Kusserow on Compliance: Understanding and addressing whistleblowers

The vast majority of the cases resolved by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) were cases brought by “whistleblowers” under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act (FCA). Whistleblowers are responsible for an even higher percentage of cases resulting in OIG Corporate Integrity Agreements (CIAs). Although most compliance officers are well aware of this program, many remain unclear as to how the process works. Tom Herrmann, J.D., who served over 20 years in the Office of Counsel to the OIG and as an Appellate Judge for the Medicare Appeals Board, explained that Congress permitted a whisltleblower called the “Relator” to file a case with the DOJ under the FCA.  Since this provision of law went into effect in 1986, there have been over 10,000 qui tam cases filed with a current average of one such case being filed every day of the year. The intent was to create incentives for private parties to detect and pursue fraud under the FCA. In return for reporting this information, Relators receive a portion (usually about 15 to 25 percent) of any recovered damages.  Once the lawsuit is filed, it is placed “under seal”, meaning that it is kept secret from everyone but the government, in order to give the DOJ enough time to investigate the allegations in deciding whether to join (“intervene”) in the case. Intervention by the DOJ occurs only in about one in five qui tam lawsuits, leaving whistleblowers the option to pursue cases on their own, however the chances of success are much lower than in cases when the government joins. Most successful qui tam cases are resolved through settlement negotiations rather than a court trial, although trials may occur.

Kash Chopra, J.D., noted that the overwhelming number of cases that result in a CIA, arise from whistleblowers and these, in turn, are based upon violations of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS). It is the government’s position that all claims arising from a corrupt arrangement violating the AKS or in some cases, the Stark Law, are considered fraudulent. This is even when the services rendered were needed and provided appropriately.  She advises here clients that the best ways to manage the whistleblower risk is to ensure that they are channeled through internal communication channels and their complaints are promptly evaluated, investigated, and resolved.  It is worth considering the following:

  1. Using outside experts to independently audit arrangements with physicians and evaluate compliance communication channel effectiveness.
  2. Ensuring a 24/7 hotline operated externally by experts in recognizing health care compliance issues.
  3. Reviewing/updating hotline-related polices/procedures (confidentiality, anonymity, non-retaliation, duty to report, etc.).
  4. Making sure that the duty to report suspected wrongdoing is explained in the Code, policies and training.
  5. Having trained and competent people on hand to conduct prompt and competent investigations of matters raised through the hotline.
  6. Moving quickly to use CMS and OIG self disclosure protocols when there is credible evidence of violations; and not wait until the DOJ gets involved.

For more information on this subject, Kashish Parikh-Chopra can be reached at kchopra@strategicm.com or via telephone at (703) 535-1413.

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

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Copyright © 2018 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: CMS increases audits to address Medicaid fraud and abuse

In efforts to prevent Medicaid fraud and reduce improper payments, CMS is in the process of implementing eight “new or enhanced” program integrity initiatives and strategies to address reported billions in improper Medicaid payments. These initiatives include target auditing of selected state programs and known vulnerabilities. The stated aim is to promote transparency and accountability. The CMS announcement noted that Medicaid spending has risen more than 26 percent in the three years leading up to 2017, from $456 to $576 billion. A significant part of the increase was as result of states expanding their Medicaid programs under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Most of this increase was covered by the federal government, with its share rising 38 percent, from $263 billion to $363 billion, over the same three-year period. CMS efforts include evaluating the impact of this expansion on program integrity. The announced new initiatives followed a Senate hearing that lambasted CMS, reporting that Medicaid pays out $37 billion a year of improper payments, an increase of 157 percent since 2013.  The new initiatives will be designed to address previously identified activities that harmed Medicaid’s program integrity, and address problems identified by the GAO and OIG and include:

  1. Targeted audits of certain state MCOs. CMS will review financial reports from MCOs in targeted states to ensure they match actual claims experience.
  2. New audits of beneficiary eligibility. States that had OIG reviews of Medicaid beneficiary eligibility will have follow-up determinations reviewed by CMS.
  3. Claims and provider data optimization. CMS will validate the quality and completeness of state-provided data in the Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System (TMSIS) using data analytics and other techniques to improve data quality and to flag potential problems that require further investigation.
  4. Data analytics pilots. CMS will use analytics and other IT tools on state-provided data to optimize state data to identify areas that need additional investigation.
  5. Provider screening on an opt-in basis. CMS will pilot a plan to screen Medicaid providers on behalf of states, in the belief that centralizing this process will improve efficiency and coordination across Medicare and Medicaid. This, in turn, should reduce state and provider burden, and address one of the biggest sources of error as measured by the Payment Error Rate Measurement (PERM) program.
  6. State-federal data sharing and collaboration. CMS is giving states access to the SSA’s master file of death records to help with managing provider enrollment.
  7. Publicly report state performance. The Medicaid scorecard will indicate how well states perform on certain measures pertaining to their Medicaid programs. This scorecard will include the state’s “integrity performance measures,” such as PERM.
  8. Provider education to reduce improper payments. CMS will bolster education efforts for Medicaid providers to reduce billing errors, including targeting comparative billing reports and provider-facing tools currently in development.

 

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on Google+ or LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

Copyright © 2018 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: Congressional hearing on Medicare fraud

The HHS Deputy Inspector General for Audit Services provided Congressional testimony related to Medicare fraud and began by noting that Medicare spending $700 billion annually on behalf of 59 million beneficiaries has grown to the point where it is more than 15 percent of all federal spending. With increasing number of beneficiaries and rising health care costs, it is estimated that Part A Trust Fund will be depleted by 2026; and spending for Medicare Part B will grow by more than 8 percent over the next 5 years, outpacing the U.S. economy. Medicare and Medicaid improper payments reported by HHS was $90 billion a year with two thirds involving Medicare fee-for-service payments due to errors associated with insufficient or no documentation. Although improper payments may occur in all types of health care, home health, skilled nursing facility (SNF), and inpatient rehabilitation facility (IRF) are areas of particular concern, representing 33 percent of the overall estimated improper payment rate for Medicare fee-for-service.

Responding to this high level of improper payments, the OIG is using advanced data analytics help the agency more effectively assess risk and pinpoint oversight efforts. The OIG uses data analytics to analyze millions of claims and billions of data points. At the macro level, the OIG analyzes data patterns to assess fraud and other types of risk across Medicare services, provider types, and geographic locations to prioritize our work and more effectively deploy our resources. At the micro level, the OIG uses data analytics, including near- real-time data, to identify potential fraud suspects for more in-depth analysis and to efficiently target investigations. OIG enforcement efforts involve a three-pronged approach that focuses on prevention, detection, and enforcement. The CMS’s Fraud Prevention System (FPS) was cited as serving an important tool with data analytics and predictive analytics for fraud-detection.  Once suspected fraud is identified, the OIG investigate the facts and pursue enforcement to hold perpetrators accountable and recover misspent taxpayer dollars.

 

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on Google+ or LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

Copyright © 2018 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: Four physicians charged in $200M prescription fraud scheme

A CEO and four physicians were charged in a superseding indictment in an investigation of a $200 million health care fraud scheme that involved a network of Michigan and Ohio pain clinics, laboratories, and other medical providers. Additional charges included wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering, and distribution of over 4.2 million medically unnecessary dosage units of controlled substances and medically unnecessary injections to Medicare beneficiaries, some of whom were addicted to narcotics. These included oxycodone, hydrocodone and oxymorphone. Some of the opioids were resold on the street.

When a medical review was made of the injection claims, it was found that 100 percent of the claims were not eligible for Medicare reimbursement. In order to conceal the continued billing of these fraudulent claims to Medicare, the defendants created new shell companies and continued to engage in the same billing of fraudulent claims, often changing only the name of the company on the door to the medical practice and/or inventing new suite numbers to conceal the continuation of the fraudulent practices at the same location. Defendants also owned a diagnostic laboratory to enable them to order medically unnecessary urine drug testing from the laboratory. When Medicare conducted a medical review of claims submitted by the laboratory, it determined that 95 percent of the claims were not eligible for Medicare reimbursement and ordered the diagnostic laboratory to repay $6.9 million in improper payments.

Another scheme involved money laundering in connection with a $6.6 million wire transfer and the withdrawal of $500,000 in cash, which was hidden in plastic bags in the closet of the house.  The indictment alleges that transferred proceeds derived from the conspiracy were used to allow the defendants to live an extravagant lifestyle and spend millions of dollars on luxury items—clothing from retailers like Hermes, rare Richard Mille watches, and exotic automobiles such as a Lamborghini and Rolls Royce Ghost. The proceeds were also used to purchase a mansion and other real estate in the Detroit, Michigan area and to sit courtside or in the first row of NBA basketball games, including the NBA Finals.

 

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on Google+ or LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

Copyright © 2018 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.