With Covid-19 still surging throughout the United States, telemedicine has expanded as a viable option for patients seeking to limit their exposure to doctors’ offices. To meet this need, Federal and State regulators have both implemented and increased a number of measures allowing telemedicine to reach more people, as well as cover more areas of practice.
As discussed in a prior post, the Department of Justice has formed a nationwide task force comprised of AUSAs from each of the 93 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, as well as Main Justice. Together they total more than 100 federal prosecutors, to investigate and prosecute fraud related to the ongoing pandemic. The District of New Jersey U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito spearheads this effort.
One of the largest issues hampering the re-opening of the American economy is that there are many asymptomatic yet contagious carriers of COVID-19. Rational leaders, medical experts, and scientists agree that widespread testing is essential to prevent further hotspots and determine which areas of the country may start to open again. Tests to determine whether a person is currently infected, as well as antibody tests to determine whether a person has been exposed and may have some immunity to the virus, will soon be widely available from many new sources. Companies cannot make informed decisions about when and how to re-open without knowing if their employees are healthy. State and local governments cannot determine how to move forward without this critical information. The federal government has assisted testing companies and labs by removing some of the FDA safeguards and time periods normally in place to ensure quality standards and safety.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and various state agencies have announced that they will aggressively pursue fraudulent schemes related to COVID-19. On March 16, Attorney General William Barr directed all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to prioritize the detection, investigation, and prosecution of all criminal conduct related to the Coronavirus pandemic. Each office was directed to appoint a COVID-19 fraud coordinator to serve as the liaison between the local Department of Justice and their state and local counterparts.
Investigating and prosecuting healthcare fraud remains one of the top priorities of the Department of Justice. Nationwide crackdowns and arrests have demonstrated that the government’s war on crime goes beyond drugs, guns, and gangs. While those are certainly a priority of DOJ and an easy way to boost prosecution numbers nationwide, they are by no means the only priority.
The federal government has hired 300 additional prosecutors and created the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit and the Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement Team to investigate, uncover, and prosecute the prescribing and dispensing of opioids by healthcare professionals – doctors and pharmacists – as well as street-level sales of opioids and fentanyl. Since January 2018, over 200 doctors have been charged.
The United States is slowly moving to catch up with medical practices in some European and Asian countries in using technology to avoid an in-person doctor’s appointment. Without having to schedule and wait for an appointment, take time off from work, or leave home, a person can have common aliments diagnosed using their smartphone. Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and technology to provide clinical healthcare at a distance.
Tags: Healthcare Fraud
Federal and state prosecutors are increasingly aggressive in their investigation and prosecution of healthcare fraud. Given the vast amounts of government or private insurance monies that can be exploited, the penalties have increased for healthcare professionals and others who engage in fraudulent activities. Sentences of 10 years or more, in addition to forfeitures, restitution and fines in the millions of dollars, are becoming commonplace.
Tags: Healthcare Fraud