Articles Posted in Medicare and Medicaid Fraud

I have been asked to publicize a seminar at which I am speaking on handling qui tam whistleblower cases under the False Claims Act, the nation’s primary whistleblower law addressing fraud that steals government funds. Here is the announcement:

AAJ will hold a “Qui Tam” Teleseminar on December 6, 2011 at 2:00 pm EST. With recently amended whistleblower laws and several high profile settlements, lawyers need to understand the procedural complexities and pitfalls in qui tam whistleblower cases. Cosponsored by the Qui Tam Litigation Group of AAJ, this teleseminar will provide an understanding this rapidly developing area of law.

View the agenda, faculty and register at www.justice.org/quitam. Use the promotion code QUITAM at online checkout to receive the special rate of $159.

When qui tam whistleblower cases under the False Claims Act are “declined” by the Department of Justice, the whistleblower or “relator” is authorized to pursue the case on the government’s behalf.

The DOJ statistics below show that these declined cases have generated more than $97 million in recoveries for taxpayers since 1987, the year after the modern False Claims Act was born.

These facts dispel any notion that the Justice Department has sufficient resources to pursue all meritorious cases. Some of the more notable False Claims Act recoveries were achieved by private attorneys pursuing these “declined” cases.

A list of these declined cases that have brought almost $100 million into the U.S. Treasury is below. This amount is “larger than the sum of all salaries paid to members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate last year,” as observed by Pat Burns of Taxpayers Against Fraud.
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False Claims Act history repeated itself today.

Since Congress acted decisively in 1986 to breathe life into the False Claims Act through amendments intended to expand use of the nation’s major anti-fraud whistleblower law, the Supreme Court and some lower courts have regularly intervened by imposing their own views on what Congress must have meant in writing the 1986 amendments.

Those decisions hostile to enforcement of the False Claims Act included Allison Engine Co. v. United States ex rel. Sanders, 553 U.S. 662 (2008); United States ex rel. Totten v. Bombardier Corp., 380 F.3d 488 (D.C. Cir. 2004), cert. denied, 544 U.S. 1032 (2005); and United States ex rel. DRC, Inc. v. Custer Battles, LLC, 376 F. Supp. 2d 617 (E.D. Va. 2005), rev’d, 562 F.3d 295 (4th Cir. 2009)).

Since then, in 2009 and 2010 Congress responded emphatically with three more sets of FCA amendments to state, in essence, what Congress actually intended in 1986, and still intends, the law to mean. We have previously discussed those amendments made by the 2009-2010 legislation known as FERA, PPACA, and Dodd-Frank. (Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-21, 123 Stat. 1617 (“FERA”); Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (“PPACA”); Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act (“Dodd-Frank”), Pub. L. No. 111-203, 124 Stat. 1376.)

Today’s decision in Schindler Elevator Corp. v. United States ex rel. Kirk is a victory for those who seek to make it more difficult to use the “old” version of the False Claims Act to battle fraud against taxpayers. The Supreme Court’s decision today continued the legislative tennis match with Congress.

The Court held that what is known as the “public disclosure bar” of the False Claims Act deprived courts of jurisdiction over this qui tam whistleblower case, because the whistleblower had attempted to corroborate his allegations through FOIA requests.

Fortunately for those who favor stopping fraud against taxpayers, the decision should have no effect on qui tam cases filed after the March 22, 2010 enactment of PPACA, the major health reform bill.
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Of interest to whistleblowers reporting fraud under the False Claims Act, the IRS Whistleblower Program, or the brand new SEC Whistleblower and CFTC Whistleblower Programs is an upcoming presentation, “Avoiding the Mistakes of the UBS/Birkenfeld Case: Protecting Whistleblowers from Criminal and Civil Liability.”

This discussion is part of a fascinating gathering this April in South Beach–the OffshoreAlert Conference. As the brochure promises:

Where else could tax collectors mingle with tax minimizers, asset tracers with asset protectors, regulators with the regulated, whistleblowers with their former employers and crooks with prosecutors?

How to protect whistleblowers from criminal and civil liability was a topic my panel discussed at the 2010 IRS Whistleblower Boot Camp in Washington. Because we had the IRS Chief Counsel’s Office participating in that discussion, we were unable to discuss directly what went wrong for Birkenfeld as he brought important information about tax evasion to the attention of the IRS, but ended up serving a prison sentence of 40 months. (We have written previously about Birkenfeld’s errors revealed in the court record.)

At the OffshoreAlert Conference discussion this year, I will moderate the panel discussion about what can be done to protect whistleblowers from criminal and civil exposure. Joining me are former Justice Department official and former General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Joe D. Whitley; former prosecutor and now whistleblower attorney Marc Raspanti; and federal and international tax attorney Richard Rubin.

The program description is reprinted below:
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This Part 6 is the final installment of an article explaining why the major qui tam whistleblower statute, the federal False Claims Act, has led to a wave of new state False Claims Acts. It is an updated version of part of a previously published article by whistleblower lawyer blog author Michael A. Sullivan.

V. States’ Experiences With Their Own False Claims Acts

As noted, at least twenty-eight states now have a False Claims statute, and many other states are considering similar laws. The financial incentives of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 have not only prompted states that lacked False Claims statutes to enact them, but also have caused many states wishing to qualify for the additional funds to amend their existing False Claims statutes.

In essence, while states may enact “tougher” or more comprehensive laws than the federal False Claims Act, states with “weaker” or less effective laws-as judged by the standards of the Deficit Reduction Act-will not qualify for the additional funds.

Seven of the first ten states whose statutes were scrutinized by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) quickly learned this lesson when OIG disapproved their state statutes. These included California (which lacked a minimum penalty), Florida (which omitted “fraudulent” from its definition of claims), Indiana (which did not make defendants liable for “deliberate ignorance” and “reckless disregard”), Louisiana (which did not permit the state to intervene in cases, set too low a percentage for whistleblowers to recover, and set no minimum penalty), Michigan (which omitted penalties and liability for decreasing or avoiding an obligation to pay the government, i.e., a “reverse false claim”), Nevada (which had a statute of limitations too short and a minimum penalty too low), and Texas (which did not permit the whistleblower to litigate the case if the state did not, and which provided for lower percentage shares to whistleblowers and lower penalties). Most of these states have gone back to the drawing board to correct these deficiencies.

In sum, the Deficit Reduction Act has set minimum standards for state False Claims Acts for states wishing to receive these additional funds. In plain English, the state laws must protect at least Medicaid funds, and they must be at least as effective as the federal False Claims Act, especially in rewarding and facilitating qui tam actions for false or fraudulent claims, with damages and penalties no less than those under the federal Act.
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At the annual Fraud and Compliance Forum in Baltimore that runs through Tuesday, the nation’s top health care lawyers will be paying close attention to recent changes to the nation’s primary whistleblower law, the False Claims Act. The “qui tam” provisions of the False Claims Act allow private citizen whistleblowers (“relators”) to share in the government’s recovery of damages.

As a former defense attorney who now represents whistleblowers, I have been asked to present a program at this conference with Rick Shackelford of King & Spalding, to discuss these major amendments to the False Claims Act–the first since 1986. Congress acted decisively in three recent major bills to restore the False Claims Act to its intended strength, in the face of court decisions that created obstacles to its use.

The recent amendments were part of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-21, 123 Stat. 1617 (“FERA”); the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (“PPACA”); and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 111-203, 124 Stat. 1376 (the “Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act”).

This week’s forum is sponsored by the American Health Lawyers Association and Health Care Compliance Association.

An updated discussion of the False Claims Act after these 2009 and 2010 changes will appear soon on this Whistleblower Lawyer Blog. A brief summary of those important changes to the Act is below:
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The health care industry is adjusting to major changes to the nation’s major “whistleblower” law, the False Claims Act.

Both in 2009 and 2010, Congress has removed obstacles to whistleblowers’ use of this anti-fraud statute to address Medicare and Medicaid fraud, as well as fraud affecting every other federal program. As we have written about previously, the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 (“FERA”) overruled key judicial decisions that had undermined the the False Claims Act’s effectiveness.

This year, the landmark health care bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”), limited the FCA’s “public disclosure” bar, including by allowing the government to prevent dismissal of cases that it believes should proceed.

Among the many 2009 changes to strengthen the False Claims Act is one whose impact is about to be experienced: greater use of “civil investigative demands” to gather evidence.

Civil investigative demands allow to government to require any person believed to have documents or information relevant to a False Claims Act investigation to do the following:

(A) to produce such documentary material for inspection and copying,

The Justice Department has just announced that, to protect patients from harm in seven Georgia psychiatric hospitals, its Civil Rights Division has filed for relief including immediate appointment of a monitor to protect those patients.

DOJ cited the threat to patients of “imminent and serious threat of harm to their lives, health and safety.”

The seven hospitals include East Central Regional Hospital, Georgia Regional Hospital at Savannah, Georgia Regional Hospital at Atlanta, Southwestern State Hospital, Central State Hospital, West Central Georgia Regional Hospital, and Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital.

The announcement is repinted below:
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Attorneys from across the country will gather tomorrow in Atlanta to discuss health care fraud and the 2009 amendments to the False Claims Act, the nation’s primary whistleblower statute.

I am pleased to be on the panel discussing “False Claims Act Developments,” moderated by Jack Boese of Fried Frank. This will be a particularly interesting year for this annual meeting, as Congress enacted major changes to the False Claims Act that took effect on May 20, 2009.

In addition, the “Health Care Fraud Enforcement Act” pending in the Senate would enhance further the government’s tools used to investigate and remedy Medicare and Medicaid fraud. This bill would remove any question that all payments made pursuant to illegal kickbacks are “false” for purposes of the False Claims Act.

Among the significant 2009 changes to the False Claims Act made by the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act are the following:

1. The amendments expanded the definition of “claim,” and fraud directed against government contractors, grantees, and other recipients is now plainly covered by the False Claims Act.

2. Funds administered by the United States government (e.g., in Iraq) are now protected.

3. Retaining overpayments of money from the government is now a stated basis of liability, which is a source of concern for health care providers, among others.

4. Liability for “conspiracy” to violate the Act is now broader.

5. Protection of whistleblowers and others against “retaliation” now extends not only to “employees,” but also to “contractors” and “agents”; and persons other than “employers” potentially may be liable for retaliation.

6. In investigations, the government now has authority to use “Civil Investigative Demands” more broadly, and to share information more with state and local authorities and with whistleblowers/relators.

7. A standard definition of what is “material” now applies in False Claims Act cases.

8. The statute of limitations has been clarified for when the government asserts its own claims, after the whistleblower (or “relator”) has filed a qui tam case under the False Claims Act.

The full agenda for tomorrow’s “SOUTHEASTERN HEALTH CARE FRAUD INSTITUTE” is below:
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