An April 14 article on Reuters.com titled “Lawyers start mining the Medicare data for clues to fraud” explains how plaintiffs’ lawyers are eagerly mining newly-released Medicare data showing provider-specific billings to support existing FCA claims and identify new ones. The article describes one example of how the data is being used to support healthcare cases based on violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute:
For example, if a lawyer were representing a pharmaceutical sales manager accusing his company of paying kickbacks to certain doctors, the data could point to other providers using the company’s products who could serve as witnesses or be added as defendants if the billings suggest wrongdoing.
“It could expand the case beyond a certain institution or provider to multiple institutions or providers,” said Chris Coffin, a Louisiana lawyer who represents whistleblowers.
Other lawyers said the data could produce leads for new lawsuits. When red flags emerge – a doctor bills Medicare an unusually high amount for a particular drug, say – lawyers could investigate what might explain the aberrant figure. That could turn up a possible fraud.
While the data may help relators add details to their pleadings, a strong argument can be made that claims based on the new Medicare data implicate the public disclosure bar. Thus, whether the release of this data ultimately helps or harms defendants remains to be seen, and is likely to depend on the stage of a particular case and the manner in which the information is being used.