Health Care Law Blog

Health Insurance Rate Increases Approved for 2016

On Tuesday, August 18, the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (“DIFS”) announced that it has approved health insurance rate increases that average 6.5 percent for the individual market and 1 percent for the small group market. 

Each year, DIFS is responsible for reviewing rate changes proposed by health insurers to determine whether such changes comply with state and federal laws. As part of its review this year, DIFS considered public comments that were submitted after the requested rate changes were posted. DIFS approved all rate changes as requested after determining that such changes were actuarially supported. Read More ›

Categories: Insurance, News & Events

Government Intervenes in Affordable Care Act 60 day Rule Violation Allegation

In a first-of-its-kind and closely followed case, a U.S. district court denied a New York health system's (Healthfirst’s) motion to dismiss the U.S. government's and State of New York's complaints in intervention under the federal False Claims Act (FCA) and New York state counterpart. This case represents the first time that the government has intervened in an FCA case based upon an allegation that a party violated the "60 day rule." The 60 day rule came into existence with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 and subjects parties to FCA liability for failing to report and refund an overpayment within 60 days of identification, even if the defendant received the payment through no fault of its own.

The case, Kane ex rel. United States et al. v. Healthfirst et al., involves three hospitals that were part of the Healthfirst health system network and provided care to patients that were part of Healthfirst's Medicaid managed care plan. Healthfirst received payments from the New York State Department of Health (DOH) in return for services provided to Medicaid eligible enrollees.

The government's allegations stem from overpayments to Healthfirst as a result of a software glitch. Healthfirst was first questioned about the possible overpayments by the New York State Comptroller's office in 2010. The health system tasked Kane, an employee and the eventual whistleblower in the case, to look into the payments. Five months later Kane emailed Healthfirst management a spreadsheet listing over 900 claims totaling more than $1 million that contained an erroneous billing code that may have led to the overpayments. Read More ›

Categories: Billing/Payment, Fraud & Abuse, Health Care Reform, Hospitals, Medicare/Medicaid, News & Events, Providers

DOJ and State of Michigan Bring Antitrust Lawsuit Against Four Michigan Hospitals Three Settle Charges Immediately and One Vows to Fight

The U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”), together with the Michigan Attorney General (“AG”), recently filed a lawsuit alleging that four hospital systems located in Southern Michigan violated antitrust laws by agreeing not to compete with one another.

The civil lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and alleged that the four hospitals agreed not to market or advertise themselves in each others’ territories, which constitutes “unreasonable restraints of trade that are per se illegal” under the Sherman Act and the Michigan Antitrust Reform Act. Read More ›

Categories: Hospitals, News & Events

Virginia Man Wins $500,000 After Recording Surgical Team’s Insulting Comments

Talk about adding insult to injury. A Virginia man woke up after his colonoscopy to learn that the surgical team had mocked, belittled and insulted him throughout the procedure.

Fearful that he would not remember the doctor’s post-op instructions, the man pressed record on his smartphone before receiving anesthesia. Upon listening to the recording after the procedure, he realized that the members of the surgical team began their rant as soon as he drifted off to sleep. Read More ›

Categories: Hospitals, News & Events, Physicians

Michigan Doctor Sentenced to 45 Years for Cancer Fraud Scheme

Dr. Farid Fata was sentenced to 45 years in a federal prison by U.S. District Judge Paul Borman. The sentence was greater than the 25 years that the defense advocated for, but well under the 175-year maximum requested by the prosecution. Dr. Fata, who had built an empire of upscale cancer clinics, intentionally misdiagnosed patients and illegally billed Medicare for the treatment. He grossly over-treated, under-treated, and misdiagnosed hundreds of patients by telling them they had cancer when they did not, giving too much or improper treatment to others who did have cancer, and continuing to give chemotherapy to terminal patients who no longer needed it.  Read More ›

Categories: Fraud & Abuse, News & Events

CMS Issues Proposed Rules for Medicaid Managed Care

Last month, for the first time in over a decade, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published proposed revisions to the Medicaid managed care regulations. According to CMS, the proposed rule aims to reflect the changes in delivery systems, strengthen the system’s ability to serve diverse populations, and promote greater alignment of Medicaid managed care policies with those of other payers. A summary of the key provisions of the proposed rule appears below. Read More ›

Categories: Billing/Payment, Medicare/Medicaid, News & Events

Tuomey Health Loses Appeal, Facing $237 Million in Fees and Damages

A very long legal battle may be nearing its final chapter after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a $237 million judgment against Tuomey Healthcare System in South Carolina. The judgment is an enormous sum for the regional health system and hospital, with even one of the Court of Appeals judges calling it a "death sentence." A three-judge panel heard the case at the Court of Appeals, so Tuomey could still seek reconsideration from all the judges of that Court or take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. It may also opt to find a new partnership to keep the hospital afloat. Read More ›

Categories: Compliance, News & Events, Physicians, Providers

Joint Guidance for Health Care Boards Released by HHS OIG and Industry Leaders

One of the most important responsibilities that governing boards of healthcare organizations (“Boards”) have is carrying out their compliance oversight obligations. Recently the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a new guide to assist Boards in carrying out their compliance duties. The guide is titled “Practical Guidance for Health Care Governing Boards on Compliance Oversight” (“Guidance”) and was developed in collaboration with the American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA), the Association of Healthcare Internal Auditors (AHIA) and the Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA).  Read More ›

Categories: Compliance, News & Events

The US Supreme Court's Ruling on the Affordable Care Act will not Change Employers' Responsibilities

On June 25, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the "Act") in the case of King v Burwell. The issue that the Court addressed was whether tax credits were available to individuals who purchased health insurance coverage through a Health Insurance Exchange ("Exchange") that was established by the Federal government.

An Exchange serves as a marketplace where individuals can compare various health insurance plans and ultimately purchase health insurance coverage. The Act requires an Exchange to be established in each State. If a State fails to establish its own Exchange, the Federal government is required to step in and establish the Exchange for that State. The Court's decision had the potential to preclude tax credits for individuals purchasing insurance through the Federal Exchanges in 34 States, including Michigan.

This issue was of significant importance because of its implications for the Act's Employer Mandate, which generally requires large employers to offer health insurance coverage to their full-time employees. The tax credits provided under the Act serve as the lynchpin for liability under the Employer Mandate. Despite the fact that a large employer may fail to offer health insurance coverage to its full-time employees, it will not be penalized if those employees do not obtain coverage through the Exchange and receive a tax credit. Therefore, large employers located in States that have a Federal Exchange could arguably avoid penalties for their failure to offer coverage to their full-time employees; such employees would not receive a tax credit when purchasing health insurance coverage on the Exchange and would not trigger the penalty. Read More ›

Categories: Employee Benefits, Health Care Reform, Health Insurance Exchange, News & Events, Tax

Health Care Trends

Rural hospitals across the United States struggling to stay open

According to the National Rural Health Association, approximately 50 hospitals in the rural United States have closed since 2010. The number of annual closures is growing. Congressional healthcare budget cuts and policy changes significantly affect rural hospitals because rural hospitals often have a disproportionate number of patients who are covered under Medicare, Medicaid or who are uninsured. A number of factors affect and pose challenges to rural hospitals. One challenge is the difficulty of attracting talent, which often means paying more to healthcare professionals in order to recruit them for employment at a rural hospital.  Other challenges facing rural hospitals include:

  • changing demographics;
  • advances in medical practice that the hospital may be unable to implement;
  • new federal regulations and standards that create additional compliance related pressure; and
  • lower reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid.

Closures of rural hospitals may force individuals to travel long distances for medical care, which may lead to an increase in mortality rates. The closures may discourage business ventures in rural areas due to the increased costs associated with not having a healthcare facility nearby. Metropolitan hospital closings have increased recently, but the existence of medical care alternatives in metropolitan areas typically reduces the effects that closures have on patients.  Read More ›

Categories: Health Care Reform, Hospitals, Insurance, News & Events, Physicians, Tax