The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a significant decision, finding that a physician’s medical judgment about the medical necessity of heart procedures can be “false or fraudulent” under the federal False Claims Act (FCA). United States ex rel. Polukoff v. St. Mark’s Hosp., et al., No. 17-4014 (10th Cir. Jul. 9, 2018). The district court previously had dismissed the FCA case on a motion to dismiss, a development my colleagues discussed in detail in a prior post. The Tenth Circuit’s ruling not only revived relator’s qui tam FCA case, but also may open the door to more FCA lawsuits based on allegations that claims for treatments or services reimbursed by federal health care programs are “false” because they are not “medically necessary.” Continue Reading Tenth Circuit Revives FCA Claim Based on Alleged Lack of Medical Necessity
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
Last month, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah joined the AseraCare court and others in finding that a relator cannot successfully allege violations of the False Claims Act (“FCA”) based on a purported lack of medical necessity unless there is an objective standard articulated by Medicare. In fact, District Judge Jill Parrish cited the AseraCare case and many federal appellate decisions when granting dismissal – with prejudice – in United States ex rel. Polukoff v. St. Mark’s et al., No. 16-cv-00304 (D. Utah 2017). Continue Reading Another Court Agrees That A Difference Of Opinion On Medical Necessity Is Insufficient to Show Falsity Under the False Claims Act
Much like the rest of the health care world, we have been following the AseraCare case since May of last year when the Alabama federal district court granted AseraCare’s motion to bifurcate its False Claims Act (FCA) trial into Phase I that would address “falsity” and Phase II that would address “knowledge” and other FCA elements. In October, the jury sided with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and qui tam relators in Phase I and found that Medicare claims submitted by the provider of hospice and palliative care services for 104 patients were objectively false. Yesterday, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of AseraCare on the basis that the government’s proof on the falsity element fails as a matter of law. The court held that if “all that exists is a difference of [medical] opinion,” there can be no “falsity” under the FCA.
In this case, relators (and DOJ in intervention) accused AseraCare of overbilling Medicare for hospice services by hiding information from physicians in order to obtain certifications of hospice eligibility from those physicians for patients who were not terminally ill. To establish that AseraCare had falsely certified patients as eligible for hospice care, the court found that DOJ relied upon the opinion of a single medical expert who reviewed the patient files and determined that those records did not support the certifications at issue. Continue Reading Judge Sides with AseraCare, Grants Summary Judgment in $200 Million FCA Case