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On Thursday, March 8, the Trump Administration rejected Idaho’s plan to sell health plans that do not include the consumer protections required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The rejection came in the form of a letter touting adherence to current law, though in many ways the letter was written by an apologetic Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) wanting to appease Idaho Republicans.

Earlier this year, Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed an executive order that allowed some Idaho health insurance plans to drop certain ACA requirements. For example, plans would not need to cover maternity care, mental illness, or other essential health benefits; insurers could charge higher premiums to those with preexisting conditions; and insurers could deny people coverage if they had failed to maintain continuous coverage. Insurers who sold such “junk” plans would be required to also sell at least one ACA-compliant option over the exchanges. Gov. Otter’s actions seemed to test just how far Alex Azar, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, would go to support the “state experimentation” Mr. Azar himself advocated for under the exchanges, as discussed in our earlier post. The answer, for Idaho, is not far enough. Continue Reading Trump Administration Rejects (Nicely) Idaho’s Attempt to Skirt ACA

On August 24, 2016, Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York approved a settlement in which Mount Sinai Health System (Mount Sinai) will pay $2.95 million to New York and the federal government to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by withholding Medicare and Medicaid overpayments in contravention of the 60-day overpayments provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The provision creates FCA liability for healthcare providers that identify overpayments but fail to return them within 60 days, and the Mount Sinai settlement is the first one that specifically resolves allegations of violations of the provision.

The settlement stems from the qui tam action Kane v. Healthfirst, Inc., No. 1:11-cv-02325-ER, in which it was alleged that employee Robert Kane alerted Continuum Health Partners, Inc. (now a part of Mount Sinai) to hundreds of potential overpayments, and, instead of pursuing the refund of overpayments, Continuum fired Kane and delayed further inquiry.  Last year, as we discussed in a previous post, Judge Ramos denied Mount Sinai’s motion to dismiss and provided first-of-its-kind guidance on what it means to “identify” an overpayment and start the 60-day clock created by the ACA.  He opined that a provider has identified an overpayment if it has been “put on notice” that a certain claim may have been overpaid.  In February of this year, CMS released its final 60-day overpayment rule, largely adopting the same interpretation of “knowledge” and “identified” that Judge Ramos used.

Although the Kane court did not hold that the “mere existence” of an obligation under the ACA established an FCA violation, the 60-day period in the statute clearly carries a heightened risk of potential liability for providers that fail to carry out compliance activities or undertake an investigation once they have been given credible evidence of the existence of overpayments.  The settlement further signals to providers the importance of taking any allegation related to overpayments seriously, and to take swift action in order to be ready for the start of the 60-day clock deadline for returning any overpayments.

On August 3, 2015, in Kane v. Healthfirst, Inc., No. 1:11-cv-02325-ER (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 3, 2015), Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York decided an issue of first impression under the False Claims Act (FCA) requirement to return identified overpayments from Medicare and Medicaid within sixty (60) days. In denying the defendants’ motion to dismiss, the court provided some guidance on what it means to “identify” an overpayment and start the sixty-day clock created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). At the very least, a party with an “identified” overpayment increases its risk of incurring FCA liability the longer it takes to quantify and return the overpayment beyond the first sixty days.

The ACA requires that an overpayment must be reported and returned within sixty days of the “date on which the overpayment was identified,” and any overpayment retained beyond this period is considered to be an “obligation” with the potential for FCA liability. 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7k(d).

The alleged overpayments in Kane stemmed from a glitch in defendant Healthfirst’s computer system which caused its participating providers in a network operated by Continuum Health Partners, Inc. to seek additional payment from Medicaid based on erroneous remittance advices. In 2010, New York state auditors asked Continuum about the incorrect billing, and Continuum tasked its employee Robert Kane (the relator) with determining which claims had been improperly billed to Medicaid. Four days after Kane submitted a spreadsheet containing claims with alleged erroneous overbillings, Continuum fired him. The complaint alleged that Continuum took no further action to investigate or repay the claims until June 2012 when the government issued a Civil Investigative Demand (CID).

Continue Reading S.D.N.Y. Provides First Judicial Guidance on Identifying Overpayments and Effect on FCA Liability