On August 8, 2019, Beaver Medical Group L.P. (“Beaver”) and a Beaver-affiliated physician, Dr. Sherif Khalil, agreed to pay a combined total of $5 million to resolve allegations that the providers knowingly submitted diagnosis codes that were not supported by the medical records in order to inflate reimbursements from Medicare. The qui tam action was brought by a former employee of Beaver, Dr. David Nutter, and DOJ intervened. The settlement reflects DOJ’s continuing efforts to use its enforcement power to pursue fraud in the Medicare Advantage space despite recent setbacks in the UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co. v. Azar, 330 F. Supp. 3d 173 (D.D.C. 2018), which vacated a portion of CMS’s 2014 Final Overpayment Rule applicable to the Medicare Advantage program, previously discussed here. Indeed, in its press release, DOJ emphasized that preventing Medicare Advantage fraud remains a top priority: “As enrollment in Medicare Advantage continues to grow, investigation into accuracy of diagnosis data becomes ever more important….Those who inflate bills sent to government health programs can except to pay a heavy price.” We will continue to monitor and provide updates on these issues as they develop.
DOJ’s press release can be found here.
On August 6, 2019, the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas granted a motion to dismiss filed by Baylor Scott & White Health (“Baylor”), a network of inpatient short-term acute care hospitals, in a False Claims Act suit alleging that Baylor submitted “more than $61.8 million in false claims” by upcoding certain diagnosis codes. The Court dismissed all claims with prejudice, finding that the Relator, Integra Med Analytics LLC, alleged only “naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement” that were “insufficient under Rule 8’s pleading standards.” The Department of Justice declined to intervene in the suit.
A judge in the Western District of Texas recently departed from a magistrate judge’s recommendation, ruling that the novelty of the relator’s FCA claims – which are based on allegations that the defendant medical device manufacturer committed “fraud on the FDA” by seeking clearance for its stent devices based on substantial equivalence with a predicate device, when the defendant allegedly had no intention of marketing its device for the predicate device’s use – could not overcome the failure to otherwise meet all of the requisite criteria for interlocutory appeal. See United States ex rel. Sullivan v. Atrium Med. Corp., No. SA-13-CA-244-OLG (W.D. Tex. Oct. 1, 2015). This suit involves a continued, but as yet unsuccessful, effort to expand the potential basis for FCA liability to fraudulent conduct directed to one government agency separate from the payor agency.