Massachusetts Mental Health Centers Submitted False Claims According to Suit

7 Indest-2008-4By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On January 5, 2018, the state of Massachusetts lodged a False Claims Act (FCA) suit in federal court against the operators of a number of mental health centers. In the suit, it is alleged that they improperly billed the state Medicaid program for services provided by unlicensed, unqualified and unsupervised employees.

The complaint seeks to recover MassHealth’s payments to South Bay Mental Health Center Inc. and its subsequent owners for claims they knew were false. Allegedly, they billed for services provided by unlicensed social workers who weren’t properly supervised even though it violated statutory and regulatory requirements.

The Complaint.

The complaint alleges that from at least August 2009 to the present, defendant South Bay failed to comply with applicable statutes and regulations regarding licensure and supervision requirements for staff. Additionally, the centers allegedly employ a number of staff therapists and clinic directors who aren’t licensed as social workers or mental health counselors. Unlicensed social workers can provide mental health services to MassHealth members as long as they are supervised by an independently licensed clinical social worker. This was not the case for the vast majority of South Bay’s unlicensed therapists, the complaint alleges.

The filing continues, “As a result of the noncompliance, from at least August 2009 to the present, defendant South Bay, either with actual knowledge or deliberate ignorance of or reckless disregard for the truth, submitted or caused to be submitted false claims for services to the MassHealth program in violation of [the Massachusetts False Claims Act].”

According to the suit, South Bay could have ensured that the staff at each center was properly credentialed during the hiring process and made sure that workers who needed supervision had it, but the company declined to do so.

The suit was originally brought forth in 2015 by relator Christine Martino-Fleming, who served as coordinator of staff development and training at South Bay. South Bay fired her in September 2014 after she raised concerns about the company’s regulatory violations, according to court documents.

Here is the complaint in full for Christine Martino-Fleming v South Bay Mental Health Centers, et al.

There have been an increasing number of Medicare and Medicaid audits being initiated against psychologists and other mental health professionals.
To gain more insight on these types of audits click the link above to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm represent physicians, nurses and other health professionals who desire to file a False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) case. This case just shows that even physicians can and should bring such claims and be rewarded for their whistle blowing activities. However, the attorneys of The Health Law Firm also defend physicians, medical groups and health facilities who have been sued in False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) cases or have had administrative or civil complaints filed against them to recover civil monetary penalties. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistle blower cases, as well.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Posses, Shayna. “Mental Health Centers Submitted False Claims, Mass. Says.” Law360. (January 5, 2017). Web.

Foley, Elizabeth. “Supreme Court to Decide What Qualifies as “False” under the False Claims Act.” Barrett and Singal Law Firm. (January 8, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999, and is also a registered service mark.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved

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What You Need to Know About Preparing and Responding to an Initial Medicaid Audit Request

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Health care providers in Florida who service Medicaid patients are at a higher risk for audits than anywhere else in the country. The unfortunate truth is that Florida has become synonymous with health care fraud. As a result, auditing and subsequent overpayment demands are very real possibilities.

The Health Law Firm and its legal professionals represent health care providers in virtually every aspect of Medicaid program audits, investigations and litigation. These include physicians, medical groups, mental health professionals, pharmacies, nursing homes, home health agencies, hospitals and other health facilities.

Facts You Should Know About the Medicaid Audit Process.

Should you find yourself, your facility or your health practice the subject of a Medicaid audit by your state Medicaid agency or audit contractor, there are a few things you should know. The most important thing to remember is that just because you are being audited, it does not mean that you or your business have done anything wrong. State and federal governments conduct audits for several different reasons. Typical ones include: special audits of high-fraud geographic areas, auditing of particular billing codes, randomly selected provider auditing and complaints of possible fraud.

If You Are the Subject of an Audit.

A Medicaid audit will usually begin with the provider receiving an initial audit request, usually by letter or fax. This request will serve to notify the recipient that it is the subject of an audit. The initial letter will not always identify the reason for the audit. It will, however, contain a list of names and dates of service for which the auditors want to see copies of medical records and other documentation.

Once the records are compiled and sent to the auditor, the process shifts and you are now going to have to dispute the auditor’s findings in order to avoid overpayment.

The biggest mistake that someone who is the subject of an audit can make is to hastily copy only a portion of the available records and send them off for review. The temptation is to think that because the records make sense to you, they will make sense to the auditor. Remember, the auditor has never worked in your office and has no idea how the records are compiled and organized. This is why it is so important to compile a thorough set of records. The records should be presented in a clearly labeled and organized fashion that provide justification for every service or item billed.

Compiling a Response to an Initial Audit Request.

The following are steps that you should take in order to compile and provide a set of records that will best serve to help you avoid any liability at the conclusion of the audit process:

1. Read the audit letter carefully and provide everything that it asks for. It’s always better to send too much documentation than too little.

2. If at all possible, compile the records yourself. If you can’t do this, have a compliance officer, experienced consultant, or experienced health attorney compile the records and handle any follow-up requests.

3. Pay attention to the deadlines. If a deadline is approaching and the records are not going to be ready, contact the auditor and request an extension before it is due. Do this by telephone and follow up with a letter (not an email). Send the letter before the deadline.

4. Send a cover letter with the requested documents and records explaining what is included and how it is organized as well as who to contact if the auditors have any questions.

5. Number every page of the records sent from the first page to the last page of documents.

6. Make a copy of everything you send exactly as it is sent. This way there are no valid questions later on as to whether a particular document was forwarded to the auditors.

7. Send the response package using some form of package tracking or delivery confirmation to arrive before the deadline.

Compiling all of the necessary documentation in a useful manner can be an arduous task. If you find that you cannot do it on your own, or that there are serious deficiencies in record keeping, it is recommended that you reach out to an attorney with experience in Medicaid auditing to assist you in the process.

To learn how The Health Law Firm can assist you with a Medicaid audit, click here.

If you have been accused of Medicaid fraud and need to prepare for an audit, click here to watch our informational video blog.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid and Medicare Audits.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.