In an indictment announced on October 26, 2023 in Miami, the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, working with the FBI and HHS-OIG, brought what may be only the second federal criminal charges directly related to the Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) risk adjustment payment methodology. DOJ enforcement in the Medicare Advantage risk adjustment space overwhelmingly has proceeded civilly under the False Claims Act. Although the allegations suggest conduct far more troubling than prior civil cases under risk adjustment, these criminal charges ...
Six months from the date of closing. That’s how long acquiring companies have under the newly announced Department of Justice (DOJ) Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) Safe Harbor Policy to disclose misconduct discovered in the context of a merger or acquisition – whether discovered pre or post-acquisition. And the acquiring company has one year from the date of closing to remediate, as well as provide restitution to any victims and disgorge any profits.
Over the last two years, the DOJ has made clear its priority to encourage companies to self-disclose misconduct aiming to ...
On June 28, 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (“HHS-OIG”), along with other federal and state law enforcement partners, announced a nationwide health care fraud enforcement action targeting a variety of alleged health care fraud schemes. As has been the case over the last few years, DOJ and HHS-OIG have moved away from categorizing the enforcement action as a “takedown”. The government has not explained the naming change, but one explanation is that it is no longer properly considered a true “takedown” because the enforcement activity (charges, arrests) occurs over many weeks leading up to the day it is announced.
Finds that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put its “thumb on the scale”
On Monday February 8, a judge in the Eastern District of Texas again rejected the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR) rules on the grounds that the Rules continued to “put a thumb on the scale” for the arbitrator’s reliance on the Qualified Payment Amount (QPA) contrary to the statutory language of the No Surprises Act.
It has been four years since Congress enacted the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act (“EKRA”), codified at 18 U.S.C. § 220. EKRA initially targeted patient brokering and kickback schemes within the addiction treatment and recovery spaces. However, since EKRA was expansively drafted to also apply to clinical laboratories (it applies to improper referrals for any “service”, regardless of the payor), public as well as private insurance plans and even self-pay patients fall within the reach of the statute.
Epstein Becker Green Lawyers Anthony Argiropoulos, Theodora McCormick, William Gibson, and Maximilian Cadmus Argue for Amicus Curiae New Jersey Doctor-Patient Alliance
On August 25, 2022, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued on an important decision in Mirian Rivera v. The Valley Hospital, Inc., (A-25/26/27-21)(085992)(085993)(085994), reaffirming the exceedingly high bar for punitive damages claims in medical malpractice cases in New Jersey. This is an important decision for healthcare providers as it provides them with broad protection from punitive damages claims (which are not covered by malpractice insurance) that are really negligence or gross negligence claims in disguise.
Has private equity’s role in the nursing home industry led to lower quality of care? In an article for Thomson Reuters Westlaw Today, “Is Private Equity Really the Boogeyman in Nursing Home Quality of Care?” attorneys Sarah Hall and Eleanor Chung consider both sides of the issue and look at some possible solutions.
In a recent Press Release dated December 15, 2021, the Office of the Attorney General for the State of New Jersey (the “N.J. Attorney General’s Office”) announced the settlement, via consent order, of alleged HIPAA violations involving three, New Jersey based cancer treatment providers, In the Matter of RCCA MSO LLC, Regional Cancer Care Associates LLC, and RCCA MD LLC. Two key takeaways from this matter are that New Jersey based health care providers need to be wary of state as well federal authorities when it comes to information security and related policies and warrant substantial investments in cyber security.
On January 12, 2022, the closely watched Nevada lawsuit filed by emergency medicine providers against one of the largest health insurance companies in the world—UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company—was again the focus of hundreds of thousands of providers throughout the country.
The recent hearing followed a seven-week trial during which the jury found that United and its affiliates deliberately underpaid frontline healthcare workers for emergency medical services. The jury awarded $60 million in punitive damages and $2.65 million in compensatory damages to three Nevada-based emergency physician group affiliates of TeamHealth, a physician services and staffing company.
On September 30, 2021, the federal Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services issued “Requirements Related to Surprise Billing; Part II,” the second in a series of interim final regulations (the “Second NSA Rules”) implementing the No Surprises Act (“NSA”). This new federal law became effective for services on or after January 1, 2022.
No case in recent months has created more news than the Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, as to which the Supreme Court recently heard oral argument.
Commentators on all sides of the inherently controversial issue of abortion have, often with great self-importance, opined how, at least in their views, each of the Justices will decide the case and how that decision will affect the Court’s two major opinions in the area: Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey. We likely will have to wait months to know the outcome of Dobbs, in which the state argues that the trimester-based regime of Roe must be overruled.
When hospitals and doctors treat patients who are injured in car accidents, the health care providers reasonably expect that their rights to be compensated for the care they provide will not be conditioned upon their willingness to participate in their patients’ personal injury lawsuits against allegedly negligent drivers. A common pleas Court in Ohio applied this sensible reasoning in a recent decision, dismissing a car-accident plaintiff’s attempts to force the hospital that treated her to participate in her lawsuit against the driver who allegedly caused the injuries ...
Medical providers preparing to engage in arbitration with payors pursuant to the just-announced No Surprises Act dispute rules should be prepared to counter some tough tactics from payors. For health care providers, the first Interim Final Rule represents a reasonable solution against arbitrary rates for out-of-network services, but raises concerns that certain policies may result in a financial windfall for insurers at the expense of providers and consumers.
On July 1, 2021, the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services issued “Requirements Related to ...
In July, we reported (here) on a Third Circuit decision that held an out-of-network provider’s direct claims against an insurer for breach of contract and promissory estoppel were not pre-empted by ERISA. That opinion was a significant win for healthcare providers. Recently, there has been another important win for out-of-network providers—this time from the Ninth Circuit.
In Beverly Oaks Physicians Surgical Ctr., LLC v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois, 983 F.3d 435, 442 (9th Cir. 2020), an out-of-network surgical center sued Blue Cross for improperly refusing to ...
In September 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) announced its annual healthcare-related “takedown.” The takedown, which involved enforcement actions that actually occurred over numerous months preceding the press event (and as such, the reference to a “takedown” is a misnomer”) targeted alleged schemes that related to opioid distribution, substance abuse treatment facilities (“sober homes”), and telehealth providers, the latter of ...
On September 30, 2020, the Third Circuit reversed a decision by the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ordering AbbieVie, Inc. (“AbbieVie”) and Besins Healthcare Inc. (“Besins”) to pay $448 million in disgorgement of ill-gotten profits for allegedly filing sham patent lawsuits to stifle competition. AbbieVie and Besins had filed patent infringement lawsuits against two developers of generic alternatives to its brand-name testosterone gel product AndroGel. The FTC sued AbbieVie and Besins in 2014 alleging that the patent suits were baseless and brought for no other ...
In an important win for healthcare providers, on July 17, 2020, the Third Circuit determined in a published opinion that an out-of-network provider’s direct claims against an insurer for breach of contract and promissory estoppel are not pre-empted by ERISA. In Surgery Ctr., P.A. v. Aetna Life Ins. Co. In an issue of first impression, the Third Circuit addressed the question of what remedies are available to an out-of-network provider when an insurer initially agrees to pay for the provision of out-of-network services, and then breaches that agreement.
This case arose because two patients—identified as J.L. and D.W.—required medical procedures that were not available in-network through Aetna. J.L. needed bilateral breast reconstruction surgery following a double mastectomy and D.W. required “facial reanimation surgery,” which the Third Circuit describes as “a niche procedure performed by only a handful of surgeons in the United States.” Neither J.L. nor DW had out-of-network coverage for these procedures. D.W.’s plan also contained an “anti-assignment” clause, which would have prevented D.W. from assigning his or her rights under the plan to the Plastic Surgery Center, P.A.
The Supreme Court of New Jersey unanimously held in Linda Cowley v. Virtua Health System (A-47-18) (081891) that the “common knowledge” exception of the Affidavit of Merit Statute applies only when a simple negligence standard is at issue, and does not apply when a specific standard of care must be evaluated. In this case involving if and how to reinsert a removed nasogastric tube, the Court reversed the judgement of the Appellate Division and dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice because she failed to submit an affidavit of merit within the time required by the Affidavit of Merit Statute.
Enacted in 1995, the Affidavit of Merit Statute requires that plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases “provide each defendant with an affidavit of an appropriate licensed person that there exists a reasonable probability that the care, skill or knowledge exercised or exhibited in the treatment, practice or work that is the subject of the complaint, fell outside acceptable professional or occupational standards or treatment practices.” N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-27. The statute’s primary purpose “to require plaintiffs in malpractice cases to make a threshold showing that their claim is meritorious, in order that meritless lawsuits readily [can] be identified at an early stage of litigation.” Cornblatt v. Barow, 153 N.J. 218, 242 (1998). Failure to provide an affidavit or its legal equivalent is “deemed a failure to state a cause of action,” N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-29, requiring dismissal with prejudice.
An exception to this rule is the judicially-created “common knowledge” exception which provides that an expert is not needed to demonstrate that a defendant professional breached some duty of care “where the carelessness of the defendant is readily apparent to anyone of average intelligence.” Rosenberg v. Cahill, 99 N.J. 318, 325 (1985). In those exceptional circumstances, the “jurors’ common knowledge as lay persons is sufficient to enable them, using ordinary understanding and experience, to determine a defendant’s negligence without the benefit of the specialized knowledge of experts.” Hubbard v. Reed, 168 N.J. 387, 394 (2001). Thus, a plaintiff in a malpractice case is exempt, under the common knowledge exception, from compliance with the affidavit of merit requirement where it is apparent that “the issue of negligence is not related to technical matters peculiarly within the knowledge of [the licensed] practitioner.” Sanzari v. Rosenfeld, 34 N.J. 128, 142 (1961).
On March 23, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 109, which “limit[ed] non-essential adult elective surgery and invasive procedures, whether medical or dental, [in order to] assist in the management of vital healthcare resources during this public health emergency.” The purpose of EO 109 was to “limit exposure of healthcare providers, patients, and staff to COVID-19 and conserve critical resources such as ventilators, respirators, anesthesia machines, and Personal Protective Equipment (‘PPE’) [that] are essential to combatting the spread of the virus.” At the time EO 109 was executed, coronavirus cases were rapidly increasing within the State. On March 23rd, New Jersey had 2,844 coronavirus cases in all 21 counties, an increase of 935 over the previous day, and at least 27 people had died.
In the weeks that followed, New Jersey saw the surge in cases for which it was preparing. On April 4, the three-day average of new confirmed positive COVID-19 cases peaked at 4,064 cases, and by April 14th, there were 8,084 of COVID-related hospitalizations and a staggering 1,705 patients on ventilators. But since that time, thanks to social distancing and New Jersey’s ability to flatten the curve, these numbers have fallen drastically. By May 11th, the three-day average of new, positive cases had fallen to 1,572 new cases—a 61 percent decrease. Likewise, the three-day average of new hospitalizations had fallen to 4,277 patients—a 48 percent decrease.
In light of this decreased burden on the healthcare system, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 145, which allows for elective surgeries to resume as of 5 am on May 26, 2020. EO 145 provides that elective surgeries and invasive procedures may proceed at both licensed healthcare facilities and in outpatient settings not licensed by the Department of Health (e.g., health care professional offices, clinics, and urgent care centers), subject to limitations and precautions set forth in policies to be issued by the Division of Consumer Affairs, in consultation with the Department of Health, by Monday, May 18, 2020. EO 145 further states that the Department of Health and/or the Division of Consumer Affairs may issue supplemental or amended policies concerning elective surgeries and elective invasive procedures on or after Monday, May 18, 2020.
As the coronavirus spreads throughout the country, hospitals and other health care providers are finding themselves inundated with patients. Those providers who are in-network with payors have and will likely continue to experience difficulty in complying with certain provisions of their contracts. For instance, as payors are also experiencing an unexpected influx of telephone traffic, the wait time for various approvals, including, but not limited to, pre-authorizations are being delayed.
Providers are often contractually obligated to obtain pre-authorizations for certain procedures and services prior to rendering the care. Due to the increased telephone traffic and increased wait times on the payor end, these providers are now faced with a dilemma. A process that as of two weeks ago only took a matter of ten to fifteen minutes now can take up to an hour or more. This creates a serious dilemma for those providers who need to render care to their patients and comply with their contractual obligations to payors.
The Senate has spoken to this issue via the Families First Act which prohibits cost sharing and imposing prior authorizations for COVID-19 related testing under Medicare, CHIP, and individual and small/large self-funded group plans. See Division F-Health Provisions, § 6001, Coverage of Testing for COVID-19. While some payors have recognized and acknowledged the difficulties posed by COVID-19 and have made exceptions to the standard requirements, those exceptions have been limited. For example, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has indicated that its network of 36 BCBS companies will waive prior authorizations for diagnostic tests and covered services that are medically necessary for members diagnosed with COVID-19. Similarly, Wellmark and Anthem, Inc., have waived prior authorizations for covered services related to COVID-19. While these limited pre-authorization waivers are a start, they do not resolve the dilemma faced by those providers treating patients who are not suffering from COVID-19.
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