In a 5-3 decision today, the Supreme Court of the United States in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, No. 15-275, slip op. (June 27, 2016) reversed a decision of the Fifth Circuit and overturned as unconstitutional a Texas law that (1) required abortion providers to have “active admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of the location at which they provide abortions and (2) required abortion facilities to meet standards adopted for ambulatory surgery centers. The Court wrote that each of the requirements “places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.” A team of Duane Morris attorneys, including Philip H. Lebowitz, Erin M. Duffy, Katharyn I. Christian McGee, Alison Taylor Rosenblum, and Erica Fruiterman, filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of medical staff professionals in support of petitioners Whole Woman’s Health et al. In its decision, the Supreme Court cited Duane Morris’ amicus brief, noting, “Other amicus briefs filed here set forth without dispute other common prerequisites to obtaining admitting privileges that have nothing to do with ability to perform medical procedures.” The brief was one of only a handful of amici curiae briefs cited in the decision out of a total of 41 such briefs filed on behalf of petitioners.
The Stark Law, 42 U.S.C. 1395nn, places restrictions on lease arrangements between physician groups and hospitals for equipment owned by the physicians, leased to the hospitals and then used by the same physicians to treat patients at the hospital. Under the Stark Law, such leases are prohibited unless the arrangement complies with the equipment rental exception, 42 U.S.C. 1395nn(e)(1)(B).
One requirement of the equipment rental exception, which is both statutory and regulatory (42 C.F.R. 411.357(b)), is that the rental charges be “set in advance.” In a recent case from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Council for Urological Interests v. Burwell, the court considered whether a “per-click” or “per-use” fee could be considered “set in advance” and otherwise meet the criteria for the exception. In an oddly constructed opinion, the court struck down a regulatory prohibition on per-click arrangements, but remanded under terms that would permit the restriction to be re-instated. Continue reading “Per-click” fees OK but don’t count on it
The Medicare Part B appeal process is lengthy and cumbersome, typically requiring full exhaustion of administrative remedies, including an administrative request for reconsideration, an ALJ hearing and Departmental Appeals Board review. The process is especially frustrating when the appeal involves a challenge to a Local Coverage Determination (“LCD”), likely to have spawned several individual appeals of the same decision.
The Medicare Act does provide a shortcut to a legal review by way of 42 U.S.C. § 1395ff(f)(3) which provides that a Medicare recipient “may seek review [of an LCD] by a court of competent jurisdiction without … otherwise exhausting other administrative remedies.” This direct access to court review applies only if “there are no material issues of fact in dispute, and the only issue of law is the constitutionality of a provision of this subchapter or that a regulation, determination or ruling by the Secretary is invalid.” Continue reading California Medicare Appeal Applies Strict Standing Rules
An orthopedic surgeon agreed on two separate occasions to an on-call coverage contract with a local hospital in which he warranted that no portion of his compensation was in exchange for referrals. When the contracts were terminated by the hospital after the surgeon invested in a competing surgery center, the surgeon brought a whistleblower False Claims Act action against the hospital, alleging that the contract was intended to induce his referrals.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, in Cooper v. Pottstown Hospital Co., LLC, et al., dismissed the surgeon’s complaint. The district court’s description of the failure of the complaint illustrates the characteristics of on-call contracts that make them a permissible relationship between hospitals and physicians. Continue reading On-call coverage contracts are OK
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
Health systems attempting to fulfill the mandate of integrating hospitals and physicians may find themselves accused of going too far. Although the Affordable Care Act, shared savings, gainsharing and other alternative payment methodologies have made integration of physicians, hospitals and other providers an operational goal, success in reaching that goal may be challenged by private antitrust actions.
In a recent Florida federal court decision, the antitrust complaint of “several of Southern Brevard County’s physicians and physicians practice groups” was held to have stated a monopolization claim against Health First, Inc. and three of its wholly-owned subsidiaries — an insurer, a hospital and a physician practice group. Essentially, by fully integrating its business, and incentivizing in-network referrals and managed care pricing, Health First became vulnerable to claims of tying, exclusive dealing, price discrimination and monopolization.
Continue reading Health System Integration and Antitrust Laws on Collision Course
On March 26, 2013, the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) increased its scrutiny of and pressure on physician-owned entities (particularly medical device distributorships) by issuance of a Special Fraud Alert. Although there is nothing specifically new or different from positions taken previously by the OIG regarding physician-owned distributorships (PODs), the Special Fraud Alert clarifies that the “OIG is concerned about the proliferation of PODs.” In other words, the position previously adopted by the OIG has not prevented physicians and medical device companies from designing arrangements that trouble the OIG.
Continue reading Increased Government Scrutiny of Physician-Owned Device Distributorships
When physicians are excluded from medical staff privileges because the hospital has entered into an exclusive agreement with other physicians, the element of “exclusion” often raises the suggestion that somehow the antitrust laws are implicated and competition has been adversely affected. The recent opinion of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Bocobo v. Radiology Consultants of South Jersey, P.A., et al. , No. 07-3142 (3d Cir. April 13, 2012)(not precedential), explains why the antitrust laws do not afford a remedy to an excluded physician when a hospital contracts with a provider group that does not include the plaintiff physician.
Continue reading Antitrust Laws No Help to Excluded Physicians