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Opportunities for Medicare Fraud Abound in Telemedicine; Qui Tam Whistleblowers Cases Will Likely Increase
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) beneficiaries using telemedicine skyrocketed by 13,000%, according to CMS administrator Seema Verma. In fact, during a single three-month span in 2020, over 9 million Medicare FFS beneficiaries utilized some form of telehealth services. While the opportunity for increased medical access afforded by telemedicine is great,
Medicare fraud is as prevalent as ever, with billions of taxpayer dollars lost each year. However, recent developments show that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has renewed its emphasis on aggressively pursuing healthcare fraud through the False Claims Act (FCA) and recovering tens of millions of dollars in settlements for whistleblowers. Bayada Settles FCA Lawsuit
Sutter Health, the largest hospital system in Northern California, agreed last week to pay $90 million to settle recent allegations of Medicare Advantage fraud. This is the second largest Medicare Advantage fraud settlement ever reported and the largest such settlement brought under the False Claims Act. Between 15-30% of this amount will go to the
AseraCare is facing a whistleblower lawsuit from the US Government based on the False Claims Act. This case could set a precedent for future qui tam FCA cases, and to understand its impact we first need to understand the case itself.
In United States v. AseraCare, whistleblowers and government prosecutors obtained a substantial partial verdict against AseraCare, a for-profit home hospice company. The Government argued, and the jury agreed, that AseraCare was deliberately enrolling and billing Medicare for patients who were not eligible for hospice care. The district court, however, ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of AseraCare.
Whistleblowers exposed Beaver Medical Group, L.P. for fraudulently misrepresenting its patients’ diagnoses to make them appear sicker in order to receive greater compensation. Ultimately, they agreed to pay the Government over $5 million and the whistleblower received $850,000. However, there was no determination of liability.
The Department of Justice recently announced a $48 million settlement in an important case over the accuracy of the information healthcare providers give to Medicare. HealthSouth, now known as Encompass Health, misrepresented its patients’ diagnosis to Medicare to keep certain facilities qualified as “Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities”, and to receive higher reimbursement rates for patients.
Baldwin Bone & Joint P.C. faced allegations of Medicare fraud, along with accusations of violating the Physician Self-Referral Law, also known as the Stark Law. The case ruling may make it easier for whistleblowers to expose healthcare fraud in the future.