In late March 2023, Dr. Paul Koch, the former owner of a chain of Rhode Island ophthalmology practices, agreed to pay $1.1 million to the U.S. Attorney’s Office to settle false claims act allegations.  This case arose from a qui tam complaint brought by two whistleblowers alleging that over a five-year period, Koch paid kickbacks to optometrists to induce referrals for patients for cataract surgeries.  Notably, the settlement included a non-admission clause by Dr. Koch, denying liability and disputing the relators’ entitlement to attorneys’ fees, and the court entered a Stipulation of Partial Dismissal and Consent to Dismissal on Behalf of the United States shortly thereafter.Continue Reading Settling False Claims Act Cases Involves More than Just Cutting a Check to DOJ

For several years now, the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has indicated an increased desire to exercise its dismissal authority over qui tam actions, even over the objections of relators who initially brought the claims.  However, the slight uptick in such dismissals was seemingly stunted while United States ex rel. Polansky v. Exec. Health Res., Inc., 599 U.S. 419 (2023) (which involved the scope of the government’s authority to dismiss False Claims Act (“FCA”) qui tam actions) made its way to the United States Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”). Continue Reading Encouraging Signs that DOJ May Finally Be Using Its Dismissal Authority

In a pivotal ruling that may reshape the landscape of False Claims Act (“FCA”) litigation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit adopted a nuanced interpretation of “willfulness” under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”).Continue Reading Significant Implications for FCA Defendants: Second Circuit Clarifies “Willfulness” in McKesson Decision

In a recent landmark decision, the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota dramatically reduced the damages and penalties awarded in a major False Claims Act (“FCA”) case.  United States of America ex rel. Kipp Fesenmaier v. The Cameron-Ehlen Group, Inc., et al., Case No. 13-cv-3003 (D. Minn., Feb. 8 2024) (Dkt. 1086).  The case initially concluded with a staggering judgment of over $487 million against the defendants.  However, after post-trial motions, the court reduced the judgment over 55% to approximately $216 million, citing the Excessive Fines Clause of the federal constitution as a limiting factor.Continue Reading Monumental Reduction in FCA Damages Based on Excessive Fines Clause

On April 6, 2022, BayCare Health System Inc. (BayCare) entered into a $20 million settlement under the False Claims Act with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to resolve allegations that it had made donations in order to improperly inflate the funding four of its hospitals received from the federal Medicaid program. According to the agreement, BayCare did not formally admit wrongdoing or liability; rather, BayCare settled in order to “avoid the delay, uncertainty, and expense of litigation.”
Continue Reading Not-So-Charitable Donations: DOJ Achieves a $20 Million Settlement for a Backdoor Donation Scheme for Increased Medicaid Contributions

In a long-awaited opinion, on September 9, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in United States v. Aseracare, Inc., et al, unanimously vacated AseraCare’s False Claims Act (FCA) victory and remanded the case for further proceedings.[1] While this might seem a victory only for the Government at first blush, the opinion contains key takeaways for defendants that will likely reach far beyond just this case.

Importantly, even though the Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of summary judgment to AseraCare, it affirmed the district court’s conclusion that a clinical judgment of terminal illness warranting hospice benefits under Medicare cannot be deemed false, for purposes of the FCA, when there is only a reasonable disagreement between medical experts as to the accuracy of that conclusion, with no other evidence to prove the falsity of the assessment. The Eleventh Circuit also concluded, however, that the Government should have been allowed to rely on the entire record, not just the trial record, to prove otherwise. The Government was precluded from doing so, the Court found, due to an earlier decision by the district court to bifurcate proceedings into two phases: one on falsity, and the other on the remaining elements of the FCA.

In affirming the district court’s holding regarding clinical judgment, the Eleventh Circuit remarked that it appears to be the “first circuit court to consider the precise question at issue here,”[2] and is an extraordinary move that provides hospice facilities, hospitals, and providers more generally with a degree of assurance that a reasonable disagreement between clinicians in a courtroom, without other evidence of objective falsehood, does not create a jury question and cannot serve as the basis for an action under the FCA: “While there is no question that clinical judgments must be tethered to a patient’s valid medical records, it is equally clear that the law is designed to give physicians meaningful latitude to make informed judgments without fear that those judgments will be second-guessed after the fact by laymen in a liability proceeding.”[3]Continue Reading 11th Circuit Issues Long-Awaited Opinion in AseraCare Affirming that Mere Differences in Reasonable Clinical Judgement Cannot Be False Under the FCA and Remanding for New Trial and Consideration of Full Record

On Nov. 29, 2018, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced several amendments to policies on individual accountability set forth in the 2015 Yates Memo. As a result, companies facing FCA actions—especially defendants in health care cases—should consider following three strategy tips:  (1) Establish clear benchmarks for cooperation.  (2) Advocate for individual releases.  And (3)

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

On Tuesday July 12, 2016, the Senate Finance Committee (“Committee”) will hold a hearing on “Examining the Stark Law: Current Issues and Opportunities.” Crowell & Moring Partner Troy Barsky will be testifying before the Committee as a Stark Law subject matter authority.

In advance of this hearing, the Committee released last week the white paper “Why Stark, Why Now? Suggestions to Improve the Stark Law to Encourage Innovative Payment Models.”  Amid growing support for Stark law reform, the white paper deems the Stark law, as currently drafted, both an impediment to implementing health care reform, e.g., the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (“MACRA”), and of limited value given shifts from fee-for-service to alternative payment models that reward quality health care rather than the volume of services.

The white paper focuses predominantly on modifications to the Stark law that would remove obstacles to implementing health care reform. After a roundtable held in December, 2015, that was co-moderated by Troy Barsky, the Committee had solicited and received a range of stakeholder comments that proposed various Stark law reform solutions: repeal the law in its entirety; repeal the compensation arrangement prohibitions; implement new exceptions and modify existing exceptions; implement new or expand existing waivers; and expand CMS’s regulatory authority pertaining to waivers, exceptions, and advisory opinions. These comments are catalogued and discussed throughout the white paper. The white paper also examined the need to distinguish between technical, e.g. documentation requirements, and substantive violations of the Stark law.  Commenters generally agreed that a separate set of sanctions should apply to technical violations and that such violations should not give rise to False Claims Act exposure.Continue Reading In Advance of Senate Finance Committee Hearing on Stark Law Next Week, the Committee Releases Stark Law White Paper