Welcome to Original Source: The Sidley Austin False Claims Act Blog

The False Claims Act (FCA) has long been a key enforcement tool for the federal government in matters involving government contracts or other expenditures of government funds. FCA enforcement has traditionally focused primarily on two industries receiving a substantial amount of government funds: healthcare and defense and other government contractors. Recently, however, FCA enforcement has expanded to other industries, including financial services. Through the False Claims Act Blog, lawyers in Sidley’s White Collar, Healthcare, FDA, Government Contracting, Financial Services, Appellate, and other practices will provide timely updates on new and interesting developments relating to FCA enforcement and litigation.

District Court Rejects Anti-Kickback Statute Claim Due to “Conclusory” Assertions of Unlawful Intent

A court in the District of Maryland recently dismissed a declined qui tam action in which the relator, a bariatric surgeon, alleged that two medical device companies violated the AKS by providing surgeons with free advertising in exchange for physicians using the companies’ LAP-BAND medical devices in bariatric surgeries.  See United States ex rel. Fitzer v. Allergan, Inc., et al., 1:17-cv-00668-SAG (D. Md. Sept. 10, 2021).  The court’s decision granting defendants’ motions to dismiss is notable in its refusal to allow relator to proceed based on conclusory allegations that the defendants knew they were acting in violation of the AKS.

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Split Seventh Circuit Panel Spars Over Escobar Interpretation

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently allowed a previously dismissed qui tam case to proceed against Molina Healthcare of Illinois (“Molina”). The suit, brought by a relator who founded Molina subcontractor GenMed, alleges that Molina fraudulently billed Illinois’ Medicaid program for skilled nursing facility (“SNF”) services that were not actually provided.  The district court previously dismissed the case at the pleading stage in June 2020, finding that the relator’s complaint insufficiently alleged that Molina knew its alleged false claims were material. The Seventh Circuit, in a split decision, reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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Fraud Theories Fail Under Rigorous Standards for “Worthless Services” and Materiality

Earlier this week, a court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed a declined qui tam action in which the relator, a licensed nurse, alleged that an operator of treatment facilities for disabled individuals fraudulently billed Medicare and Medicaid for substandard care and retaliated against her for investigating that fraud.

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HHS Hires Four Outside Firms to Audit Provider Relief Fund Recipients

Federal records recently made available by ProPublica reveal that from late February through early April 2021, Health Resources and Services Administration (“HRSA”), the component of HHS that administers the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund, engaged multiple outside contractors for work relating to auditing and oversight of the Provider Relief Fund, with task descriptions such as “PRF audit support services,” “Audit and financial review services of HRSA Provider Relief Fund programs,” and “Program integrity support for HRSA Provider Relief Fund programs.”  Amounts obligated so far for this work total more than $5.3 million.

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Finding No Materiality, Court Grants Summary Judgment for Defense in Fraudulent Inducement Case

On August 12, 2021, the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota granted Boston Scientific Corporation’s (BSC) motion for summary judgment in relator Stephen Higgins’s declined qui tam, which alleged that BSC had fraudulently induced the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve two types of defibrillators that the FDA later recalled.

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D.C. Circuit Reinstates Parts C/D Overpayment Rule

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently overruled an earlier district court vacatur of the CMS Parts C/D Overpayment Rule, resulting in reinstatement of the rule.  The decision adopted the government’s arguments in full and is likely a harbinger of renewed confidence by DOJ in pressing forward with FCA cases premised on Medicare Advantage “upcoding.”

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Seventh Circuit Affirms That Safeco “Objective Reasonableness” Standard Applies to FCA Claims; Finds It Was Objectively Reasonable for Defendants to Charge Government Retail Cash Prices Instead of Discount Program Prices

In a 2-1 decision, the Seventh Circuit joined the Third, Eighth, Ninth, and D.C. Circuits in holding that the standard for “reckless disregard” under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) established by the Supreme Court in Safeco Insurance Company of America v. Burr, 551 U.S. 47 (2007) applies equally to the False Claims Act (“FCA”). Applying Safeco, the Seventh Circuit also held that it was objectively reasonable for Defendants, a group of retail pharmacies, to charge the Medicare Part D and Medicaid programs their retail cash prices as their “usual and customary” prices for drugs rather than prices offered through competitor price-match discount programs.

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