7 Arrested, Charged In Detroit-Area Home Health Care Fraud Takedown

January 18, 2013

January 17, 2013; U.S. Department of Justice

Seven Arrested, Charged with $22 Million Detroit-area Home Health Care Fraud Scheme

Six Detroit-area residents and one Chicago-area resident were arrested on January 17, 2012 by federal agents on charges arising from the ongoing investigation into an alleged $22 million home health care fraud scheme that the indictment charges operated out of four Oakland County, Michigan home health agencies claiming to provide in-home health service, Royal Home Health Care Inc., Prestige Home Health Services Inc., Platinum Home Health Services Inc. and Empirical Home Health Care Inc. (the “Agencies”).  The defendants arrested are Detroit-area residents Muhammad Aamir, Usman Butt, Hemal Bhagat, Syed Shah, Tariq Tahir, and Raquel Ellington, and Chicago-area resident Tayyab Aziz (the “Defendants”).

According to the Justice Department, the arrests and Medicare payment suspensions stem from charges brought in an 18-count indictment returned January 15, 2013, which alleges that the Defendants participated in a Medicare fraud scheme operating out of the Agencies. The indictment alleges Medicare paid the agencies approximately $22 million for fraudulently reported services since August 2008. See Aamir, Muhammed et al. (Prestige) Indictment.  In addition to the arrests, law enforcement agents suspended Medicare payments to the Agencies associated with the alleged scheme.

According to the indictment, Aamir and Butt owned and operated Prestige; Butt, Bhagat and Shah owned and operated Royal; and Aamir owned and operated Platinum and Empirical.  The indictment alleges that of the Agencies allegedly claimed to provide home health therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries that were unnecessary and/or were never performed.  The indictment also alleges that Tahir and Ellington recruited Medicare beneficiaries, paying them kickbacks for their Medicare information and signatures on documents that detailed physical therapy and/or skilled nursing services that were either never rendered or not medically necessary.  The indictment also charges Aamir, Butt, Bhagat, Shah, Tahir and Ellington with conspiring to pay kickbacks to Tahir and Ellington for their recruiting work and Butt, Bhagat, Shah and Aziz with allegedly conspiring to launder the proceeds of the scheme.

Based on the alleged conduct, the indictment charges each of the Defendants with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.  All but Aziz are also charged with health care fraud and with conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute.  Butt, Bhagat, Shah and Aziz are additionally charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

A conviction on the charges is likely to carry heavy penalities.  The charges of health care fraud conspiracy and health care fraud each carry a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  The charge of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $25,000 fine.  The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
 
The arrests and indictments reflect the continuing and growing government commitment to, coordination and sophistication in the investigation and prosecution of health care crimes by health care providers in the federal war on what officials view as health care fraud.  The Obama Administration has made investigation and prosecution of health care fraud laws a key element of its strategy to manage U.S. health care program costs. Recently enacted changes in the False Claims Act and other laws are making it easier for federal prosecutors to successfully prosecute these and other health care fraud cases.

Since their inception in March 2007, the the HEAT health care fraud task force operations in nine locations have lead to charges against more than 1,480 defendants who Federal officals claim collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to exclude and impose other remedies against health care providers that it perceives engage in fraud or other aggressive billing or other practices.These and other stepped up oversight and enforcement activities make it critical that all health industry organizations strengthen their internal controls, compliance and audit activities as well as be prepared to defend their actions against the rising tide of federal and state oversight and enforcement.

For Help With Compliance, Risk Management, Investigations, Policy Updates Or Other Needs

If you need help with HIPAA or other health industry, 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.

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, health plans, their business associates 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. She regularly designs and presents HIPAA and other risk management, compliance and other training for health plans, employers, health care providers, professional associations and others.

Scheduled to serve as the scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits agency meeting with OCR, Ms. Stamer also regularly works 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.   For instance, Ms. Stamer for the second year will serve as the appointed scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Agency meeting with OCR.  Her insights on HIPAA risk management and compliance often appear in medical privacy related publications of a broad range of health care, health plan and other industry publications 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, insurance and financial services, education, employer employee benefit and other clients, trade and professional associations and others.  You can get more information about her HIPAA and other experience here.

If you need help 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.

You can review other recent publications and resources and additional information about the other experience of Ms. Stamer hereExamples of some recent publications that may be of interest include:

If you need help investigating or responding to a known or suspected compliance, litigation or enforcement or other risk management concern, assistance with reviewing, updating, administering or defending a current or proposed employment, employee benefit, compensation or other management practice, wish to inquire about federal or state regulatory compliance audits, risk management or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms Stamer here or at (469) 767-8872.

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides business and management information, tools and solutions, training and education, services and support to help organizations and their leaders promote effective management of legal and operational performance, regulatory compliance and risk management, data and information protection and risk management and other key management objectives.  Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ also conducts and assist businesses and associations to design, present and conduct customized programs and training targeted to their specific audiences and needs.  For additional information about upcoming programs, to explore becoming a presenting sponsor for an upcoming event, e-mail your request to info@Solutionslawpress.com   These programs, publications and other resources are provided only for general informational and educational purposes. Neither the distribution or presentation of these programs and materials to any party nor any statement or information provided in or in connection with this communication, the program or associated materials are intended to or shall be construed as establishing an attorney-client relationship, to constitute legal advice or provide any assurance or expectation from Solutions Law Press, Inc., the presenter or any related parties. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future Alerts or other information about developments, publications or programs or other updates, send your request to info@solutionslawpress.com.  CIRCULAR 230 NOTICE: 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. If you are an individual with a disability who requires accommodation to participate, please let us know at the time of your registration so that we may consider your request.

 ©2013 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. All rights reserved.


With Risks Rising, Listen To 9/19 OCR Webinar On Civil Rights Enforcement In Health Care

September 18, 2012

 With the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and other federal agencies stepping up their civil rights and discrimination compliance audits and enforcement activities and private plaintiff discrimination suits against health care providers and other health industry organizations rising, health care, housing, health insurance and other organizations subject to these requirements are encouraged to learn more about HHS’ view and enforcement of these civil rights rules by participating in the webcast on “Addressing Health Disparities through Civil Rights Compliance and Enforcement” on Wednesday, September 19 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. eastern daylight savings time (EST).

September 19 Webinar

According to HHS, the September 19, 2012 webinar will be jointly hosted by the Health Resources and Services Administration Office of Equal Opportunity, Civil Rights & Diversity Management (OEOCRDM) Office of Federal Assistance Management (OFAM) and the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources (ASFR).

Topics of discussion will include:

  • How non-compliance can contribute to health disparities and disparities in quality care;
  • Opportunities to ensure HHS-funded programs are in compliance with civil rights laws;
  • How HHS OCR enforces compliance in your neighborhood.
  • A panel of OCR and ASFR experts answering questions

To join the webcast click here

Rising Civil Rights Law Exposures Require Management 

Public and private health care and housing providers may face discrimination exposures under various federal laws such as the public accommodation and other disability discrimination prohibitions of the ADA, Section 504, the Civil Rights Act and various other laws. Section 504 requires recipients of Medicare, Medicaid, HUD, Department of Education, welfare and most other federal assistance programs funds including health care, education, housing services providers, state and local governments to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities have equal access to programs, services, or activities receiving federal financial assistance. The ADA extends the prohibition against disability discrimination to private providers and other businesses as well as state and local governments including but not limited to health care providers reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid or various other federal programs The ADA requirements extend most federal disability discrimination prohibits to health care and other businesses even if they do not receive federal financial assistance to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities have equal access to their programs, services or activities.  In many instances, these federal discrimination laws both prohibit discrimination and require health care and other regulated businesses to put in place reasonable accommodations needed to ensure that their services are accessible and available to persons with disabilities.  Meanwhile the Civil Rights Act and other laws prohibit discrimination based on national origin, race, sex, age, religion and various other grounds.  These federal rules impact virtually all public and private health care providers as well as a broad range housing and related service providers.

As part of a broader emphasis on the enforcement of disability and other federal discrimination laws by the Obama Administration, OCR is making investigation and prosecution of suspected disability discrimination by health industry organizations a priority.  OCR recently has announced several settlement agreements and issued letters of findings as part of its ongoing efforts to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) as well as various other federal nondiscrimination and civil rights laws.

Defending or paying to settle a disability discrimination charge brought by a private plaintiff, OCR or another agency, or others tends to be financially, operationally and politically costly for a health care organization or public housing provider.  In addition to the expanding readiness of OCR and other agencies to pursue investigations and enforcement of disability discrimination and other laws, the failure of health care organizations to effectively maintain processes to appropriately include and care for disabled other patients or constituents with special needs also can increase negligence exposure, undermine Joint Commission and other quality ratings, undermine efforts to qualify for public or private grant, partnerships or other similar arrangements, and create negative perceptions in the community.

As a result of its stepped up enforcement of the ADA, Section 504 and other civil rights and nondiscrimination rules, OCR is racking up an impressive list of settlements with health care providers, housing and other businesses for violating the ADA, Section 504 or other related civil rights rules enforced by OCR.  While OCR continues to wage this enforcement battle in the programs it administers, the Departments of Justice, Housing & Urban Development (HUD), Education, Labor and other federal agencies also are waging war against what the Obama Administration perceives as illegal discrimination in other areas.  Along side their own enforcement activities, OCR and other federal agencies are maintaining a vigorous public outreach to disabled and other individuals protected by federal disabilities and other civil rights laws intended to make them aware of and to encourage them to act to enforce these rights. To be prepared to defend against the resulting risk of claims and other enforcement actions created by these activities, health care, housing and other U.S. providers and businesses need to tighten compliance and risk management procedures and take other steps to prepare themselves to respond to potential charges and investigations.

Recent Settlements Highlight Risk

Within recent settlement agreements, entities agreed to take steps to come into compliance with Section 504 and ADA, including: review and revision of policies and procedures; training staff on their non-discrimination obligations; providing a grievance procedure for patients; and other corrective actions specific to each entity’s violations.  To learn more details about these actions and settlements, see here

These and other enforcement actions by OCR and other agencies demonstrate the significant increased federal emphasis on the enforcement of federal discrimination laws against private and public health care and housing providers, state and local governments and other businesses under the Obama Administration. In keeping with this renewed emphasis, the DCF settlement is the latest in a series of federal disability, national origin and other discrimination charges and settlements OCR, has brought over the past year against physicians, public and private hospitals, insurers, federally financed housing providers and other parties providing services financed under programs administered by OCR. As HUD, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other federal agencies also similarly have increased emphasis in federal discrimination law enforcement during this period, health care providers and other federal program service providers need to be prepared to defend their programs and practices to withstand federal discrimination charges or other investigations by federal agencies, private plaintiffs or both. 

As for employment discrimination, violators of these and other federal discrimination prohibitions applicable to the offering and delivery of services and products also face exposure to large civil damage awards to private plaintiffs as well as federal program disqualification, penalties and other federal agency enforcement. Unfortunately, while most businesses and governmental leaders generally are sensitive to the need to maintain effective compliance programs to prevent and redress employment discrimination, the awareness of the applicability and non-employment related disability and other discrimination risk management and compliance lags far behind.

Many private health care organizations assume that OCR’s enforcement actions are mostly a problem for state and local government agencies because state and local agencies and service providers frequently have been the target of OCR discrimination charges.  However the record shows OCR enforcement risks are high for both public and private providers. 

OCR can and does investigate and brings actions against a wide variety of public and private physicians, hospitals, insurers and other private health care and other federal program participants. In October, 2009,  for instance, OCR announced that an Austin, Texas orthopedic surgeon whose practice group sees an average of 200 patients per week, had entered into a settlement agreement to resolve OCR charges that he violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by denying medically appropriate treatment from patients solely because they are HIV-positive.

Invest in Prevention To Minimize Liability Risks

In light of the expanding readiness of OCR to investigate and take action against health care providers for potential violations of the ADA, Section 504 and other federal discrimination and civil rights laws, health care organizations and their leaders should review and tighten their policies, practices, training, documentation, investigation, redress, discipline and other nondiscrimination policies and procedures. In carrying out these activities, organizations and their leaders should keep in mind the critical role of training and oversight of staff and contractors plays in promoting and maintaining required operational compliance with these requirements.  Reported settlements reflect that the liability trigger often is discriminatory conduct by staff, contractors, or landlords in violation of both the law and the organization’s own policies.

To achieve and maintain the necessary operational compliance with these requirements, organizations should both adopt and policies against prohibited discrimination and take the necessary steps to institutionalize compliance with these policies by providing ongoing staff and vendor training and oversight, contracting for and monitoring vendor compliance and other actions.  Organizations also should take advantage of opportunities to identify and resolve potential compliance concerns by revising patient and other processes and procedures to enhance the ability of the organization to learn about and redress potential charges without government intervention.

For More Information Or Assistance

If you need assistance reviewing or tightening your policies and procedures, conducting training or audits, responding to or defending an investigation or other enforcement action or with other health care related risk management, compliance, training, 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, 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 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.


Abbott Labs To Pay $1.5 Billion to Resolve Criminal & Civil Investigations Of Off-Label Promotion Of Depakote

May 18, 2012

Abbott Laboratories Inc.will pay $1.5 billion to resolve its criminal and civil liability after pleading guilty to federal charges it unlawfully promoted the prescription drug Depakote for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration.

According to a Justice Department announcement May 7, 2012 here, the resolution – the second largest payment by a drug company – includes a criminal fine and forfeiture totaling $700 million and civil settlements with the federal government and the states totaling $800 million. Abbott also will be subject to court-supervised probation and reporting obligations for Abbott’s CEO and Board of Directors.

Health Care Providers Must Act To Manage Risks

Over the past decade, Federal officials have stepped up enforcement of federal rules prohibiting off-label promotion of prescription drugs.   Beyond the examples provided by the criminal and civil penalties assessed in these matters, the corporate integrity agreements that generally are imposed as part of the plea or other resolution agreements reached as part of these investigations provide insights about the types of mechanisms that Federal officials expect pharmacedical companies to implement and administer as part of their compliance efforts.  Pharmaceudical companies and others involved in the marketing and promotion of medications should review and evaluate the adequacy of their existing compliance practices in light of these prosecutions and resulting corporate integrity and make appropriate adjustments to their practices, policies and management controls where warranted.

For Legal Representation or More Information

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

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

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

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.


OCR Settlements Show Health Care & Disabled Housing Providers Face Growing Disability Discrimination Risks

October 19, 2011

A continuing series of federal investigations and enforcement actions highlight the need for health care providers and other health industry organizations to strengthen their disability discrimination management practices to defend against rising exposures to actions by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and other agencies as well as private law suits.

As part of a broader emphasis on the enforcement of disability and other federal discrimination laws by the Obama Administration, OCR is making investigation and prosecution of suspected disability discrimination by health industry organizations a priority.  OCR recently has announced several settlement agreements and issued letters of findings as part of its ongoing efforts to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) as well as various other federal nondiscrimination and civil rights laws.

Defending or paying to settle a disability discrimination charge brought by a private plaintiff, OCR or another agency, or others tends to be financially, operationally and politically costly for a health care organization or public housing provider.  In addition to the expanding readiness of OCR and other agencies to pursue investigations and enforcement of disability discrimination and other laws, the failure of health care organizations to effectively maintain processes to appropriately include and care for disabled other patients or constituents with special needs also can increase negligence exposure, undermine Joint Commission and other quality ratings, undermine efforts to qualify for public or private grant, partnerships or other similar arrangements, and create negative perceptions in the community.

Federal Disability & Other Laws Prohibit Health Care Provider Discrimination

Public and private health care and housing providers may face discrimination exposures under various federal laws such as the public accommodation and other disability discrimination prohibitions of the ADA, Section 504, the Civil Rights Act and various other laws. Section 504 requires recipients of Medicare, Medicaid, HUD, Department of Education, welfare and most other federal assistance programs funds including health care, education, housing services providers, state and local governments to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities have equal access to programs, services, or activities receiving federal financial assistance. The ADA extends the prohibition against disability discrimination to private providers and other businesses as well as state and local governments including but not limited to health care providers reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid or various other federal programs The ADA requirements extend most federal disability discrimination prohibits to health care and other businesses even if they do not receive federal financial assistance to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities have equal access to their programs, services or activities.  In many instances, these federal discrimination laws both prohibit discrimination and require health care and other regulated businesses to put in place reasonable accommodations needed to ensure that their services are accessible and available to persons with disabilities.  Meanwhile the Civil Rights Act and other laws prohibit discrimination based on national origin, race, sex, age, religion and various other grounds.  These federal rules impact virtually all public and private health care providers as well as a broad range housing and related service providers.

As a result of its stepped up enforcement of the ADA, Section 504 and other civil rights and nondiscrimination rules, OCR is racking up an impressive list of settlements with health care providers, housing and other businesses for violating the ADA, Section 504 or other related civil rights rules enforced by OCR.  While OCR continues to wage this enforcement battle in the programs it administers, the Departments of Justice, Housing & Urban Development, Education, Labor and other federal agencies also are waging war against what the Obama Administration perceives as illegal discrimination in other areas.  Along side their own enforcement activities, OCR and other federal agencies are maintaining a vigorous public outreach to disabled and other individuals protected by federal disabilities and other civil rights laws intended to make them aware of and to encourage them to act to enforce these rights. To be prepared to defend against the resulting risk of claims and other enforcement actions created by these activities, health care, housing and other U.S. providers and businesses need to tighten compliance and risk management procedures and take other steps to prepare themselves to respond to potential charges and investigations.

Recent Settlements Highlight Risk

Within recent settlement agreements, entities agreed to take steps to come into compliance with Section 504 and ADA, including: review and revision of policies and procedures; training staff on their non-discrimination obligations; providing a grievance procedure for patients; and other corrective actions specific to each entity’s violations.  To learn more details about these actions and settlements, see https://www.cynthiastamer.com/documents/articles/20111019%20OCR%20Disability%20Enforcement%20CMSPC.pdf.

Enforcement of Discrimination & Other Civil Rights Laws Obama Administration Priority Putting Public & Private Providers At Risk

These and other enforcement actions by OCR and other agencies demonstrate the significant increased federal emphasis on the enforcement of federal discrimination laws against private and public health care and housing providers, state and local governments and other businesses under the Obama Administration. In keeping with this renewed emphasis, the DCF settlement is the latest in a series of federal disability, national origin and other discrimination charges and settlements OCR, has brought over the past year against physicians, public and private hospitals, insurers, federally financed housing providers and other parties providing services financed under programs administered by OCR. As the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other federal agencies also similarly have increased emphasis in federal discrimination law enforcement during this period, health care providers and other federal program service providers need to be prepared to defend their programs and practices to withstand federal discrimination charges or other investigations by federal agencies, private plaintiffs or both. 

As for employment discrimination, violators of these and other federal discrimination prohibitions applicable to the offering and delivery of services and products also face exposure to large civil damage awards to private plaintiffs as well as federal program disqualification, penalties and other federal agency enforcement. Unfortunately, while most businesses and governmental leaders generally are sensitive to the need to maintain effective compliance programs to prevent and redress employment discrimination, the awareness of the applicability and non-employment related disability and other discrimination risk management and compliance lags far behind.

Many private health care organizations assume that OCR’s enforcement actions are mostly a problem for state and local government agencies because state and local agencies and service providers frequently have been the target of OCR discrimination charges.  However the record shows OCR enforcement risks are high for both public and private providers. 

OCR can and does investigate and brings actions against a wide variety of public and private physicians, hospitals, insurers and other private health care and other federal program participants. In October, 2009,  for instance, OCR announced that an Austin, Texas orthopedic surgeon whose practice group sees an average of 200 patients per week, had entered into a settlement agreement to resolve OCR charges that he violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by denying medically appropriate treatment from patients solely because they are HIV-positive.

Invest in Prevention To Minimize Liability Risks

In light of the expanding readiness of OCR to investigate and take action against health care providers for potential violations of the ADA, Section 504 and other federal discrimination and civil rights laws, health care organizations and their leaders should review and tighten their policies, practices, training, documentation, investigation, redress, discipline and other nondiscrimination policies and procedures. In carrying out these activities, organizations and their leaders should keep in mind the critical role of training and oversight of staff and contractors plays in promoting and maintaining required operational compliance with these requirements.  Reported settlements reflect that the liability trigger often is discriminatory conduct by staff, contractors, or landlords in violation of both the law and the organization’s own policies.

To achieve and maintain the necessary operational compliance with these requirements, organizations should both adopt and policies against prohibited discrimination and take the necessary steps to institutionalize compliance with these policies by providing ongoing staff and vendor training and oversight, contracting for and monitoring vendor compliance and other actions.  Organizations also should take advantage of opportunities to identify and resolve potential compliance concerns by revising patient and other processes and procedures to enhance the ability of the organization to learn about and redress potential charges without government intervention.

For More Information Or Assistance

If you need assistance reviewing or tightening your policies and procedures, conducting training or audits, responding to or defending an investigation or other enforcement action or with other health care related risk management, compliance, training, 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, 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 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.

 

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


Texas Doctor, Pharmacy Suspension Reminder of Pain Management Prescribing Risks

May 17, 2011

On January 14, 2011, a disciplinary panel of the Texas Medical Board (TMB) temporarily suspended the medical license of Julia Renee Ward, M.D. of Houston, after determining that Dr. Ward’s continuation in the practice of medicine presents a continuing threat to the public welfare.   Physicians, pharmacists and others involved in pain treatment should  resist the temptation to allow the allegations of extreme misconduct by Ward, others to blind them to the need for special precautions when prescribing or administering pain management or other controlled substance treatments.

Ward Pain Management Suspension

According to a January 18, 2011 TMB Press Release, TMB issued the Order of Temporary Suspension (Without Notice of Hearing) based on Dr. Ward’s operation of a pain management clinic, Tejas Urgent Care Clinic, without the certification required by law; failure to practice medicine in an acceptable, professional manner; inappropriate prescribing of controlled substances; and unprofessional or dishonorable conduct. The suspension took immediate effect.  Previously, the medical board denied certification of Tejas Clinic in Houston, based on the clinic’s partial ownership by a non-physician.

According to the Press Release, TMB and Texas State Board of Pharmacy investigators staked out the clinic and observed several vehicles, some with out-of-state license plates, dropping off and picking up small groups of patients throughout the day.   TMB says investigators observed four men who appeared to be patrolling the parking lot, directing patients to Tejas Clinic and H&W Pharmacy.  Investigators reported the dropped-off patients would enter the clinic, exit about 20 minutes later, and then go to the pharmacy next door, H&W Pharmacy, to fill their prescriptions. Most of the prescriptions written by Dr. Ward were for hydrocodone, and a large number of prescriptions were for Xanax and Soma as well. The three drugs are a well-known combination commonly abused and diverted for sale to addicts.

According to the TMB Press Release, H&W Pharmacy’s license has since been suspended by the Texas State Board of Pharmacy, as has the license of H&W pharmacist Victor Egbulefu.

The Temporary Suspension Hearing Without Notice took place under the Board’s authority, granted by the Medical Practice Act, to suspend or restrict a physician’s license without notice when it determines the physician’s continuation in practice would constitute a continuing threat to the public welfare. Under TMB procedures, Ward has the opportunity to have a Temporary Suspension Hearing With Notice at least 10 days after notice of the suspension.

Physician Precautions Recommended For Pain Management Activities

Physicians and other health care providers should not allow the egregiousness of allegations underlying suspensions like those alleged committed by Ward to blind them to the importance of exercising special care when engaging in pain management activities.  While medical practitioners, medical boards, the Drug Enforcement Agency, accreditation agencies and others increasingly recognize the appropriateness and need for legitimate pain management, physicians, pharmacies and others prescribing and delivering pain management must conduct these activities in a defensible manner.  Physicians prescribing pain management remain accountable for demonstrating and documenting the therapeutic appropriateness of prescribed management including appropriate procedures to monitor and redress potential concerns about patient medication abuse or addition.  See Texas Medical Board Rules §§ 170.1-170.3.  As many pain management medications both are controlled substances, physicians prescribing these medications often must comply with special prescribing, documentation and other requirements under DEA, state medical board and other rules and ethical standards.  See, e.g, DEA Cautions Practitioners Must Restrict Delegation of Controlled Substance Prescribing 

Missteps by providers in the prescription, documentation, or administration of pain management or other controlled substance prescriptions and treatment are frequently the basis of medical board and other disciplinary actions and civil, criminal and administrative enforcement actions by the Justice Department, DEA, Department of Health & Human Services and others. See e.g., Quality, Recordkeeping & Unprofessional Conduct Lead Reasons For Medical Board Discipline of Physicians; Texas Pain Management Physician and Psychiatrist Arrested on Federal Health Care Fraud Inditement; Pain and The Law.  

To defend against these and other exposures, physicians and practices, pharmacies and pharmacists, and the hospitals and other organizations involved in the operation or management of physicians or pharmacists prescribing or dispensing pain management treatments should implement written delegation policies and other procedures to facilitate their ability to withstand DEA, medical board and other scrutiny and defend against a claim of improper conduct.   As part of these efforts, prescribing practitioners should consider include:

  • Carefully and fully document the therapeutic need and appropriateness of the prescribed treatment including the medical justification, patient counseling, adherence to DEA and other standards and procedures, and monitoring for effectiveness, patient compliance and potential patient abuse.
  • Strictly complying with DEA requirements when prescribing controlled substances;
  • Ensure appropriate and well-documented physician assessment of patient pain and pain management treatment;
  • Abstain from or restrict delegation of pain management assessments or prescription of controlled substance except in strict and clearly documented compliance with DEA rules and all otherwise applicable regulations and care standards;
  • Adopting and following written policies and procedures governing the prescription and handling of pain management and other controlled substances including the scope of allowable delegation of communication functions;
  • Requiring physicians, pharmacists and others participating in pain management or other controlled substance ordering or treatment to participate in specific, documented training and enter into signed written agreements acknowledging knowledge of and agreement to comply with pain management, controlled substance and other relevant policies and requirements;
  • Monitoring of prescribing and other dealings with controlled substances for potential noncompliance;
  • Careful documentation of all activities involved with the prescription and handling of controlled substances or their prescriptions;
  • Carefully restricting the individuals that with or without authorization could participate in the prescription or handling of controlled substance;
  • Requiring drug and alcohol testing of physicians and other staff with involvement in the prescription or handling of controlled substance or who otherwise might be in a position to access the materials used in this process;
  • Conducting appropriate training of DEA-authorized practitioners and their support staff regarding the appropriate procedures for handling and prescribing controlled substances;
  • Conducting periodic background checks of physicians, pharmacists, staff and others who might participate in the prescription of or otherwise be in a position to access controlled substances or the tools for their access or prescription pursuant to written authorizations designed to comply with applicable Federal Trade Commission credit check and other relevant laws;
  • Avoiding relationships and dealings involving prescribers, pharmacies, investors or others with questionable backgrounds or involving relationships that might create heightened exposures or appearances of impropriety; and
  • Investigating and promptly redressing any known or suspected violation of DEA mandated or other policies regarding the prescription or handling of controlled substances.

For Help With Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

IIf you need assistance reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 23 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 compliance and risk management policies and to respond to DEA 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 including her highly popular programs on “Sex Drugs & Rock ‘N Role:  Managing Personal Misconduct in Health Care,” “Managing Physician Performance” and others. 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

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.

 

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


Texas Doctor, Pharmacy Suspension Reminder of Pain Management Prescribing Risks

January 18, 2011

On January 14, 2011, a disciplinary panel of the Texas Medical Board (TMB) temporarily suspended the medical license of Julia Renee Ward, M.D. of Houston, after determining that Dr. Ward’s continuation in the practice of medicine presents a continuing threat to the public welfare.   Physicians, pharmacists and others involved in pain treatment should  resist the temptation to allow the allegations of extreme misconduct by Ward, others to blind them to the need for special precautions when prescribing or administering pain management or other controlled substance treatments.

rd Pain Management Suspension

According to a January 18, 2011 TMB Press Release, TMB issued the Order of Temporary Suspension (Without Notice of Hearing) based on Dr. Ward’s operation of a pain management clinic, Tejas Urgent Care Clinic, without the certification required by law; failure to practice medicine in an acceptable, professional manner; inappropriate prescribing of controlled substances; and unprofessional or dishonorable conduct. The suspension took immediate effect.  Previously, the medical board denied certification of Tejas Clinic in Houston, based on the clinic’s partial ownership by a non-physician.

According to the Press Release, TMB and Texas State Board of Pharmacy investigators staked out the clinic and observed several vehicles, some with out-of-state license plates, dropping off and picking up small groups of patients throughout the day.   TMB says investigators observed four men who appeared to be patrolling the parking lot, directing patients to Tejas Clinic and H&W Pharmacy.  Investigators reported the dropped-off patients would enter the clinic, exit about 20 minutes later, and then go to the pharmacy next door, H&W Pharmacy, to fill their prescriptions. Most of the prescriptions written by Dr. Ward were for hydrocodone, and a large number of prescriptions were for Xanax and Soma as well. The three drugs are a well-known combination commonly abused and diverted for sale to addicts.

According to the TMB Press Release, H&W Pharmacy’s license has since been suspended by the Texas State Board of Pharmacy, as has the license of H&W pharmacist Victor Egbulefu.

The Temporary Suspension Hearing Without Notice took place under the Board’s authority, granted by the Medical Practice Act, to suspend or restrict a physician’s license without notice when it determines the physician’s continuation in practice would constitute a continuing threat to the public welfare. Under TMB procedures, Ward has the opportunity to have a Temporary Suspension Hearing With Notice at least 10 days after notice of the suspension.

Physician Precautions Recommended For Pain Management Activities

Physicians and other health care providers should not allow the egregiousness of allegations underlying suspensions like those alleged committed by Ward to blind them to the importance of exercising special care when engaging in pain management activities.  While medical practitioners, medical boards, the Drug Enforcement Agency, accreditation agencies and others increasingly recognize the appropriateness and need for legitimate pain management, physicians, pharmacies and others prescribing and delivering pain management must conduct these activities in a defensible manner.  Physicians prescribing pain management remain accountable for demonstrating and documenting the therapeutic appropriateness of prescribed management including appropriate procedures to monitor and redress potential concerns about patient medication abuse or addition.  See Texas Medical Board Rules §§ 170.1-170.3.  As many pain management medications both are controlled substances, physicians prescribing these medications often must comply with special prescribing, documentation and other requirements under DEA, state medical board and other rules and ethical standards.  See, e.g, DEA Cautions Practitioners Must Restrict Delegation of Controlled Substance Prescribing 

Missteps by providers in the prescription, documentation, or administration of pain management or other controlled substance prescriptions and treatment are frequently the basis of medical board and other disciplinary actions and civil, criminal and administrative enforcement actions by the Justice Department, DEA, Department of Health & Human Services and others. See e.g., Quality, Recordkeeping & Unprofessional Conduct Lead Reasons For Medical Board Discipline of Physicians; Texas Pain Management Physician and Psychiatrist Arrested on Federal Health Care Fraud Inditement; Pain and The Law.  

To defend against these and other exposures, physicians and practices, pharmacies and pharmacists, and the hospitals and other organizations involved in the operation or management of physicians or pharmacists prescribing or dispensing pain management treatments should implement written delegation policies and other procedures to facilitate their ability to withstand DEA, medical board and other scrutiny and defend against a claim of improper conduct.   As part of these efforts, prescribing practitioners should consider include:

  • Carefully and fully document the therapeutic need and appropriateness of the prescribed treatment including the medical justification, patient counseling, adherence to DEA and other standards and procedures, and monitoring for effectiveness, patient compliance and potential patient abuse.
  • Strictly complying with DEA requirements when prescribing controlled substances;
  • Ensure appropriate and well-documented physician assessment of patient pain and pain management treatment;
  • Abstain from or restrict delegation of pain management assessments or prescription of controlled substance except in strict and clearly documented compliance with DEA rules and all otherwise applicable regulations and care standards;
  • Adopting and following written policies and procedures governing the prescription and handling of pain management and other controlled substances including the scope of allowable delegation of communication functions;
  • Requiring physicians, pharmacists and others participating in pain management or other controlled substance ordering or treatment to participate in specific, documented training and enter into signed written agreements acknowledging knowledge of and agreement to comply with pain management, controlled substance and other relevant policies and requirements;
  • Monitoring of prescribing and other dealings with controlled substances for potential noncompliance;
  • Careful documentation of all activities involved with the prescription and handling of controlled substances or their prescriptions;
  • Carefully restricting the individuals that with or without authorization could participate in the prescription or handling of controlled substance;
  • Requiring drug and alcohol testing of physicians and other staff with involvement in the prescription or handling of controlled substance or who otherwise might be in a position to access the materials used in this process;
  • Conducting appropriate training of DEA-authorized practitioners and their support staff regarding the appropriate procedures for handling and prescribing controlled substances;
  • Conducting periodic background checks of physicians, pharmacists, staff and others who might participate in the prescription of or otherwise be in a position to access controlled substances or the tools for their access or prescription pursuant to written authorizations designed to comply with applicable Federal Trade Commission credit check and other relevant laws;
  • Avoiding relationships and dealings involving prescribers, pharmacies, investors or others with questionable backgrounds or involving relationships that might create heightened exposures or appearances of impropriety; and
  • Investigating and promptly redressing any known or suspected violation of DEA mandated or other policies regarding the prescription or handling of controlled substances.

For Help With Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

IIf you need assistance reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 23 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 compliance and risk management policies and to respond to DEA 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 including her highly popular programs on “Sex Drugs & Rock ‘N Role:  Managing Personal Misconduct in Health Care,” “Managing Physician Performance” and others. 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

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.

 

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


Medicare Ends Fox Insurance Company Drug Plan Contract As CMS Turns Up Heat on Medicare Advantage & Part D Plan Enforcement & Oversight

March 16, 2010

By Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) terminated its Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage contract with Fox Insurance Company (Fox) on March 9, 2010.    The action highlights CMS’s growing scrutiny and enforcement of Medicare requirements against Medicare Part D, Medicare Advantage Plans and other federal health care program contractors.

CMS terminated the Fox contract after CMS found the failure by Fox’s plan and services to meet Medicare’s requirements to provide enrollees with prescription drugs according to recognized standards of care jeopardized the health and safety of Fox enrollees.   When announcing the contract termination, CMS reported that an on-sight review by CMS showed that Fox committed a series of violations, including improperly denying its enrollees coverage of critical HIV, cancer, and seizure medications. CMS issued an enrollment and marketing sanction to Fox on Feb. 26, 2010, because the organization was not following Medicare’s rules for providing prescription drug coverage to its enrollees.   According to CMS, an onsite audit conducted between March 2 and March 4 showed that Fox’s problems persisted and that Fox continued to subject its enrollees to obstacles in getting sustaining medicines or other needed medications.  Among other things, CMS found Fox:

  • Failed to provide access to Medicare prescription drugs benefits by imposing unapproved prior authorization and step therapy criteria that made it more difficult for beneficiaries to get drugs that are protected by law;
  • Failed to meet the plan’s appeals deadlines; and
  • Did not comply with Medicare regulations requiring enrollees to be transitioned to new drugs at the beginning of the new plan year.
  • Failed to notify enrollees about prior authorization and step therapy determinations as required by Medicare.

CMS also found that many of the obstacles were in place to limit access to high-cost drugs, which could have led to enrollees’ clinical needs not being met.

In many cases, CMS reported that Fox required enrollees to have unnecessary and invasive medical procedures before they were able to obtain drugs. Finding that Fox was unable to satisfactorily address these compliance concerns and furnish medicines to its Medicare enrollees, CMS immediately terminated the Fox contract.

At the time of the termination, more than 123,000 Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in Fox plans. Beginning March 10, 2010, CMS indicated that LI-NET, a Medicare run program administered by Humana, would replace the Medicare Part D coverage of  enrollees affected by the Fox contract termination on an interim basis. Fox enrollees will be able to choose a new Medicare prescription drug plan through May 1, 2010. Current enrollees who do not choose a plan will be enrolled into a new plan by Medicare. CMS is sending letters explaining the actions taken by CMS to enrollees and has established a 1-800 number to receive questions.

The action against Fox is part of an ongoing series of oversight, disciplinary and enforcement actions by CMS against Medicare Advantage and other federal health care program participants.  These programs and CMS’ oversight and enforcement of federal programs are drawing increasing Congressional scrutiny in connection with Congressional health care reform efforts. Amid this heightened scrutiny, Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage Plans; health care providers, administrative services providers and others contracting with these plans and others involved with this programs should take appropriate action to maintain compliance, tighten their contracts with and oversight of actions of partners and vendors performing critical functions; review complaint reporting, investigation and response processes and procedures; and strengthen other practices to minimize exposures to audit or other enforcement actions.

For Assistance With Medicare Managed Care or Other Matters

If your organization needs advice or assistance about Medicare Part D or other Medicare Advantage contracting or other requirements or about other health plan or health care matters, consider contacting the author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (214) 270-2402 or via e-mail here

Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section, Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Compensation Committee and an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council member,  Ms. Stamer has more than 22 years experience advising health plans, health care providers, and other health industry and insurance clients.  Her experience includes specific experience assisting Medicare, Medicaid and other health plan sponsors, administrators,  or administrative services providers about contracting, compliance, coverage and other matters.    A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry matters, Ms. Stamer also conducts compliance and other training on Medicare Advantage and other contract and compliance matters, as well as a broad range of other health industry related concerns.  Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry quality, regulatory, reimbursement, and other operations, risk management and public policy concerns.  Her insights on health industry 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.  For additional information about Ms. Stamer, her experience, involvements, programs or publications, see here.  

Other Recent Developments & Resources

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the following recent updates available online by clicking on the article title:

You can review other recent health plan, health care and internal controls resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer 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 at here; e-mailing this information to cstamer@cttlegal.com; or registering to participate in the distribution of these and other Solutions Law Press updates here. For important information concerning this communication click here.   

To unsubscribe, e-mail here.

©2010 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


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