Kusserow on Compliance: Huge fraud schemes involving telemedicine and DME

– Charges against two dozen people involving over $1.2 billion

 – Administrative Action against 130 DMEs submitting $1.7 Billion in claims

The DOJ announced charges against 24 defendants—including the CEOs, COOs, and others associated with five telemedicine companies, the owners of dozens of durable medical equipment (DME) companies, and three licensed medical professionals—associated with health care fraud schemes involving more than $1.2 billion. CMS and the Center for Program Integrity (CPI) have taken adverse administrative action against 130 DME companies that had submitted over $1.7 billion in claims and were paid over $900 million. The scheme involved payment of illegal kickbacks and bribes by DME companies in exchange for the referral of Medicare beneficiaries by medical professionals working with fraudulent telemedicine companies for back, shoulder, wrist, and knee braces that were medically unnecessary.

The DOJ alleges those charged with paying doctors to prescribe DME either without any patient interaction or with only a brief telephonic conversation with patients they had never met or seen. The proceeds of the fraudulent scheme were allegedly laundered through international shell corporations and used to purchase exotic automobiles, yachts, and luxury real estate in the United States and abroad. Some of the defendants obtained patients for the scheme by using an international call center that advertised to Medicare beneficiaries and “up-sold” the beneficiaries to get them to accept numerous “free or low-cost” DME braces, regardless of medical necessity. The international call center allegedly paid illegal kickbacks and bribes to telemedicine companies to obtain DME orders for these Medicare beneficiaries. The telemedicine companies then allegedly paid physicians to write medically unnecessary DME orders. Finally, the international call center sold the DME orders that it obtained from the telemedicine companies to DME companies, which fraudulently billed Medicare. Collectively, the CEOs, COOs, executives, business owners and medical professionals involved in the conspiracy are accused of causing over $1 billion in loss.

 

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 © 2019 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: Most organizations reported encounters with government authorities

• Most organizations have made disclosures for HIPAA breaches and overpayments
• One third received demand letters
• Other encounters report were with OIG and DOJ

It is widely recognized that regulatory and legal enforcement activities have been increasing over the last few years. The results should be a warning bell to all compliance officers that regulators and enforcement officials are right around the corner, necessitating increased efforts on ongoing monitoring and auditing to mitigate exposure of compliance-related risk areas. In the soon to be released national healthcare “2019 Compliance Benchmark Survey” most respondents reported having encountered issues with government agencies in last five years. Ranking at the top, with nearly two-thirds of the respondents, was disclosure to the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for breaches of privacy under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Over half reported making self-disclosures of overpayments received and addressing audits or investigations by government agencies. One-third reported responding to a demand letter from a government agency or contractor. Serious legal encounters with the government was reported at a much lower level.  One out of five respondents reported self-disclosure to the DOJ, OIG and CMS.  About one out of eight respondents reported their organization being involved in the settlement process with DOJ, self-disclosing to the OIG engagement of sanctioned individuals/entities, and being involved in a settlement process for a corporate integrity agreement (CIA).

The “2019 Compliance Benchmark Survey” report will be available without charge at the upcoming HCCA conference in Boston at Strategic Management Services, Booth 420. 

 

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 © 2019 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: Meeting sanction checking mandates

As the HHS Inspector General, I created what is now referred to as the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) that was followed by OIG compliance guidance documents which call for checking employees, physicians, vendors, and contractors against the LEIE. The OIG considers all claims and costs associated with an excluded party as potentially false and fraudulent and can lead to significant financial penalties and more. The OIG Special Advisory Bulletin on the Effect of Exclusion provides very useful information in assessing this risk area. CMS mandates, as a condition of enrollment, providers may not employ or contract with individuals or entities that are excluded from participation in any federal health care program and call for checking not only against the LEIE, but also the General Service Administration’s (GSA) Excluded Parties List System (EPLS), now part of the System for Award Management (SAM). CMS further called upon State Medicaid Directors to establish their own sanction data base and requires providers to check it on a monthly basis. To date, 40 states have moved to establish their own Medicaid sanction lists with other states in the process of doing the same. This has increased the sanction screening burden exponentially, not only for the compliance office but other departments as well. HR often has responsibility of sanction checking new hires and periodically current employees. Procurement is also affected because they handle the screening of vendors and contractors. The Medical Credentialing Office must ensure checking on physicians who have been granted staff privileges.  Other federal sanction databases worth screening are maintained by the DEA and FDA, as well as the Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Terrorist Watch List.

Daniel Peake, of the Compliance Resource Center (CRC), works with clients to provide a variety of CRC services that includes providing sanction checking services, as well as the investigation and resolution of potential hits. He noted that the time and resources necessary for developing and maintaining a search engine, along with regularly collecting and updating sanction information from many databases is not very cost effective. This high cost of using internal resources to develop and manage the sanction checking has resulted in the great majority of health care entities subscribing to a vendor service that provides a search engine to their established databases. Vendors can afford the high cost of maintaining the currency of the data because they amortize the costs over many clients. The problem is that that vendor quality, cost, and reliability can vary enormously.  From experience, he offered the following tips for those considering a vendor:

 

Tips on choosing a vendor search engine service

  1. Know the cost up front with a fixed rate, not based upon per click searches.
  2. Contract should permit cancelling without cause at any time, if dissatisfied.
  3. Ensure vendor has liability insurance ($ 1 to 3 million preferably).
  4. Determine other services included (e.g. policy templates, regulatory updates, etc.).
  5. Determine how much “help desk” assistance is available to resolve potential hits.

 

For more information, contact Daniel Peake at (dpeake@complianceresource.com) (703-236-9854).

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 © 2019 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: OIG Work Plan update

The OIG Work Plan sets forth various projects including OIG audits and evaluations that are underway or planned to be addressed during the fiscal year and beyond. Projects included in the Work Plan span the Department and include CMS. The OIG also plans work related to issues that cut across departmental programs, including state and local governments’ use of federal funds. At the end of December, the OIG announced two new projects led by the Office of Evaluation and Inspection beginning in 2019. They are:

  1. T-MSIS Data Assessment: Usefulness of National Data to Monitor Opioid Prescribing in Medicaid. Although all States have been submitting T-MSIS data, it does not mean the data are complete and without complete data, it cannot be used as a national dataset to help Medicaid manage critical issues such as the opioid crisis. The will OIG determine whether T-MSIS contains the data necessary to identify recipients of opioid prescriptions through Medicaid who may be at risk of opioid abuse nationally.  The OIG intends to interview states to determine the challenges they face, if any, in submitting the data necessary to identify and prevent beneficiary harm from opioid misuse.

 

  1. States’ Compliance with FFS and MCO Provider Enrollment Requirements. The OIG noted that provider enrollment is a key program integrity tool to protect Medicaid from fraudulent and abusive providers. The 21st Century Cures Act requires states to enroll all Medicaid providers, both those in Medicaid fee-for-service (FFS) and managed care organizations (MCOs). This study, by the OIG, is mandated by the Cures Act and will survey state Medicaid agencies about their enrollment of FFS and managed care providers and implementation of required provider enrollment screening activities.

 

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.