DOJ Intervenes in Whistleblower’s False Claims Act Lawsuit Involving Martin’s Point Healthcare

DOJ Intervenes in Whistleblower’s False Claims Act Lawsuit Involving Martin’s Point Healthcare

The bad news just keeps on coming for Martin’s Point Healthcare in Portland, Maine.

The lawsuit includes a group of healthcare centers and also a health plan which operates Medicare Advantage plans for beneficiaries in Maine and New Hampshire. 

On a Monitor Monday broadcast last summer, I reported on the news that Martin’s Point had paid DOJ $22.4 million to resolve a False Claims Act case initiated by a whistleblower alleging that the plan had conducted chart reviews of their Medicare beneficiaries to identify and submit additional diagnosis codes that were not supported by the patient’s medical records and thereby improperly garnered inflated reimbursement amounts from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). 

As alleged, this is a practice that has come to be known more broadly as risk adjustment fraud and has swept up many healthcare plans and healthcare providers in its wake.  DOJ has settled with several other major healthcare industry players, including Cigna, Sutter Health, and Freedom Healthcare, to resolve allegations of risk adjustment fraud. The DOJ also has ongoing litigation against others, such as UnitedHealth Group, Kaiser Permanente, and Independent Health. 

Flash forward eight months and Martin’s Point once again is back in the news making headlines.  This time, Martin’s Point is joined by five other health plans that provide health coverage to military families. These plans include Brighton Marine, Christus, John Hopkins, PacMed and St. Vincent’s, and their industry trade group, U.S. FHP Alliance, all of whom are now defendants in a False Claims Act case that was recently unsealed. 

On March 13, DOJ issued a press release noting that it was joining a False Claims Act case launched by two whistleblowers, both of whom had close ties to Martin’s Point. One was a former interim CFO. The other one had acted as a consultant to the CEO and Board and later served on its Board of Directors.  

Through the Uniformed Services Family Health Plan (USFHP), the Department of Defense pays health insurance plans capitated rates to provide healthcare services for their enrollees.   

In its Complaint in Intervention, DOJ alleges that the six health plans became aware of two errors made by actuaries that had been retained to calculate the statutory payment limitations for USFHP beneficiaries and that these errors had resulted in each of the six plans being overpaid millions of dollars a year over a multi-year period, and collectively the six plans having been overpaid around $300 million. 

Instead of informing the government of the overpayments, the complaint alleges, the six plans took steps to conceal the overpayments from the government and continued to submit invoices at the inflated rate. 

In the same press release, DOJ also announced that it had reached a $780,000 ability-to-pay settlement with Kennell & Associates, the actuarial consultant who had made the errors in the rate-setting methodology that caused the USFHP rates to be overstated and, after becoming aware of the errors, is alleged to have failed to inform the government.    

Because Monday of this week, was April Fool’s Day, we consider how Martin’s Point is alleged to have defrauded two different federal healthcare programs in two successive complaints initiated seriatim by three different whistleblowers. I’m reminded of the adage, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

Somehow, after reading the DOJ’s recent 94-page complaint in intervention, I have a feeling that DOJ is growing tired of tomfoolery and may just get the last laugh.    

Finally, in more risk adjustment news, on March 15, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) issued its annual report to Congress on the Medicare Fee for Service (FFS) payment systems, the Part C Medicare Advantage program, and Part D prescription drug program. 

In its 561-page report, one statistic stood out and has captured the attention of several journalists and commentators.  The quote with the eye-catching statistic reads: “We estimate that Medicare spends approximately 22 percent more for MA (Medicare Advantage) enrollees than it would spend if those beneficiaries were enrolled in FFS Medicare, a difference that translates into a projected $83 billion in 2024.” 

MedPac makes clear that the 22 percent estimate was arrived at after they had accounted for “favorable selection” and “coding intensity,” so it can’t be explained away by assuming that MA beneficiaries are sicker than people in traditional FFS Medicare. 

While some people are scratching their heads on why healthcare provided under MA plans costs taxpayers 22percent more, many people, myself included, point to the ever-increasing group of False Claims Act cases in which whistleblowers have alleged that many of the major health plans, as well as healthcare providers and vendors, have engaged in systemic risk adjustment fraud.

About the Author

Mary Inman is a partner and co-founder of Whistleblower Partners LLP, a law firm dedicated to representing whistleblowers under the various U.S. whistleblower reward programs.  Mary and her colleagues have pioneered a series of successful whistleblower cases against prominent health insurers, hospitals, provider groups, and vendors under the False Claims Act alleging manipulation of the risk scores of Medicare Advantage patients.  Mary is a recognized expert and frequent author, commentator, and speaker on frauds in the healthcare industry, particularly those exposed by whistleblowers.  Mary is a member of the RACmonitor editorial board and a popular panelist on Monitor Monday. 

Contact the Author:

Mary Inman Esq.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

Mary Inman, Esq.

Mary Inman is a partner and co-founder of Whistleblower Partners LLP, a law firm dedicated to representing whistleblowers under the various U.S. whistleblower reward programs. Mary and her colleagues have pioneered a series of successful whistleblower cases against prominent health insurers, hospitals, provider groups, and vendors under the False Claims Act alleging manipulation of the risk scores of Medicare Advantage patients. Mary is a recognized expert and frequent author, commentator, and speaker on frauds in the healthcare industry, particularly those exposed by whistleblowers. Mary is a member of the RACmonitor editorial board and a popular panelist on Monitor Monday.

Related Stories

Remain Compliant – and Take the Money

Remain Compliant – and Take the Money

Our first topic today is local coverage determinations (LCDs) and variation. I have written in the past about national and local coverage determinations, and I

Read More

Leave a Reply

Please log in to your account to comment on this article.

Featured Webcasts

Leveraging the CERT: A New Coding and Billing Risk Assessment Plan

Leveraging the CERT: A New Coding and Billing Risk Assessment Plan

Frank Cohen shows you how to leverage the Comprehensive Error Rate Testing Program (CERT) to create your own internal coding and billing risk assessment plan, including granular identification of risk areas and prioritizing audit tasks and functions resulting in decreased claim submission errors, reduced risk of audit-related damages, and a smoother, more efficient reimbursement process from Medicare.

April 9, 2024
2024 Observation Services Billing: How to Get It Right

2024 Observation Services Billing: How to Get It Right

Dr. Ronald Hirsch presents an essential “A to Z” review of Observation, including proper use for Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and commercial payers. He addresses the correct use of Observation in medical patients and surgical patients, and how to deal with the billing of unnecessary Observation services, professional fee billing, and more.

March 21, 2024
Top-10 Compliance Risk Areas for Hospitals & Physicians in 2024: Get Ahead of Federal Audit Targets

Top-10 Compliance Risk Areas for Hospitals & Physicians in 2024: Get Ahead of Federal Audit Targets

Explore the top-10 federal audit targets for 2024 in our webcast, “Top-10 Compliance Risk Areas for Hospitals & Physicians in 2024: Get Ahead of Federal Audit Targets,” featuring Certified Compliance Officer Michael G. Calahan, PA, MBA. Gain insights and best practices to proactively address risks, enhance compliance, and ensure financial well-being for your healthcare facility or practice. Join us for a comprehensive guide to successfully navigating the federal audit landscape.

February 22, 2024
Mastering Healthcare Refunds: Navigating Compliance with Confidence

Mastering Healthcare Refunds: Navigating Compliance with Confidence

Join healthcare attorney David Glaser, as he debunks refund myths, clarifies compliance essentials, and empowers healthcare professionals to safeguard facility finances. Uncover the secrets behind when to refund and why it matters. Don’t miss this crucial insight into strategic refund management.

February 29, 2024
2024 SDoH Update: Navigating Coding and Screening Assessment

2024 SDoH Update: Navigating Coding and Screening Assessment

Dive deep into the world of Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) coding with our comprehensive webcast. Explore the latest OPPS codes for 2024, understand SDoH assessments, and discover effective strategies for integrating coding seamlessly into healthcare practices. Gain invaluable insights and practical knowledge to navigate the complexities of SDoH coding confidently. Join us to unlock the potential of coding in promoting holistic patient care.

May 22, 2024
2024 ICD-10-CM/PCS Coding Clinic Update Webcast Series

2024 ICD-10-CM/PCS Coding Clinic Update Webcast Series

HIM coding expert, Kay Piper, RHIA, CDIP, CCS, reviews the guidance and updates coders and CDIs on important information in each of the AHA’s 2024 ICD-10-CM/PCS Quarterly Coding Clinics in easy-to-access on-demand webcasts, available shortly after each official publication.

April 15, 2024

Trending News

Happy National Doctor’s Day! Learn how to get a complimentary webcast on ‘Decoding Social Admissions’ as a token of our heartfelt appreciation! Click here to learn more →

Happy World Health Day! Our exclusive webcast, ‘2024 SDoH Update: Navigating Coding and Screening Assessment,’  is just $99 for a limited time! Use code WorldHealth24 at checkout.

SPRING INTO SAVINGS! Get 21% OFF during our exclusive two-day sale starting 3/21/2024. Use SPRING24 at checkout to claim this offer. Click here to learn more →