Data Mining, Statistical Profiling Play Key Role In Arrest of Dallas Doctor, Office Manager & 5 Home Health Agency Owners

Volume, Cutting Edge Treatment or Other Statistical Variations in Care Patterns

Increasingly Raise Potential Fraud Examination Risk

Federal regulators credit sophisticated statistical profiling and other new fraud investigation tools with playing a key role in the federal health care fraud investigation that lead to the arrest on health care fraud indictments today (February 28, 2012) of a Dallas-area physician, the office manager of his medical practice, and five home health agency owners. The Dallas-area defendants charged in the indictments unsealed today face health care fraud charges related to their alleged participation in a nearly $375 million health care fraud scheme involving fraudulent claims for home health services.  In a related action, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) suspended an additional 78 home health agencies (HHA) associated with defendant Roy based on what CMS views as credible allegations of fraud against them.

Federal officials say today’s arrests and CMS suspensions resulted from Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations conducted by the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT).   HEAT is a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce anti-fraud laws around the country.  Justice Department officials say the conduct charged in this indictment represents the single largest fraud amount orchestrated by one doctor in the history of the HEAT initiative.

Dallas Home Health Care Indictments

Filed in the Northern District of Texas, the indictment unsealed February 28, 2012 charges Jacques Roy, M.D., 54, of Rockwall, Texas; Cynthia Stiger, 49, of Dallas; Wilbert James Veasey Jr., 60, of Dallas; Cyprian Akamnonu, 63, of Cedar Hill, Texas; Patricia Akamnonu, RN, 48, of Cedar Hill; Teri Sivils, 44, of Midlothian, Texas; and Charity Eleda, RN, 51, of Rowlett, Texas, each with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.   Roy also is charged with nine counts of substantive health care fraud.  Veasey, Patricia Akamnonu and Eleda each are charged with three counts of health care fraud.   Eleda also is charged with three counts of making false statements related to a Medicare claim

According to the indictment, Dr. Roy owned and operated Medistat Group Associates P.A. in the Dallas area. Medistat was an association of health care providers that primarily provided home health certifications and performed patient home visits. Federal officials charge that Dr. Roy allegedly certified or directed the certification of more than 11,000 individual patients from more than 500 HHAs for home health services during the past five years.   Between January 2006 and November 2011, Medistat certified more Medicare beneficiaries for home health services and had more purported patients than any other medical practice in the United States.  Federal officials charge these certifications allegedly resulted in more than $350 million being fraudulently billed to Medicare and more than $24 million being fraudulently billed to Medicaid by Medistat and HHAs.

The indictment charges Dr. Roy used HHAs as recruiters so that Medistat could bill unnecessary home visits and medical services. The indictment charges three of the HHAs Dr. Roy used as part of the scheme were Apple of Your Eye Healthcare Services Inc., owned and operated by Stiger and Veasey; Ultimate Care Home Health Services Inc., owned and operated by Cyprian and Patricia Akamnonu; and Charry Home Care Services Inc., owned and operated by Eleda.  According to the indictment, Veasey, Akamnonu, Eleda and others recruited beneficiaries to be placed at their HHAs so that they could bill Medicare for the unnecessary and not provided services.  As part of her role in the scheme, Eleda allegedly visited The Bridge Homeless Shelter in Dallas to recruit homeless beneficiaries staying at the facility, paying recruiters $50 per beneficiary they found at The Bridge and directed to Eleda’s vehicle parked outside the shelter’s gates.

According to the indictment, Medistat maintained a “485 Department,” named for the number of the Medicare form on which the plan of care was documented.   Dr. Roy allegedly instructed Medistat employees to complete the 485s by either signing his name by hand or by using his electronic signature on the document.  Federal officials claim Dr. Roy and other Medistat physicians used this process to certify and recertify plans of care so that HHAs also were able to bill Medicare for home health services that were not medically necessary and not provided. In addition, Dr. Roy allegedly performed unnecessary home visits and ordered unnecessary medical services.

Apple allegedly submitted claims to Medicare from Jan. 1, 2006, through July 31, 2011, totaling $9,157,646 for home health services to Medicare beneficiaries that were medically unnecessary and not provided.   Dr. Roy or another Medistat physician certified the services.  From Jan. 1, 2006, to Aug. 31, 2011, Ultimate submitted claims for medically unnecessary home health services totaling $43,184,628.   Charry allegedly submitted fraudulent claims from Aug. 1, 2008, to June 30, 2011, totaling $468,858 in medically unnecessary and not provided home health services.

The indictment alleges that Sivils, as Medistat’s office manager, helped facilitate the fraud scheme by, among other actions, supervising the processing of thousands of plans of care that contained Dr. Roy’s electronic signature and other Medistat physicians’ signatures, permitting HHAs to bill Medicare for unnecessary home health services and accepting cash payments from Cyprian Akamnonu in exchange for ensuring plans of care contained Dr. Roy or another Medistat physician’s signature.

As outlined in the government’s request to the court to detain Dr. Roy, in June 2011, CMS suspended provider numbers for Dr. Roy and Medistat based on credible allegations of fraud, thus ensuring Dr. Roy did not receive payment from Medicare.   Immediately after the suspension, nearly all of Medistat’s employees started billing Medicare under the provider number for Medcare House Calls.   The court document alleges that Dr. Roy was in fact in charge of day-to-day operations at Medcare, and that Dr. Roy continued to certify patients for home health despite the suspension.

Each charged count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and substantive health care fraud carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.   Each false statement charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.   The indictment also seeks forfeiture of numerous items including funds in bank accounts, a sailboat, vehicles and multiple pieces of property.

In announcing the indictment, Federal officials said an indictment is merely an allegation and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

New Data Mining & Other Anti-Fraud Tools Credited

In announcing the indictments, federal officials credited new data analysis mining and other fraud fighting tools with playing a key role in uncovering the alleged misconduct leading to the indictment against the Medistat defendants and as well as growing list of other federal health care fraud defendants.

Legal reforms and new resources granted under the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act) and various other legal changes have beefed up the fraud detection and fighting powers of Federal health care fraud investigators and prosecutors.  

Of particular note in the Medistat investigation and a growing number of other cases are new data mining tools. To target resources to highly suspect behaviors, CMS has implemented the new Fraud Prevention System, which uses advanced predictive modeling technology to fight fraud.  The system has been screening all Medicare fee-for-service claims before payment is made since June 30, 2011.  Much like the predictive technologies used in the credit card industry, the Fraud Prevention System uses advanced technology to identify “suspicious behavior and billing irregularities.” By streaming claims on a prepayment basis, CMS and its investigative partners are able to more efficiently identify fraudulent claims and respond quickly to emerging trends.

The Medistat indictments illustrate how the HEAT team is using these new tools.  “Using sophisticated data analysis we can now target suspicious billing spikes,” said HHS Inspector General Levinson. “In this case, our analysts discovered that in 2010, while 99 percent of physicians who certified patients for home health signed off on 104 or fewer people – Dr. Roy certified more than 5,000.”

Using these data mining an a host of other new fraud fighting resources created under the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act) and other recently enacted laws, the HEAT Task Force and other federal health care fraud investigators are enjoying record successes in deploying these tools to achieve successful health care fraud prosecutions.  Government’s health care fraud prevention and enforcement efforts recovered nearly $4.1 billion in taxpayer dollars in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 according to the FY 2011 Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program Report  jointly released by HHS and the Justice Department on February 14, 2012.

In addition to the data mining tools highlighted in the Medistat indictments, other new tools helping to boost the success of federal health care fraud investigation and prosecution include:

  • Tough new rules and sentences for criminals
  • Enhanced screening and other enrollment requirements
  • Increased coordination of fraud prevention efforts
  • Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT)
  • New focus on compliance and prevention
  • Expanded overpayment recovery efforts
  • New durable medical equipment (DME) requirements
  • An additional $350 million over 10 years to ramp up anti-fraud efforts
  • Greater oversight of private insurance abuses
  • Senior Medicare Patrols

The continuing success of these and other federal health care fraud investigation and enforcement efforts continue to demonstrate the need for health care providers and payers to strengthen their compliance practices and documentation to avoid getting caught in the ever tightening health care fraud dragnet.

Health Care Providers Must Act To Manage Risks

In response to the growing emphasis and effectiveness of Federal officials in investigating and taking action against health care providers and organizations, health care providers covered by federal false claims, referral, kickback and other health care fraud laws should consider auditing the adequacy of existing practices, tightening training, oversight and controls on billing and other regulated conduct, reaffirming their commitment to compliance to workforce members and constituents and taking other appropriate steps to help prevent, detect and timely redress health care fraud exposures within their organization and to position their organization to respond and defend against potential investigations or charges.

For More Information Or Assistance

If you need assistance reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Her experience includes advising hospitals, nursing home, home health, rehabilitation and other health care providers and health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies; prevent, conduct and investigate, and respond to peer review and other quality concerns; and to respond to Board of Medicine, Department of Aging & Disability, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, HHS, DOD and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns.

A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance responding to concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other health care concerns, wish to obtain information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or update, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer, see here.

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©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

3 Responses to Data Mining, Statistical Profiling Play Key Role In Arrest of Dallas Doctor, Office Manager & 5 Home Health Agency Owners

  1. Moe says:

    Interesting,looking forward to the next post.

  2. Victor says:

    It is great to read that the system is working.

  3. You are doing great work here.

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