As we predicted in our year-end post on civil and criminal enforcement trends, 2018 is already off to strong start in opioid-related enforcement against individual providers and associated practices. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that a Michigan physician, Dr. Rodney Moret, was sentenced to 75 months in prison for his role in conspiracies to distribute prescription pills illegally and to defraud Medicare. The conduct alleged against Dr. Moret is particularly extreme, but nevertheless reflects the government’s commitment to ferreting out opioid-related misconduct. Continue Reading Federal Enforcement Actions Continue to Focus on Opioid-Related Misconduct
Mintz Levin’s Health Care Enforcement Defense Group recently published its most recent Health Care Qui Tam Update. This Update analyzes the 47 health care-related qui tam cases unsealed in August and September 2017. Highlights from this Update include:
- a relatively high rate of intervention;
- cases filed in 30 different courts;
- cases brought against a variety of different health care providers;
- almost half of the cases filed by current or former employees; and
- faster times for unsealing cases.
Two new DOJ policies about False Claims Act enforcement became public last week. First, DOJ’s Associate Attorney General announced a new civil enforcement policy that instructs False Claims Act litigators not to use any sub-regulatory guidance to create legal obligations. Second, we learned that DOJ’s Civil Fraud section instructed all False Claims Act litigators to consider whether declined qui tam actions should be dismissed under the Department’s authority in Section 3730(c)(2)(A) of the False Claims Act. The central theme of this policy is that dismissal of qui tam actions is warranted when it is in the federal interest to do so, and the policy clearly sets out seven such federal interests. Continue Reading Perspective on DOJ Pivot on FCA Enforcement Policy
In both civil and criminal enforcement proceedings, 2017 was perhaps most notable for the cases brought against individual health care providers and small physician practice owners. Among the factors that may have resulted in the uptick in cases against individuals are the Yates Memo issued in late 2015, improved and increased reliance on sophisticated data analytics, and the aggressive focus on opioid addiction and its causes. Continue Reading Health Care Enforcement Review and 2018 Outlook: Criminal and Civil Enforcement Trends
The U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a memo dated January 4, 2018 regarding federal marijuana enforcement policy, directing all U.S. Attorneys to enforce the laws enacted by Congress and to follow well-established principles when pursuing prosecutions related to marijuana activities. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ memorandum rescinds multiple guidance documents issued during the Obama administration, such as the Cole Memo dated August 29, 2013, and announces a” return to the rule of law.” Continue Reading Sessions Memo Resets Federal Marijuana Enforcement Policy
Throughout 2017, the lower courts built upon the standard for determining materiality under the False Claims Act (FCA) established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Universal Health Servs., Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016) (“Escobar”). In Escobar, decided in June 2016, the Court endorsed the “implied false certification” theory of liability under the FCA, premised on a “rigorous” and “demanding” element of “materiality.” As expected, this decision triggered a spate of litigation over what “materiality” means, and how to apply this requirement.
By way of background, the Court held that the “implied false certification” theory has two elements:
- “the claim does not merely request payment, but also makes specific representations about the goods or services provided,” and
- the defendant’s “failure to disclose noncompliance with material statutory, regulatory, or contractual requirements makes those representations misleading half-truths.”
The Court described the materiality standard as centered on “the likely or actual behavior” of the agency that made the payment decision, not whether the agency had the legal authority to deny payment, as argued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) prior to the Court’s decision. To be material, the Court reasoned, the misrepresentation must go to the essence of the bargain, and noncompliance cannot be “minor or insubstantial.” The Court noted that materiality can be determined based on a number of factors – none of which are dispositive – and held that a court’s decision, though fact-specific, still could lead to dismissal on a motion to dismiss or at summary judgment. Those looking for additional background on the Escobar decision should see our Health Care Enforcement Defense Advisory. Continue Reading Health Care Enforcement Year in Review and 2018 Outlook: The False Claims Act’s Materiality Standard as Established by Escobar Continues to Evolve
Like prior years, 2017 saw large government recoveries and a high volume of False Claims Act (“FCA”) cases, which remain the government’s primary health care enforcement tool. The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) reported on December 21, 2017 that it obtained $3.7 billion in FCA settlements and judgments during the fiscal year (“FY”) ending September 30, 2017, down from $4.7 billion in FY 2016. Federal recoveries from the health care industry (including drug companies, hospitals, pharmacies, laboratories, and physicians), however, remained consistent: $2.4 billion in FY 2017 compared to $2.5 billion in FY 2016.
DOJ also reported that relators filed 669 qui tam FCA lawsuits last year, an average of more than 12 new cases every week. Among this high volume of qui tam FCA cases, relators asserted myriad theories of FCA liability against many different types of health care providers and suppliers.
In 2017, courts issued numerous decisions interpreting the legal standards under the FCA and assessing the viability of a multitude of FCA liability theories. These decisions will affect the prosecution and defense of FCA cases for years to come. In particular, district and appellate courts grappled with the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Universal Health Servs., Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016) (“Escobar”). Given the large volume of decisions under Escobar, we will discuss the application of that decision in tomorrow’s post. Continue Reading Health Care Enforcement Year in Review and 2018 Outlook: Major Case Law Developments
The volume of health care–related qui tam litigation under the False Claims Act (FCA) remained robust in 2017. Based on our review of the data in Mintz Levin’s Health Care Qui Tam Database, we identified over 150 qui tam lawsuits that were unsealed in the twelve months ended November 30, 2017. This post, which is the first in our Health Care Enforcement Review and 2018 Outlook series, discusses a number of interesting trends. Continue Reading Health Care Enforcement Year in Review and 2018 Outlook: Trends In Health Care False Claims Act Cases
Earlier this week, Mintz Levin’s Health Care Enforcement Defense Group published its most recent Health Care Qui Tam Update. This Update covers 34 health care-related qui tam cases that were unsealed in July 2017.
Here are some of the highlights:
– Of the 34 cases unsealed in July 2017, the government intervened (in whole or in part) in six cases and declined to intervene in 28.
– These 34 unsealed cases were filed in 21 different courts, including:
- Five in the Southern District of Ohio;
- Three in the District of Arizona; and
- Three in the Western District of Virginia.
Earlier this week we released a Health Care Enforcement Advisory about a recent decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that may have a significant impact on the element of “materiality” in False Claims Act (FCA) cases. A panel of judges on the Fifth Circuit overturned a district court decision after a jury found the defendant, Trinity Industries, Inc. (Trinity), liable under the FCA for changing its highway guardrail design without disclosing such changes to the Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”). The Fifth Circuit decided as a matter of law that the case lacked the element of “materiality” required in FCA cases. Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Limits FCA Liability Due to Lack of “Materiality” in Highway Guardrails Case