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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

Provider Self-Disclosures of Overpayments for Medicare Part C – Managed Care

March 6th, 2019 by

medicare part c overpaymentBy: Karina Gonzalez

When providers or suppliers self-report overpayments to Medicare Part C Managed Care organization, there is some uncertainty on what lookback period applies and whether there actually is an overpayment obligation. Is it Medicare’s 60-day overpayment rule that applies or do the Managed Care Part C organizations impose a different lookback period for overpayments?

CMS (The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) published its Final Rule clarifying the procedures applicable to the statutory requirement under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) for providers and suppliers to self-report and return overpayments. (The Final Rule was published on February 12, 2016). The Final Rule applies to Medicare Parts A and B and addresses the procedures that a provider or supplier need to follow to investigate, identify, quantify to self-report and return an overpayment. The Final Rule clarifies the obligations of Medicare providers and suppliers to report and return overpayments for claims originating only under Medicare Parts A and B. The final rule does not address, or reference, the obligations of providers to return overpayments to Medicare Advantage organizations for Part C claims. read more

FARR Certification Needs Clarification from DCF

June 13th, 2018 by

FARR certificationState licensed addiction treatment facilities with licenses that include community housing are confused about whether they have to also be certified by the Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR) by July 1, 2018.  Attorney Karina Gonzalez  has filed a petition with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to clarify the issue.  A fairly recent state law (397.4873, Fla. Stat.) requires addiction treatment service providers in Florida to refer clients only to recovery residences certified by FARR.

FARR is a private, non-governmental entity approved by DCF to develop and administer a voluntary certification program for recovery residences.  FARR has taken the position that it has also been approved to develop and administer a voluntary certification program for DCF-licensed community housing providers.  “We think,” attorney Gonzalez said, “they’ve got it wrong.  It makes no sense to stack the FARR certification requirement on top of existing state licensure.”

Clinical Laboratory Licensure: Florida Repeals State Licensure

June 5th, 2018 by

clinical laboratory lawBy: Karina Gonzalez

Effective July 1, 2018, Florida’s recent legislation SB 622 repeals the entirety of Chapter 483, Part I of the Florida statutes, and removes the state licensure requirement for clinical laboratories operating in-state and out-of-state. Section 97 of SB 622, approved by the Governor on March 19, 2018, repeals the entirety of Chapter 483, Part I of the Florida statutes, and so eliminates section 59A-7.024(1). read more

Telemedicine Contracts: Non Compete Agreements

March 9th, 2018 by

telemedicine lawBy: Karina Gonzalez

Healthcare practitioners are excited about the expansive geographic scope of practice in Telemedicine.  A licensed Florida physician can provide services in other states provided the physician is also licensed in the state where the patient is receiving the services. There are no geographical limitations if the delivery platform of technology provides voice and vision and where necessary videos for the Telemedicine/Telehealth visit.

As more and more physicians practice and contract to provide Telemedicine visits, one of the legal challenges we are facing is how to draft a restrictive covenant. The traditional reasonableness standards used to evaluate non-compete agreements just do not apply. What are you trying to restrict when the physician lives in Florida but has telemedicine practice with patients 500 miles away? read more

Role of Laboratories in Determining Medical Necessity

February 12th, 2018 by

medical necessity laboratoryBy: Karina Gonzalez 

A recent whistleblower action (by UnitedHealthcare Medical Director, Tina Groat) against Boston Heart (laboratory) was brought under the federal False Claims Act and deals with medical necessity issues.  As part of the analysis, the Court reviewed whether a laboratory [or supplier like DME] must determine the medical necessity of the ordering physician.  Boston Heart contended that a doctor, not a laboratory, determines the medical necessity of a test.  Boston Heart argued that when a laboratory bills Medicare for testing ordered by a physician, it must only maintain documentation it receives from the ordering physician and ensure that the information that it submitted with the claim accurately reflects the information it received from the ordering physician. It noted that the CMS-1500 form certification does not require that the billing lab to make the medical necessity determination. The lab certifies that the services are medically necessary by relying on the clinical determination of the treating physician. read more

Telehealth Law Florida: Delivery System for Substance Abuse Services

January 9th, 2018 by

telemedicine lawBy: Karina Gonzalez

Telehealth law Florida is constantly evolving The latest example is found with Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) recent proposed rule change which now includes a definition of Telehealth as a delivery system in substance abuse.  Telehealth can be used in treatment or prevention services through electronic communications from one site to another.  However, it does not include delivery of services using only the audio on a telephone, or e-mails, text messages, fax transmissions, US mail or other parcel service. Proposed Rule 65D-30.0031 (83) Definitions.

Telehealth services can be used in intensive outpatient, day or night treatment, day or night treatment with community housing, outpatient, interventions, aftercare, and prevention.   If a substance abuse provider plans on including telehealth services it must submit to DCF detailed procedures outlining which services it intends to provide. The provider will be responsible for the quality of the equipment and technology used in the telehealth service. Proposed Rule 65D-30.004 (20) Common Licensing Standards. read more

Telehealth Now Trending in Substance Abuse Treatment

September 27th, 2017 by

telemedicineBy: Karina Gonzalez

Most commercial health plans require that prior to admission to a substance abuse treatment facility, patients must have a face-to-face individual assessment by a licensed behavioral health clinician 72 hours prior to admission, to determine if the admission is both medically necessary and clinically appropriate.   Many potential patients reside in states outside of Florida (or a given destination),  so complying with a face-to-face requirement when a patient is in another state before admission is a challenge.  Telehealth is being increasingly utilized to evaluate these out-of-state patients and perform the necessary face-to-face evaluation in advance of arrival at a given facility. However, as with anything healthcare, there is a right way and a wrong way to implement this technology. In the coming weeks, we’ll be discussing many of the facets involved from telemedicine claims overpayments to Medicare telehealth law issues.