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Provider Fraud

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Telehealth Boomed During the Pandemic - and so Did Telehealth Fraud

Posted  08/24/22
By Hallie Noecker, Max Voldman
Doctor with stethoscope on computer screen
Prior to the pandemic, telehealth was basically nonexistent, with one study clocking the percentage of “virtual” doctors’ visits before Covid-19 at zero percent. At the time, America’s largest insurer, Medicare, only covered telemedicine in limited circumstances that usually still involved a visit to a healthcare facility. Medicare’s coverage limitations demonstrated the Department of Health and Human...

August 18, 2022

The organized healthcare system for Ventura County, as well as three healthcare providers, have agreed to pay a combined total of $70.7 million to resolve allegations of violating the California and federal False Claims Acts in connection with Medi-Cal’s Adult Expansion program, which extended coverage to previously uninsured adults without dependents.  Gold Coast Health Plan, Dignity Health, Clinicas del Camino Real, Inc., and Ventura County (the owner and operator of Ventura County Medical Center) allegedly submitted, or caused to be submitted, bills for unallowed expenses, bills for “Additional Services” that were duplicative of services already required, and bills with pre-determined costs that weren’t reflective of fair market value.  CA AG; USAO CDCA

August 5, 2022

Gonzaga Interventional Pain Management, Melvin Gonzaga, M.D., and his son Rommel Gonzaga will pay $980,000 for violating the False Claims Act by submitting claims for medically unnecessary urine drug tests. GIPM required patients to submit a UDT sample before being seen by a provider and discussing the results from any prior UDT the patient received. Regardless of the patients’ individualized testing needs, GIPM always opted for the more complex “definitive” UDT rather than the lower-level “presumptive” UDT, netting a higher reimbursement rate from the US government. USAO MD

August 4, 2022

Eastern Iowa Dermatology, PLC and Dr. Manish Kumar will pay $1.66 million for violating the False Claims Act. Defendants submitted up-coded claims to Medicare for office visits and destruction or removal of skin tags and lesions, the sole purpose of which is to increase Medicare’s reimbursement rate. In addition to the monetary penalty, they agreed to an Integrity Agreement and are subject to ongoing monitoring by the US DHHS. USAO SDIA

August 3, 2022

North Country Neurology, P.C. will pay $850,000 for violating the False Claims Act by submitting claims falsely listing a physician as the service provider, when the services were provided instead by an unsupervised non-physician practitioner. Medicare will reimburse for certain services provided by NPPs, but require a physician to be physically present in the office and immediately available to furnish assistance. This was not the case on over 120 occasions, and NCN admitted it should have known it was improper to bill at the higher physician rather than NPP level. Additionally, NCN improperly billed Medicare on approximately 761 occasions for Botox, even though it had already been paid for by another insurer. NCN blamed their insufficient compliance program for the errors. USAO NDNY

July 29, 2022

Old Man’s Home of Philadelphia d/b/a Saunders House, a skilled nursing facility, will pay $819,640 for its violations of the False Claims Act. A whistleblower filed suit under the qui tam provisions of the FCA, alleging Saunders House overbilled federal healthcare programs for therapy services provided; billed for therapy services not provided; billed for unreasonable, unnecessary, and sometimes harmful therapy; and manipulated clinical services to maximize billing. Medicare Part A paid Saunders House based on beneficiaries’ assigned Resource Utilization Group, and Saunders billed at the highest RUG level—Ultra High or RU—despite the lack of reasonableness or necessity for the patients. USAO EDPA

July 27, 2022

ca Glenn Pair and Markuetric Stringfellow will spend 70 and 78 months in prison, respectively, and pay over $5 million each in restitution for defrauding three States’ Medicaid programs of more than $5 million, and for receiving $1.8 million in kickbacks from participating laboratories. The two owned and operated Do-It-4-The Hood Corporation in North Carolina and later expanded to Georgia. They targeted Medicare-eligible children, enrolled them in their programs, and required them to submit urine specimens for drug testing. Drug testing was in turn billed to Medicaid by complicit laboratories, who then paid kickbacks after receiving Medicaid reimbursement. Through their Wrights Care Services LLC franchise in South Carolina, the two filed fraudulent Medicaid claims for mental health counseling, going so far as to host a “note party,” upon learning of a Medicare audit of Wrights Care, to cover up their scheme by creating false billing records to substantiate their fraudulent Medicaid claims. USAO WDNC, USAO SC

July 26, 2022

Dr. Don Flanagan, D.D.S. and his companies Dental Center, Inc. and Dental Center, P.C. d/b/a Cloudland Dental, will pay $1.5 million for submitting or causing to be submitted claims for payment by falsely identifying Dr. Flanagan as the credentialed physician rendering services. TennCare requires dentists to be credentialed as part of the approval process for billing, yet, from January 2015 through February 2019, services were rendered by uncredentialed dentists, which is a violation of the Tennessee Medicaid False Claims Act. EDTN USAO

June 29, 2022

Citadel Care Centers LLC and Plaza Rehab and Nursing Center will pay $7.85 million for switching their elderly residents’ Medicare coverage to maximize the Medicare payments the centers would receive--a blatant False Claims Act violation. Citadel directed Plaza employees to disenroll residents from Medicare Advantage Plans and enroll them in Original Medicare instead—without the residents’ knowledge or consent—to maximize their reimbursements. USAO SDNY

June 28, 2022

Fifteen additional doctors affiliated with a kickback scheme involving Rockdale Hospital d/b/a Little River Healthcare, True Health Diagnostics LLC, and/or Boston Heart Diagnostics Corporation, have agreed to pay a cumulative $2.8 million to settle allegations of violating the Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark Law by accepting improper remuneration in exchange for ordering tests from those laboratories.  According to the press release, the government has now recovered over $32 million from settlements with thirty-three doctors, two executives, and one laboratory in connection with this scheme.  USAO EDTX
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