Health sector COVID relief surveys heat up

After several periods of supplier relief reporting, the government is keeping its word and stepping up audit and investigation activities.

More and more providers are beginning to receive civil investigation requests related to the use of COVID-19 funding, and they are requesting the production of documents including corporate organization descriptions, patient information, contracts and communications with employees, staff and other physicians, Frost Brown Todd’s Derek Staub wrote in a blog for Bloomberg Law on Thursday.

CIDS also include written examinations (written questions to be answered in writing under oath) which can number in the hundreds (written examinations).

The Department of Justice appointed a director of Covid fraud in March. Staub said providers are now beginning to receive CIDs by mail or in person, despite the fact that most PRF requests submitted to the Health Resources and Services Administration are legitimate, Staub wrote.

But the reporting requirements are complex and require a level of accounting that some providers, especially smaller ones, might not be experienced in, other legal experts said.

The DOJ looks for submissions that may violate the False Claims Act or anti-bribery laws. If a supplier receives a request for investigation, Staub said, it means the government thinks the supplier may have documents worth investigating.

An attorney is essential to petitioning the DOJ for an extension of time to deliver massive amounts of information, as well as sorting out the privilege and liability of requested information, and other tasks.

“Many questions and requests regarding CIDs are either irrelevant, overly broad, or protected by privilege,” Staub wrote.

The location, organization and review of the requested information should be followed by the provider and the attorney in search of a common denominator in the documents. Staub said the government was looking for things like patient referrals, lack of patient records, lack of medical consent and sham testing regarding HRSA billing.

Staub said such preparation and attention to detail can not only provide a successful defense, but can expose overpayments that must be returned within 60 days.

“Now is the time to conduct internal audits, track internal complaints, revamp your compliance program, ask your attorney questions, and most importantly, document,” Staub wrote.

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