Medical Ethics Corner: Lattes & Health Care

health-care-coffeeBy: Dr. Brent Schillinger, Guest Contributor

If you’re not satisfied with your medical care at the Pennsylvania based Geisinger Health System you now have a recourse not often found in traditional medical practice. You can ask for a refund.  And thanks to technology you can conduct the entire transaction through an app on your smartphone and the money will come back to you in three to five business days.

This novel step in the world of medical practice is perhaps the latest consequence of the corporatization of medicine and the transition of patients into consumers.  In fact in numerous published articles, Geisinger CEO Dr. David Feinberg repeatedly suggests that delivering medical care is not very different from buying a coffee at Starbucks.  “If you don’t like the cappuccino, they don’t sip it and say, ‘We made it right, we’re not giving you a new one,’” was Feinberg’s quip in a recent edition of Healthcare IT News in defense of his refund policy, which started as a pilot in November of 2015 and now is in full swing. Continue reading

Medicare Reporting & The 60 Day Rule

health law complianceBy: Karina Gonzalez

Earlier this year, CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid   Services) released its  final rule related to  reporting  and returning  identified  Medicare and Medicaid overpayments for Medicare Part A and B. The rule is referred to as the “60-day rule” and it governs when an “identified” overpayment must be repaid to the government before it will be subject to liability under the federal False Claims Act (FCA), Civil Monetary Penalties Law and exclusion from the federal health care programs.

The Final Rule went into effect on March 14, 2016

An overpayment is “identified” for the purposes of reporting and overpayment under the 60-day rule when a provider or supplier “has or should have, through the exercise of reasonable diligence, determined that the person has received an overpayment and quantified the amount of the overpayment.” Continue reading

Medical Necessity: It’s a Necessity

medical necessityBy: Jacqueline Bain

Recently, a Florida-based physician practice specializing in pain management was ordered to pay the Federal Government $7.4 after it was determined that the group’s physicians were ordering medically unnecessary drug screens and billing Medicare for those tests. Federal prosecutors contended that the group’s physicians had appropriately ordered initial drug screens on many patients, but had inappropriately ordered more extensive (and more expensive) follow up tests nearly 100% of the time. Moreover, patient medical records did not reflect the need for more extensive testing. Continue reading

Marketing in Healthcare: It Ain’t What It Used to Be

By: Jeff Cohen

Healthcare professionals and businesses are routinely barraged with people who claim to be able to generate business for them.  The business of healthcare is like none other in its abhorrence of anything that even smells like payment for patient referrals, so professionals and businesses alike have to be extremely cautious and well advised in crafting marketing and related business-enhancing relationships.

The key here is to realize that, while the laws haven’t changed, what regulators are doing with them has!  The environment of healthcare marketing has never been more treacherous than it is today.  So what’s changed?  How about:

  1. Commission based marketing and sales involving federal or state payers, even those that arguably comply with the personal services arrangement and management contract safe harbor, are detested by federal regulators;
  2. The regulators will look to pierce any enterprise, including those consisting of multiple tax ID entities, in hopes of making the case that commercial based marketing payments were in exchange for even one drop of federal/state payer money;
  3. Both health insurers and large providers (e.g. labs, pharmacies) work hand in hand with federal regulators to pursue suspicious activity, the result of which is to support the large provider; and
  4. Targets of enforcement activity who have obtained good legal advice often pay just to put an end to the enforcement because there’s a risk of losing and “winning” can feel like losing when one considers the enormous defense costs.

Continue reading

Physician Compensation Targeted by the Department of Justice

healthcare business change in ownershipBy: Jeff Cohen

The DOJ reported on August 5th a settlement with a South Carolina hospital concerning physician compensation.  Though certainly not the first or the biggest case of its kind (e.g. note the Halifax Hospital and North Broward Hospital District cases, which generated settlements of over $100M and $60M respectively), it’s attention grabbing nonetheless.

The SC case was brought by a whistleblower, a neurologist formerly employed by the hospital.  The doctor alleged that the seven year employment agreements violated Stark and the Anti Kickback Statute because the compensation was more than what was legally permissible and was also based in part on ancillary services ordered by the employed doctors.  Seasoned readers will understand that the concept of “fair market value” (FMV) is at the heart of regulatory compliance and also that compensation surveys of organizations like the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) are important guides in term of what is/is not FMV.  In the SC hospital case, compensation met or exceeded the top 10% of similarly qualified physicians in the area, which is very interestingly noted by the DOJ (because some of the comp levels were still within the MGMA surveys).  In other words, the trend here is for the Feds to push back against comp levels on the high end of the FMV spectrum. Continue reading

Docs, You’ve Been Hacked. What’s Next?

HIPAABy: Jacqueline Bain

Healthcare providers have heard the HIPAA disaster stories: a laptop containing patient information is left on the counter at the coffee shop; a thumb drive with patient files goes missing; a rogue employee accesses patient information she has no business accessing; hackers get into a practice’s server and hold the patient information for ransom.

HIPAA is a federal law designed for safe disclosure of patient’s protected health information.  The news headlines showcase giant penalties for violations.  However, Florida health care providers should also know that Florida has its own consumer protection statute, called the Florida Information Protection Act.  So while you’re busy worrying about your HIPAA exposure in any of these situations, remember that there is potential State exposure as well.

So what should a healthcare provider do if it believes there has been a hack or some other unauthorized disclosure?  Responses vary based on the situation presented, but below is a good jumping off point: Continue reading

Core Regulatory Issues for Healthcare Transactions

healthcare transactionBy: James Saling

Regulatory issues in healthcare transactions have the potential to drive a transaction.  A healthcare transaction is very different from your typical corporate transaction. This is so because the healthcare industry is highly regulated at many different levels, and the issues tend to be complicated and not necessarily intuitive.  Whenever a provider is contemplating a sale of their healthcare business, they can expect a number of regulatory hurdles as they navigate the transaction.  Typical regulatory issues in healthcare transactions include: (1) fraud and abuse; (2) compensation; (3) investigations and audits; (4) compliance; and (5) licensure.  Of course, there are other regulatory issues that may arise, but these are, by far, the most common: Continue reading