Category:

State Patient Brokering Act Cases to Throw out Legal Advice as Defense

October 9th, 2018 by

palm beach county task forceBy: Jeff Cohen

There are two criminal cases pending in Palm Beach County that threaten to put a bullet in the heart of healthcare professionals and businesses and also the law practices that advise them.  Both State v. Simeone and State v. Kigar have a motion from the State pending before them to block any testimony that the defendants received legal advice concerning a contract entered into by an addiction treatment facility and a sober home.  The State alleges that the contract violates the state Patient Brokering Act (PBA) because it was essentially a ruse whereby the addiction treatment facility was just paying for the sober home to refer patients.  Now the State wants to make sure that the entire issue of the defendants being advised by counsel never sees the light of day.

How is this possible?  How can it be that a client can seek legal counsel, get advise (and presumably follow it), and then be blocked from presenting that evidence?  The State argues that the PBA has no wording that requires them to prove intent.  And if intent isn’t an element to be proven, the argument goes, then evidence of the client intending not to violate the law by getting advice beforehand is inadmissible!   read more

Anti-Kickback Statute and Healthcare Marketing: 3 Legal Considerations

September 6th, 2018 by

healthcare marketingBy: Matt Fischer

Healthcare marketing arrangements that violate the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) can lead to serious financial and criminal consequences.  Understanding the types of marketing arrangements that courts have found to be in violation of the statute and the potential implications are critical for marketers to know in order to operate in the healthcare industry.

Under the AKS, it is a criminal offense to knowingly and willfully offer, pay, solicit, or receive any remuneration to induce referrals of items or services reimbursable by the Federal health care programs.  Where remuneration is paid purposefully to induce referrals of items or services paid for by a Federal health care program, the AKS is violated.  By its terms, the AKS ascribes criminal liability to parties on both sides of an impermissible transaction.  An example of a highly scrutinized arrangement involves percentage compensation.  For regulators, percentage compensation arrangements provide financial incentives that may encourage overutilization and increase program costs.

Here are 3 important things to know: read more

The Case Against Cloning (Medical Records)

August 10th, 2018 by

medical records cloningBy: Jacqueline Bain

The transition from paper medical records to electronic medical records has brought with it many conveniences and some unintended consequences. One example of an unintended consequence is cloning in the medical record. Cloning is copying and pasting previously recorded information from a prior patient note into a new patient note.

Providing quality medical care is only one part of the job. Appropriately documenting that care in order to be paid for your efforts is another. And while medical professionals are trained at length to provide care, hardly any are aware of the potential pitfalls associated with improper documentation.

In late 2015, CMS advised that cloning “is a problem in health care institutions that is not broadly addressed.” CMS specified that cloning records may indicate fraud, waste and abuse in inquiries and audits and that each part of a “medical record must contain documentation showing the differences and the needs of the patient for each visit or encounter.” read more

Behavioral Analysis Medicaid Providers: Florida’s Latest Enforcement Target

July 20th, 2018 by

behavioral analysis medicaidBy: Matt Fischer

Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (“AHCA”) is the state’s chief health policy and planning organization.  AHCA is also responsible for the state’s Medicaid program.  One of the agency’s latest targets are behavioral analysis providers who treat children with autism.  Recently, AHCA imposed a temporary six-month moratorium on enrollment of new providers due to newly discovered fraud and abuse.  AHCA states that the temporary moratorium will allow the agency the time to complete a full assessment of the current provider population.  In other words, all behavioral analysis providers will experience heightened scrutiny in the coming months if not already.  This can include in-person interviews and requests for records.  Given this increased regulatory action, it is important for behavioral analysis business owners to be aware of the audit process and to prepare for likely future reviews.

Here are a few of the notable findings cited by AHCA regarding the identified fraud and abuse: read more

ZPIC Audit: How to Defend Against Extrapolated Overpayment Results

November 13th, 2017 by

zpic overpaymentBy: Matt Fischer

Since the implementation of the ZPIC audit and RAC audit programs, healthcare providers and suppliers have experienced increased scrutiny in the pursuit of overpayments and fraud.  Medicare’s most vital tool in its progressive search is the use of statistical sampling.  In theory, statistical sampling offers a reliable and low cost approach to addressing large volumes of claims.  However, this process gives the government a huge advantage as it places a heavy assumption on a large number of claims without actual review of the claims.  Thus, it is important for providers and suppliers to understand the process and know how to challenge such studies in order to minimize potential repayment obligations and retain their revenue.

What is statistical sampling?

Statistical sampling draws a random sample from a universe of claims and extrapolates or projects the results of the sample to the entire universe of claims.  In other words, the Medicare contractor will select a sample of claims to review from a look back period or examination period of typically two or three years.  For this example, let’s say that the review finds a 40 percent error rate in the sample, meaning 40 percent were not found to meet Medicare requirements for payment.  In this case, a contractor will apply the 40 percent finding to the entire two years’ worth of claims and deny these claims based on the sampling results. read more

Medicare Payment Suspension Basics and the Rebuttal Process

November 9th, 2017 by

medicare prepayment reviewBy: Matt Fischer

Medicare payment suspension can place serious financial strain on a company’s operations.  As a result, many companies face the risk of closing its doors when a suspension is initiated.  Nevertheless, CMS is able to issue such suspensions by meeting a relatively low threshold.  Additionally, suspension decisions are not appealable leaving affected providers and suppliers with little options.  Therefore, it is important to understand the suspension process and how to counter if a notice of suspension is received.

CMS can suspend payments to providers and suppliers based on “reliable information” of any of the following: (1) fraud or misrepresentation; (2) when an overpayment exists but the amount has not yet been determined; (3) when reimbursement paid to a provider or supplier may be incorrect; or (4) when a provider or supplier fails to submit requested records needed to determine amounts due.  Suspensions are initiated by a request to CMS’ Office of Program Integrity by either law enforcement or a Medicare administrative contractor.   read more

Civil Investigative Demand: What to Expect in a Heightened Regulatory Environment

November 6th, 2017 by

DOJ InvestigationBy: Matt Fischer

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has the power to issue civil investigative demand (CIDs) when the DOJ has reason to believe that a person may be in possession of information relevant to a false claims investigation.  The DOJ is empowered to serve CIDs by the False Claims Act (FCA).  A CID is similar to a grand jury subpoena; however, it provides greater versatility in the use of the information obtained.  In addition to requiring the production of documents similar to a grand jury subpoena, CIDs demand other types of discovery responses and the information gathered may be shared between the civil and criminal sides of an investigation.  Given this flexibility and with the passage of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 (which changed the law to allow issuance of a CID without the personal signature of the Attorney General), the DOJ has substantially increased its use of CIDs in the realm of healthcare law enforcement.     read more

Beware The Hypnosis of Crisis

April 27th, 2017 by

By: Jeff Cohen

One of the biggest challenges faced by addiction treatment providers today, especially in Palm Beach County, Florida, arises in the context of unprecedented pressure by law enforcement via the Sober Home Task Force, newspapers and insurers.  The threat of being targeted by law enforcement is an enormous thing in itself.  Add to that the mainstream media’s insatiable desire for readers, the industry’s drop into insurer red flagging and recoupment, the political football nature of addiction and addiction treatment, and treatment providers can lapse into a state of paralyzed tunnel vision, a sort of mass hypnosis.  Here’s the problem:  providers dealing with the current compliance crisis environment have a lot to lose if they take their eye off the bigger picture.  The more absorbed they become in “crisis mode,” the more likely they will miss important addiction treatment compliance details in an increasingly regulated and changing industry.  Losing the ability to see the entire picture (and trends) and quickly adapting to it can have costly (and even deadly) consequences.

The addiction treatment industry is like any other healthcare provider—enormously and increasingly regulated, highly scrutinized and always dynamic.  The moment it took on features of traditional healthcare (e.g. lab and physician services), it left the relatively warm and fuzzy comfort of behavioral health providers, sorta.  “Sorta” because medical behavioral health (e.g. psychology and counseling) has not had it easy in the past 10 years, as it came under crushing price compression with managed care driven networks and other price cutting middlemen that have often been owned or controlled by insurance companies.  Addiction treatment providers in the pure behavioral health space were “saved” from all this till about three years ago because they were out of network and not the focus of insurer driven price cuts.  As payors (and their price cut incentivized middle men) looked for more ways to drive up profits, the competitive and disorganized addiction treatment sector became a natural (and unprepared) sector to hit.  And they hit it hard!  Clearly, the Perfect Storm.  Addiction treatment providers now have no option but to learn to swim hard and fast in the ever changing river of the healthcare business industry. read more

Recovery Business Marketing 2.0

April 17th, 2017 by

By: Jeff Cohen

Concepts that drive sober home relationships like Anti-Kickback Statute, Patient Brokering Act and Safe Harbor have become ingrained in the minds of nearly every addiction treatment provider’s thought process, especially in Florida with the development of the Sober Home Task Force.  Providers now seem to fully embrace ideas like–

  • There’s a federal law (the Anti-Kickback Statute, the “AKS”) that can bring criminal liability for marketing done incorrectly;
  • There’s a state law, the Florida Patient Brokering Act (“PBA”), that can do the same;
  • Complying with the federal safe harbors and the bona fide employee exception is important, even when there are no state or federal healthcare program dollars involved;
  • Paying anyone for marketing, not just on a commission based sales model, without fully appreciate the applicable laws is dangerous, costly and invites criminal inquiries and liability; and
  • Achieving compliance with applicable federal law should be part of any recovery business’ overall compliance plan.

Recovery providers must become familiar with not only the AKS and state restrictions like the PBA, but also the law’s permitted examples, so called “Safe Harbors,” which specify specifically permitted arrangements (42 CFR 1001.952).  The “personal services arrangement and management contract” Safe Harbor, for instance, has particular application in the area of marketing, as does the AKS exception for “bona fide employment arrangements,” which apply to “bona fide” W-2 employees (entailing direction, supervision and control), but not independent contractor relationships. read more

Healthcare Compliance: Understanding ZPIC Audits

April 12th, 2017 by

By: Susan St. John

So, you’ve received a letter from the Zone Program Integrity Contractor or “ZPIC” to review for the accuracy and justification of services reimbursed by the Medicare program. In other words, a dreaded ZPIC Audit or ZPIC Investigation. Now What?!

First, remain calm. Chances are an audit by ZPIC will go well if you have been diligent in completing patients’ medical records, justifying medical necessity, and your billing is accurate and well supported by the patients’ medical records. Even if errors are discovered, most errors do not represent fraud, that is, the errors were not committed knowingly, willfully and intentionally. Still, a ZPIC audit can be daunting and if Medicare has noticed a pattern of billing that it considers suspect, or there has been a complaint against you, the ZPIC audit will be rigorous, and often adversarial. The ZPIC’s job is to protect the program from potential fraud. It will conduct data analysis, including statistical outliers within a well-defined group, or other analysis to detect patterns within claims or groups of claims that might suggest improper billing. Data analysis can be undertaken as part of a general review of claims pre or post submission, or in response to information about specific problems arising from complaints, provider or beneficiary input, fraud alerts, CMS reports, Medicare Area Contractors, or independent governmental or nongovernmental agencies. read more