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: 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.

Kusserow on Compliance: Three new projects added to the OIG Work Plan in April

The OIG regularly updates its Work Plan as it continues to assess relative risks in HHS programs and operations that may lead to new projects. The most recent changes involved adding six new projects to the OIG’s audits and evaluations that are planned or underway. In making these additions, the OIG considered a number of factors, including mandates set forth in laws, regulations, or other directives; requests by Congress, HHS management, or the Office of Management and Budget; top management and performance challenges facing HHS; work performed by other oversight organizations (e.g., the GAO); management’s actions to implement OIG recommendations from previous reviews; and potential for positive impact.

New Projects Added

  1. Medicaid Nursing Home Supplemental Payments will be reviewed by the Office of Audit Services for completion in fiscal year (FY) 2019. Prior OIG and GAO audits have found that Federal supplemental payments often benefit the state and local governments more than the nursing homes. The OIG plans to review the nursing home supplemental payment program’s flow of funding and determine how the funds are being used. CMS approved a nursing home supplemental payment program in certain states that pays the difference between Medicare and Medicaid rates for nursing home services. In some of these programs, local governments fund the states’ share of the supplemental payments through intergovernmental transfers.

 

  1. The OIG plans to review the extent to which drug formularies developed by Part D sponsors include drugs commonly used by dual-eligible beneficiaries as required. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), under Section 3313, requires OIG to conduct this review annually. This will be the eighth report issued. The work will be performed by the Office of Evaluation and Inspections with a target completion date of FY 2018.

 

  1. Audit of CMS Medicare Overpayment Recoveries Related to Prior OIG Recommendations, targeted for completion in FY 2019. In the last couple of years, the OIG issued 153 audit reports that related to the Medicare program, containing 193 monetary recommendations totaling $648 million. Of the $648 million in recommended overpayment recoveries, CMS agreed to collect $566 million applicable to 190 recommendations. The OIG plans to determine the extent to which CMS: (1) collected agreed upon Medicare overpayments identified in OIG audit reports and (2) took corrective action in response to the recommendations in a prior audit report examining CMS’ overpayment recoveries (A-04-10-03059). In that report, OIG recommended CMS enhance its systems and procedures for recording, collecting, and reporting overpayments. The OIG also recommended that CMS provide guidance to its contractors on how to document that overpayments were actually collected.

 

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.