CMS Issues Last Call For Comments, Questions On Proposed Medicare Home Health Billing Templates

April 21, 2015

Physicians and other practitioners and others with concerns or other input on a plan by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to implement a voluntary electronic clinical template and a voluntary home health paper clinical template available for review here will have one final chance share their concerns by submitting feedback and questions on the templates via email here, participating in the final Open Forum telephone conference call about the proposed templates that CMS has scheduled for Tuesday, April 28, 2015 from 1:30-2:30 pm Eastern Time, or both.

Physicians and others who prescribe or bill for home health services should use these or other opportunities to learn about the proposed templates and the CMS plans to implement them for “voluntary” use by home health care subscribers.  At minimum, physicians and other health care providers prescribing or billing for these services will want to take the voluntary guidelines, if implemented, into account when ordering, providing or billing for this care to minimize potential problems in billing of Medicare for these services.  Even if never implemented in final form, however, reviewing the proposed template provides valuable insights into CMS’ perspectives on the requirements that home health care must meet to qualify for Medicare benefit coverage and CMS’ expectations about how physicians and others should order and bill services intended to qualify for reimbursement by Medicare..

CMS developed the proposed templates over the past year in response to reported findings of extraordinarily high error rates in Medicare home health care claims submissions and payments. According to CMS, analysis performed under the Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) program raised concerns about the accuracy and appropriateness of Medicare home health claims submissions and payment. CMS reports that in fiscal year 2014, the CERT program analysis revealed that more than half (51.4 percent) of the home health claims were paid improperly and that approximately 90 percent of the 1308 CERT-reviewed claim lines in error were found to have insufficient documentation errors.

According to an Apri1 21, 2015 announcement, CMS now plans to deploy the proposed voluntary home health electronic and paper clinical templates developed by CMS over the past year to help physicians and other practitioners better meet CMS’ requirements for accurately documenting patient eligibility for the Medicare home health benefit. CMS believes the use of clinical templates may reduce burden on the physicians and practitioners who order home health services to code and bill care in accordance with CMS expectations.

As part of the developmental process, CMS has hosted a series of Special Open Door Forum calls inviting physicians and other practitioners, home health agencies and other interested parties to provide feedback on the draft templates. The next and final Open Door Forum to discuss the draft templates is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 1:30p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Interested persons can use the following information to join the April 28, 2015 Open Door Forum conference call: Participant Dial-In Number: 1-800-603-1774, Conference ID#: 78964234. Questions or feedback on the templates can be emailed here.

We value all of the comments submitted and consider each one, but we cannot guarantee all questions will be addressed during the Open Door Forum Call. We will try to address the most common issues/concerns received. CMS will continue to accept comments sent to the email address even after the call. Stakeholders are encouraged to submit questions or comments as quickly as possible.

Physicians and other practitioners with questions, concerns or other input about the proposed templates or their use should consider participating in the telephone conference, submitting questions or other input to the designated email, or both.

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, Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law, and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 26 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, Department of Labor, IRS, HHS, DOD and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns.  The scribe for the American Bar Association (ABA) Joint Committee on Employee Benefits annual agency meeting with the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights,  Ms. Stamer has worked extensively with health care providers, health plans, health care clearinghouses, their business associates, employers, banks and other financial institutions, and others on risk management and compliance with HIPAA and other information privacy and data security rules, investigating and responding to known or suspected breaches, defending investigations or other actions by plaintiffs, OCR and other federal or state agencies, reporting known or suspected violations, business associate and other contracting, commenting or obtaining other clarification of guidance, training and enforcement, and a host of other related concerns.  Her clients include public and private health care providers, health insurers, health plans, technology and other vendors, and others.  In addition to representing and advising these organizations, she also has conducted training on Privacy & The Pandemic for the Association of State & Territorial Health Plans,  as well as  HIPAA, FACTA, PCI, medical confidentiality, insurance confidentiality and other privacy and data security compliance and risk management for  Los Angeles County Health Department, ISSA, HIMMS, the ABA, SHRM, schools, medical societies, government and private health care and health plan organizations, their business associates, trade associations and others.

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.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns.

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform electronic publication available here, our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here, or our HR & Benefits Update electronic publication available hereYou also can t access to information about how you can arrange for training on “Building Your Family’s Health Care Toolkit,”  using the “PlayForLife” resources to organize low-cost wellness programs in your workplace, school, church or other communities, and other process improvement, compliance and other training and other resources for health care providers, employers, health plans, community leaders and others here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail by creating or updating your profile here. You can reach other recent updates and other informative publications and resources.

Examples of some of these recent health care related publications include:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here.THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2015 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


Small Smiles Dental Centers Excluded As Federal Health Program Provider For 5 Years

April 4, 2014

Yesterday’s announcement of the exclusion of the operator and manager of the national dental chain, Small Smiles Dental Centers, from exclusion in Medicaid, Medicare and other federal health programs highlights the risks health care providers run by failing to comply with a Corporate Integrity Agreement.

Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced April 3, 2014 that the operator and manager of the Small Smiles Dental Centers, CSHM, LLC (formerly known as FORBA Holdings and Church Street Health Management (CSHM), has signed an Exclusion Agreement that bars CSHM from participating in Medicare, Medicaid, and all other Federal health care programs for 5 years. Small Smiles Dental Centers provides services primarily to children on Medicaid.

Mr. Levinson said that this exclusion “makes clear to the provider community that OIG closely monitors our CIAs, critically evaluates providers’ representations and certifications, and will pursue exclusion actions against providers that fail to abide by their integrity agreement obligations.”

According to the announcement, the exclusion is based on CSHM’s alleged material breaches of its Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

CSHM’s corporate predecessor entered into the CIA in 2010, as part of the resolution of a False Claims Act case involving allegations that the company had provided dental services to children on Medicaid that were medically unnecessary or failed to meet professionally recognized standards of care.

On March 7, 2014, OIG issued a Notice of Exclusion to CSHM based upon numerous material breaches of its obligations under the CIA. CSHM failed to report serious quality-of-care reportable events, take corrective action, or make appropriate notifications of those events to the State dental boards as required by the CIA, OIG found. CSHM also failed to implement and maintain key quality-related policies and procedures, comply with internal quality and compliance review requirements, properly maintain a log of compliance disclosures, and perform training as required by the CIA. Finally, CSHM submitted a false certification from its Compliance Officer regarding its compliance with CIA obligations.

This exclusion marks the culmination of a series of alleged failures by CSHM and its corporate predecessors to comply with its CIA. Under the CIA, an independent quality monitor conducted more than 90 site visits and reviews to monitor CSHM’s compliance. Since the 2010 settlement, OIG repeatedly cited CSHM and took actions to address those violations, promote improved compliance, and maintain access to care for an underserved population. These actions included imposing financial penalties and forcing the divestiture of one of the company’s clinics.

Despite these actions, CSHM remained in material breach of its CIA and OIG issued Notices of Intent to Exclude to the company in December 2013 and January 2014. In such cases, providers get the chance to show OIG that they have cured, or are in the process of curing, the material breaches. CSHM represented to OIG that it would cure the material breaches. However, through meetings with CSHM and its Board of Directors and review of its written submissions, OIG determined that CSHM had failed to cure the material breaches and proceeded with the exclusion.

CSHM disputed OIG’s determination that it was in material breach of the CIA. However, under the Exclusion Agreement, CSHM now has waived its objections to these findings.

To minimize immediate disruption of care to the hundreds of thousands of children treated at CSHM clinics and to enable an orderly, controlled shutdown of the company or divestiture of its assets, the exclusion takes effect September 30, 2014. CSHM waived its right to appeal this exclusion in any judicial forum.

Until the exclusion goes into effect on September 30, 2014, an independent monitor will continue to monitor the quality of care being provided to patients at CSHM clinics. CSHM is required to inform patients at least 30 days before closing a clinic. CSHM is also required to keep State Medicaid agencies abreast of developments and provide monthly status reports to OIG. Any divestiture of assets by CSHM must be through bona fide, arms-length transactions to an entity that is not related to or affiliated with CSHM.

Beyond the implications for Small Smiles Dental Centers, the announced exclusion carries important implications for other health care providers.  First, of course, the exclusion means that Small Smiles Dental Centers and CSHM as excluded providers are ineligible for hiring by other providers participating in Medicare or other Federal Health Programs.  Second, the exclusion also highlights the advisability for other providers covered by CIAs not only to see to comply with their CIA and in the event the OIG questions of the adequacy of that compliance to look for opportunities to work with OIG to rectify alleged concerns as cooperatively as possible unless a high degree of certainty that the provider can prove that OIG’s concerns are unfounded.

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.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law, 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 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters.

Throughout her career, Ms. Stamer has advised and represented health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies and to respond to health care, human resources, tax, privacy, safety, antitrust, civil rights, and other laws as well as with internal 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 including a number of programs and publications on OCR Civil Rights rules and enforcement actions. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, 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 with these or other compliance concerns, wish to ask about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at www.solutionslawpress.com.

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2014 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press. All other rights reserved.


 


APDerm To Pay $150k To Settle 1st HIPAA Breach Rule Charges

December 27, 2013

A new settlement agreement announced by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) shows health plans, health care providers, health care clearinghouses and their business associates the perils of failing to properly implement the necessary policies and procedures to comply with the breach notification requirements added to the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) added by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, passed as part of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

APDerm Settlement Overview

Private dermatology practice, Adult & Pediatric Dermatology, P.C., (APDerm) has agreed to pay $150,000 and implement a corrective action plan to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy,  Security, and Breach Notification Rules.  The APDerm Settlement  marks the first settlement with a covered entity for not having policies and procedures in place to address the breach notification provisions of the HITECH Act.

According to its December 26, 2013 announcement of the settlement, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) opened an investigation of APDerm upon receiving a report that an unencrypted thumb drive containing the electronic protected health information (ePHI) of approximately 2,200 individuals was stolen from a vehicle of one its staff members. The thumb drive was never recovered.  The investigation revealed that APDerm had not conducted an accurate and thorough analysis of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality of ePHI as part of its security management process.  Further, APDerm did not fully comply with requirements of the Breach Notification Rule to have in place written policies and procedures and train workforce members.

Enforcement Actions Highlight Growing HIPAA Exposures For Covered Entities

The APDerm settlement provides more evidence of the growing exposures that health care providers, health plans, health care clearinghouses and their business associates need to carefully and appropriately manage their HIPAA responsibilities. See HIPAA Heats Up: HITECH Act Changes Take Effect & OCR Begins Posting Names, Other Details Of Unsecured PHI Breach Reports On WebsiteIt joins the  growing list of settlement or resolution agreements under HIPAA announced by OCR.

The APDerm also is notable both as it settles the first ever charges against a covered entity for failing to adopt required Breach Notification policies and procedures and the relatively most settlement payment required in comparison to other announced settlement.  Other settlements have been significantly higher.  For instance,  OCR required that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee (BCBST) to pay $1.5 million to resolve HIPAA violations charges.

In response to these expanding exposures, all covered entities and their business associates should review critically and carefully the adequacy of their current HIPAA Privacy and Security compliance policies, monitoring, training, breach notification and other practices taking into consideration OCR’s audit,  investigation and enforcement actions, emerging litigation and other enforcement data, their own and reports of other security and privacy breaches and near misses, evolving rules and technology, and other developments to determine if additional steps are necessary or advisable. For tips, see here.

For Representation, Training & Other Resources

If you need assistance monitoring HIPAA and other health and health plan related regulatory policy or enforcement developments, or to review or respond to these or other health care or health IT related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer may be able to help.

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.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law, 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 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters.

Throughout her career, Ms. Stamer has advised and represented health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies and to respond to health care, human resources, tax, privacy, safety, antitrust, civil rights, and other laws as well as with internal 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 including a number of programs and publications on OCR Civil Rights rules and enforcement actions. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, 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 with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at www.solutionslawpress.com.

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press. All other rights reserved.


[1] WHD’s announcement of the planned rule notes that this draft shared December 15 remains subject to change before formally published in the Federal Register


Reminder To Follow Confidentiality, Due Process When Conducting Peer Revew & Credentialing

December 16, 2013

Hospitals, physicians, health plans and others participating in credentialing and peer review activities need to use care to ensure that they and others involved in these matters understand and comply with the confidentiality requirements of the Health Care Quality Improvement Act and similar state laws.

Hospitals and their medical staffs, physician and other practice groups and other health care organizations commonly require or query the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) established under HCQIA and other sensitive professional and personal when checking the backgrounds and credentials of physicians seeking admission to the medical staff, employment, staff privileges, participation in provider panels or other positions.  These health care organizations and providers also frequently may receive inquiries from other health care providers or organizations seeking information about a provider who is applying for admission, employment or other status.  Finally, medical staffs, practices and other health care organizations from time to time may conduct credentialing, peer review or other disciplinary activities, or quality assurance reviews that may involve the discussion of information about the conduct, quality, discipline or other credentials and qualifications of current or former physicians at their own or another health care organization.

The investigation or discipline of a physician and certain other information regarding potential performance or credentialing concerns about a physician or other health care worker often by necessity involves the receipt, sharing, or use of sensitive professional or personal information with credentialing, management, medical staff leadership or others involved in the investigation, review or process.  When participating in any of these activities, all parties involved in the activities or providing input or participation in their conduct need to understand and be required to comply fully with all applicable confidentiality and privacy requirements.   While participants in these processes often may feel great temptation to circumvent formal processes in the name of expediency, to share sensitive insight with special relationships or other inducements to cut corners on confidentiality, the participants in these activities and the organizations conducting the activities should take all necessary steps to ensure that the participants carefully comply with the confidentiality and privacy requirements and only obtain and share information as allowed by and in accordance with the procedures established by these rules.

The background check rules of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) generally require that health care organizations, as well as other businesses, conducting background check or other investigations using third party data or investigators comply with the notice, consent and disclosures of the FCRA.  Parties requesting or providing information as part of a credentialing, peer review or other investigation should ensure that the necessary disclosures, notices and consents have been obtained before requesting or sharing information.  The fulfillment of these requirements should not be assumed as experience demonstrates that these requirements are commonly overlooked by many health care and other organizations engaged in these activities.

In addition to meeting the FCRA, HCQIA, most state peer review, and medical staff bylaws generally require that credentialing, peer review, quality assurance, and other performance and discipline activities be conducted in accordance with carefully prescribed rules, including specific requirements concerning the protection of the confidentiality of information about a provider.  While relatively rare, violation of HCQIA’s confidentiality rules can create significant liability.  For instance, after it self-disclosed conduct to the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG), The Queen’s Medical Center (QMC), Hawaii, agreed to pay $150,500 in civil money penalties for allegedly violating the NPDB in 2009.

Beyond the rare sanctions under HCQIA, failing to following the rules of HCQIA and state laws can undermine the defensibility of peer review and credentialing decisions by undermining the ability of participants in the process to rely upon the peer review privilege to protect deliberations and discussions conducted in connection with the peer review and credentialing process from discovery, as well as by providing evidence of bad faith, malice or other bad motivation or acts corrupted the process and determination.  Beyond hurting the defensibility of the credentialing and peer review process, violations of confidentiality or other procedures often also give rise to antitrust, defamation, invasion of privacy, tortious interferences, and other damage claims by physicians who feel their ability to practice and reputations have been injured by alleged improper conduct in connection with a peer review, credentialing or quality assurance process.

Beyond avoiding giving rise to claims by the targeted physician or other health care provider, all participants in these processes also need to use care to properly protect any individually identifiable patient information.  Records and information about a patient, his medical condition, payment history and other related patient data and information often involved in these activities typically qualifies as personal health information, the use, access, and disclosure of which is restricted by the Privacy Rules of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and state common law, HIPAA and other medical records privacy and confidentiality laws.  In addition to the specific requirements of HIPAA and other medical information privacy laws, patient financial information and certain other sensitive information also may be protected by a broad range of federal and state laws protecting personal financial and other sensitive personal information, contractual rights created by privacy policies of the organizations involved or other laws.

Conducting proper credentialing, peer review and quality assurance activities is a critical aspect of the hiring and oversight of physicians and others providing care.  As important as these requirements are, health care providers and organizations participating in these activities need to remember that the physicians who are subjected to these requirements also enjoy confidentiality, due process and other legal protections, which can create significant liability when violated.  Consequently, health care organizations, physicians and members of management, and other staff and participants should use care to follow the proper procedures to ensure that physician rights to confidentiality, due process and other protections are honored as these activities are conducted.

Using care when discussing these concerns is equally important for a physician or other health care provider who is the subject of an investigation, credentialing, peer review, quality assurance or other activity.  While a physician whose personal or professional conduct or credentials are questioned understandably feels a strong urge to defend him or herself through a campaign of communication or other actions, physicians on the receiving end also need to follow the process and restrict their discussions.

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, for additional information or representation.

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.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law, 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 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters.

Throughout her career, Ms. Stamer has advised and represented health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies and to respond to health care, human resources, tax, privacy, safety, antitrust, civil rights, and other laws as well as with internal 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 including a number of programs and publications on OCR Civil Rights rules and enforcement actions. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, 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 with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at www.solutionslawpress.com.

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press. All other rights reserved.


[1] WHD’s announcement of the planned rule notes that this draft shared December 15 remains subject to change before formally published in the Federal Register


CMS Gives Providers Facing Fee Schedule Reduction For Unsuccessful EPrescribing Can Request Review Until 2/28

December 16, 2013

Physicians and other eligible professionals and group practices (who self-nominated for the 2012 and/or 2013 Electronic Prescribing (eRx) group practice reporting option) who were unsuccessful electronic prescribers under the 2012 or 2013 eRx Incentive Program can expect to receive notification from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) plans that CMS will have their 2014 eRx payment adjusted to 98.0% of his or her otherwise applicable Medicare Part B physician fee schedule (PFS) allowed charges amount for the specified services for all charges with dates of service from January 1–December 31, 2014.

Providers receiving these notices may wish to request a review of this planned adjustment under an informal review process for the 2014 eRx payment adjustment implemented by CMS. An informal review may be requested if the eligible professional or group practice receives notification from CMS confirming they will be subject to the 2014 eRx payment adjustment or they did not meet the requirements to avoid the 2014 eRx payment adjustment. CMS will accept nformal review requests  through February 28, 2014.

Eligible professionals and group practices should submit their eRx informal review request via email to the informal review mailbox at eRxInformalReview@cms.hhs.gov.

Complete instructions on how to request an informal review are available in the 2014 eRx Payment Adjustment Informal Review Made Simple educational document.

Physicians or other health care providers who have questions about these or other e-prescribing or reimbursement concerns may contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, for additional information or representation.

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.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law, 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 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters.

Throughout her career, Ms. Stamer has advised and represented health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies and to respond to health care, human resources, tax, privacy, safety, antitrust, civil rights, and other laws as well as with internal 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 including a number of programs and publications on OCR Civil Rights rules and enforcement actions. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, 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 with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at www.solutionslawpress.com.

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press. All other rights reserved.


[1] WHD’s announcement of the planned rule notes that this draft shared December 15 remains subject to change before formally published in the Federal Register


Update Mileage Reimbursement Policies, Communications For IRS 2014 Mileage Rates

December 10, 2013

Health care organizations should review the updated optional standard mileage rates and maximum standard automobile costs for purposes of claiming certain automobile allowances during 2014 recently released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to determine and make the necessary arrangements to communicate and implement any changes in the rates that their business plans to use to reimburse employees and others for mileage.  In addition, health care organizations also may want to consider sharing information about the updates to medical expense mileage reimbursement rates and other aspects of those rules in newsletters or other marketing communications to help empower those patients and their families to understand and use the new rates and rules to properly claim deductions that their families qualify for on their 2014 tax return for mileage incurred traveling for medical care.

Notice 2013-80, which is scheduled for official publication in Internal Revenue Bulletin 2013-52 on December 23, 2013, provides the optional 2014 standard mileage rates for taxpayers to use in computing the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving expense purposes.  This notice also provides the amount taxpayers must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate, and the maximum standard automobile cost that may be used in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate (FAVR) plan.   The IRS released an advanced copy of the Notice on December 6, 2013.

Many health care organizations reimburse doctors, management, home health, sales and marketing or other employees and other service providers for mileage and other automobile expenses under policies that use these IRS standard rates to calculate the reimbursement amounts.  Reimbursement of employees based on these rate is not required.  Because reimbursements in excess of the standard rates can create income tax recordkeeping and reporting challenges for the employer, the employee or both, however, most businesses use standard mileage reimbursement rates set at or below the IRS optional standard rates.  Businesses facing financial or other challenges may want to reevaluate whether to continue to reimburse mileage and if so, the rate of reimbursement to use to do so.

When communicating with employees about the businesses’ policies for reimbursing business and moving expense mileage, businesses should take care to ensure that employees understand differences in the mileage reimbursement rates that apply to different categories of expenses.  As an added service to employees, many human resources departments also may want to consider alerting employees to consult their tax advisor or take other steps to properly understand and retain documentation of mileage not only for business expense reimbursement, but also medical and moving purposes.  The availability of this information can be helpful to empower workers and their families to understand and take proper advantage of rules for deducting these expenses even when the employer or its health plan does not reimburse the employee for the expenses.

In addition to reimbursements for workers, businesses also should consider the potential effects of the adjustments in the IRS optional standard mileage rates on the amounts they may bill their customers for mileage expenses as well as the amount that they should expect that their vendors and service providers may bill the business for mileage expenses under contracts that provide for reimbursement of those expenses. Businesses whose contracts with vendors or customers provide for reimbursement of mileage expenses using rates based on the IRS’ optional standard mileage rates should evaluate the effect of the announced adjustments on those mileage obligations to ensure that mileage expenses are properly anticipated, billed and paid.

Beyond dealing with their own policies for reimbursement and billing for mileage, many health care organizations may want to consider sharing information about the 2014 medical mileage reimbursement rates announced by the IRS with patients and their families.  Many patients and their families may qualify to claim deductions for mileage for medical travel under IRS rules, but may not be aware of the adjusted rates or the proper procedures for identifying and documenting their medical mileage.  While often negligible for families who are not suffering major illness requiring extensive commuting or travel, patients with chronic or serious medical conditions often can benefit from claiming these deductions properly.   Communicating the new rates and other tips for keeping records and claiming the mileage deduction could be a significant and valued service to aid these families.

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.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law, 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 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters.

Throughout her career, Ms. Stamer has advised and represented health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies and to respond to health care, human resources, tax, privacy, safety, antitrust, civil rights, and other laws as well as with internal 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 including a number of programs and publications on OCR Civil Rights rules and enforcement actions. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, 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 with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at www.solutionslawpress.com.

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press. All other rights reserved.


[1] WHD’s announcement of the planned rule notes that this draft shared December 15 remains subject to change before formally published in the Federal Register


Doc Sentenced to 15 Years for Health Care Fraud

November 16, 2013

Dr. Anthony Stevens Chase faces a 15 month sentence and must pay $360,293 in restitution after pleading guilty to two health care fraud counts.

On October 21, 2011, Jase pled guilty to two counts of health care fraud before Judge James J. Brady, for involvement in two nearly identical schemes to defraud Medicare.

The first conviction arose from Jase’s association Baton Rouge-based company Lobdale Medical Services, which was owned by Beatrice and Young Anyanwu. As part of the scheme to defraud, Sandra Parkman Thompson and others procured the names and personal information of Medicare beneficiaries in and around the New Orleans area and delivered these names to Jase, who then signed false and fraudulent prescriptions for power wheelchairs and other durable medical equipment for which the Medicare beneficiaries had no medical need. Thompson later delivered the fraudulent prescriptions to the Anyanwus, who submitted claims to Medicare through Lobdale Medical Services for the medically unnecessary equipment. The total billings to Medicare by Lobdale Medicare Services exceeded $1,000,000.

The second conviction arose from JASE’s involvement with a New Orleans-based durable medical equipment company known as Psalms 23-DME, which also paid Thompson to deliver prescriptions for wheelchairs and other durable medical equipment. Jase wrote prescriptions for beneficiaries whom he had never seen and who had no need for the equipment prescribed them. As a result, Psalms 23-DME billed Medicare for claims totaling $230,963 using JASE’s provider number.

Beatrice and Young Anyanwu pled guilty to the health care fraud scheme to defraud Medicare as well as the illegal remuneration conspiracy on August 14, 2012.  Theywere sentenced  February 1, 2013. Sandra Parkman Thompson was convicted after a jury trial on August 20, 2012.  She was sentenced on March 14, 2013.

The investigation of Jase was conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Louisiana Department of Justice.  Announcing the sentence, acting U.S. Attorney Walt Green stated, “This case is a great example of how federal and state law enforcement work together on a daily basis to stamp out health care fraud by doctors and others who abuse our health care system in our state.”

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.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law, 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 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters.

Throughout her career, Ms. Stamer has advised and represented health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies and to respond to health care, human resources, tax, privacy, safety, antitrust, civil rights, and other laws as well as with internal 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 including a number of programs and publications on OCR Civil Rights rules and enforcement actions. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, 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 with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at www.solutionslawpress.com.

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press. All other rights reserved.


[1] WHD’s announcement of the planned rule notes that this draft shared December 15 remains subject to change before formally published in the Federal Register


DOL Extends Minimum Wage, Overtime Protections To Home Care Workers

September 18, 2013

Health care and other parties employing or otherwise engaging the services of home care workers should review and update their policies and  practices for scheduling, tracking hours worked and paying these workers to ensure that they comply by January 1, 2015 with a new final rule announced by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division today (September 18, 2013).  Today’s announcement of the regulatory changes means employers of home care workers can expect to see costs rise and also will join most other U.S. businesses that must worry about getting caught in minimum wage and overtime enforcement traps.

Under the new final rule, the Labor Department extends the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime protections to most of the nation’s direct care workers who provide essential home care assistance to elderly people and people with illnesses, injuries, or disabilities beginning January 1, 2015.

The new final rule generally will require that the approximately two million home care workers such as home health aides, personal care aides, and certified nursing assistants will qualify for minimum wage and overtime.  Employers engaging these services also generally will need to keep records and comply with other FLSA requirements with respect to these workers as well.

In anticipation of the rollout of these new protections, the Labor Department is kicking off a public outreach campaign to educate home care workers and their employers about the rule change. The Department will be hosting five public webinars during the month of October and has created a new, dedicated web portal here with fact sheets, FAQs, interactive web tools, and other materials.

The Labor Department’s focus on home workers is an extension of its expanded regulation and enforcement efforts targeting a broad range of health care industry employers. Home care and other health industry employers should act to manage their rising exposures to minimum wage, overtime and other federal and state wage and hour law risks.

New Home Care Worker Rules Effective January 2015

Under the new final rule, the Labor Department extends the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime protections to most of the nation’s direct care workers who provide essential home care assistance to elderly people and people with illnesses, injuries, or disabilities beginning January 1, 2015.

The new final rule generally will require that the approximately two million home care workers such as home health aides, personal care aides, and certified nursing assistants will qualify for minimum wage and overtime.  Employers engaging these services also generally will need to keep records and comply with other FLSA requirements with respect to these workers as well.

In anticipation of the rollout of these new protections, the Labor Department is kicking off a public outreach campaign to educate home care workers and their employers about the rule change. The Department will be hosting five public webinars during the month of October and has created a new, dedicated web portal here with fact sheets, FAQs, interactive web tools, and other materials.

The Labor Department’s focus on home workers is an extension of its expanded regulation and enforcement efforts targeting a broad range of health care industry employers. Home care and other health industry employers should act to manage their rising exposures to minimum wage, overtime and other federal and state wage and hour law risks.

The impending change in the treatment of home care workers is part of a larger commitment by the Obama Administration to both expansion and enforcement of the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime provisions, and a specific program targeting employers in health care and related services industries.

The Obama Administration since taking office has conducted an aggressive campaign seeking to significantly increase the minimum wage under the FLSA and expand other protections.  Along with this proactive regulatory agenda, the Obama Administration also specifically is aggressively targeting health care and other caregiver businesses in its enforcement and audit activities. See, e.g. Home health care company in Dallas agrees to pay 80 nurses more than $92,000 in back wages following US Labor Department investigation; US Department of Labor secures nearly $62,000 in back overtime wages for 21 health care employees in Pine Bluff, Ark.; US Department of Labor initiative targeted toward increasing FLSA compliance in New York’s health care industry; US Department of Labor initiative targeted toward residential health care industry in Connecticut and Rhode Island to increase FLSA compliance; Partners HealthCare Systems agrees to pay 700 employees more than $2.7 million in overtime back wages to resolve U.S. Labor Department lawsuit; US Labor Department sues Kentucky home health care provider to obtain more than $512,000 in back wages and damages for 22 employees; and Buffalo, Minn.-based home health care provider agrees to pay more than $150,000 in back wages following US Labor Department investigation.

Violation of wage and hour laws exposes health care and other employers to significant back pay awards, substantial civil penalties and, if the violation is found to be willful, even potential criminal liability.   Because states all have their own wage and hour laws, employers may face liability under either or both laws.   Coupled with these and other enforcement efforts against health and other caregiver businesses, today’s announcement reflects enforcement risks will continue to rise for employers of home care workers.

In light of the proposed regulatory changes and demonstrated willingness of the Labor Department and private plaintiffs to bring actions against employers violating these rules, health care and others employing home care workers should take well-documented steps to manage their risks.  These employers should both confirm the adequacy of their practices under existing rules, as well as evaluate and begin preparing to respond to the proposed changes to these rules.  In both cases, employers of home care or other health care workers are encouraged to critically evaluate their classification or workers, both with respect to their status as employees versus contractor or leased employees, as well as their characterization as exempt versus non-exempt for wage and hour law purposes.  In addition, given the nature of the scheduled often worked by home care givers, their employers also generally should pay particular attention to the adequacy of practices for recordkeeping.

Enforcement Against Other Industries Shows Risks

Of course, the home care and health care industry are not the only industries that need to worry about FLSA enforcement.   The Obama Administration is very aggressive in its enforcement of wage and hour and overtime laws generally.  For instance, First Republic Bank recently paid $1,009,643.93 in overtime back wages for 392 First Republic Bank employees in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon after the Labor Department found the San Francisco-based bank wrongly classified the employees as exempt from the FLSA’s overtime and recordkeeping requirements, resulting in violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime and record-keeping provisions.  The Labor Department announced the settlement resulting in the payment on November 27, 2012.  The  settlement resulted from an investigation by the Labor Department that found the San Francisco-based bank wrongly classified the employees as exempt from overtime, resulting in violations of the FLSA’s overtime and record-keeping provisions.

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also are required to maintain accurate time and payroll records.

While the FLSA provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for individuals employed in bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales positions, as well as certain computer employees, job titles do not determine the applicability of this or other FLSA exemptions. In order for an exemption to apply, an employee’s specific job duties and salary must meet all the requirements of the department’s regulations. To qualify for exemption, employees generally must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week.

Investigators found that First Republic Bank failed to consider the FLSA’s criteria that allow certain administrative and professional employees to be exempt from receiving overtime pay. In fact, the employees were entitled to overtime compensation at one and one-half times their regular rates for hours worked over 40 in a week. Additionally, the bank failed to include bonus payments in nonexempt employees’ regular rates of pay when computing overtime compensation, in violation of the act. Record-keeping violations resulted from the employer’s failure to record the number of hours worked by the misclassified employees.

“It is essential that employers take the time to carefully assess the FLSA classification of their workforce,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in the Labor Department’s announcement of the settlement. “As this investigation demonstrates, improper classification results in improper wages and causes workers real economic harm.”

FLSA Violations Generally Costly;  Enforcement Rising

The enforcement record of the Labor Department confirms that employers that improperly treat workers as exempt from the FLSA’s overtime, minimum wage and recordkeeping requirements run a big risk.  The Labor Department and private plaintiffs alike regularly target employers that use aggressive worker classification or other pay practices to avoid paying minimum wage or overtime to workers.  Under the Obama Administration, DOL officials have made it a priority to enforce overtime, record keeping, worker classification and other wage and hour law requirements.  See e.g.,  Boston Furs Sued For $1M For Violations Of Fair Labor Standards Act; Record $2.3 Million+ Backpay Order; Minimum Wage, Overtime Risks Highlighted By Labor Department Strike Force Targeting Residential Care & Group Homes; Review & Strengthen Defensibility of Existing Worker Classification Practices In Light of Rising Congressional & Regulatory Scrutiny; 250 New Investigators, Renewed DOL Enforcement Emphasis Signal Rising Wage & Hour Risks For EmployersQuest Diagnostics, Inc. To Pay $688,000 In Overtime Backpay In an effort to further promote compliance and enforcement of these rules,  the Labor Department is using  smart phone applications, social media and a host of other new tools to educate and recruit workers in its effort to find and prosecute violators. See, e.g. New Employee Smart Phone App New Tool In Labor Department’s Aggressive Wage & Hour Law Enforcement Campaign Against Restaurant & Other Employers.    As a result of these effort, employers violating the FLSA now face heightened risk of enforcement from both the  Labor Department and private litigation.

Employers Should Strengthen Practices For Defensibility

 To minimize exposure under the FLSA, employers should review and document the defensibility of their existing practices for classifying and compensating workers under existing Federal and state wage and hour laws and take other actions to minimize their potential liability under applicable wages and hour laws.  Steps advisable as part of this process include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Audit of each position current classified as exempt to assess its continued sustainability and to develop documentation justifying that characterization;
  • Audit characterization of workers obtained from staffing, employee leasing, independent contractor and other arrangements and implement contractual and other oversight arrangements to minimize risks that these relationships could create if workers are recharacterized as employed by the employer receiving these services;
  • Review the characterization of on-call and other time demands placed on employees to confirm that all compensable time is properly identified, tracked, documented, compensated and reported;
  • Review of existing practices for tracking compensable hours and paying non-exempt employees for compliance with applicable regulations and to identify opportunities to minimize costs and liabilities arising out of the regulatory mandates;
  • If the audit raises questions about the appropriateness of the classification of an employee as exempt, self-initiation of proper corrective action after consultation with qualified legal counsel;
  • Review of existing documentation and record keeping practices for hourly employees;
  • Exploration of available options and alternatives for calculating required wage payments to non-exempt employees; and
  • Re-engineering of work rules and other practices to minimize costs and liabilities as appropriate in light of the regulations and enforcement exposures.

Because of the potentially significant liability exposure, employers generally will want to consult with qualified legal counsel before starting their risk assessment and assess risks and claims within the scope of attorney-client privilege to help protect the ability to claim attorney-client privilege or other evidentiary protections to help shelter conversations or certain other sensitive risk activities from discovery under the rules of evidence.

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.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law, 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 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters.

Throughout her career, Ms. Stamer has advised and represented health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies and to respond to health care, human resources, tax, privacy, safety, antitrust, civil rights, and other laws as well as with internal 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 including a number of programs and publications on OCR Civil Rights rules and enforcement actions. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, 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 with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at www.solutionslawpress.com.

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2013 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press. All other rights reserved.


[1] WHD’s announcement of the planned rule notes that this draft shared December 15 remains subject to change before formally published in the Federal Register


Feds Health Fraud Suit Against Psychiatrists Shows Risks Providers Run From Aggressive Referral or Billing Activities

November 16, 2012

A civil lawsuit seeking millions of dollars of damages  from a Chicago-area psychiatrist provides a clear warning to physicians and other health care providers of the significant potential legal risks that can arise if they improperly receive compensation or other perks for participating in conferences, prescribing treatments or engage in other arrangements that violate federal or state anti-kickback or other health care fraud laws.On November 15, 2012, the Justice Department sued Chicago-area psychiatrist Dr. Michael J. Reinstein in the Northern District of Illinois with receiving illegal kickbacks on at least 50,000 claims and filing at least 140,000 false Medicare and Medicare Claims for antipsychotic medications he prescribed for thousands of mentally ill patients in area nursing homes.  The suit against Dr. Michael J. Reinstein seeking triple damages under the False Claims Act, plus a civil penalty of $5,500 to $11,000 for each alleged false claim. See here.

The lawsuit involves Reinstein’s use of clozapine, a rarely-used medication that has serious potential side effects and is generally considered a drug of last resort, particularly for elderly patients. While clozapine has been shown to be effective for treatment-resistant forms of schizophrenia, it is also known to cause numerous side effects, including a potentially deadly decrease in white blood cells, seizures, inflamation of the heart muscle, and increased mortality in elderly patients.

According to the suit, 69-year old Reinstein has provided psychiatric medical services in the Chicago area since 1973. According to the lawsuit, Reinstein routinely prescribed antipsychotic and other psychiatric medications knowing that, because most of his patients are indigent nursing home residents, pharmacies dispensing the medications submitted claims to Medicaid, and beginning in 2006, to Medicare Part D. Reinstein also submitted Medicare and Medicaid claims for pharmacologic management of his patients, knowing that he did not engage in substantive evaluations of his patients’ medical and psychiatric conditions to properly manage their medications. Instead, he allegedly prescribed medications to his patients based on his receipt of kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies.

Prior to August 2003, Reinstein prescribed Clozaril, the trade name for clozapine manufactured by Novartis, and he often had more than 1,000 patients using the medication at any given time. For many years, Novartis paid Reinstein to promote Clozaril, the complaint alleges. After Novartis’ patent for Clozaril expired in 1998, Reinstein resisted pharmacy and drug company efforts to switch his patients to generic clozapine and he continued to be the largest prescriber of Clozaril to Medicaid recipients in the United States. In July 2003, Novartis notified Reinstein that was withdrawing its support for Clozaril, and ended the regular payments that it had been making to Reinstein. 

In August 2003, Reinstein finally agreed to switch his patients to generic clozapine manufactured by Miami-based IVAX Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the suit alleges, if IVAX agreed to pay Reinstein $50,000 under a one-year “consulting agreement;” pay his nurse to speak on behalf of clozapine; and fund a clozapine research study by a Reinstein-affiliated entity known as Uptown Research Institute. IVAX agreed and Reinstein immediately began switching his patients from Clozaril to IVAX’s clozapine. He quickly became the largest prescriber of generic clozapine in the country.

“Reinstein’s inordinate prescribing of clozapine stands in stark contrast to its extremely limited use by other physicians,” the lawsuit states. While generally only four percent of schizophrenia patients who were prescribed antipsychotics received clozapine, during the time Reinstein was alegedly accepting kickbacks from IVAX, more than 50 percent of his patients were prescribed IVAX’s clozapine. At one nursing home, Reinstein had 75 percent of the 400 residents on IVAX’s clozapine.

Between 2003 and 2006, the lawsuit charges Reinstein requested, and IVAX provided, additional direct and indirect benefits to Reinstein and his associates, including paying airfare, lodging, meals, and entertainment expenses for a pharmacy owner and spouse, Reinstein’s nurse, his accountant and spouse, his administrative assistant and spouse, and Reinstein and his wife to travel to IVAX’s headquarters in Miami. IVAX also paid for Reinstein and his entourage to go on a fishing trip, a boat cruise, and a golf outing; annual renewal of Reinstein’s $50,000 “consulting agreement;” and tickets to sporting events and free IVAX-manufactured medication for Reinstein’s personal use.

In January 2006, IVAX became a subsidiary of Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries, Ltd., an Israeli company. About seven months before the merger, Reinstein began moving large numbers of his patients to a form of clozapine manufactured by a competitor of IVAX/Teva. In April 2006, Teva paid all expenses for Reinstein and his entourage to travel to Miami, including a $2,300 boat cruise, and at least two dinners costing more than $1,700 each. During this trip Teva employees asked Reinstein what the company could do to induce Reinstein to prescribe more clozapine, and Reinstein suggested that Teva hire an associate of his from Chicago, the lawsuit alleges. Teva agreed and in the months after the hiring Reinstein put several hundred patients back on Teva’s clozapine. From 2007 to 2009, the suit alleges, Teva and Reinstein entered into annual “speaker agreements” that resulted in Teva paying Reinstein more than $100,000.

Based on this alleged conduct, the suit charges Medicaid received and paid more than 100,000 false claims from various pharmacies for IVAX/Teva clozapine prescriptions written by Reinstein between August 2003 and July 2011 as a result of illegal kickbacks he solicited and received from IVAX and Teva. Between 2006 and July 2011, Medicare Part D received and paid more than 40,000 false claims involving similar kickback-induced prescriptions. Likewise, between August 2003 and July 2011, Reinstein allegedly submitted more than 40,000 false claims and received payment from Medicaid for purported pharmacologic management, as well as more than 10,000 similar false claims to Medicare.

This lawsuit is one a growing list of civil and criminal investigations and enforcement actions by federal and state prosecutors targeting health care providers using expanded health care fraud laws and investigatory and prosecutorial powers granted under the Affordable Care Act and other legislation to help bring down health care costs. 

Through these and other flashy prosecutions, as well as a continuous campaign of audits and other activities, federal officials are trying to reduce Medicare and other health care expenditures, both by prosecuting health care providers for intentionally submitting false claims, as well as using the treat of audits, program, disqualification or civil or criminal prosecution to scare health care providers to reduce legitimate billings that could trigger a federal audit or other federal scrutiny. 

Federal officials are aided in these efforts by an arsenal of new health care fraud statistical profiling and other health care fraud detection and enforcement tools granted by Congress in recent years that make it easier for federal officials to target and successfully prosecute or bring other sanctions against health care providers whose billing or other business practices come under scrutiny. 

Coupled with the ever-lengthening list of civil settlements and civil monetary penalties, program disqualifications, and audits, Federal officials use high profile criminal sweeps like those announced today both to send a message to health care providers generally, and as a tool to pressure and encourage health care providers to accept settlements proposed by federal auditors and prosecutors to avoid the potential threat of more serious criminal, civil or administrative prosecutions. 

These activities are intended to send a strong message to health care providers that bill Medicare, Medicaid, or other public or private health care programs that they must be prepared to defend any charges billed to these or other federal health care programs and to defend their other business practices. 

In response to these threats, health care providers should take steps to strengthen their billing, referral, audit, medical and other recordkeeping and other compliance and risk management practices to enhance their ability to defend or prevent these exposures.  While most providers already are moving to tighten these practices, the move to electronic health records, changing rules and other pressures are undermining the sufficiency of these efforts.  This investigation shows that beyond mere aggressive billing practices, federal officials also are targeting for enforcement physicians and other health care providers that participate in financial or other referral incentive or reward practices prohibited by the anti-kickback, STARK or other relevant law as well as the filing of Medicare, Medicaid or other health claims for undelivered, unnecessary or otherwise uncovered care or  services. 

Amid these and other enforcement actions, all health industry players should exercise care to steer clear of activities that might violate federal health care fraud rules as well as consider whether corrective or other action might be necessary to address risks of prior activities that with the benefit of hindsight taking into account the current enforcement climate reflect potential exposures. 

In the case of physicians and certain other professionals, these plans need to include both efforts to manage potential government investigation risks and management of their practices to mitigate peer review or other disciplinary or practice regulatory oversight that often arises when the practices and hospitals start tightening oversight and controls on practices as part of their own efforts to protect their organizations from fraud or other audits. 

While almost all health care providers can find room to improve their documentation and tighten other compliance, it also is important that providers also plan for how they will finance the cost of defending an audit or other investigation.  Often, the financial cost of defending these and other charges prevents physicians or other health care providers from lodging effective defenses of legitimate practices.  To help avoid this quagmire, providers generally will want to explore getting special liability coverage, indemnification or other protection as part of their planning arrangements.

For Help With Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

If you need help providing compliance or other training, 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. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients to establish, audit, administer and defend billing, referral, privacy, staffing and recruitment and other compliance and risk management policies, to 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/ She also regularly designs and presents risk management, compliance and other training for health care providers, professional associations and others.   Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, 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. Contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication see here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

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


Health Care Providers Warned To Raise Defenses As Feds Charge 91 Individuals Bilked Medicare For Approximately $430 Million

October 4, 2012

Health Care Providers Warned To Raise Defenses As Feds Charge 91 Individuals Bilked Medicare For Approximately $430 Million

A total of 91 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Brooklyn, Baton Rouge and Chicago are facing health care fraud charges for their alleged participation in false Medicare billings totaling approximately $429.2 million to Medicare fraud schemes under federal indictments unsealed in a joint Department of Justice and HHS Medicare Fraud Strike Force nationwide takedown jointly announced by Attorney General Eric Holder, Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and other agencies today (October 4, 2012). Coming on the heels of President Obama’s touting of the health care fraud fighting success of his Administration during his debate with Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, the indictments are the latest warning to health care providers of the advisability of tightening their Medicare and other health care billing and other compliance practices.

Highlights of The Latest Strike Force Action

Together, dozens of charged individuals were arrested or surrendered as federal officials unsealed indictments charging more than $230 million in home health care fraud; more than $100 million in mental health care fraud and more than $49 million in ambulance transportation fraud; and millions more in other frauds.

The defendants charged are accused of various health care fraud-related crimes, including conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes and money laundering.  The charges are based on a variety of alleged fraud schemes involving various medical treatments and services such as home health care, mental health services, psychotherapy, physical and occupational therapy, durable medical equipment (DME) and ambulance services.

According to court documents, the defendants allegedly participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary and oftentimes never provided.  In many cases, court documents allege that patient recruiters, Medicare beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so that the providers could submit fraudulent billing to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary or never provided.  Collectively, the doctors, nurses, licensed medical professionals, health care company owners and others charged are accused of conspiring to submit a total of approximately $429.2 million in fraudulent billing.

“Today’s coordinated actions represent one of the largest Medicare fraud takedowns in Department of Justice history, as measured by the amount of alleged fraudulent billings,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer.  “We have made it one of the Department’s missions to hold accountable those who abuse the Medicare program for personal profit.  And there are Medicare fraudsters in prisons across the country – some who will be there for decades – who can attest to our determination, and our effectiveness.”

In Miami, a total of 33 defendants are charged for their alleged participation in various fraud schemes involving a total of $204.5 million in false billings for home health care, mental health services, occupational and physical therapy, and DME.  In one case, three defendants are charged for participating in a fraud scheme at LTC Professional Consultants and Professional Home Care Solutions Inc. which led to approximately $74 million in fraudulent billing for home health care.  In another case, five defendants are charged for participating in a fraud scheme at Hollywood Pavilion which led to $67 million in fraudulent billing for mental health services. 

Sixteen individuals, including three doctors and one licensed physical therapist, are charged in Los Angeles with participating in various fraud schemes involving a total of $53.8 million in false billings.  In one case, four defendants are charged for allegedly participating in a fraud scheme at Alpha Ambulance Inc., which led to approximately $49.2 million in fraudulent billing for ambulance transportation.  The case represents the largest ambulance fraud scheme ever prosecuted by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  According to court documents, the defendants provided beneficiaries ambulance rides that were medically unnecessary.

In Dallas, 14 individuals – including two doctors and two registered nurses – are charged for their alleged participation in various fraud schemes involving a total of $103.3 million in false billings.  In one case, three defendants – a medical doctor and two registered nurses – are charged with participating in a fraud scheme at Raphem Medical Practice and PTM Healthcare Services which led to approximately $100 million in fraudulent billing for home health care services.  According to court documents, Dr. Joseph Megwa signed approximately 33,000 prescriptions for more than 2,000 unique Medicare beneficiaries from 2006 to 2011.  Many of these Medicare beneficiaries had primary care physicians who never certified home healthcare services for them.  In order to handle the volume of prescriptions, Megwa allegedly signed stacks of documents without reviewing them.

Seven individuals are charged in Houston for their participation in a fraud scheme at a hospital which led to $158 million in fraudulent billing for community mental health center services.  According to court documents, the defendants who served as administrators at the hospital paid kickbacks – in the form of cigarettes, food and coupons redeemable for items available at the hospital’s “country stores” – to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for those beneficiaries’ attendance at the hospital’s partial hospitalization programs (PHP).  Allegedly, beneficiaries watched television, played games and engaged in other non-PHP activities rather than receiving the services for which the hospital billed Medicare.  Previously, on Feb. 22, 2012, the assistant administrator of the hospital, Mohammad Kahn, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and paying kickbacks related to $116 million worth of fraudulent claims submitted to Medicare.  After his guilty plea, an additional $42 million in fraudulent claims were discovered that are included in today’s totals.

In Brooklyn, 15 individuals, including one doctor and four chiropractors, are charged for their alleged participation in various fraud schemes involving a total of $23.2 million in false billings.  In one case, nine defendants, including a medical doctor, are charged with participating in a fraud scheme at Cropsey Medical Care PLLC which led to approximately $13.8 million in fraudulent billing for physical therapy and related services. According to court documents, the defendants paid cash kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for physical therapy that was not medically necessary and on some occasions never provided to beneficiaries.

In Baton Rouge, four defendants, including a licensed practical nurse, are charged for their roles in fraud schemes involving approximately $2.4 million in false claims for medically unnecessary durable medical equipment. 

In Chicago, two defendants, including a dermatologist and a psychologist, are charged for their roles in fraud schemes involving, according to court documents, millions of dollars in false claims for medically unnecessary laser treatments and psychotherapy services. 

In addition to the criminal indictments, HHS also used recently expanded health care fraud powers granted as part of the Affordable Care Act to suspend and took other administrative action against 30 health care providers following a data-driven analysis that HHS claims showed “credible allegations of fraud.”  Under the Affordable Care Act, HHS is able to suspend payments until the resolution of an investigation.

According to today’s announcement the charges and other actions announced today resulted from coordinated health care fraud investigations conducted by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force as part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), 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 current anti-fraud laws around the country.

Federal officials now credit strike force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,480 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion since strike force operations began in March 2007.

Charges Part of Widening War Against Health Care Providers

The charges unsealed today are the latest and among the most sweeping of an ever-lengthening list of flashy prosecutions and federal program disqualification actions that federal officials are conducting against health care providers using expanded health care fraud laws and investigatory and prosecutorial powers granted under the Affordable Care Act and other legislation. 

Through these and other flashy prosecutions, as well as a continuous campaign of audits and other activities, federal officials are trying to reduce Medicare and other health care expenditures, both by prosecuting health care providers for intentionally submitting false claims, as well as using the treat of audits, program, disqualification or civil or criminal prosecution to scare health care providers to reduce legitimate billings that could trigger a federal audit or other federal scrutiny. 

Federal officials are aided in these efforts by an arsenal of new health care fraud statistical profiling and other health care fraud detection and enforcement tools granted by Congress in recent years that make it easier for federal officials to target and successfully prosecute or bring other sanctions against health care providers whose billing or other business practices come under scrutiny. 

Coupled with the ever-lengthening list of civil settlements and civil monetary penalties, program disqualifications, and audits, Federal officials use high profile criminal sweeps like those announced today both to send a message to health care providers generally, and as a tool to pressure and encourage health care providers to accept settlements proposed by federal auditors and prosecutors to avoid the potential threat of more serious criminal, civil or administrative prosecutions. 

These activities are intended to send a strong message to health care providers that bill Medicare, Medicaid, or other public or private health care programs that they must be prepared to defend any charges billed to these or other federal health care programs and to defend their other business practices. 

In response to these threats, health care providers should take steps to strengthen their billing, referral, audit, medical and other recordkeeping and other compliance and risk management practices to enhance their ability to defend or prevent these exposures.  While most providers already are moving to tighten these practices, the move to electronic health records, changing rules and other pressures are undermining the sufficiency of these efforts.

In the case of physicians and certain other professionals, these plans need to include both efforts to manage potential government investigation risks and management of their practices to mitigate peer review or other disciplinary or practice regulatory oversight that often arises when the practices and hospitals start tightening oversight and controls on practices as part of their own efforts to protect their organizations from fraud or other audits. 

While almost all health care providers can find room to improve their documentation and tighten other compliance, it also is important that providers also plan for how they will finance the cost of defending an audit or other investigation.  Often, the financial cost of defending these and other charges prevents physicians or other health care providers from lodging effective defenses of legitimate practices.  To help avoid this quagmire, providers generally will want to explore getting special liability coverage, indemnification or other protection as part of their planning arrangements.

For Help With Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

If you need help providing compliance or other training, 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. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients to establish, audit, administer and defend billing, referral, privacy, staffing and recruitment and other compliance and risk management policies, to 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/ She also regularly designs and presents risk management, compliance and other training for health care providers, professional associations and others.   Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, 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. Contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication see here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

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


Recent OIG Audit Reports Provide Insights Where Fraud Audits Likely To Look Next

September 24, 2012
Healthcare providers, Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) intermediaries, State Medicaid and CHIP fund recipients, Medicare and Medicaid Advantage Plan and others wanting to get a leg up on potential audit targets likely to draw the attention of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) and their health care fraud auditors and investigators may get valuable insights by monitoring OIG audit reports of Medicare Intermediaries and others.  Reports of deficiencies uncovered in these audits and recommendations to tighten procedures and seek repayments often prompt demands for repayment and tighter payment and audit guidelines and procedures.
The following are some of the most recently-issued OIG audit reports:
  • New York Claimed Some Unallowable Costs for Services by New York City Providers under the State’s Developmental Disabilities Waiver Program (A-02-10-01027)

OIG says the New York State Department of Health (DOH) claimed Federal Medicaid reimbursement for some Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) waiver program services provided by New York City providers that did not comply with certain Federal and State requirements. http://go.usa.gov/rk8V.

Based on sample results, OIG estimates that DOH improperly claimed $7.8 million in Federal Medicaid reimbursement for OPWDD waiver program services during calendar years 2006 through 2008. Federal law authorizes Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) waiver programs. A State’s HCBS waiver program must be approved by CMS and allows a State to claim Federal reimbursement for services not usually covered by Medicaid.

Of the 100 beneficiary-months in the random sample, DOH properly claimed Medicaid reimbursement for OPWDD waiver program services during 86 beneficiary-months. However, DOH claimed Medicaid reimbursement for services that did not comply with certain Federal and State requirements for the remaining 14 beneficiary-months. OIG reported the claims for unallowable services were made because DOH and OPWDD’s policies and procedures for overseeing and administering the waiver program were not adequate to ensure that (1) providers claimed reimbursement only for services actually provided and maintained all the required documentation to support services billed and (2) OPWDD waiver program services were provided only to beneficiaries pursuant to written plans of care.

OIG recommended that DOH:

  • Refund $7.8 million to the Federal Government and
  • Work with OPWDD to strengthen policies and procedures to ensure that (a) providers claim reimbursement only for OPWDD waiver program services actually provided and maintain the required documentation to support services billed and (b) OPWDD waiver program services are provided pursuant to written plans of care.

DOH and OPWDD concurred with the recommendations.

  • Medicare Contractors’ Payments to Providers in Jurisdiction 11 for Full Vials of Herceptin Were Often Incorrect (A-03-11-00013)

OIG reported that most payments for one or more full vials of Herceptin that the Medicare contractors made to providers in Jurisdiction 11 (North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia) from January 2008 through December 2010 were incorrect. Herceptin (trastuzumab) is a Medicare-covered biological drug used to treat breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.  http://go.usa.gov/rk9P.

Of the 2,507 selected line items, OIG says 2,029 were incorrect and included overpayments totaling $2.4 million that the providers had not identified or refunded by the beginning of our audit. Providers refunded overpayments on 138 line items totaling $131,000 before our fieldwork. The remaining 340 line items were correct.

The 2,029 incorrect line items included incorrect units of service and a lack of supporting documentation. The providers attributed the incorrect payments to chargemaster errors, clerical errors, and billing systems that could not prevent or detect the incorrect billing of units of service. In some cases, providers could not store unused doses for later use because their pharmacies incorrectly reconstituted the Herceptin. When this occurred, the providers billed Medicare for the entire vial, including waste. The Medicare contractors made these incorrect payments because neither the Fiscal Intermediary Standard System nor the Common Working File had sufficient edits in place during our audit period to prevent or detect the overpayments.

OIG recommended that Palmetto GBA, LLC (Palmetto), the Medicare Administrative Contractor for Jurisdiction 11:

  • (1) Recover the $2.4 million in identified overpayments,
  • Implement a system edit that identifies for review line items for multiuse-vial drugs with units of service equivalent to one or more entire vials, and
  • Use the results of this audit in its provider education activities.

Palmetto concurred with the OIG findings and recommendations and described corrective actions that it had taken or planned to take.

  • Texas Did Not Report Excess Contractor Profits in Accordance With Federal Regulations (A-06-10-00062) 

A Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) is a system of software and hardware used to process Medicaid claims and manage information about Medicaid beneficiaries, services, and providers. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (State agency) contracts with a fiscal agent, Affiliated Computer Services/Texas Medicaid Health Partnership (ACS/TMHP), to process claims through the MMIS. The contract between the State agency and ACS/TMHP requires a prospective price redetermination (PPR) audit to establish whether ACS/TMHP earned profit in excess of the 11 percent allowed by the contract.

OIG reports it found that the State agency did not refund $2.6 million (Federal share) of the $26.7 million in excess profits identified through the PPR audit in accordance with Federal requirements. During fiscal year 2009, the State agency claimed expenditures for 20 MMIS projects with total costs of $71.3 million. All of these expenditures were allowable and claimed at the appropriate reimbursement rate; however, the State agency did not obtain prior approval for 2 of the 20 projects. Also, the State agency did not obtain prior approval for 16 additional projects. The total budgets for the 18 projects for which the State agency did not obtain prior approval totaled $59 million ($32.9 million Federal share).  http://go.usa.gov/rkXW.

OIG recommended that the State agency:

  • (1) Refund to the Federal Government $2.6 million for excess profits related to the PPR audit,
  • Ensure that prior approval is obtained on future projects as required by Federal regulations, and
  • Obtain retroactive approval for the 18 projects that did not have the required prior approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The State agency agreed with OIG’s first and third recommendations and described corrective actions it had taken or planned to take. Regarding the second recommendation, the State agency described the process by which it seeks CMS approval for certain projects.

  • Review of Medicare Outpatient Billing for Selected Drugs at Self Regional Healthcare (A-09-12-02032)

For the 61 line items reviewed, OIG reported that Self Regional Healthcare did not bill Medicare for injections of selected drugs in accordance with Federal requirements, resulting in overpayments totaling $130,000.  http://go.usa.gov/rkX.d.

  • Review of Medicare Outpatient Billing for Selected Drugs at Methodist Healthcare – Memphis Hospitals (A-09-12-02022)   

For 60 of the 82 line items reviewed, OIG reported it found that Methodist Healthcare – Memphis Hospitals did not bill Medicare for injections of selected drugs in accordance with Federal requirements, resulting in overpayments totaling $178,000.  http://go.usa.gov/rkNY.

  • Medicare Part D Made Some Incorrect Payments to Community Insurance Inc. for Institutional Beneficiaries in 2008 (A-05-11-00042)

OIG reports that the Medicare Part D program incurred drug costs for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries during Skilled Nursing stays that should have been covered under Part C in 2008. Community Insurance Inc’s incurrence of the $23,000 in gross drug costs as Part D costs had an overpayment effect of $13,000 as well as a $9,000 reconciliation effect at year end.  http://go.usa.gov/rkNB

  • North Shore Community Health, Inc., Claimed Unallowable Costs Against Recovery Act Grants (A-01-11-01502)

OIG reported it could not determine whether $2 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) grant costs claimed by North Shore Community Health, Inc. (North Shore), was allowable under the terms of the grants and applicable Federal regulations. North Shore did not track and account for Recovery Act expenditures separately from other (Federal and non-Federal) operating expenses; therefore, it could not demonstrate that it spent Recovery Act grant funds for allowable costs.  http://go.usa.gov/rk85.

OIG says this deficiency occurred because North Shore did not:

  • (1) Maintain a financial management system that provided for accurate, current, and complete disclosure of the financial results of its Recovery Act grants and
  • Separately track and account for Recovery Act funds.  

OIG recommended that the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) require North Shore to refund $2 million to the Federal Government, or work with North Shore to determine whether any of the costs that it claimed against Recovery Act grants were allowable, and ensure North Shore:

  • (1) Develops a financial system that provides for the accurate, current, and complete disclosure of the financial results of each HHS-sponsored project or program and
  • Tracks and accounts for each grant’s expenditures separately from other operating expenditures.

North Shore stated that it adjusted its internal financial reporting process to be in compliance with Federal requirements.

Under the Recovery Act, P.L. No. 111-5, enacted February 17, 2009, HRSA received $2.5 billion, including $2 billion to expand the Health Center Program to serve more patients, stimulate new jobs, and meet the expected increase in demand for primary health care services among the Nation’s uninsured and underserved populations.

  • OIG Says Lawndale Christian Health Center Claimed Unallowable Costs Under Recovery Act Grants (A-05-11-00057)

Lawndale Christian Health Center claimed $535,000 that was allowable under the terms of the grant and applicable Federal regulations.  However, Lawndale claimed Federal grant expenditures totaling $174,000 that were unallowable.  We could not determine the allowability of costs totaling $637,000 according to the OIG. See http://go.usa.gov/rFQP.

  • Alabama Improperly Claimed Federal Funds for Children’s Health Insurance Program Enrollees Who Had Medicaid or Other Health Insurance Coverage (A-04-11-08008)

OIG reports that Alabama improperly claimed Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Federal financial participation (FFP) for some individuals who were concurrently enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid.   The Federal and State Governments jointly fund and administer both Medicaid and CHIP.  States may not claim CHIP FFP for individuals who are concurrently enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid or who have other health insurance coverage.  See http://go.usa.gov/rFQG.

Based on OIG sample results, OIG estimated that Alabama improperly claimed $1.5 million in CHIP FFP for enrollees who were concurrently enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid from October 1, 2009, through September 30, 2010.  Alabama also improperly claimed $153,000 in CHIP FFP for individuals who had other health insurance coverage from October 1, 2009, through September 30, 2010.

OIG says the concurrent enrollment in CHIP and Medicaid occurred because:

  • Medicaid enrollment could be retroactive for up to 3 months, during which the individual could also have been enrolled in CHIP and
  • Supplemental Security Income eligibility, and consequent Medicaid enrollment, could be retroactive to the original application date, a period during which the individual could also have been enrolled in CHIP. 

Moreover, the State agency did not have adequate internal controls to prevent or promptly correct concurrent enrollments.  The CHIP payments that Alabama claimed on behalf of individuals who had other health insurance coverage occurred because State policy allowed for a coordination of benefits between CHIP and other health insurance coverage.

OIG recommended that Alabama:

  • Refund $1.5 million (Federal share) for FFP claimed on behalf of individuals who were concurrently enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid,
  • Refund $153,000 (Federal share) for FFP claimed on behalf of individuals enrolled in CHIP who had other health insurance coverage,
  • Develop additional policies and procedures to prevent or promptly recoup CHIP payments made on behalf of individuals who are identified as enrolled concurrently in Medicaid, and
  • Revise the current policy that allows for a coordination of benefits between CHIP and other health insurance coverage. 

The OIG notes Alabama disagreed with all of its recommendations. 

  • South Carolina Claimed Some Unallowable Room-and-Board Costs under the Intellectual and Related Disabilities Waiver (A-04-11-04012)

OIG reports that the South Carolina Department of Health & Human Services (State agency) operates a waiver program that provides long-term care and support for individuals with intellectual or related disabilities.  The State agency contracts with the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (the Department) to provide waiver services.  The Department provides these services through contractual arrangements with a network of 39 local Disabilities and Special Needs (DSN) Boards.

OIG reported it found that the State agency claimed Medicaid reimbursement of $6.7 million ($4.8 million Federal share) for unallowable room-and-board costs under the waiver program that the Department operated.  The State agency claimed unallowable room-and-board costs because neither the State agency nor the Department had adequate controls to:

  • Ensure that the Department followed applicable Federal law and guidance or its own guidance or
  • Detect errors or misstatements on the local DSN boards’ cost reports. See http://go.usa.gov/rFQz.

Additionally, OIG says the Department did not prescribe a uniform format for the local DSN boards to follow when preparing the cost reports.  Rather, each local board prepared its cost reports in its own format, making it difficult to identify when unallowable costs were claimed.

OIG recommended that the State agency:

  • Refund to the Federal Government $4.8 million, representing the Federal share of the room-and-board costs that the Department improperly claimed on its waiver cost reports;
  • Instruct the Department to follow Federal law and its own guidance and remove room-and-board related administrative and general costs from future waiver program cost reports;
  • Instruct the Department to develop a uniform cost reporting process and require each local board to follow this process;
  • Instruct the Department to strengthen its cost report review procedures to ensure that it will detect errors or misstatements on the local DSN boards’ cost reports; and
  • Strengthen its own procedures for reviewing the waiver cost reports submitted by the Department. 

The State agency concurred with all of our recommendations and said that it would work with CMS to negotiate repayment of the improperly claimed room-and-board costs.

  • Review of New Mexico Medicaid Personal Care Services Provided by Coordinated Home Health (A-06-09-00064)

The OIG reported that its audit found that the State did not always ensure that Coordinated Home Health’s (Coordinated) claims for Medicaid personal care services complied with certain Federal and State requirements.  Based on sample results, OIG estimated that Coordinated improperly claimed at least $11 million (Federal share) for personal care services during the period October 1, 2006, through September 30, 2008.  http://go.usa.gov/rFUW.

According to OIG, personal care services may be provided to individuals who are not inpatients at a hospital or residents of a nursing facility, an intermediate care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities, or an institution for mental disease.  Examples of personal care services include, but are not limited to, cleaning, shopping, grooming, and bathing.

Of the 100 claims in the OIG sample, OIG reported that 54 complied with requirements, but 46 did not.  Three of the forty-six claims were partially allowable.   The 46 claims contained a total of 60 deficiencies:  49 deficiencies on insufficient attendant qualifications and 11 deficiencies on other  concluded that Coordinated improperly claimed $8,000 for the 46 claims.

  • Based on these findings, OIG recommended that the State:
  • Refund to the Federal Government the $11 million paid to Coordinated for unallowable personal care services and
  • Ensure that personal care services providers maintain evidence that they comply with Federal and State requirements. 

OIG reported that Coordinated disagreed with almost all of OIG’sfindings, and the State disagreed with OIG’s recommended refund amount.  The State also said that some of the documentation requirements are not Federal requirements; they are State requirements, which do not require recovery of payments.

For Help With Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

If you need help providing compliance or other training, 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. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer medical privacy and other compliance and risk management policies, to 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/ She also regularly designs and presents risk management, compliance and other training for health care providers, professional associations and others.   Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, 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. Contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication see here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

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


Hospital Chain HCA Inc. Pays $16.5 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations That Hospital

September 23, 2012
HCA Inc., one of the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chains, has agreed to pay the United States and the state of Tennessee $16.5 million to settle claims that it violated the False Claims Act and the Stark Statute, the Department of Justice announced September 19, 2012.   The settlement agreement and the litigation it resolves are a reminder to hospitals, physicians and other health care providers of the growing readiness of the Justice Department and other federal and state regulators and enforcement agencies to prosecute health care providers for STARK, anti-kickback back or other violations of federal or state health health care fraud laws.

HCA Settlement & Underlying Charges

As alleged in the settlement agreement, during 2007, HCA, through its subsidiaries Parkridge Medical Center, located in Chattanooga, Tenn., and HCA Physician Services (HCAPS), headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., entered into a series of financial transactions with a physician group, Diagnostic Associates of Chattanooga, through which it provided financial benefits intended to induce the physician members of Diagnostic to refer patients to HCA facilities.   These financial transactions included rental payments for office space leased from Diagnostic at a rate well in excess of fair market value in order to assist Diagnostic members to meet their mortgage obligations and a release of Diagnostic members from a separate lease obligation.  

The Stark Statute restricts financial relationships that hospitals may enter into with physicians who potentially may refer patients to them.   Federal law prohibits the payment of medical claims that result from such prohibited relationships.

The civil settlement resolves a lawsuit, United States ex rel. Bingham v. HCA, No. 1:08-CV-71 (E.D. Tenn.), pending in federal court in the Eastern District of Tennessee under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private citizens to bring civil actions on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.   As part of the civil settlement, HCA has agreed to pay $16.5 million to the United States and the state of Tennessee, with the federal portion representing $15,693,000 of the settlement amount.   The whistleblower will receive an 18.5 percent share.  

Also as part of the settlement, Parkridge Medical Center has entered into a comprehensive five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ensure its continued compliance with federal health care benefit program requirements.

Settlement Part of Expanding Health Care Fraud Prosecution Efforts

This resolution is part of the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and another step for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in May 2009. The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover more than $9.4 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs. The Justice Department’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 are over $13.1 billion.

In announcing the resolution agreement, federal officials emphasized their readiness to prosecute STARK, anti-kickback and other health care fraud statutes. 

“The Department of Justice continues to pursue cases involving improper financial relationships between health care providers and their referral sources, because such relationships can corrupt a physician’s judgment about the patient’s true healthcare needs,” said Stuart F. Delery, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.   

 “Physicians should make decisions regarding referrals to health care facilities based on what is in the best interest of patients without being induced by payments from hospitals competing for their business,” said Bill Killian, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.  

“ Improper business deals between hospitals and physicians jeopardize both patient care and federal program dollars,” said Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.   “Our investigators continue to work shoulder to shoulder with other law enforcement authorities to stop schemes that imperil scarce health care resources.”

Coupled with the ever-lengthening list of civil settlements like the HCA settlement, and civil monetary penalties, program disqualifications, and criminal prosecutions, these announcements send a strong message to health care providers to review their transactions, referral and other relationships, and billing practices and address potential exposures.

For Help With Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

If you need help providing compliance or other training, 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. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer medical privacy and other compliance and risk management policies, to 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/ She also regularly designs and presents risk management, compliance and other training for health care providers, professional associations and others.   Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, 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. Contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication see here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

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


Comment Period Extended To 3/21 On Proposed Extension Of Minimum Wage, Overtime To In-Home Caregivers

March 9, 2012
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has extended until March 12 the comment period for its proposed rule to provide minimum wage and overtime protections for nearly 2 million workers who provide in-home care services. See here.

In December, 2011, the WHD published a proposed rule that would expand minimum wage and overtime protections to all home care workers employed by third parties, such as staffing agencies. It also would clarify that individuals performing skilled in-home care work are entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. However, individuals engaged by families for true companionship or fellowship activities, such as visiting with friends or pursuing hobbies, still would be considered “companions” and not be required to meet the act’s labor standards provisions. See Notice of Proposed Rulemaking[1] (NPRM). 

Among other things, the NPRM proposes to revise the companionship and live-in worker regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):

  • To more clearly define the tasks that may be performed by an exempt companion;
  • To limit the companionship exemption to companions employed only by the family or household using the services; and
  • To provide that third party employers, such as in-home care staffing agencies, could not claim the companionship exemption or the overtime exemption for live-in domestic workers, even if the employee is jointly employed by the third party and the family or household.

When Congress expanded protections to “domestic service” workers in 1974, it exempted casual babysitters and companions for the aged and inform from both the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements of the FLSA and exempted live-in domestic workers from the overtime pay requirement only. While WHD has left regulations governing this exemption substantially unchanged since first issued in 1975, it now believes the in-home care service industry. workers employed by in-home care staffing agencies are not the workers that Congress envisioned in enacting the companionship exemption (i.e., neighbors performing elder sitting).

As a result of these determines, WHD is moving to modify its existing rules to broaden protections for professionally employed home care workers as well as outreaching to inform employers and workers about the requirements that it perceives employers of these workers must meet.  

The proposed tightening of regulations for home health workers follows a general toughening by WHD of its regulation and enforcement of wage and hour laws in the health care industry.  See, e.g. Home health care company in Dallas agrees to pay 80 nurses more than $92,000 in back wages following US Labor Department investigation; US Department of Labor secures nearly $62,000 in back overtime wages for 21 health care employees in Pine Bluff, Ark.; US Department of Labor initiative targeted toward increasing FLSA compliance in New York’s health care industry; US Department of Labor initiative targeted toward residential health care industry in Connecticut and Rhode Island to increase FLSA compliance; Partners HealthCare Systems agrees to pay 700 employees more than $2.7 million in overtime back wages to resolve U.S. Labor Department lawsuit; US Labor Department sues Kentucky home health care provider to obtain more than $512,000 in back wages and damages for 22 employees; and Buffalo, Minn.-based home health care provider agrees to pay more than $150,000 in back wages following US Labor Department investigation.

Many have expressed concerns about the potential added costs that changes proposed in the NPRM would trigger in providing in home health and companion care for aging and disabled family members.   The extension of the comment deadline provides added time for members of the public concerned about these rules to share their input.

Whether or not the proposed rule is adopted, the growing aggressiveness of the WHD and private plaintiffs to bring actions against employers violating minimum wage and overtime rules means health care and others employing home care workers should take well-documented steps to manage their risks.  These employers should both confirm the adequacy of their practices under existing rules, as well as evaluate and begin preparing to respond to the proposed modifications to these rules.  In both cases, employers of home care or other health care workers are encouraged to critically evaluate their classification or workers, both with respect to their status as employees versus contractor or leased employees, as well as their characterization as exempt versus non-exempt for wage and hour law purposes.  In addition, given the nature of the scheduled frequently worked by home care givers, their employers also generally should pay particular attention to the adequacy of practices for recordkeeping.

For More Information Or Assistance

If you need assistance reviewing or responding to these or other health care related workforce, 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 presentations and programs include How to Ensure That Your Organization Is In Compliance With Regulations Governing Discrimination, as well as a wide range of other workshops, programs and publications on discrimination and cultural diversity, as well as a broad range of compliance, operational and risk management, and other health industry matters.

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.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

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


DOL Proposes Tighter Overtime, Minimum Wage Rules For Home Care Workers, Continues Scrutiny Of Health Care Employers

December 15, 2011

The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) plans to propose new rules that would provide minimum wage and overtime protections for nearly two million workers who provide in-home care services for the elderly and infirm.  WHD’s focus on home health workers is an extension of its expanded regulation and enforcement efforts targeting a broad range of health care industry employers. Home care and other health industry employers should act to manage their rising exposures to minimum wage, overtime and other federal and state wage and hour law risks.  Additionally, health industry and other employers concerned about the potential cost or other implications of the proposed regulatory changes also should consider submitting comments to the WHD by the February comment deadline.

On December 15, 2011 the WHD announced that it will publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking[1] (NPRM) to revise the companionship and live-in worker regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):

  • To more clearly define the tasks that may be performed by an exempt companion;
  • To limit the companionship exemption to companions employed only by the family or household using the services; and
  • To provide that third party employers, such as in-home care staffing agencies, could not claim the companionship exemption or the overtime exemption for live-in domestic workers, even if the employee is jointly employed by the third party and the family or household.

When Congress expanded protections to “domestic service” workers in 1974, it exempted casual babysitters and companions for the aged and inform from both the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements of the FLSA and exempted live-in domestic workers from the overtime pay requirement only. While WHD has left regulations governing this exemption substantially unchanged since first issued in 1975, it now believes the in-home care service industry. workers employed by in-home care staffing agencies are not the workers that Congress envisioned in enacting the companionship exemption (i.e., neighbors performing elder sitting).

As a result of these determines, WHD is moving to modify its existing rules to broaden protections for professionally employed home care workers as well as outreaching to inform employers and workers about the requirements that it perceives employers of these workers must meet.  

The proposed tightening of regulations for home health workers follows a general toughening by WHD of its regulation and enforcement of wage and hour laws in the health care industry.  See, e.g. Home health care company in Dallas agrees to pay 80 nurses more than $92,000 in back wages following US Labor Department investigation; US Department of Labor secures nearly $62,000 in back overtime wages for 21 health care employees in Pine Bluff, Ark.; US Department of Labor initiative targeted toward increasing FLSA compliance in New York’s health care industry; US Department of Labor initiative targeted toward residential health care industry in Connecticut and Rhode Island to increase FLSA compliance; Partners HealthCare Systems agrees to pay 700 employees more than $2.7 million in overtime back wages to resolve U.S. Labor Department lawsuit; US Labor Department sues Kentucky home health care provider to obtain more than $512,000 in back wages and damages for 22 employees; and Buffalo, Minn.-based home health care provider agrees to pay more than $150,000 in back wages following US Labor Department investigation.

Coupled with these and other enforcement efforts against health industry employers, WHD’s announcement of plans to tighten rules for home care givers.  In connection with its announcement of the planned regulatory changes, for instance, WHD highlighted the following guidance about the wage and hour rules that employers of home care workers can anticipate being required to meet when employing these workers:

Violation of wage and hour laws exposes health care and other employers to significant back pay awards, substantial civil penalties and, if the violation is found to be willful, even potential criminal liability.   Because states all have their own wage and hour laws, employers may face liability under either or both laws.   

In light of the proposed regulatory changes and demonstrated willingness of WHD and private plaintiffs to bring actions against employers violating these rules, health care and others employing home care workers should take well-documented steps to manage their risks.  These employers should both confirm the adequacy of their practices under existing rules, as well as evaluate and begin preparing to respond to the proposed modifications to these rules.  In both cases, employers of home care or other health care workers are encouraged to critically evaluate their classification or workers, both with respect to their status as employees versus contractor or leased employees, as well as their characterization as exempt versus non-exempt for wage and hour law purposes.  In addition, given the nature of the scheduled frequently worked by home care givers, their employers also generally should pay particular attention to the adequacy of practices for recordkeeping.

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.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law, 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 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters.

Throughout her career, Ms. Stamer has advised and represented health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies and to respond to health care, human resources, tax, privacy, safety, antitrust, civil rights, and other laws as well as with internal 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 including a number of programs and publications on OCR Civil Rights rules and enforcement actions. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, 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 with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at www.solutionslawpress.com

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press. All other rights reserved.


[1] WHD’s announcement of the planned rule notes that this draft shared December 15 remains subject to change before formally published in the Federal Register


OCR Audit Program Kickoff Further Heats HIPAA Privacy Risks

November 9, 2011

The kickoff of a new compliance audit pilot program provides another reason for health care providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and their business associates to get serious about compliance with the privacy, security and data breach requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). 

OCR Pilot Audit Program Begins

On November 8, 2011, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced that it will begin auditing HIPAA compliance this month under a new pilot program.

As amended by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 in Section 13411 of the HITECH Act, requires HHS to provide for periodic audits to make sure covered entities and business associates are complying with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules and Breach Notification standards.  To carry out this mandate, OCR is piloting a program to perform up to 150 audits of covered entities to assess privacy and security compliance between November 2011 and December 2012.

The commencement of OCR HIPAA compliance audits is yet another sign that covered entities and their business associates should get serious about HIPAA compliance. The audit program serves as a new part of OCR’s health information privacy and security compliance program.  While OCR says that it presently views the pilot audits as primarily a compliance improvement tool, this does not mean violators should expect a free walk.

Even before the impending audits, HIPAA Privacy exposures of covered entities for failing to comply with HIPAA already had risen significantly.  Earlier this year, OCR imposed a $4.3 Million Civil Money Penalty (CMP) against Cignet Health of Prince George’s County (Cignet) for violating HIPAA.  Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has secured several criminal convictions or pleas under HIPAA’s criminal provisions. Under amendments made by the HITECH Act, state attorneys general also now are empowered to bring civil lawsuits against covered entities and business associates that commit HIPAA violations that injure citizens in their state under certain circumstances. Eventually, individuals injured by HIPAA violations also will get the right to share in a portion of certain HIPAA recoveries.

These and other audit and enforcement activities send a strong message that covered entities and their business associates need to get serious about HIPAA compliance. As stated by OCR Director Georgina Verdugo when announcing the Mass General Resolution Agreement, “To avoid enforcement penalties, covered entities must ensure they are always in compliance with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules,” Verdugo added, “A robust compliance program includes employee training, vigilant implementation of policies and procedures, regular internal audits, and a prompt action plan to respond to incidents.” Learn more here.

For Help With Monitoring Developments, Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

If you need assistance monitoring federal health reform, policy or enforcement developments, or to review or respond to these or other health care or health IT related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, can help.

Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, a member of the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Past Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements Group, 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 extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers, health plans, their business associates and other health industry clients to establish and administer medical privacy and other compliance and risk management policies.  Ms. Stamer also regularly helps clients deal with OCR and other agencies, publishes and speaks extensively on medical and other privacy and data security, 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 publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, 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.  Her insights on the required “culture of compliance” with HIPAA are frequently included in medical privacy related publications of the Atlantic Information Service, Modern Health Care, HealthLeaders and many others. Among others, she has conducted privacy training for the Association of State & Territorial Health Plans (ASTHO), the Los Angeles Health Department, the American Bar Association, the Health Care Compliance Association, a multitude of health industry, health plan, employee benefit and other clients, trade and professional associations and others.  You can get more information about her HIPAA and other experience here or may contact her at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

You can review other selected publications and resources and additional information about the employment, employee benefits and other experience of Ms. Stamer here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at www.solutionslawpress.com

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

 


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