The FCA continues to be the federal government’s primary civil enforcement tool for investigating allegations that healthcare providers or government contractors defrauded the federal government. In the coming weeks, we continue to take a closer look at recent legal developments involving the FCA. This week, we examine judicial review of FCA settlements and recent cases considering this issue.

In U.S. ex rel. Michaels v. Agape Senior Cmty., Inc., the Fourth Circuit considered the scope of DOJ’s authority to review and ultimately veto a settlement reached by relators and the defendants.  The panel had little difficulty affirming the district court’s determination that DOJ’s veto authority in this regard is unreviewable.

Continue Reading FCA Deeper Dive: Judicial Review of Settlements

After granting the relators’ petition for an interlocutory review of the district court’s rejection of the use of statistical sampling to establish FCA liability, the Fourth Circuit ultimately declined to reach that issue in its opinion recently issued in U.S. ex rel. Michaels v. Agape Senior Community, Inc.  This conclusion comes as no surprise based on the comments and questions posed by the panel during the course of oral argument, as we covered here.

Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Takes a Pass on Statistical Sampling, Finds DOJ’s Settlement Veto Authority Unreviewable

In recent years, civil enforcement efforts involving the FCA have grown significantly. Today, the FCA impacts a vast array of businesses, as it is commonly used to redress false claims for government funds involving everything from government contracts to Medicare and Medicaid to federally insured mortgages.  The versatility and reach of the FCA has enabled DOJ to use this powerful enforcement tool to recover more than $20 billion during the last five years alone.

A review of several recent FCA settlements indicates that the DOJ continues to actively pursue FCA claims for a wide range of conduct and in a wide variety of industries.

Continue Reading Recent Settlements Demonstrate the Reach and Versatility of the FCA

Texas-based hospital chain Tenet Healthcare Corporation and two of its Atlanta-area hospitals, Atlanta Medical Center and North Fulton Hospital, have agreed to pay more than $513 million to resolve civil and criminal claims related to violations of the federal False Claims Act (FCA) and Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS). Settlement of the underlying cases, which are styled U.S. ex rel. Williams v. Health Management Associates Inc., No. 3:09-cv-00130 (M.D. Ga.) and U.S. v. Atlanta Medical Center, Inc. No. 16-cr-00350 (N.D. Ga), are one of the largest FCA and AKS settlements this year.

On October 3, 2016, the United States filed a bill of information charging Atlanta Medical and North Fulton with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay and receive kickbacks and bribes. The government alleged that, from 2000 to 2013, Atlanta Medical and North Fulton paid prenatal clinics providing medical services to women (many of whom were undocumented, uninsured and indigent) for referrals for labor and delivery, postnatal, and infant services.  According to the government, business documents show that these referrals resulted in “extremely generous” Medicaid reimbursements and a profitable relationship between the hospitals and the clinics. Continue Reading Tenet Healthcare Settles FCA and AKS Allegations for $513 Million

On August 24, 2016, DOJ announced a $2.95 million settlement with defendants facing FCA liability for allegedly delaying repayment of more than $800,000 in Medicaid overpayments. The settlement amounted to nearly 3.5 times the amount of the improper billings stipulated in the settlement documents.

This is the first FCA settlement involving the Affordable Care Act’s 60-day repayment provision and flows from allegations that the defendants violated the obligation to report and remit overpayments within 60 days of when such payments have been identified. The stipulation accompanying the parties’ settlement of the FCA claims at issue also included language that the defendants “admit[ted], acknowledge[d], and accept[ed] responsibility for” the conduct underlying the government’s allegations regarding the  violation of this obligation.

Continue Reading Settlement Reached in First Reverse FCA Case Based on 60-Day Repayment Provision

DOJ recently reached settlements in connection with three long running enforcement efforts, amassing more than $1 billion in settlement funds. These settlements reflect the continued expansion of aggressive government enforcement in the healthcare industry. Since January 2009, DOJ claims recovery of more than $16.2 billion in healthcare-related FCA cases alone.

Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG agreed to pay $390 million to settle allegations that it provided unlawful rebates to specialty pharmacies to boost prescription refills for Novartis products. While Novartis did not admit that these rebates constituted illegal kickbacks, it did acknowledge providing rebates to three specialty pharmacies to incentivize an increase of prescription refills. This settlement comes at the conclusion of Novartis’ five-year CIA resulting from a settlement with DOJ in 2010. As part of its latest settlement, Novartis has agreed to extend its CIA for an additional five year period. Additionally, Novartis has agreed to amend its CIA to include obligations covering the company’s interactions with specialty pharmacies and to provide an annual report to DOJ detailing Novartis’ compliance with the CIA.

Continue Reading Recent FCA Settlements Bring Closure to Long Running Enforcement Efforts

On October 16, 2015, Tuomey Healthcare agreed to pay more than $74 million to resolve a $237 million judgment in a long-standing FCA matter that had threatened to bankrupt the nonprofit hospital. The action, styled U.S. ex rel. Drakeford v. Tuomey Healthcare Systems, Inc., No. 05-2858 (D.S.C.), involved FCA allegations that Tuomey employed and compensated 19 part-time physicians in excess of fair market value and in a manner that varied with the volume of value of their referrals, in violation of the Stark Law. The settlement came after a July 2015 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which affirmed the district court’s $237 judgment against Tuomey following a jury trial in 2013.

The settlement agreement calls for Tuomey to pay $72.4 million to the United States—of which the relator will receive 25% ($18.1 million)—and an additional $2.5 million for the relator’s attorneys’ fees and costs. Payment of $32.4 million of the settlement amount is conditioned on the successful acquisition of Tuomey by Palmetto Health prior to December 31, 2015. In connection with settlement, Tuomey agreed to enter into a five-year CIA with HHS-OIG.

As we previously reported, physician compensation continues to be in the FCA crosshairs. In 2015 to date, there have been at least 12 FCA settlements involving alleged Stark Law violations, with the large majority of those being enforcement actions against hospitals like Tuomey.

On March 31, 2015, DOJ announced a $10 million settlement with Robinson Health System Inc. (Robinson), a nonprofit operator of 10 Northeast Ohio healthcare facilities, including Robinson Memorial Hospital.

The settlement, announced a day before Robinson finalized a transaction involving its flagship hospital, stems from a June 2014 self-disclosure to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, in which Robinson disclosed questionable financial relationships under Stark and the AKS, some dating back nearly 10 years, with more than 30 referring physicians. This self-disclosure stemmed from a due diligence review conducted while searching for a partner health system.

Continue Reading Ohio Health System’s Self-Disclosure Leads to $10 Million FCA Settlement