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James A. Cannatti III* practices at the intersection of today's most pertinent health care issues, including digital health, health IT policy, and fraud and abuse, including Anti-Kickback Statute/Stark Law matters. With more than 10 years of experience in the US Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG), most recently as Senior Counselor for Health Information Technology, James is well-attuned to the regulatory issues impacting the rapidly evolving digital health landscape. Read James A. Cannatti III's full bio. 
*Not admitted to practice in the District of Columbia; admitted only in Ohio. Supervised by principals of the Firm who are members of the District of Columbia Bar.

DOJ announced on February 6, 2019, the Settlement Agreement resolving allegations in DOJ’s Complaint that Greenway caused its customers to submit false Medicare and Medicaid claims for payments under the EHR Incentive Programs in violation of the FCA and that it paid illegal kickbacks to current customers to recommend Greenway products (that are used to generate incentive payments or avoid penalties under the EHR Incentive Programs) to new customers. Under the Settlement Agreement, Greenway agreed to pay approximately $57 million to resolve the allegations without admitting liability. Greenway also entered into a five-year CIA with strict compliance oversight, reporting obligations and costly obligations to provide the latest version of Greenway’s EHR software to each of Greenway’s current customers at no additional charge.

This settlement comes nearly two years after eCW entered into a groundbreaking settlement with DOJ. At that time, we wondered whether it may be a sign of increasing FCA actions against vendors of EHR technology (CEHRT) certified through the health information technology (HIT) certification program of the Office of the National Coordinator of HIT (ONC). Statements by the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont, Christina E. Nolan, in the DOJ press release discussing the Greenway settlement seem to answer that question very directly in the affirmative. She says that “EHR companies should consider themselves on notice.” It is notable that, unlike the eCW case, the Greenway case was not initiated by a relator, but pursued by DOJ directly. In light of the government’s continued focus on vendors of EHR technology used to earn payments or avoid penalties for failing to succeed under the EHR Incentive Programs (or their successor value-based payment programs), HIT vendors should:

  • Take care to accurately and transparently demonstrate their software during HIT certification program testing
  • Review, and consider improvements to, their systems and other procedures for identifying, responding to and correcting software design and quality issues that call into question EHR software’s conformity to applicable EHR certification criteria or present patient safety or clinician usability risks; and
  • Review existing customer reference, referral and marketing arrangements for compliance with the Anti-Kickback Statute.

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On January 31, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (the Proposed Rule) as part of ongoing administration drug pricing reform efforts. The Proposed Rule would modify a regulatory provision that had previously protected certain pharmaceutical manufacturer rebates from criminal prosecution and financial penalties under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

Specifically, the Proposed Rule would exclude from “safe harbor” protection rebates and other discounts on prescription pharmaceutical products offered by pharmaceutical manufacturers to Medicare Part D plan sponsors or Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs), unless the price reduction is required by law (such as rebates required under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program). The proposed exclusion would apply to rebates offered directly to Part D plan sponsors and Medicaid MCOs, as well as those negotiated by or paid through a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM). HHS stated that it does not intend for the revisions in this Proposed Rule to negatively impact protection of prescription pharmaceutical product discounts offered to other entities such as wholesalers, hospitals, physicians, pharmacies and third party payors in other federal health care programs. The proposed effective date of this regulatory modification is January 1, 2020, although HHS has sought comments regarding whether this allows sufficient time for parties to restructure existing arrangements.

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The Office of Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services posted an unusual negative Advisory Opinion (AO 18-14) on a drug company’s proposal to provide free drugs to hospitals for use with pediatric patients suffering from a form of epilepsy. Of particular interest is OIG’s reliance on a longstanding, but rarely used, authority to justify finding and relying on public information about the drug at issue, including pricing information, to support its unfavorable conclusion. This advisory opinion might counsel future opinion requestors to withdraw their opinion request once OIG indicates the opinion will be unfavorable.

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