Provider Escapes, Contractor Remains in Qui Tam Alleging Noncompliance With Bad Debt Regs
Recently, the Seventh Circuit partially reversed a district court’s dismissal of a qui tam complaint alleging that debt collection agencies and their client hospital are liable under the FCA for the agencies’ knowing failing to comply with Medicare’s “bad debt” collection requirements. See United States ex rel. Sibley v. University of Chicago Medical Center, No. 21-2610 (7th Cir. Aug. 11, 2022). In reaching this decision, the court concluded that the relators had adequately pled that reasonable collection efforts are material to the government’s decision to reimburse Medicare bad debts.
CBO Reports on Grassley Bill That Would Modify Escobar Materiality and Impose Rational Relation Test on Granston Dismissals
On July 15, 2022, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a cost estimate concerning the False Claims Amendments Act of 2021, a bill sponsored by Senator Grassley. The bill would alter the False Claims Act in three important ways. (more…)
Court Concludes Government Agencies Cannot Categorize Regulatory Violations as Material as a Matter of Law
On January 7, 2022, a district court in the Western District of Kentucky dismissed DOJ’s implied false certification theory relating to allegedly medically unnecessary genetic tests, holding that the prosecutors failed to adequately plead materiality. In so holding, the court set forth a novel test for materiality that forecloses the government’s ability to argue that certain regulations are per se material based on the government’s characterization of them as conditions of payment. Instead, plaintiffs must still plead “specific facts regarding the effect of a violation of that regulation” to survive dismissal. (more…)
Analyzing FCA Materiality Defense Outcomes Under Escobar
Since the Supreme Court in Escobar stated that continued payment by the government is “very strong evidence” that the alleged violations are not “material” under the False Claims Act (“FCA”), courts have grappled with how much weight the government’s continued payment should be accorded when assessing “materiality.” Courts have adopted varying approaches, with no obvious majority position. (more…)
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. (more…)
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. (more…)
Proposed FCA Amendments Blocked from Senate Infrastructure Bill
The recently proposed amendments to the False Claims Act have stalled out for now. As discussed here and here, these bipartisan proposed amendments—led by Senator Grassley—would have made four changes to the FCA, and most notably, would have radically altered the burden of proof for establishing materiality.
But after making a sudden appearance on Friday in the Senate infrastructure bill, last night those amendments were excluded. This means that the amendments’ proponents will need to consider other vehicles, particularly “must pass” bills such as the budget resolution. The Senate is expected to consider amendments to the budget resolution later this week.
We will continue to monitor developments regarding this proposed legislation.
FCA Amendments Resurface in Senate Infrastructure Bill
As discussed further here, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Senators Grassley (R-IA), Leahy (D-VT), Wicker (R-MI), Durbin (D-IL), and Kennedy (R-LA), recently introduced proposed amendments to the False Claims Act. Those amendments have now been incorporated into the infrastructure bill currently being debated in the Senate. (more…)
Bipartisan Legislation Introduced To Overhaul FCA To Further Hamstring Defendants
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Senators Grassley (R-IA), Leahy (D-VT), Wicker (R-MI), Durbin (D-IL), and Kennedy (R-LA), has introduced the False Claims Amendments Act of 2021. This legislation is worth watching not just because it would significantly amend the FCA, but because Senator Grassley has a successful track record of shepherding through to passage legislation reversing gains made by defendants in FCA cases.
D.C. Circuit Applies But-For Causation Standard, Weak Materiality Test to FCA Claims, While Concurrence Questions Viability of Fraudulent Inducement Theory
On July 6, 2021, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part a district court’s dismissal of the qui tam suit against IBM in United States ex rel. Cimino v. Int’l Bus. Machines Corp., No. 19-7139. The relator alleged that IBM and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) had entered into a software license agreement, but that upon learning that the IRS was uninterested in renewing the agreement, IBM fraudulently induced the IRS to extend the contract. In particular, IBM allegedly collaborated with the auditor of the agreement, resulting in an audit finding that the IRS owed IBM $292 million for noncompliance with the contract’s terms. IBM then offered allegedly to waive that fee in exchange for the IRS renewing the agreement. The relator further alleged that once the new agreement was in place, IBM nonetheless collected $87 million of the noncompliance penalty by disguising that amount as fees for products and services that were never provided. According to the relator, this scheme yielded FCA liability in two ways: first, IBM fraudulently induced the IRS to renew the agreement; second, IBM submitted false claims by billing $87 million for unprovided products and services.