Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a $22.4 million settlement resolving allegations that Martin’s Point Health Care, Inc. (Martin’s Point) violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by submitting inaccurate diagnosis codes for its Medicare Advantage Plan enrollees. Continue Reading Martin’s Point Health Care Inc.’s $22.4M Settlement Illustrates DOJ’s Focus on Part C Fraud
In a recent article for AIS Health – RADAR on Medicare Advantage, I discussed the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) focus on pursuing Medicare Advantage (MA) insurers for wrongdoing under the False Claims Act (FCA) related to recoupment of overpayments.Continue Reading DOJ Focus on Medicare Advantage Insurers and FCA Liability
In a decision issued on September 30, Judge Andrew Carter of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York denied Anthem Inc.’s motion to dismiss a government lawsuit filed in March 2020 claiming Anthem submitted inaccurate diagnosis data in conjunction with its Medicare Part C plans that resulted in alleged overpayments in violation of the False Claims Act (FCA).
Continue Reading SDNY Ruling in Anthem Sends a Signal to Medicare Advantage Litigants
In a September 2022 filing in U.S. ex rel. Osinek v. Kaiser Permanente, the Kaiser Permanente consortium defendants (Kaiser) highlighted the distinction between clinically inaccurate diagnoses (factual falsity) and clinically accurate but incorrectly coded diagnoses (legal falsity) and its relevance in False Claims Act (FCA) actions.
Continue Reading Medicare Advantage Plan Highlights Distinction for FCA Purposes between Clinically Inaccurate Diagnoses and Clinically Accurate Diagnoses that Allegedly Violate Subregulatory Guidelines
A common feature of False Claims Act (FCA) litigation is the pursuit of liability under the FCA’s so-called “reverse” false claims provision, 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(1)(G). Reverse false claims liability applies when a person or entity knowingly does either of the following:
- Makes, uses, or causes, to be made or used, a false record or statement material to an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the government.
- Conceals or knowingly and improperly avoids or decreases an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the government.
The reverse false claims provision of the FCA is especially significant for healthcare providers, in part because the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) (as well as associated regulations) expressly linked the knowing retention of overpayments from federal healthcare programs to reverse false claims liability under the FCA. Specifically, the relevant statutory provision of the ACA defines the term “obligation,” as used in the FCA, to include any overpayment that is not “reported and returned” within 60 days after it is “identified,” a term courts and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have interpreted somewhat broadly. See 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7k(d). Thus, by “improperly avoid[ing]” this “obligation”—i.e., knowingly or recklessly failing to return the overpayment within the ACA’s 60-day timeframe—a provider violates the FCA.
The upshot for providers is that a failure to diligently investigate and appropriately address a potential overpayment may lead to a host of problems, including whistleblower lawsuits, intrusive government scrutiny, and ultimately, FCA liability for treble damages and civil penalties. What’s more, this may be true even in cases where the receipt of the overpayment was not itself the result of any fraudulent conduct. Indeed, as the cases discussed below demonstrate, that risk is far from just hypothetical.Continue Reading Provider Beware: Recent FCA Cases Emphasize the Importance of Diligently Addressing Potential Overpayments
The Medicare Advantage program, which allows private insurance companies to offer and administer Medicare benefits, continues to be an area of sharp scrutiny for False Claims Act (FCA) enforcement despite some significant recent setbacks in pursuing FCA liability against Medicare Advantage Plans (MA Plans or Plans). In 2018, several district court decisions raised obstacles to the pursuit of FCA liability against MA Plans, and those decisions have continued to affect FCA enforcement efforts in the first half of 2019. Despite those setbacks, however, the prevalence of government enforcement actions involving Medicare Advantage illustrates that it remains an area of focus for the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The Focus on Medicare Advantage
Unlike traditional fee-for-service Medicare, MA Plans are compensated on a monthly basis through a fixed payment for each member. The amount of the monthly payment – known as a capitation payment – is determined for each payment year through a process called “risk adjustment” and is based on each individual member’s demographic information and data reflecting the member’s medical condition, as documented during the 12 months preceding the payment year. A member’s condition and medical diagnoses must be supported by a valid medical record.Continue Reading Medicare Advantage: Recent Developments in FCA Enforcement
On December 11, 2018, the United States announced that it has elected to intervene in a False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit filed against Sutter Health and its affiliated entity Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) alleging that the defendants defrauded the Medicare Advantage program by submitting false patient information to the government. The whistleblower, a former employee of PAMF, alleges that Sutter “has taken and continues to take hundreds of millions of dollars in inflated capitation payments” by submitting “risk adjustment data Sutter knows to be inaccurate, incomplete or false.”
Medicare Advantage Plans
Medicare Advantage, formally known as Medicare Part C, allows private insurance companies, acting as “Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs),” to offer insurance plans and administer Medicare benefits. MAOs contract with healthcare providers such as Sutter to provide Medicare services to the plans’ enrollees. Instead of receiving reimbursement on a traditional fee-for-service basis, MAOs provide benefits under a capitated payment system, whereby government reimbursement is based on each individual beneficiary’s risk adjustment data.Continue Reading DOJ Intervenes in Another Medicare Advantage Risk Adjustment FCA Suit
The Delaware Supreme Court recently affirmed a decision by the Delaware Court of Chancery addressing a plaintiff’s ability to acquire key documents from a defendant company based on allegations against that company in an ancillary False Claims Act (FCA) complaint. See UnitedHealth Group Incorporated v. Amalgamated Bank as Tr. for Longview Largecap 500 Index Fund, 2018 WL (Del.).
The Underlying FCA Allegations
In two separate federal districts, UnitedHealth Group Incorporated (United) faced unsealed, factually similar FCA complaints brought by two different relators. See United States ex rel. Swoben v. Secure Horizons, No. CV 09-5013 (C.D. Cal.) (Swoben Action); United States ex rel. Poehling v. UnitedHealth Group, Inc., No. CV 16-08697 (W.D.N.Y.) (Poehling Action). (The Swoben and Poehling Actions previously were discussed here, here, here and here.)
Both relators alleged that United engaged in a scheme whereby it overbilled Medicare through the use of improper diagnostic codes that were not supported by patients’ medical charts and failed to reimburse Medicare once learning of improper diagnostic coding. After its investigation, the government filed complaints in intervention in both the Swoben and Poehling Actions.
Based on the government’s complaints, several shareholders of United brought suit under Delaware law (8 Del. C. § 220) seeking corporate books and records from United relating to the fraud alleged in the government’s complaints. To inspect corporate books and records under Delaware law, a plaintiff must show, among other things, “a proper purpose for conducting the inspection.” One “proper purpose” for an inspection of books and records is “to investigate wrongdoing or mismanagement,” but that purpose must be supported by a “credible basis” to infer possible wrongdoing or mismanagement warranting further investigation.Continue Reading Adding Insult to Injury: When an FCA Complaint Begets Follow-On Corporate Litigation
The Ninth Circuit recently revived a False Claims Act (FCA) suit against Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) related to risk adjustment payments for Medicare Advantage plans in U.S. ex rel. Silingo v. WellPoint Inc. et al. As previously discussed in this blog post, MAOs provide Medicare benefits under a capitated payment system, whereby government reimbursement is based on an individual’s risk adjustment data. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) increase monthly payments to MAOs when an individual’s medical diagnoses support a higher level of risk or cost of care. Recently, both relators and the government in a number of cases have challenged the validity of diagnostic patient information utilized to support risk adjustment data, as discussed here and here.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Reaffirms Group Pleading Standard in FCA Cases