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Criminal healthcare enforcement in 2018 once again focused heavily on opioids, targeting manufacturers, prescribers, dispensers and those who contribute to the addiction epidemic, and on prosecution of individuals for a variety of offenses.  In addition, the DOJ announced some expected policy changes related to the way it investigates and prosecutes corporations as well as the restrictions placed on corporations after resolution of government charges.  We will address each of these issues in this post and will attempt to forecast what we expect to occur in the coming year.
Viewpoint General
In 2018, the volume of False Claims Act (FCA) litigation remained high, and health care-related qui tam (i.e., whistleblower) cases continued to lead the way. Using data compiled in the Mintz Health Care Qui Tam Database (which is described further below), this post analyzes the trends in cases unsealed in 2018. To evaluate long-term trends, we examined the annual Department of Justice (DOJ) compilation of FCA cases. Together these data sets show that health care cases continue to make up a large majority of all whistleblower cases brought under the FCA, and almost two-thirds of those cases were brought by current or former employees, mostly against large pharmaceutical companies, physicians, and hospitals.
Viewpoint General
Nearly one year ago, on January 25, 2018, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Regulatory Reform Task Force issued a memorandum entitled “Limiting Use of Agency Guidance Documents In Affirmative Civil Enforcement Cases.”  Many refer to this memorandum as the “Brand Memo” because it was authored by Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.  The Brand Memo implemented the prohibition previously issued by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in November 2017 against, in part, DOJ using guidance documents issued by other agencies “to create binding standards by which [DOJ] will determine compliance with existing statutory or regulatory requirements” (the “Sessions Memo”).
Viewpoint General

HIPAA and Health Care Data Privacy - 2018 Year-in-Review

January 4, 2019 | Blog | By Sarah Beth Kuyers, Kristen Marotta

Today, we’re looking back at HIPAA and other privacy and security developments in 2018.  This past year saw continued HIPAA enforcement (including the largest ever fine for a HIPAA breach), reminders from the OCR on best practices for HIPAA compliance, and updates to state and international privacy and security laws.  We’ll also look ahead to 2019, which could bring several significant changes to HIPAA, such as reducing the burdens for sharing patient information in order to promote care coordination and better patient outcomes.
Viewpoint General

DOJ Follows Through on a 2018 New Years’ Resolution: Rein In Qui Tam Actions

December 20, 2018 | Blog | By Laurence Freedman, Bridgette Keller

Along with most of us, last January DOJ set its own goals for 2018: new policies related to False Claims Act (“FCA”) enforcement. One such “resolution” for 2018 was the DOJ Civil Fraud section’s instruction to its attorneys and all AUSAs handling FCA cases to routinely consider whether declined qui tam actions should be dismissed under the Department’s authority in Section 3730(c)(2)(A) of the FCA, which it had rarely used from 1986 through 2017. Known as the “Granston Memo” (which we discuss here) and now codified in the Justice Manual, the central theme of the instruction is that seeking dismissal of qui tam actions may be in the government’s interest to “preserve limited resources and avoid adverse precedent.” We are now seeing the first evidence of DOJ following through on that resolution.
Viewpoint General

HIPAA Penalties For Failure to Cut Off Access To Former Employee

December 12, 2018 | Blog | By Kristen Marotta

It has been a busy few weeks for HIPAA enforcement. On Tuesday, the Office for Civil Rights announced its third resolution of a HIPAA breach in as many weeks. In this latest matter, OCR announced that Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC), a critical access hospital in Colorado, has agreed to both pay $111,400 to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) as well as adopt a comprehensive, two-year corrective action plan (CAP) to address and settle potential HIPAA violations.
Viewpoint General

Another HIPAA Settlement for Failure to Enter Into a BAA

December 10, 2018 | Blog | By Sarah Beth Kuyers

Last week, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that it had reached a settlement with a contract physician group based in Florida to resolve potential HIPAA violations relating to the sharing of protected health information (PHI) with a vendor. The physician group, Advanced Care Hospitalists PL (ACH), agreed to pay $500,000 and to adopt a corrective action plan to address the alleged conduct.
Viewpoint General
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently announced a no-fault settlement, including a $125,000 penalty and a two year corrective action plan for Allergy Associates of Hartford, P.C. The settlement was reached after a physician at Allergy Associates disclosed protected health information (PHI) about a patient to a local television station.
Viewpoint General

Tenth Circuit Rejects Request for Rehearing in Closely Watched FCA Medical Necessity Case

November 13, 2018 | Blog | By Samantha Kingsbury, Laurence Freedman

In a three-sentence order issued on October 29th, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to grant a Request for Rehearing in the closely watched Polukoff case. One of the questions raised in the Request was whether, by submitting a claim for reimbursement and certifying the medical necessity of the charged service, providers also certify that the claim meets all of the standards set forth in the Medicare Program Integrity Manual (MPIM).
Viewpoint General

Health Care Qui Tam Update

November 5, 2018 | Article | By Hope Foster, Kevin McGinty, Ellyn Sternfield, Benjamin Zegarelli

Read about health care qui tam litigation trends for the 12 months that ended on August 31 and significant cases, including two involving skilled nursing facilities.
Viewpoint General
For much of the past 18 months, the Trump Administration, and in particular CMS, have talked a good game regarding reducing pharmaceutical prices. On October 16, 2018, a key component of the Administration’s strategy was revealed in the form of CMS’ Proposed Rule requiring manufactures to include the “list price” for prescription drugs reimbursable by Medicaid or Medicare in television advertisements. While I do think that there will be new initiatives to address drug pricing, I believe most will come through the state and not the federal level. This post addresses six potential initiatives from a recently released report of the National Governors' Association.
Viewpoint General

OIG Opinion Illustrates the Need for New AKS Safe Harbors

October 17, 2018 | Blog | By Matt Mora

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) has issued an Advisory Opinion regarding a surgical device and wound care product manufacturer’s proposal to offer its hospital customers who purchase a suite of three joint replacement products a warranty program covering the Product Suite.
Viewpoint General

The 2014 Overpayment Rule is Vacated: How We Got Here and Key Takeaways

September 26, 2018 | Blog | By Bridgette Keller

Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) have been hailing a federal judge’s recent ruling to vacate the 2014 Overpayment Rule. But, how did we get here? And what does it really mean for MAOs?
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a significant decision, finding that a physician’s medical judgment about the medical necessity of heart procedures can be “false or fraudulent” under the federal False Claims Act (FCA). 
Last week, Mintz’s Health Care Enforcement Defense Group published a new Qui Tam Update, which analyzes 60 health care-related False Claims Act qui tam cases unsealed in December 2017 and January 2018 and the trends they reflect.

The Hazards of Prescription Auto-Refill Programs

June 6, 2018 | Blog | By Lauren Moldawer

States may be starting to take aim at prescription automatic refill programs. Automatic refill programs have been proven to increase patient adherence, especially among patients with chronic conditions. However, regulators argue that automatic refill programs result in waste to the system, stockpiling, and federal program payment for unneeded prescriptions.
Recently the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a statement that it had intervened in a False Claims Act (FCA) case against Insys Therapeutics, Inc. and consolidated five separate qui tam cases into one case, U.S. ex rel Guzman v. Insys Therapeutics, Inc., filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Back in late 2015, we blogged about the interesting twist in the $125 million Warner Chilcott settlement that a Massachusetts physician had been criminally charged with violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). That physician has now been convicted of the HIPAA violation, as well as an unrelated charge of obstructing a federal health care investigation. 
The all-too-common story of a healthcare company declaring bankruptcy in the face of aggressive Medicare recoupment actions before the company even has a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may get a new ending – at least in the Fifth Circuit.
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