On January 13, 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) sent a Memorandum (“Memo”) to State survey agency directors encouraging long-term care providers to “consider cybersecurity when developing or reviewing their emergency preparedness plans.” The Memo was a follow-up to the CMS long-term care emergency preparedness rule published in the Federal Register on September 16, 2016: “Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Emergency Preparedness Requirements for Medicare and Medicaid Participating Providers and Suppliers.” Under that final rule, long-term care facilities were held to additional standards, including requirements to have emergency and standby power systems in place. Nursing homes were also required to create plans regarding missing residents that could be activated regardless of whether the facility has activated its full-scale emergency plan. The rule was spurred on by recent flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and other emergency disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, according to CMS.
Whether State surveyors will actually enforce lack of cybersecurity plans for emergency preparedness as violations remains to be seen from this Memo. But certainly, a State survey agency could impose deficiencies for failure to have a proper cybersecurity plan and/or a proper cybersecurity back‑up plan as part of a facility’s emergency preparedness going forward. It is not clear why CMS decided to send this encouragement Memo three months after the Final Rule on emergency preparedness, but it likely has something to do with the fact that 2016 was a banner year for HIPAA privacy infractions and HIPAA enforcement by the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”), the entity responsible for HIPAA compliance. In 2016, payouts for HIPAA violations skyrocketed to record heights of $23.51 million from OCR enforcers against health care providers. That number was triple the previous record of almost $7.94 million in payouts in 2014, followed by $6.19 million in payouts in 2015.
Continue reading Cybersecurity and Emergency Preparedness for Long-Term Care
On August 5, 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a Survey and Certification Memorandum (Notice) urging State health departments to enforce violations by nursing homes in posting patient images on social media. This development was interesting given that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the enforcer of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules, presumably should already be cracking down on any such violations of resident rights as a violation of HIPAA. According to Modern Healthcare, increased instances of nursing home staff inappropriately posting resident pictures on social media may have sparked this pronouncement by CMS.
Specifically, CMS will more strictly enforce, through State agencies, corrective actions to ensure that employee postings of residents in a degrading manner do not occur in the nursing home setting. Interestingly, the Notice does not discuss nursing homes reporting such employee conduct to OCR, but does indicate that employees should report such postings on social media of residents as abuse “to at least one law enforcement agency.” Continue reading Government Cracks Down On Nursing Home Use of Social Media
Duane Morris partner Patricia S. Hofstra will be speaking at the Strafford Live Webinar on “Retail Clinics in Healthcare: Overcoming Complex Legal Challenges” to be held on Thursday, March 10, 2016 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Eastern time). The webinar will address “Complying with Corporate Practice of Medicine, Licensure, and Scope of Practice Laws; Navigating Emerging Relationships with Physicians, Hospitals and Payers.”
For more information, please see the event page on the Duane Morris website.
The Office of Inspector General identified “reducing waste in . . . hospice care” as one of the “top management challenges” for the 2015 fiscal year. The federal government’s efforts to respond to that challenge are illustrated by several recent developments in False Claims Act (“FCA“) cases brought against hospice care providers. For example, the Robinson-Hill, Betts, and Gooch cases discussed herein underscore the attention given to hospice care providers and their alleged billing and personnel-related practices, and the high monetary settlements that can result from such attention.
Continue reading Recent Trends In FCA Litigation Against Hospice Care Providers
In the Spring 2015 edition of The Wharton Healthcare Quarterly, Duane Morris partner Lisa Clark’s article, “Affidavit: Healthcare and the Law – Healthcare Reform Update: What’s in a Name?,” discussed the innovations under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). One of the innovations was the Accountable Care Organization (ACO), where a new healthcare reimbursement system was introduced as an alternative to the tradition fee-for-service model. Over the years, the Accountable Care Organizations and other value-based models will be tested and hopefully, there will be buzz around this new model in the next year.
In healthcare, companies often hire consultants to review billing and coding, privacy and security and a host of other technical issues that regular staff does not have the time or expertise to pursue. A recent discovery ruling in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania holds that communications with such outside consultants are privileged from discovery if they are made for the purpose of assisting the company in securing legal advice or making legal decisions.
In Smith v. Unilife Corporation, a whistleblower brought an action under Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank alleging shareholder fraud and failure to comply with certain FDA requirements. The plaintiff sought discovery of two non-lawyer consultants regarding drafts of the company’s SEC Form 10-K filing. The Court’s decision to deny the plaintiff’s motion to compel was based on the “functional equivalent” doctrine, a principle already adopted in the 8th, 9th and D.C. Circuits, but not yet in the 3rd Circuit.
Continue reading Consultants’ Communications Privileged from Discovery
A recent settlement between Mayo Collaborative Services d/b/a Mayo Medical Laboratories (“MML”) and Mayo Clinic (together with MML, “Mayo”) and a former Mayo executive, Dr. Franklin Cockerill, reveals the potential legal issues that may arise when health care executives seek new employment and the high stakes litigation that may ensue-regardless of which party may or may not be at fault.
As set forth in Mayo’s complaint, Dr. Cockerill was a former senior officer and director of MML and Chair of the Mayo Clinic Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, where he managed several thousand medical professionals handling laboratory testing and intellectual property development for Mayo and MML. According to Mayo’s complaint, as a result of Dr. Cockerill’s various positions he had first-hand knowledge of confidential strategic, business, marketing, sales, pricing, and data management information from MML and Mayo. Eventually, Dr. Cockerill retired and obtained employment with a Mayo competitor.
Continue reading Mayo Lawsuit Against Former Exec Raises Numerous Health Care and Business Litigation Issues
A recent decision in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York provides fair warning to qui tam relators who assert erroneous claims under the False Claims Act (“FCA”) that they could be hit with legal fees and expenses pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3730, which permits such an award “upon a finding that the . . . claims were objectively frivolous, irrespective of plaintiff’s subjective intent.” Mikes v. Straus, 274 F.3d 687, 705 (2d Cir. 2001).
On December 1, 2014, in U.S., et al., ex rel. Fox Rx, Inc., 1:12-cv-00275, defendant Managed Health Care Associates Long Term Care Network, Inc. (“MHA”), was awarded attorneys’ fees and expenses because the relator’s, Fox Rx, Inc.’ (“Fox”), claim that MHA, which negotiates reimbursement rates, among other things, on behalf of a network of pharmacies, allegedly (i) failed to substitute generic drugs for named brand drugs, and (ii) dispensed drugs beyond their termination date, was objectively frivolous given that the plain language of the very agreement Fox attached to its second amended complaint demonstrated that MHA did not itself dispense drugs, and exercised no control or supervision of its network pharmacies’ dispensing. Continue reading Fees and Costs Awarded to False Claims Act Defendant
One arrow in the quiver for healthcare providers sued for violations of false claims and anti-kickback statutes is pressing for discovery from the whistleblower/relator, including a deposition of the relator. The failure of the whistleblower to comply with the discovery obligations could result in meaningful sanctions, including dismissal.
In Guthrie v. A Plus Home Health Care, Inc. et al, 0:12-cv-60629-WPD (S.D. FL), the relator, William Guthrie, sued a home health care provider, its seven doctors, and their spouses, alleging that the doctors and their spouses implemented a fraudulent scheme of compensation and referral payments resulting in violations of the False Claims Act, the Stark Act, and the federal Anti-Kickback Statute. Continue reading False Claims and Anti-Kickback Defendants Should Insist on Discovery from the Whistleblower/Relator
Duane Morris special counsel Michael E. Clark will be speaking on “The Physician and Attorney Relationship in a Fraud Audit: Working Through Related Ethical Issues,” during the Physicians Legal Issues Conference presented by the American Bar Association Health Law Section in conjunction with the Chicago Medical Society and the American College of Physician Executives. Mr. Clark’s presentation will be on Friday, June 13, 2014 from 8:00 a.m. until 9:15 a.m. at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.
Continue reading Duane Morris Special Counsel Michael E. Clark to Present on “The Physician and Attorney Relationship in a Fraud Audit”