In the past, individuals and entities excluded by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) have usually not been prosecuted for fraud. A recent Indictment shows that the government is going to be more aggressive in pursuing individuals excluded by OIG if they fail to notify their employers of their exclusion.
If OIG excludes an individual or entity it means that no payment can be made by a federal health care benefit program (or state program that received federal funds) for services provided by that individual.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced on March 31, 2016 that China Scott of Pennsylvania was indicted by a federal grand jury for Health Care Fraud for allegedly failing to notify her employer at Cool Waters, a home health care agency that she was an "excluded person" by OIG. Ms. Scott was excluded by OIG due to two previous health care fraud convictions.
According to the Indictment, between November 2015 and January 2016, Ms. Scott provided home health care services to a disabled individual through her employment at Cool Waters, a home health care agency. Since Ms. Waters is an excluded individual, the home health agency cannot receive payments from Medicare or Medicaid or other federally funded programs for her services and must return any payments. Ms. Scott allegedly failed to notify the agency that she is an excluded person.
Indictments and criminal informations are only allegations. All persons charged, including Ms. Scott, are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court. The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Attorney Commentary: This is a reminder to those in the health care business to run background checks on their employees, independent contractors, and employees of independent contractors who provide services. And simply because Medicare or Medi-Cal or Medicaid is not being directly billed, there are many government programs through HMO contracts, TriCare and other entities that it is very difficult to tell when a patient is Medicare or Medi-Cal (Medicaid) or TriCare.
In addition, individuals should also check their background since we have seen cases where individuals were excluded and did not know for reasons such as student loan defaults. Finally, if excluded, individuals and entities need to remember that they must apply for reinstatement. It is not automatic.
Posted by Tracy Green, Esq.