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Federal Agencies Scrutinizing Home Healthcare Fraud & Kickbacks

October 11th, 2019 by
home healthcare, HHS, heathcare

checking mans blood pressure

By Karina P. Gonzalez

Federal agencies are continuing to target home healthcare industry fraud in “hot zone areas.”

Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS) released its report. It identified Florida, Texas and select areas in Southern California and the Midwest as areas where home healthcare fraud is more likely to occur. It is obvious that the watch dog agencies will continue to monitor home healthcare spending in these hot zones.

HHS found that a home health agency incorrectly billed Medicare and did not comply with Medicare Billing requirements for beneficiaries that were not homebound and for others that did not require skilled services at all.

In August and September 2018, physicians and the owner of a home health agency were each sentenced on multiple counts of conspiracy and healthcare fraud and ordered to pay $6.5 million in restitution. One physician was sentenced to 132 months in prison following trial. A physician who pled guilty was sentenced to 27 months in prison following a guilty plea. The home health agency owner was sentenced to 42 months in prison.   The defendants paid and received kickbacks in exchange for patients and billed Medicare more than $8.9 million for services that were medically unnecessary, never provided, and/or not otherwise reimbursable. Additionally, certain defendants provided prescriptions for opioid medications to induce patient participation in the scheme.

In September 2018, the co-owner and administrator of a home health agency was sentenced to 24 months in prison, ordered to pay over $2.2 million in restitution, and ordered to forfeit over $1.1 million. The co-owners participated in a home healthcare fraud conspiracy that resulted in Medicare paying at least $2.2 million on false and fraudulent claims. The owners and their co-conspirators paid kickbacks to doctors and patient recruiters in exchange for patient referrals, billed Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary, and caused patient files to be falsified to justify the fraudulent billing.

Back in February 2018, the owner of more than twenty home health agencies was sentenced to 240 months in prison and ordered to pay $66.4 million in restitution, jointly and severally with his co-defendants, after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. A patient recruiter for the home health agencies, who also owned a medical clinic and two home health agencies of her own, was sentenced to 180 months in prison. Another patient recruiter, who also was the owner of two home health agencies, was sentenced to 115 months in prison. These conspirators paid illegal bribes and kickbacks to patient recruiters in return for the referral of Medicare beneficiaries many of whom did not need or qualify for home health services.  Medicare paid approximately $66 million on those claims.

Illegal kickbacks in exchange for referrals of Medicare beneficiaries, lack of medical necessity for home health services, failing to meet the guidelines, fraudulent billing, billing for services beneficiaries did not receive and fraudulent documentation continues to plague the home healthcare industry.

 

Operation Double Helix – Unprecedented Genetic Testing Fraud

October 10th, 2019 by

By: Karina P. Gonzalez 

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) genetic testing is the next frontier for healthcare fraud.

In a fraudulent operation that the Department of Justice calls, “unprecedented”, elderly or disabled patients nationwide were lured into providing their DNA for testing in a widespread genetic testing fraud scheme powered by a large telemarketing network. The doctors involved were paid to write orders prescribing the testing without any patient interaction or with only a brief telephone conversation. read more

Medicare Enforcement: CMS Has Expanded Its Ability to Revoke or Deny Provider Enrollment

September 10th, 2019 by

medicare enforcementBy: Karina Gonzalez

A Final Rule recently issued by CMS will require Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) providers and suppliers to disclose current and previous affiliations (direct or indirect) with a provider or supplier that: (1)  has uncollected debt; (2) has been or is excluded by the OIG (Office of Inspector General) from Medicare, Medicaid or CHIP, or (3) has had its billing privileges with either of these three programs denied or revoked. Such provider affiliations may lead to enrollment being denied if it poses a risk to fraud, waste or abuse. read more

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