Featured Industry: Health Care
Spotlight on Best Practices, Litigation, Antitrust, and Tax for Health Care Companies

Crowell & Moring LLP is pleased to release its “2016 Litigation & Regulatory Forecasts: What Corporate Counsel Need to Know for the Coming Year.” The reports examine the trends and developments that will impact health care companies and other corporations in the coming year—from the last year of the Obama administration to how corporate litigation strategy is transforming from the inside out. This year will bring remarkable change for companies, as market disruptions and the speed of innovation transform industries like never before, and the litigation and regulatory environments in which they operate are keeping pace.


Continue Reading

On November 2, President Obama signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. As an offset for near-term increases in federal spending, the new law extends by one year – to 2025 – two-percent sequestration reductions in federal spending for mandatory federal programs including Medicare.  The end result is that Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) can expect their capitated payments from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) to continue to be reduced, and Medicare fee-for-service providers can also expect to have sequestration reductions on their CMS reimbursements until at least 2025.

First established by the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (BBEDCA), “sequestration” is a process of automatic, largely across-the-board reductions enacted to constrain federal spending. Sequestration in its current form began on March 1, 2013, when President Obama, pursuant to the Budget Control Act of 2011, ordered cuts to federal spending effective April 1, 2013, after Congress and the President failed to reach a budget compromise.

Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, the size of reductions to the Medicare program is limited to two-percent. As required by President Obama’s sequestration executive order, on March 8, 2013, CMS notified providers that a “2 percent reduction in Medicare payment[s]” would apply to “Medicare FFS claims with dates-of-service or dates-of-discharge on or after April 1, 2013.” In other words, due to sequestration, as of April 1, 2013, CMS reduced the amount it pays to providers for fee-for-service Medicare claims by two-percent.


Continue Reading

Last week, in a case that will have a significant impact on future False Claims Act (FCA) suits against health care entities, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar.  By agreeing to hear the case, the Court will resolve the circuit split over the so-called

Since their inception, California health care service plans have been considered not to be insurers for purposes of the State’s 2.35 percent gross premium tax. Under a controversial ruling issued by the Court of Appeal, this could change.

On September 25, the Court of Appeal held that a suit alleging that California’s Blue Shield and Blue Cross plans—which are otherwise regulated as health care service plans—are insurers for purposes of the State’s 2.35 percent gross premium tax, stated a claim for trial.1 The Court held that the test for whether a health care service plan is an insurer for purposes of the tax is whether “indemnifying” against future contingent medical expenses is a “significant financial proportion” of its business. The Court said that allegations that California Physicians’ Service, dba Blue Shield of California (Blue Shield) and Blue Cross of California, dba Anthem Blue Cross (Blue Cross) paid between 75-80 percent of member expenses under their PPO and HMO plans on a fee-for-service basis, rather than on a capitated basis, would be sufficient to find that they were predominantly providing “indemnity.”

This dispute is far from over. The Court of Appeal’s analysis can be criticized as failing to come to terms with the extent of California’s dual health plan regulatory system, which has long treated health care service plans differently and not considered them to be insurers, even when they provide so-called “indemnity” coverage. It can be criticized for failing to understand that plans today frequently contract with providers under other financial models, such as shared risk contracts, that do not fit neatly into the capitation versus fee-for-service dichotomy. It also potentially fails to understand the impact of its decision on the health care industry in California.  For non-self-insured commercial health benefit plans, the vast majority of California health plan enrollees are covered by plans regulated by the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) which do not currently pay the insurance premium tax.2


Continue Reading

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has further focused its sights on individual executives as responsible parties for corporate misconduct.  On September 9, 2015, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates issued a strongly worded seven-page memorandum to all U.S. Attorneys and the Assistant Attorneys General of DOJ’s various divisions nationwide titled “Individual Accountability for Corporate Wrongdoing” (the “Memorandum”).  Overall, the Memorandum imposes further expectations that government attorneys will investigate the acts of individual executives and management personnel before providing cooperation credit to or allowing the resolution of a civil or criminal case against a corporate entity.  Moreover, the Memorandum serves as a tacit warning to defense counsel that it will be even harder to negotiate concessions for corporate liability without providing information about potentially responsible individuals that is satisfactory to the investigating agencies.
Continue Reading

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

On February 17, 2015, the largest health care provider in Massachusetts, the non-profit Partners Healthcare System, Inc. (Partners), dropped its bid to acquire South Shore Hospital based in South Weymouth, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts dropped its antitrust suit that had challenged the acquisition.[1] Whether state or federal regulators will permit Partners’s proposed acquisition of Hallmark Health Corp. (Hallmark)’s two acute care hospital remains to be seen.

The decision by Partners comes a month after a Judge rejected a consent judgment that Partners and former Attorney General of Massachusetts Martha Coakley proposed regarding Partners’s agreement to acquire three acute care hospitals in the greater Boston area.[2] Less than a year ago, on June 24, 2014, the Attorney General of Massachusetts had simultaneously filed a complaint and a proposed consent judgment with Partners regarding Partners’s acquisition of South Shore and two hospitals operated by Hallmark.


Continue Reading

Crowell & Moring’s 2015 Litigation and Regulatory Forecasts provide an in-depth look at the trends in the courts and in the regulatory agencies, both inside the Beltway and beyond, that will impact business in the coming year.

The Litigation Forecast examines the latest litigation developments facing companies in areas ranging from health care and antitrust

 
After a protracted battle, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. (Kaiser) recently settled a False Claims Act (FCA) qui tam case alleging that it falsely certified compliance with Medicare Advantage (MA) bidding instructions that relator claimed resulted in billions of dollars in damages to the United States. Crowell & Moring represented Kaiser in the litigation.

Kaiser’s former employee, Chris McGowan filed his initial complaint in 2009, but changed his theory of liability through a number of amendments as the case proceeded. Ultimately, he alleged that for its 2008 and 2009 MA bids Kaiser failed to comply with the CMS Office of the Actuary (OACT) “gain/loss margin” guidance directing that an MA plan’s proposed margin requirement be within a “reasonable range” of the margin requirements for its “other lines of business.” McGowan alleged that Kaiser’s certifications of compliance with MA bid instructions for 2008 and 2009 were false.


Continue Reading