President Obama’s 2011 Funding Request Provides for Expansion of the HEAT Program to Additional Cities

October 4, 2010 by  
Filed under HEAT Enforcement

(October 4, 2010):  As DOJ has recently noted in its own blog, over the last Fiscal Year, DOJ (including its 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices),  HHS’ Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), have been extraordinarily active in jointly pursuing  health care providers allegedly engaging in fraud as part of  the HEAT program.  As DOJ notes, the mission of the HEAT program is:

  • To marshal significant resources across government to prevent waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs and crack down on the fraud perpetrators who are abusing the system and costing us all billions of dollars.
  • To reduce skyrocketing health care costs and improve quality of care by ridding the system of perpetrators who are preying on Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
  • To highlight best practices by providers and public sector employees who are dedicated to ending waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare.
  • To build upon existing partnerships that already exist between the two agencies, including our Medicare Fraud Strike Forces to reduce fraud and recover taxpayer dollars.

Together, DOJ, HHS-OIG and CMS have accomplished the following over the last Fiscal Year:

  • Filed charges against more than 800 defendants.
  • Obtained 583 criminal convictions.
  • Opened 886 new civil health care fraud matters.
  • Obtained 337 civil administrative actions against parties committing health care fraud.

Through these coordinated efforts, more than $2.5 billion was recovered.  Importantly, these successes have not gone unnoticed.  President Obama’s FY 2011 budget request  includes an additional $60.2 million in funding for the HEAT program initiative. 

Commentary:  In light of the government’s continuing efforts, we strongly recommend that our clients review their current compliance efforts to ensure that they take into account any and all risk areas that have been identified or associated with their areas of practice.  Providers should work to ensure that their operations and billing activitivies fully comply with applicable statutory and regulatory billing and coding requirements.

Should you have questions, please give us a call for a complimentary consultation.  We can be reached at 1 (800) 475-1906.

 

Medicare Fraud Strike Force Operation Leads to Charges against 94 Defendants, including 4 in South Texas

July 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, HEAT Enforcement

(July 17, 2010): Yesterday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced charges against 94 physicians, medical assistants, and health care company owners and executives in connection with alleged false Medicare claims amounting to more than $251 million.  24 defendants from Miami account for approximately $103 million of that amount.  Four defendants were charged in Houston for their alleged roles in a $3 million scheme to submit fraudulent claims for durable medical equipment (DME).   Other arrests were made in Baton Rouge, Brooklyn, and Detroit.   

The offenses charged include conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program, criminal false claims, violations of the anti-kickback statutes, and money laundering.  The charges are based on a variety of fraud schemes, including physical therapy and occupational therapy schemes, home health care schemes, HIV infusion fraud schemes and durable medical equipment (DME) schemes.

Announcing the arrests, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “With today’s arrests, we’re putting would-be criminals on notice: Health care fraud is no longer a safe bet.  It’s no longer easy money.  If you choose to engage in health care fraud, you will be found; you will be stopped; and you will be brought to justice.”

The operation was conducted by the joint DOJ-HHS Medicare Fraud Strike Force, multi-agency teams of federal, state, and local investigators designed to combat Medicare fraud through the use of Medicare data analysis techniques and an increased focus on community policing.  Strike Force teams are operating in seven cities in the United States: the five aforementioned cities, Los Angeles, and Tampa.  AG Holder noted that the ongoing Strike Force initiative in South Florida has resulted in the indictments of 810 organizations and individuals since March 2007 and uncovered $1.85 billion in improperly billed claims.

The Strike Forces are a part of Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), which is made up of top level law enforcement and professional staff from the DOJ and HHS and their operating divisions.  HEAT is dedicated to joint efforts across government to both prevent fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.

Should you have any questions regarding these issues, don’t hesitate to contact us.  For a complementary consultation, you may call Robert W. Liles or one of our other attorneys at 1 (800) 475-1906.

Texas Psychiatrist Indicted and Arrested

July 9, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, HEAT Enforcement

(July 9, 2010):  On June 14, 2010 the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas announced that a Federal Grand Jury had returned a 99-count indictment against a pain management physician who operated clinics in San Antonio and El Paso.  The physician was charged with 21 counts of health care fraud, 20 counts of false statements relating to health care fraud matters, 21 counts of mail fraud, 16 counts of wire fraud, 4 counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substances and 16 counts of money laundering.  The indictment alleges that the physician “caused to be submitted claims for reimbursement of peripheral nerve injections, facet injection procedures and Level Four office visits–typically involving 25 minutes of face-to-face time between patient and physician–which never were performed.”  Instead, the U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges that the physician performed “prolotherapy” on his patients — a procedure that Federal health care benefit programs do not reimburse. 

Notably, an indictment is merely a charge and is not considered to be evidence of guilt. In issuing this indictment, the Texas HEAT task force, comprised of Federal prosecutors and investigative agencies,  have continued to ramp up efforts to investigate and prosecute allegations of health care fraud.  Notably, the use of “prolotherapy,” a relatively new therapeutic approach, has been supported by some of the best known clinics and physicians in the country. 

While this case has yet to fully develop, it again points out that health care providers must take care when utilizing new approaches, despite the fact the therapeutic technique may be considered to be state-of-the-art.  Unfortunately, Medicare may take years to recognize and cover some techniques.  In the mean time, it is essential that providers take care when coding and billing for procedures that may not clearly qualify for coverage under applicable Medicare and / or contractor guidance.

Should you have any questions regarding these issues, don’t hesitate to contact us.  For a complementary consultation, you may call Robert W. Liles or one of our other attorneys at 1 (800) 475-1906.