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On April 27, 2022, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services issued Advisory Opinion No. 22-08 (AO 22-08), which addresses an existing arrangement of a federally qualified health center (FQHC) (hereafter, Requestor) that loans limited-use smartphones to enable existing patients’ access to Requestor’s telehealth platform (the Arrangement).  The Arrangement’s purpose is described as increasing access to telehealth services and combating isolation by allowing patients to talk and text with others, including during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE).
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Last week, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued Advisory Opinion No. 22-09 (AO 22-09), which addresses a proposed arrangement pursuant to which the operator of a network of laboratories (the Requestor) would compensate hospitals for certain specimen collection services related to testing performed by Requestor (the Proposed Arrangement).  The OIG ultimately concluded that the Proposed Arrangement poses a risk of fraud of abuse under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS). In this post, we will cover the OIG’s rationale for this decision, as well as some of the history of the OIG’s scrutiny of specimen collection arrangements.
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DOJ Announces Another Wide-Ranging COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Action

April 28, 2022 | Blog | By Samantha Kingsbury

Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced another significant takedown that it described as “build[ing] on the success of the May 2021 COVID-19 Enforcement Action.”  As part of this enforcement effort, criminal charges were announced against 21 defendants across the country for their alleged involvement in various COVID-19 related fraud schemes that resulted in over $149 million in “COVID-19 related false billings to federal programs and theft from federally-funded pandemic assistance programs.” 
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OIG Approves Manufacturer’s Offer of Free Genetic Testing

April 14, 2022 | Blog | By Karen Lovitch, Theresa Carnegie, Pat Ouellette

The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) recently published an Advisory Opinion in which it concluded that the provision of free genetic testing and counseling services by a pharmaceutical manufacturer would not result in the imposition of sanctions under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and the beneficiary inducements civil monetary penalty provision (Beneficiary Inducements CMP).  This Advisory Opinion is the first to address this type of arrangement and thus provides useful insight for the health care and life sciences industries.
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Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is authorized to distribute funds from its Provider Relief Fund (PRF) to certain providers. These providers can then use the funds to support COVID-19 prevention, preparedness, and response, or to alleviate loss of patient care revenue.  However, HRSA requires that providers receiving PRF funds comply with certain requirements, including post-payment reporting requirements.  HRSA is now notifying providers that failed to comply with the reporting requirements that they must return the PRF funds they received. 
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Webinar Recording: Telehealth Risk Management

April 6, 2022 | Webinar | By Nancy Adams, Lara Compton, Todd Rosenbaum, Jennifer Rubin

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The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) recently issued another favorable Advisory Opinion on patient incentives (e.g. gift cards or cash equivalents) given as part of patients’ treatment plans. Though the OIG reiterated its concern that cash and cash equivalents given to patients can present substantial fraud and abuse risks, the OIG concluded that the arrangement presented a minimal level of risk.
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Health care providers, health information networks, health information exchanges, and health IT developers of certified health IT will want to take note of the information blocking claim submission trends recently published by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).
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Webinar Recording: Health Care Enforcement Year in Review & 2022 Outlook

February 16, 2022 | Webinar | By Grady Campion, Randy Jones, Samantha Kingsbury, Karen Lovitch, Kevin McGinty

In our annual webinar, Mintz’s Health Care Enforcement Defense team reviewed the key health care fraud enforcement developments and trends from 2021, assessed their likely impact in 2022, and provided recommendations to avoid government scrutiny.
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False Claims Act Settlements and Judgments Exceed $5.6 Billion in Fiscal Year 2021

February 2, 2022 | Blog | By Laurence Freedman, Jane Haviland

The Department of Justice announced in a February 1, 2022 press release (Press Release) that it obtained more than $5.6 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2021 (FY2021) – the second largest annual total recovery in False Claims Act (FCA) history.
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OIG Approves Online Retailer’s Discount Program

January 25, 2022 | Blog | By Rachel Yount

On January 19, 2022, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) issued a favorable Advisory Opinion regarding an online retailer’s proposal to make its discount programs available to Medicaid beneficiaries. Currently, lower-income individuals are eligible for the retailer’s discount programs based on their enrollment in a number of assistance programs (e.g. Supplemental Security Income, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and the retailer proposes Medicaid enrollment as another category of eligibility.
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The next post in our series analyzing the recently proposed Contract Year 2023 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs rule (Proposed Rule), focuses on a regulation impacting Part D sponsors and their reporting of pharmacy price concessions. According to CMS, the proposed change—which would require the “negotiated price” of a covered Plan D drug to be the lowest possible payment made to a pharmacy by a Plan D sponsor—is expected to (i) reduce out-of-pocket costs for plan beneficiaries at the pharmacy counter, (ii) create greater drug price transparency, (iii) stabilize the operating environment for pharmacies and (iv) improve market competition.
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Continuing our series analyzing the recently proposed Contract Year 2023 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs rules (Proposed Rule), this post focuses on a few items that are specific to Medicare Advantage (MA) Plans. Here, we discuss CMS’ proposals to (1) require initial and expanded services area applicants to submit their proposed contracted networks during the application process, (2) clarify that beneficiary access requirements during disasters and emergencies apply when there is a “disruption in access to health care,” (3) return to medical loss ratio (MLR) reporting requirements from 2014 – 2017, and (4) an adjustment to how the maximum out-of-pocket (MOOP) limit is calculated for dually-eligible beneficiaries.
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CMS Proposes New Rules for Medicare Advantage and Part D

January 11, 2022 | Blog | By Bridgette Keller

Last week, CMS announced proposed rules seeking to increase consumer protections and reduce health care disparities in Medicare Advantage (MA) and Part D, with a strong emphasis on individuals who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. Over the next few weeks, the Mintz team will provide an in-depth review and analysis of the proposed rules here on our blog. In the meantime, here is summary of the proposed changes.
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On January 1, 2022, S.B. 763 took effect in Oregon, requiring pharmaceutical sales representatives (“PSR”) to obtain a license prior to marketing or promoting pharmaceutical products to health care providers. Oregon is not the first jurisdiction to enact such a law, but it is one of few jurisdictions in the United States to require licensure or registration of PSRs. This post discusses S.B. 763 and similar laws, regulations, and ordinances that are in effect in Nevada, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. below.
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Information Blocking Rule: Key Considerations for 2022

December 29, 2021 | Blog | By Pat Ouellette

While the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) issued the 21st Century Cures Act; Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification Program (Information Blocking Final Rule) back in May 2020, many entities are still parsing out compliance strategies and seeking additional regulatory guidance to understand how the rule will be enforced. Broadly-speaking, information blocking is a practice that is likely to interfere with, prevent, or discourage access, exchange, or use of electronic health information (EHI). For example, a health system might require patient written consent before sharing the patient’s EHI with unaffiliated providers. Another example of information blocking is that a health IT developer might charge a fee to a health care provider to perform an export of EHI so that the provider can switch to a different health IT platform.
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Webinar Recording: Telehealth Regulation & Enforcement: 2021 Year in Review & 2022 Outlook

December 7, 2021 | Webinar | By Alexander Hecht, Ellen Janos, Karen Lovitch, Kate Stewart

Over the past year, the demand for health care via telehealth has continued to skyrocket as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the public’s increased comfort with obtaining health care goods and services virtually. Join Ellen Janos, Karen Lovitch, Kate Stewart and Alex Hecht as they demystify the current status of laws and regulations, untangle the web of legislation before Congress related to the expansion of telehealth services, discuss recent enforcement activity, and look ahead to trends we see on the horizon.  
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On September 15, 2021, in response to the “proliferation of apps and connected devices that capture sensitive health data” the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a Policy Statement ( the Statement) offering guidance on the scope of the FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule (Breach Rule). According to the Statement, the Breach Rule applies outside of the traditional health care context (e.g. health care involving diagnosis and treatment by a licensed health care provider) and the FTC intends to bring enforcement actions for noncompliance involving up to $43,792 in civil penalties per violation, per day.
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On September 15, 2021, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) issued a favorable Advisory Opinion regarding a hospital’s proposal to implement a program through which patients who experience complications after specific joint replacement procedures can receive free items and services to treat the complications. The OIG likened the program to a warranty for joint replacement procedures.
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Physician judgment and medical necessity increasingly are a focus of fraud and abuse enforcement actions, with statistical analysis of procedure volumes used to flag potential cases. Last week, the Atlantic published this recent article discussing a significant 2018 decision of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States ex rel. Polukoff v. St. Mark’s Hospital, et al., No. 17-4014 (10th Cir. Jul. 9, 2018), in which the court held that a physician’s medical judgment concerning medical necessity of a particular treatment for two specific cardiac conditions could be “false or fraudulent” under the federal False Claims Act (FCA). Our colleague, Brian Dunphy, covered the 2018 decision on this blog here. The Tenth Circuit ultimately held that a “doctor’s certification to the government that a procedure is ‘reasonable and necessary’ is ‘false’ under the FCA if the procedure was not reasonable and necessary under the government’s definition of the phrase.”
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