Earlier this month, a federal court unsealed a qui tam complaint against several New Jersey hospitals, management services organizations, and the hospitals’ Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer for allegedly refusing to return CARES Act Provider Relief Fund (“PRF”) money for which the hospitals knew they were not eligible, and for allegedly using PRF money for impermissible purposes. See United States ex rel. Singh v. Hudson Hospital OPCO, LLC, No 21-cv-19788 (D.N.J. Nov. 5, 2021). This case is noteworthy because it is one of the first unsealed qui tam complaints raising allegations about ineligibility for, and misuse of, PRF payments.
This week DOJ announced one of the first civil settlements under the FCA involving abuse of the pandemic flexibilities that the Department of Health and Human Services used to authorize broader use of telehealth during the COVID public health emergency. Physician Partners of America (“PPOA”) agreed to pay $24.5 million to resolve allegations that it violated the FCA by billing for medically unnecessary telehealth visits, and by submitting claims for medically unnecessary genetic, psychological, and urine drug tests and claims tainted by violations of the Stark Law. While DOJ has previously engaged in criminal enforcement actions relating to abuse of the telehealth waiver flexibilities, as discussed further here, this case represents an expansion of telehealth enforcement scrutiny to the civil side. (more…)
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. (more…)
This week DOJ announced the formation of a COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force “to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance enforcement efforts against COVID-19 related fraud.” In addition to components of DOJ, key agencies overseeing pandemic relief programs will participate, as well as the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Relief and the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.