Articles Posted in Healthcare Fraud

ken-treloar-385255-copy-300x200The False Claims Act (FCA), which prohibits entities that conduct business with the government from defrauding the government, goes all the way back to the time of the Civil War. It is sometimes called the Lincoln Law because of the president who was in office when the law went into effect.

Since the advent of Medicare and Medicaid, physicians and hospitals fraudulently obtaining payments from publicly funded healthcare programs have been defendants in many FCA lawsuits. Often the violation is not as simple as doctors submitting claims to Medicare for services they did not perform, although such fraudulent claims certainly do constitute FCA violations. Likewise, some FCA violations occur when doctors perform unnecessary procedures (for example, performing a surgery when the patient’s condition could be adequately managed with medication) just to be able to bill Medicare for them. It can even be an FCA violation if a doctor benefits financially from referring a Medicare or Medicaid patient for other services. If you are a healthcare worker and have evidence that your workplace has intentionally benefited financially from referrals made at the expense of Medicare or Medicaid, filing a qui tam lawsuit could offer you legal and financial protection while also protecting patients and taxpayers from fraud.

The Stark Law

jonathan-perez-409943-copy-300x200Ever since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, all violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) have been actionable under the False Claims Act (FCA). In plain language, this means that, if you are aware that people in your workplace are defrauding government agencies, you can file a qui tam lawsuit, also known as a whistleblower lawsuit, on behalf of the government. California has become the most recent state in which the Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken legal action against a pharmaceutical company that, according to whistleblowers, engaged in fraudulent practices related to the marketing and promotion of an addictive drug.

The Drug, the Pharmaceutical Company, and the Fraudulent Activities

The drug at the center of the controversy is an analgesic mouth spray; the FDA has approved the drug only for the treatment of breakthrough cancer pain. Breakthrough pain, a phenomenon common in cancer patients, is when a patient is able to control his or her chronic pain through consistent use of medication but occasionally also suffers acute pain (“breakthrough pain”) that requires additional medication. Thus, the approved uses for the drug were quite narrow. Despite this, the pharmaceutical company allegedly engaged in several prohibited practices in order to entice physicians and nurse practitioners to prescribe the drug for patients other than those for whom it was intended. Whistleblowers reported the following AKS violations on the part of the drug company.

ken-treloar-385255-copy-300x200Medicare and Medicaid are taxpayer-funded healthcare programs instituted for the purpose of ensuring that all Americans have access to basic health services. Fraud on the part of health care providers is a major threat to these programs and to the health of millions of Americans who benefit from their services. Every year, physicians and other members of the healthcare industry enrich themselves by diverting funds from Medicare and Medicaid to themselves and by fraudulently billing these publicly funded programs. Whistleblowers who have helped bring legal action against purveyors of healthcare fraud have helped the nation recover billions of dollars for healthcare.  If you are aware of healthcare fraud at your workplace, contact an attorney to discuss filing a qui tam lawsuit.

How Big a Problem is Healthcare Fraud?

The Department of Justice collects data on healthcare fraud, and the figures are alarming. For 2014, the most recent year for which the DOJ has published statistics, it is clear that healthcare fraud was widespread, but that the government, with the help of whistleblowers, was taking effective measures to stem it.

piron-guillaume-96228-copy-300x200Federal authorities arrested five individuals connected to San Fernando Valley clinics and a significant health care fraud scheme. On May 22, a federal grand jury indictment was unsealed. The indictment alleges that the five individuals engaged in a health care fraud conspiracy over multiple years and targeted at least eight health insurance companies and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the Pacific Maritime Association Benefit Plan, and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

The Conspirators

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) press release, the co-conspirators included:

aidan-bartos-313782-copy-300x200One of the ways in which physicians and other health care professionals commit fraud against the federal government is through accepting or providing illegal payments or gifts to generate certain business. This type of scheme is also known as kickbacks.

One of the most common kickback schemes associated with this field is paying a health care professional for referrals to a certain physician, facility, or medical device provider. The person or place that receives the referral is then able to use the new business to grow their claims to a federal health care program and unlawfully increase their reimbursements. In many cases, the services or products they bill for are medically unnecessary or fraudulent in another way. However, not all kickback schemes involve referrals. Payments or gifts intended to generate any health care business, which is then unlawfully invoiced to Medicare or Medicaid for reimbursement, is illegal.

If you know of a physician or other health care professional who is paying or accepting kickbacks that lead to false claims against Medicare or Medicaid, contact a San Francisco anti-kickback lawyer from Brod Law Firm today. The information and evidence you have may be enough for you to file a qui tam case under the False Claims Act against those participating in the fraudulent scheme.

jonathan-perez-409943-copy-300x200On April 13, the U.S. intervened in five lawsuits against Insys Therapeutics Inc., which all accuse the company of violating the False Claims Act in regard to its opioid painkiller, Subsys. The painkiller is a sublingual spray form of fentanyl, an extremely potent and addictive drug.

Fentanyl has made the news in recent years as a replacement for heroin and other illegal street drugs, which has led to an increase in drug overdoses. Fentanyl analogues are hundreds of times more potent than heroin, and thousands of times stronger than morphine. Considering the risk of addiction and dependence on opioid painkillers, and the risk of death, the government takes accusations of improper marketing and prescribing of the drug seriously.

If you are aware of illegal activity regarding opioid drugs at a doctor’s office or medical facility, contact an experienced San Francisco health care fraud lawyer at Brod Law Firm today. Not only may the activity be a crime under California or federal law, it may also give rise to a civil claim.

hush-naidoo-382152-copy-300x200Alere, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary Alere San Diego agreed to pay the U.S. $33.2 million to resolve allegations that the medical device manufacturer violated the False Claims Act. (Alere was acquired by Abbott, one of the world’s largest healthcare companies, in October 2017.) According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) press release, Alere caused hospitals to submit inaccurate claims to Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal healthcare programs by willfully selling unreliable point-of-care diagnostic testing devices.

If you are aware of a company knowingly selling inaccurate medical devices, call a San Francisco healthcare fraud attorney at Brod Law Firm today.

Fraudulent Medical Devices Lead to False Claims

clark-young-143622-unsplash-copy-300x200In March, the Department of Justice for the Eastern District of California announced the federal government and California reached a settlement agreement with Kmart. The retailer, based in Illinois with locations throughout California, will pay $525,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the federal False Claims Act by knowingly submitting false claims to Medi-Cal. The claims for reimbursement were not supported by appropriate diagnoses and documentation.

Kmart’s Fraudulent Billing

Medi-Cal uses a formulary list that designates restrictions for the drugs listed, known as Code 1 drugs. Certain restrictions are related to approved diagnoses. Medi-Cal will reimburse pharmacies for Code 1 drugs, but only if their use is in line with the formulary’s restrictions. For instance, a pharmacy may not be reimbursed for a drug prescribed and dispenses for an unapproved diagnosis.

osman-rana-193633-copy-300x169In mid-April, Aharon Aron Krkasharyan, 54, a former employee of Mauran Ambulance Inc. (Mauran) of San Fernando, was sentenced for his part in a health care fraud scheme. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud in November 2017. U.S. District Judge George H. Wu sentenced Krkasharyan to 36 months in prison and to jointly and severally pay $484,556 in restitution to Medicare.

If you know of any type of a fraudulent scheme against a federal or state health care program, do not hesitate to seek legal advice. An experience San Francisco qui tam lawyer from Brod Law Firm can help.

The Medicare Fraud Scheme

freestocks-org-126848-1-copy-300x200In April 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California announced that two physicians pled guilty to participating in a health care fraud scheme against TRICARE, the health care program for U.S. service members and their families. Carl Lindblad, 53, and Susan Vergot, 31, were charged with fraudulently obtaining more than $65 million by unnecessarily prescribing expensive compound medications for patients they did not see in person.

Fraud Related to Compound Medications

Compound medications are specialty medications created when a patient has a specific need that cannot be addressed with a regularly existing prescription. Compound medications are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, yet they typically involve a variation on a previously FDA-approved drug. For instance, a patient may need a specific drug yet be allergic to a dye or one of its ingredients. A patient may require a dosage that a certain drug is not manufactured in. Compound medications are expensive because they must be mixed by a pharmacist in regard to the patient’s needs.