UnitedHealth’s Surgical Care Affiliates fires back at DOJ in collusion case

Senate narrowly confirms new head of Justice Department's criminal  division, who worked for Russian bank | PBS NewsHour

Surgical Care Affiliates, which is part of UnitedHealth Group’s Optum division, hit back at the Department of Justice’s defense of a federal case accusing SCA of agreeing with competitors to not poach senior-level employees.

In a May 14 proposed reply brief supporting its bid to dismiss the case, SCA argued the Justice Department’s defense is unlawful and violates due process rights.

“The government seeks to criminally prosecute as a per se Sherman Act violation an alleged agreement not to solicit another company’s employees, even though no court in history has ever definitively found such an agreement unlawful under any mode of analysis,” according to the proposed reply brief. “Not only is this kind of agreement not illegal per se, but subjecting a practice to per se condemnation for the first time in a criminal prosecution would violate bedrock guarantees of due process.” [emphasis in original]

In January, a federal grand jury charged SCA and its related entities, which own and operate outpatient medical care centers, with entering and engaging in conspiracies with other healthcare companies to suppress competition between them for the services of senior-level employees. 

In an email statement to Becker’s Hospital Review, SCA said at the time of the charges: “This matter involves alleged conduct seven years before UnitedHealth Group acquired SCA and does not involve any SCA ambulatory surgery centers, their joint owners, physician partners, current leadership or any other UnitedHealth Group companies. SCA disagrees with the government’s position, and will vigorously defend itself against these unjustified allegations.”

The charges are the first from the department’s antitrust division in its ongoing investigation into employee allocation agreements. Violators of the Sherman Act can face a maximum $100 million fine, or twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by victims if the amount is greater than the maximum. 

New York physician charged with manslaughter in patient death

Legal and Illegal Drug Overdose: Guide to Signs, Symptoms, and Help

A New York physician has been charged with manslaughter in the second degree and is facing other felonies related to the overdose death of a patient, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Feb. 19. 

Sudipt Deshmukh, MD, allegedly prescribed a lethal mix of opioids and other controlled substances that resulted in the overdose death of a patient. The physician allegedly knew the patient struggled with addiction.

An indictment, unsealed Feb. 18, alleges that between 2006 and 2016, Dr. Deshmukh ignored his professional responsibilities by prescribing combinations of opioid painkillers and other controlled substances, including hydrocodone, methadone and morphine, without regard to the risk of death associated with the combinations of those drugs.  

Dr. Deshmukh is facing several felony charges, including healthcare fraud, for allegedly causing Medicare to pay for medically unnecessary prescriptions. 

The indictment comes after the attorney general’s office filed a felony complaint against Dr. Deshmukh in August. In 2019, the New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct found that he committed several counts of misconduct. 

Beaumont victimized by medical equipment thieves, feds say

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2021/01/14/beaumont-victimized-medical-equipment-thieves-feds-say/6655265002/

The indictment describes an inside job involving Beaumont employees who sold stolen sponges, adhesives and instruments used to inspect eyes and ears. The equipment included cystoscopes, a thin tube with a camera that is inserted through the urethra and into the bladder.

“Some of the medical devices stolen and re-sold over the Internet were possibly contaminated devices that were previously used in various surgical and other medical procedures on patients,” according to the indictment.

The three individuals charged in the indictment are:

  • Paul Purdy, 49, of Bellbrook, Ohio
  • Valdet Seferovic, 32, of Auburn Hills
  • Zafar Khan, 40, of Fenton

Purdy and Seferovic not respond to messages seeking comment Thursday while Harold Gurewitz, a lawyer for Khan, declined comment. The three defendants are scheduled to make initial appearances Jan. 21 in federal court.

“These defendants used their employment status to circumvent the safety protocols established by Beaumont Hospital to profit from the theft of medical devices and put the health and safety of the general public at risk in doing so,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement.

The wire fraud and conspiracy charges listed in the 18-count indictment are punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.

Beaumont officials have cooperated fully with the investigation, health system spokesman Mark Geary wrote in an email to The Detroit News.

This kind of theft does a disservice to more than just Beaumont — it does a disservice to the community,” Geary wrote. “We have confidence in the legal process and trust a just result will be achieved.”

Purdy and Seferovic were friends who worked at Beaumont and had access to storage areas inside one of the system’s hospitals, prosecutors alleged. The duo gained access to medical supplies and devices, according to the government, and devised a plan to steal the equipment and sell the items throughout the U.S.

Purdy, who worked for Beaumont until resigning in 2017, never told buyers the items were stolen, prosecutors said. After he quit, Purdy recruited Seferovic to continue stealing items from the medical supply, cleaning and disinfecting rooms, according to prosecutors.

“Medical devices that are removed from their rightful place in a hospital or other medical setting put patients’ health at risk by denying them access to needed diagnostic imaging and treatment,” Lynda Burdelik, special agent in charge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Criminal Investigations field office in Chicago, said in a statement.

Purdy paid Seferovic for stolen items via PayPal and resold the devices on eBay and Amazon, according to the government. On March 28, 2018, the indictment alleges Purdy received a $4,800 wire payment from the sale of two cystoscopes.

That same day, Seferovic received a $2,550 payment via PayPal, according to the government.

In fall 2017, Seferovic also agreed to steal and sell medical devices and supplies to Khan, who owns Wholesale Medical & Surgical Suppliers of America, LLC in Flint, according to the indictment.

Seferovic would transfer stolen supplies to Khan during meetings in metro Detroit, including at a Walmart parking lot, according to the indictment. Khan, in turn, would sell the supplies and devices online at below retail price.

Seferovic’s job duties and status was unclear Thursday.

The investigation and alleged crimes have prompted internal changes at Beaumont.

“…Beaumont has enhanced security protocols and implemented additional checks and balances across the organization to reduce the chances of something like this happening again,” Geary said.

DOJ charges execs, others with elaborate $1.4B billing scheme using rural hospitals

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/doj-charges-execs-others-with-elaborate-14b-billing-scheme-using-rural-h/580785/

Office of Attorney Recruitment & Management | Department of Justice

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Justice is charging 10 defendants for an “elaborate” pass-through billing scheme that used small rural hospitals across three states as shells to submit fraudulent claims for laboratory testing to commercial insurers, jacking up reimbursement.
  • The defendants, including hospital executives, lab owners and recruiters, billed private payers roughly $1.4 billion from November 2015 to February 2018 for pricey lab testing, reaping $400 million.
  • The four rural hospitals used in the scheme are: Cambellton-Graceville Hospital, a 25-bed rural facility in Florida; Regional General Hospital of Williston, a 40-bed hospital in Florida; Chestatee Regional Hospital, a 49-bed facility in Georgia; and Putnam County Memorial Hospital, a 25-bed hospital in Missouri. Only Putnam emerged from the scheme relatively unscathed: Chestatee was sold to a health system that plans to replace it with a newer facility, Cambellton-Graceville closed in 2017 and RGH of Williston was sold for $100 to an accounting firm earlier this month.

Dive Insight:

The indictment, filed in the Middle District of Florida and unsealed Monday, alleges the 10 defendants, using management companies they owned, would take over rural hospitals often struggling financially. They would then bill commercial payers for millions of dollars for pricey urine analysis drug tests and blood tests through the rural hospitals, though the tests were normally conducted at outside labs, and launder the money to hide their trail and distribute proceeds.

The rural hospitals had negotiated rates with commercial insurers for higher reimbursement for tests than if they’d been run at an outside labs, so the facilities were used as a shell for fraudulent billing for often medically unnecessary tests, the indictment alleges.

The defendants, aged 34 to 60, would get urine and other samples by paying kickbacks to recruiters and healthcare providers, like sober homes and substance abuse treatment centers.

Screening urine tests, to determine the presence or absence of a substance in a patient’s system, is generally inexpensive and simple — it can be done at a substance abuse facility, a doctor’s office or a lab. But confirmatory tests, to identify concentration of a drug, are more precise and sensitive and have to be done at a sophisticated lab.

As such they’re more expensive and are typically reimbursed at higher rates than screening urine tests. None of the rural hospitals had the capacity to conduct confirmatory tests, or blood tests, on a large scale, but frequently billed in-network insurers, including CVS Health-owned Aetna, Florida Blue and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, for the service from 2015 to 2018, the indictment says.

Rural hospitals are facing unprecedented financial stress amid the pandemic, but have been fighting to keep their doors open for years against shrinking reimbursement and lowering patient volume. That can give bad actors an opportunity to come in and assume control.

One of the defendants, Jorge Perez, 60, owns a Miami-based hospital operator called Empower, which has seen many of its facilities fail after insurers refused to pay for suspect billing. Half of rural hospital bankruptcies last year were affiliated with Empower, which controlled 18 hospitals across eight states at the height of the operation. Over the past two years, 12 of the hospitals have declared bankruptcy. Eight have closed, leaving their rural communities without healthcare and a source of jobs.

“Schemes that exploit rural hospitals are particularly egregious as they can undermine access to care in underserved communities,” Thomas South, a deputy assistant inspector general in the Office of Personnel Management Office of Inspector General, said in a statement.

 

 

 

 

 

Former UMMS board member indicted in fraud scheme

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/legal-regulatory-issues/former-umms-board-member-indicted-on-11-counts-of-fraud-tax-evasion.html

Image result for healthy holly children's book

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who served on the board of University of Maryland Medical System for 18 years, was indicted on charges of wire fraud and tax evasion related to a children’s book scandal that involved the Baltimore-based health system and Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, a local CBS affiliate reports.

The indictment was unsealed Nov. 20, ahead of Ms. Pugh’s scheduled hearing on Nov. 21. If convicted, Ms. Pugh could face up to 100 years in prison and be required to forfeit her home and repay more than $769,000 allegedly obtained through the scheme.

The indictment alleges Ms. Pugh conspired with city employees to defraud buyers of her Healthy Holly children’s books, according to CBS, which published the indictment in full. It alleges Ms. Pugh arranged five $100,000 deals with UMMS to donate a total of 100,000 books to Baltimore public schools. The books were allegedly never delivered, and instead rerouted to alternate storage facilities around the city, distributed at campaign events and double-sold to other customers.

The indictment also alleges Ms. Pugh used Healthy Holly profits to fund straw donations to her mayoral campaign and to buy a house in Baltimore. She also faces allegations of tax evasion related to Healthy Holly sales, according to the report.

CBS notes Kaiser Permanente also disclosed buying $114,000 of the books at a time that overlaps with winning a $48 million contract from the city, according to the report.

The two city officials connected to the scheme pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion, according to the report.

Read the full story and access the full indictment here.