DME

All posts tagged DME

DME Fraud Enforcement: Telemarketing & Telemedicine

by admin on August 12, 2019 No comments

By: Michael Silverman

The indictments and regulatory activities that took place on April 9th were just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the crackdown on DME fraud, telemarketing and telemedicine operations.

In the weeks and months that have followed ‘Operation Brace Yourself’, healthcare providers (such as DME suppliers and telehealth physicians) and telemarketers allegedly involved in these activities have been subjected to a wide range of penalties from suspension of Medicare billing privileges to civil penalties and/or criminal charges. Here are some of the more serious recent DME, telemarketing and telemedicine related civil and criminal regulatory enforcement actions:

read more
adminDME Fraud Enforcement: Telemarketing & Telemedicine

$1.2B Health Care Fraud Schemes Involving Telemedicine and Durable Medical Equipment Marketing Executives

by admin on April 9, 2019 No comments

Via justice.gov – One of the largest health care fraud schemes investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and prosecuted by the Department of Justice resulted in charges against 24 defendants, including the CEOs, COOs and others associated with five telemedicine companies, the owners of dozens of durable medical equipment (DME) companies and three licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving more than $1.2 billion in loss, as well as the execution of over 80 search warrants in 17 federal districts.  In addition, the Center for Medicare Services, Center for Program Integrity (CMS/CPI) announced today that it took adverse administrative action against 130 DME companies that had submitted over $1.7 billion in claims and were paid over $900 million. Read on…

read more
admin$1.2B Health Care Fraud Schemes Involving Telemedicine and Durable Medical Equipment Marketing Executives

DME Provider Alert: Medicare Competitive Bidding is Back!

by admin on March 8, 2019 No comments

Medicare Competitive BiddingBy: Michael Silverman

Not tomorrow, but relatively soon. And with a vengeance! We knew the current Competitive Bidding Program moratorium wouldn’t last forever, and that the floodgates that opened as of the first of this year would eventually be reined in.

Indeed, on March 7, 2019 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) announced a new round of Competitive Bidding, which will commence on January 1, 2021 and last through December 31, 2023.

The largest changes from previous rounds of Competitive Bidding that immediately stand out are:

read more
adminDME Provider Alert: Medicare Competitive Bidding is Back!

Time out! Keeping Healthcare Lead Generation in Check

by admin on December 7, 2018 No comments

healthcare lead generationBy: Michael Silverman

There are perfectly compliant ways to engage with healthcare marketers, and then there’s this; here are some of the latest real-life examples:

“DME BRACE CAMPAIGN – $40 to $150 PER LEAD PER BRACE”

“DME DIABETIC LEADS $40 PER LEAD, INSURANCE AND DOC INFO INCLUDED”

“PAIN CREAM/LIDOCANE LEADS FOR SALE, RX INCLUDED”

These marketers are seemingly holding auctions for the sale of federally protected patient health information out to the highest bidder! Couldn’t make this stuff up – if you’re in this industry, a quick gander at your (business) social media platforms will quickly confirm it.

read more
adminTime out! Keeping Healthcare Lead Generation in Check

Marketing for DME & Pharmacy Providers: Know Your Subcontractor!

by admin on November 13, 2018 No comments

marketing for dmeBy: Michael Silverman

Regulatory compliance is a mandatory investment for any healthcare business owner looking to stay out of serious and personal legal peril, let alone one hoping to keep their company viable.

Yet there is seemingly an onslaught of providers that blatantly run afoul of many of these regulations, knowingly or not, or those that believe they may have found a loophole.

Concerning the latter, there is an important mantra that such DME and pharmacy providers should remember and live by: “[W]hat a provider cannot do directly, it cannot do indirectly through an intermediary.”

Marketing for DME – What exactly am I talking about?

DME providers enrolled with CMS (should) know they cannot solicit or ‘cold call’ Medicare Part B beneficiaries, per the Federal Anti-Solicitation Statute, and that they cannot offer anything of value to a potential patient that could induce them to utilize them as a provider, in accordance with the Beneficiary Inducement Statute.

read more
adminMarketing for DME & Pharmacy Providers: Know Your Subcontractor!

CERT Review and Top Five Medicare Documentation Errors

by admin on June 10, 2018 No comments

By: Matthew Fischer

In CMS’ latest “MLN Connects” newsletter, the agency discusses the Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) program and the top five documentation errors committed by providers.  Providers should pay close attention when CMS releases these types of notices.  If selected for CERT review, providers are subject to potential action such as post-payment denials, payment adjustments, or other actions depending on the results of the review.  Therefore, providers should ensure they fully understand Medicare’s documentation requirements and how to meet these demands. 

read more
adminCERT Review and Top Five Medicare Documentation Errors

Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Operation in Florida: A Legal Look

by admin on January 4, 2018 No comments

Attorney Susan St. John of the Florida Healthcare Law Firm will present this live lunch n’ learn webinar to provide a legal look at durable medical equipment (DME) operation in Florida. She will discuss the requirements for operating a licensed DME in Florida that participates in the Medicare program, commercial insurance, telemedicine/telehealth, and drop ships products.

read more
adminDurable Medical Equipment (DME) Operation in Florida: A Legal Look

OIG Shoots Down Physician Owned Distributorships (PODS)

by admin on March 29, 2013 No comments

Physician owned distributorships (PODs) have been the source of considerable controversy for years.  A couple years ago, they caught the attention of Congress.  Now, the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (“OIG”) has issued a Fraud Alert making clear their dislike of PODs and sending a clear shot across the bow of those who are in that industry.

PODs distribute various things, most commonly surgical implants and devices, that are reimbursed by insurers.  A patient needs a spinal rod, a surgical implant/device company makes it and a distributor rep distributes it.  Device/implant companies usually contract with distributorships to sell their products.  Distributorships contract with reps who are paid commissions for sales.  Surgeons who actually order the devices sometimes think “Since I’m the one doing the surgery and ordering all this stuff, why can’t I earn something from that?  I’m not ordering anything I don’t need or that I don’t think is good for the patient.”  PODs are one way for physicians to financially benefit from the sales of devices and items their patients need, but they have never been more controversial than now.

read more
adminOIG Shoots Down Physician Owned Distributorships (PODS)

DME Leads: When is a Lead a Referral?

by admin on August 15, 2012 No comments

By: David W. Hirshfeld, Esq.

Durable medical equipment is commonly sold through sales leads generated through telephone and/or internet contact.  These leads often begin with a seemingly innocuous internet survey or an application for something unrelated to DME.  This “raw” lead may be as basic as a person’s name, telephone number or email address, and age.  The lead is then further developed and “qualified” by obtaining more details about the subject; such as: whether and by whom the subject is insured, what (if any) medical issues does the subject suffer from, the name of the subject’s physician.  Ultimately, the lead is sold to a DME vendor who uses the lead to accomplish the sale of medical equipment or supplies.  In the course of a lead’s birth and life, it is handled by a chain of companies, some of whom purchase the lead, add a level of detail to it, and sell it for a higher price.  In the past year or so, several lead generation companies from the “middle of the chain” have come to me asking me whether their business model gives rise to an illegal kickback.  After a bit of research, I gave the lawyerly answer: “It depends.”

The Federal anti-kickback statute provides that it is a felony for a person or entity to knowingly and willfully offer or pay any remuneration to induce a person to refer an individual for the furnishing or arranging for the furnishing of any item for which payment may be made under a Federal health care program, or the purchase or lease or the recommendation of the purchase or lease of any item for which payment may be made under a Federal health care program.[1]  Florida’s corollary to this Federal law is the Florida Patient Brokering Act, but the Florida statute applies to all health care services, regardless of whether paid for by a Federal program.[2]  The Federal law creates criminal liability, and includes a knowledge requirement.  Congress recognized that business models exist that may appear as willfully paying remuneration in exchange for a referral, but which have more innocent motivations, and are less likely to result in abuse to the health care program at issue.  In order to give the health care industry a measure of comfort, Congress created several “safe harbors.”  If a business model fits within a safe harbor, then it is deemed to not be an illegal kickback under Federal and Florida law.

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) is the agency charged with enforcing the Federal anti-kickback statute.  In November 2008 the OIG considered a situation in which an advertising company created a website that would give prospective patients contact information for a list of chiropractors in their area, in response to a zip code entered by the prospect.  The prospect paid nothing for the service, but the chiropractors paid the advertiser a fee for each call or contact from the website that lasted over thirty seconds, regardless of whether the contact resulted in a prospect becoming a patient.  This scenario is as close as the OIG has come to opining on a typical DME lead generation.

The OIG found that the chiropractors’ advertising service was not a prohibited kickback, and cited four factors as convincing: (i) the advertising company is not a health care provider or supplier, and is only affiliated with the health care industry through the arrangement at issue; (ii) the advertising program did not target Federal health care program beneficiaries; (iii) the fees paid by the health care practitioners did not depend upon whether the prospect actually became a patient; and (iv) the advertising program did not steer patients to a particular chiropractor.

When applied to the DME context, the OIG opinion and the anti-kickback statutes suggest that leads can be sold for a per-lead fee as long as the leads are not priced, and do not contain information so detailed, such that the purchaser can cherry-pick those leads it wants to purchase based on the likelihood that the lead will result in an actual sale of covered DME.  For example, a “raw” lead comprised simply of a prospect’s name, contact information, and interest in speaking with a DME supplier is probably the sort of lead that could be sold for a per-lead fee without running afoul of the anti-kickback prohibitions.  As more and more information is added to the lead, such as the type of DME products of interest to the prospect, information regarding the prospect’s insurer and plan coverage, the purchaser will be better able to determine whether the lead is likely to result in a sale of DME (a “qualified” lead).  At a certain level of detail, a lead morphs from lead that can be sold on a per-lead basis, to a referral that cannot.

A lead generation company can sell highly detailed qualified leads if that sales relationship fits within the safe harbor for “Personal Services and Management Contracts.”[3]  That safe harbor requires that: (a) the aggregate compensation to be paid under the contract must be fixed in advance; (b) the compensation must be consistent with fair market value in an arm’s-length transaction; and (c) the compensation must not be determined in a manner that takes into account the volume or value of any referrals or business otherwise generated between the parties for which payment may be made by a Federal health care program.  The requirement that the compensation be fixed in advance does not tolerate a per-lead fee.   Fixed in advance would be a weekly, hourly, annual fee.

So, if you are in the lead generation business, your liability for buying or selling health care referrals probably depends upon how detailed and “qualified” the lead is at the time of your transaction.  The safe tack is to structure your transactions so that they fit within the safe harbor for Personal Services and Management Contracts so that just in case your leads are qualified enough to constitute “referrals.”

This article focuses on anti-kickback liability associated with DME leads, but there is also liability attached to how the lead is originated, and how the prospect is contacted.  Lead generation companies are often well-served by committing their relationships to written agreements with advice from appropriate counsel.


[1] 42 U.S.C. §1320a-7b(b)

[2] FL Statutes §456.054 and §817.505

[3] 42 C.F.R. §1001.952(d)

read more
adminDME Leads: When is a Lead a Referral?