Settlement.” Star Advertiser. (August 30, 2013). From: http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/breaking/221856781.html

Department of Justice. “Community Hospital Pays $451,428 to Resolve Allegation of Improper Claims.” Department of Justice. (August 30, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/hi/news/1308wgh.html

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most Qui Tams Filed by Doctors, Nurses and Employees.

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

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

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

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

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

Whistleblowers Come Forward with Serious Charges Against Oncologist.

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

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

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

Click here to read the entire Time article.

Oncologist Faces Prison Time and Fine.

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

To read the Detroit News article, click here.

Most Qui Tams Filed by Doctors, Nurses and Employees.

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

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

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

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

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

 

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

Cardiologists Face Higher Scrutiny by CMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Audits Are Coming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

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

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

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