Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Taylor Chenery commented on a decision from a federal district court in Pennsylvania allowing a whistleblower’s case to proceed and rejecting the defendant’s argument that the claims at issue were barred because the allegations were previously publicly disclosed. The case involves False Claims Act (FCA) allegations against Medtronic Inc. that the company provided improper kickbacks to healthcare providers to encourage them to prescribe Medtronic devices.
Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Brian Roark answered several questions about healthcare fraud enforcement trends in 2018 for the High Stakes blog. As a follow-up to the release of the firm’s Healthcare Fraud and Abuse Review 2017, Brian provided insights on the following questions:
- Despite deep partisan divides on virtually every other healthcare issue, bipartisan support for aggressive healthcare fraud enforcement remains constant. What factors explain that?
- We have heard a lot in the news about the Trump administration’s push to simplify the regulatory environment for business. Do you see evidence of that in healthcare?
Jeff Gibson co-authored an article for the American Bar Association (ABA) outlining some of the tools a company may use in response to a False Claims Act (FCA) investigation. Jeff co-authored the article with Greg Russo, managing director at Berkeley Research Group, for the ABA’s Health Law Section. As the authors point out, the government has been very successful in recent years in pursuing allegations against healthcare companies accused of submitting false claims under the FCA.
Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Matt Curley provided insight to Law360 for an article analyzing the Supreme Court’s decision to deny certiorari concerning a case that may have addressed the discrepancies surrounding how False Claims Act (FCA) suits are pleaded. There is currently a split within the federal appellate courts regarding how the heightened pleading requirements of Rule 9(b) should be applied to FCA claims.
In an article for Nashville Medical News, Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Taylor Chenery examined two recent Department of Justice (DOJ) memoranda that limit the use of guidance documents in civil enforcement actions. These memos may signal a change in how the government will approach enforcement efforts involving allegations of healthcare fraud and provide insight into how providers may be able to contest such allegations.
The memos – the first released in November 2017 by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the second released in January 2018 by then-Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand – “relate to the government’s use of guidance documents — as opposed to codified statutes or regulations — to educate regulated parties and to enforce existing statutory or regulatory requirements.”
As highlighted in a previous post, the $348 million judgment against the owners and operators of skilled nursing facilities in U.S. ex rel. Ruckh v. Genoa Healthcare, LLC, made serious waves in the FCA world. The judgment, which included a trebling of the jury’s damages verdict and fines of $5,500 for each of over 400 claims, far surpassed any settlement or judgment previously entered in a long-term care or skilled nursing case. However, on January 11, 2018, nearly a year after entering the landmark judgment, the Middle District of Florida overturned it. In doing so, the court reiterated some of the more stringent requirements a relator must meet in order to prevail on an FCA claim.
Bass, Berry & Sims Healthcare Fraud & Abuse attorney Brian Roark provided a comment to Home Health Care News about the government’s decision not to intervene in the False Claims Act (FCA) case brought against HCR Manor Care’s hospice division, Heartland. In the case, a whistleblower accused Heartland of submitting false claims and statements to Medicare. However, as Brian points out in the article, Heartland isn’t “necessarily out of the woods yet; the government declining to intervene doesn’t mean an FCA case won’t go forward.”
Bass, Berry & Sims is pleased to announce the release of its sixth annual Healthcare Fraud and Abuse Review 2017. The Review, compiled by the firm’s Healthcare Fraud Task Force, is an in-depth and comprehensive review of enforcement settlements, court decisions and developments affecting the healthcare industry.
The Review details all healthcare-related False Claims Act settlements from last year, organized by particular sectors of the healthcare industry. In addition to reviewing all healthcare fraud-related settlements, the Review includes updates on enforcement-related litigation involving the Stark Law and Anti-Kickback Statute and looks at the continued implications from the government’s focus on enforcement efforts involving individual actors in connection with civil and criminal healthcare fraud investigations.
In U.S. ex rel. Poehling v. UnitedHealth Group, Inc., the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California partially granted UnitedHealth’s motion to dismiss the government’s FCA claims, which were based on the allegation that UnitedHealth’s attestations as to the truth and accuracy of the risk adjustment data submitted were false because the district court found that the government had failed to plead the attestations were material to the payment decision, as required by the Supreme Court’s decision in Escobar. The district court declined to dismiss the remaining claims, including an FCA claim added by the government after its complaint in the similar Swoben case was dismissed (which we discussed here), which alleged a violation of the reverse false claims provisions due to failure to delete invalid diagnosis codes without reference to the attestation. The district court did grant the government leave to amend, with the second amended complaint to be filed by February 26, 2018.
The Department of Justice’s recent decision to intervene in a False Claims Act case against not only a compounding pharmacy but also the private equity firm that owns a controlling stake in it, underscores the potential risks private equity firms face when operating in the highly regulated healthcare space. On February 16, 2018, the United States filed a complaint in intervention in Medrano v. Diabetic Care Rx, LLC, Case No. 15-62617-CIV-BLOOM, alleging the compounding pharmacy, Patient Care America (“PCA”), paid illegal kickbacks to marketing firms who targeted military members and their families for prescriptions for compounded drugs the pharmacy then created not to meet individual patient needs, but rather to maximize reimbursement from Tricare, the federal military health care program. In a somewhat unique move, the government also named as a defendant the private equity company Riordan, Lewis & Haden Inc. (“RLH”), which manages and controls PCA through a general partner.