As discussed in a prior blog post, in May of this year, the Department of Justice (DOJ), through its Fraud Section and in conjunction with the Center for Program Integrity, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CPI/CMS), began prosecuting defendants who were alleged to have perpetrated a variety of COVID-19-related scams on federal healthcare programs. On September 17, 2021, the DOJ’s Health Care Fraud Unit, in coordination with its Health Care Fraud and Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), announced a new wave of enforcement actions against 138 individuals, including 42 licensed medical professionals, alleged to have participated in health care schemes that resulted in $1.4 billion in alleged losses.
Over the past few weeks, we have covered recent updates to the False Claims Act (“FCA”), first discussing the recent recension of the “Brand Memo” and the resulting restoration of the Department of Justice’s willingness to use sub-regulatory guidance to bring FCA enforcement actions. In our second post, we outlined S.B. 2428’s proposal to shift the burden of proving materiality to defendants, provide for discovery reimbursement, address deference standards in motions to dismiss brought by the government in qui tam complaints, and extend whistleblower anti-retaliation protections. In this final post of our three-part series, we close out our discussion of the FCA with a review of a recent Seventh Circuit decision endorsing the use of an “objective reasonableness” defense in litigation brought under the FCA. We also highlight other recent court activity affecting enforcement of the FCA. Continue Reading False Claims Act Spotlight (3 of 3): Changing Landscape of the FCA in the Courts
This is the second installment in our series of posts covering recent developments in False Claims Act (“FCA”) doctrine and practice, with the first post discussing the rescission of the “Brand Memo” and restoring the role of sub-regulatory guidance in FCA enforcement actions. A third post, to come later this week, will address recent federal court cases construing the FCA.
In July 2021, Senator Chuck Grassley led a bipartisan group of senators in introducing S.B. 2428, the “False Claims Amendments Act of 2021,” which aims to address legal developments in FCA doctrine that, according to the bill’s sponsors, made it “more difficult for plaintiffs and whistleblowers to succeed in lawsuits against government contractors engaged in fraud.” S.B. 2428 proposes amendments to the FCA in four key areas more fully described below:
- to shift the burden to defendants to disprove plaintiffs’ showing of materiality of alleged FCA misconduct;
- to provide a means by which the government can seek reimbursement for costs incurred for responding to burdensome discovery requests;
- to resolve a Circuit Court split regarding the appropriate standard of review for evaluating government’s (c)(2)(A) motions to dismiss qui tam complaints; and
- to extend the FCA’s anti-retaliation whistleblower protections.
In a FAQ published on August 20, 2021, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury (collectively, the “Departments”) significantly delayed implementation of statutory requirements on surprise billing and price transparency, which we had previously summarized in a series of blog posts throughout this past year:
- No Surprises: Congress Enacts Surprise Bill Law and Adds Mandatory Billing Transparency
- No Surprises in Initial No Surprises Act Regulations
- New Federal Transparency Requirements Impacting Health Providers and Plans
Specifically, the FAQs focus on the implementation of certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act’s (the “ACA’s”) Transparency in Coverage Final Rules (the “TiC Final Rules”) and certain provisions of title I (the No Surprises Act) and title II (Transparency) of Division BB of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the “CAA”). Continue Reading The Surprises Continue: The Biden Administration Delays Implementation of Certain Provisions of the No Surprises Act and Transparency in Coverage Final Rules Applicable to Providers and Insurers
The False Claims Act (“FCA”) is a punitive civil statute that acts as the federal government’s primary tool for combatting fraud in government health care programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare. In fiscal year 2020 alone, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) obtained more than $2.2 billion in FCA settlements and judgments (not including potential recoveries from pending cases or ongoing negotiations); the largest of these many recoveries came in the health care and pharmaceutical sectors, with several recoveries totaling over $100 million each.
Given the frequency of FCA application in the health care context, and despite this vast body of law and commentary spanning more than a century and a half since the FCA’s inception, novel applications and interpretations of the law still arise, especially as the health care industry evolves and new modes of payment and care delivery come to the fore. In 2021, the FCA has once again been the focal point of government attention, with a DOJ memorandum, proposed federal legislation, and recent federal court decisions adding new context and authority to guide future applications of the law.
This post is the first of three covering recent FCA updates, and in it we discuss the re-emergence of federal guidance as a tool in the belt of the DOJ in enforcing the FCA. Continue Reading False Claims Act Spotlight (1 of 3): Sub-Regulatory Guidance Subjugated No More in FCA Enforcement Actions
JAMA Internal Medicine recently published an article finding that the number of homebound adults aged 70 or older more than doubled during the last decade. In 2011, approximately 5% of adults aged 70 or older were homebound compared with 13% in the same age group in 2020. The authors indicate the steep incline in 2020 was likely due to social distancing restrictions and other health precautions taken over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the high number of homebound adults aged 70 and older will likely continue throughout 2021 and have potential lasting effects on the overall health of the individuals and their health care delivery.
While telehealth has become a staple in the lives of many post-pandemic (as discussed in a prior blog post), it may not be reaching this vulnerable population. The JAMA article indicated that, of the survey respondents, 27.8% did not have a cell phone, 50.8% did not have a computer, and more than 50% did not email, text or go online in the last month. This means those in this population that need assistance with health care services may need to rely on in-person home care. Continue Reading Home Is Where the Health Care Is: New Study Shows Increase in Number of Homebound Older Adults While CMS Expands Home Health Reimbursement Model
As demand, coverage and investment are all on the rise and transactions proliferate, we explore certain attributes of the fertility services industry.
In 2019, there were 58.3 births for every 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in the U.S., down from 59.1 in 2018. This marked the fifth consecutive year in which the fertility rate declined. Many factors may be driving down the rate, including the lingering effects of the Great Recession, delays in marriage and an emphasis on career and educational objectives prior to having children. As women wait longer to have children, there is increasing interest in assisted reproductive technology (ART), including in vitro fertilization (IVF). Other demands for fertility services are driven by LGBTQ couples as well as people who wish to better understand their genetic makeup. Continue Reading The State of the Fertility Industry
As discussed in a prior post, the Hospital Price Transparency Rule at 45 C.F.R. § 180.10 et. seq. (the “Rule”), requires all hospitals to provide clear, accessible pricing information about the items and services they provide by publicizing (1) the prices for 300 of their most “shoppable services” or services that can be scheduled by a consumer in advance; and (2) total charges, payor-specific negotiated rates, and discounted cash prices for individuals paying out-of-pocket. Continue Reading Proposal to Increase Penalties for a Hospital’s Failure to Comply with Price Transparency Rule
Given the current political dynamic within Congress, the chances of the Biden Administration enacting significant, substantive health care legislation appear slim in the short-term. Thus, the Biden Administration has sought alternative routes to advance its policy priorities, mainly through budget reconciliation (see here for a comprehensive explainer from the Congressional Research Service) and agency regulation. For example, we have previously written here and here about the “No Surprises Act”, enacted through the legislative short-cut of budget reconciliation as part of the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, and the Biden Administration’s new regulations implementing consumer protections against surprise medical bills. In this mold, President Biden’s July 9 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy (the “Order”) appears to lay out an aspirational, yet somewhat more practical agenda to implementing reforms in the health care sector, as compared to relying on new legislation coming through Congress.
The Order tasks federal agencies across the “whole-of-government” to “protect competition in the American economy” by acting on 72 regulatory initiatives, to be coordinated by a newly established “White House Competition Council” with representatives from key federal agencies. While the “whole-of-government” is involved and the entirety of the U.S. economy is targeted, there is a distinct focus among these initiatives on “improving health care” by addressing “overconcentration, monopolization, and unfair competition” in the sector. The Order specifically cites four areas in the health care sector ripe for renewed enforcement and regulatory attention with the goal of lowering prices, promoting competition, and benefiting consumers. Continue Reading Pass Go and Collect Regulatory Scrutiny: The Biden Administration Takes Aim at Consolidation & Anti-Competitive Business Practices in Health Care
On July 9, 2021, President Biden issued “Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy” (the “Executive Order”). The Executive Order was billed by the White House as “historic” and comparable to Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting and Franklin Roosevelt’s “supercharged antitrust enforcement”. Asserting that a “fair, open, and competitive marketplace has long been the cornerstone of the American economy,” the Executive Order sets forth 72 initiatives across over a dozen federal agencies.