Stark Act Violations or Kickbacks Can Violate the False Claims Act
- Both the Stark Act and the Anti-Kickback Act prohibit a health care provider from submitting claims to Medicare based upon referrals from physicians who have a “financial relationship” with the health care entity, unless a statutory or regulatory exception or safe harbor applies. 42 U.S.C. §§ 1395nn(a)(1); 1320a-7b(b). In particular, the Stark Act prohibits “knowingly and willfully” offering or paying “any remuneration . . . to any person to induce such person . . . to refer an individual to a person for the furnishing . . . of any item or service for which payment may be made in whole or in part under a Federal health care program.” 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b(b)(2)(A). And it prohibits “knowingly and willfully solicit[ing] or receiv[ing]” kickbacks “in return” for such conduct. Id. § 1320a-7b(b)(1)(A).
- The Stark Act expressly prohibits Medicare from paying claims that do not satisfy each of its requirements, including every element of any applicable exception. 42 U.S.C. §§1395nn(a)(1), (g)(1).
- “Falsely certifying compliance with the Stark or Anti-Kickback Acts in connection with a claim submitted to a federally funded insurance program is actionable under the FCA.” United States ex rel. Kosenske v. Carlisle HMA, Inc., 554 F.3d 88, 95 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing United States ex rel. Schmidt v. Zimmer, Inc., 386 F.3d 235, 243 (3d Cir. 2004) (other citations omitted)). Typically submission of a claim to Medicare requires the provider to certify compliance with the Anti-Kickback Law on CMS Form 855s, which states in relevant part “I understand that payment of a claim by Medicare is conditioned upon the claim and the underlying transaction complying with [Medicare] laws, regulations, and program instructions (including, but not limited to, the Federal [A]nti-[K]ickback [S]tatute . . . ), and on the supplier’s compliance with all applicable conditions of participation in Medicare.”
- In other words, a claim for payment made pursuant to an illegal kickback is false under the FCA. United States ex rel. Quinn v. Omnicare, Inc., 382 F.3d 432, 439 (3d Cir. 2004).
- A defendant can avoid liability under the Stark Act by demonstrating that either a statutory or regulatory exception (or safe harbor) applies. The safe harbor exceptions recognize that financial arrangements between physicians and health care entities may exist for legitimate reasons independent of referrals.
Note that opposing kickbacks or raising concerns about kickbacks protected conduct under the False Claims Act anti-retaliation provision. For more information about False Claims Act whistleblower protection, click here.
For more information about the False Claims Act, Anti-Kickback Statute, Physician Self-Referral Law, and Exclusion Statute, see the HHS OIG’s roadmap for physicians about fraud and abuse laws.
Recent Kickback False Claims Act Settlements
In June 2019, Rialto Capital Management LLC (Rialto) and its former affiliate RL BB-IN KRE LLC (RL BB) have agreed to pay $3.6 million to resolve allegations that Rialto and the Kentuckiana Medical Center (KMC), an Indiana-based hospital owned by RL BB, violated the Anti-Kickback Statute, the Stark Law, and the False Claims Act by engaging in illegal financial arrangements with two doctors who referred patients to KMC. According to the DOJ’s press release, “KMC, under the direction of Rialto, provided personal loans to two referring doctors and then repeatedly forbore from requiring repayment of those loans” and “the hospital’s failure to collect on loans to key referral sources constituted a form of remuneration prohibited by both the AKS and the Stark Law.”
Kickback Whistleblower Need Not Prove “but for” Causation
Recently the Third Circuit rejected a provider’s contention that a kickback is actionable under the FCA only where the relator provides that the kickback actually influenced a patient’s or medical professional’s decision to use a particular provider. In Steve Greenfield v. Medco Health Solutions Inc., the Third Circuit held that a kickback qui tam can be proven by showing that a claim was submitted for reimbursement for medical care that was provided in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute (as a kickback renders a subsequent claim ineligible for payment). But the court noted that “[a] kickback does not morph into a false claim unless a particular patient is exposed to an illegal recommendation or referral and a provider submits a claim for reimbursement pertaining to that patient.”
Experienced False Claims Act Qui Tam Whistleblower Attorneys
The experienced whistleblower attorneys at leading whistleblower law firm Zuckerman Law represent whistleblowers disclosing fraud and other wrongdoing at government contractors and grantees. To schedule a free preliminary consultation, click here or call us at 202-262-8959.
Our experience includes:
- Representing whistleblowers in actions concerning off-label marketing, false billing, and education loan fraud (inflating entitlement to interest rate subsidies).
- Representing whistleblowers in NDAA retaliation claims before the Department of Defense, and Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice Offices of Inspectors General.
- Representing whistleblowers disclosing fraud on the government in Congressional investigations..
In addition, we have substantial experience representing whistleblowers under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) and enforcing the WPA, the law that the NDAA whistleblower provisions are based upon. Two of the attorneys on our team served in senior position at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel overseeing investigations of whistleblower retaliation claims and whistleblower disclosures.
- Eric Bachman served as Deputy Special Counsel, Litigation and Legal Affairs, OSC, where he spearheaded an initiative to combat whistleblower retaliation at the Department of Veterans Affairs. During Bachman’s tenure at OSC, the number of favorable actions for whistleblowers increased by over 50% agency-wide.
- Jason Zuckerman served as Senior Legal Advisor to the Special Counsel at OSC, where he worked on implementation of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act and several high-profile investigations, including a matter resulting in the removal of an Inspector General.
Before hiring a lawyer for a high-stakes whistleblower case, assess the lawyer’s reputation, prior experience representing whistleblowers, knowledge of whistleblower laws and prior results. And consider the experience of other whistleblowers working with that attorney. See our client testimonials by clicking here.
- U.S. News and Best Lawyers® have named Zuckerman Law a Tier 1 firm in Litigation – Labor and Employment in the Washington DC metropolitan area.
- Both Eric Bachman and Jason Zuckerman served on the Department of Labor’s Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the Secretary of Labor to improve OSHA’s administration of federal whistleblower protections.
- Firm Principal Jason Zuckerman was recognized by Washingtonian magazine as a “Top Whistleblower Lawyer” in 2015, 2009, and 2007 selected by his peers to be included in The Best Lawyers in America® in the category of employment law (2011-2017), and selected by his peers to be listed in SuperLawyers (2012 and 2015-2017) in the category of labor and employment law. is rated 10 out of 10 by Avvo, based largely on client reviews, and rated AV Preeminent® by Martindale-Hubbell based on peer reviews.
- Eric Bachman, Chair of the Firm’s Discrimination Practice, has substantial experience litigating precedent-setting individual and class action discrimination cases. His wins include a $100 million settlement in a disparate impact Title VII class action and a $16 million class action settlement against a major grocery chain. Having served as Special Litigation Counsel in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and as lead or co-counsel in numerous jury trials, Bachman is trial-tested and ready to fight for you to obtain the relief that you deserve.
- The firm has published extensively on whistleblower rights and protections, and speaks nationwide at seminars and continuing legal education conferences. We blog about new developments under whistleblower retaliation and rewards laws at the Whistleblower Protection Blog.
- The firm is routinely quoted in the media about whistleblower rights and protections.
Zuckerman Law has written extensively about whistleblower protections for employees of government contractors and grantees, including the following articles and blog posts:
- Boosting Contractor Employee Whistleblower Protections, Law 360 (December 2016)
- New Tools to Combat Whistleblower Retaliation, Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund Quarterly Review, Vol. 57 (October 2010)
- GAO Report Calls for Improvements in Government Contractor Whistleblower Protections
- False Claims Act Retaliation Decision Underscores Broad Scope of FCA Whistleblower Protection
- NDAA Provides Robust Whistleblower Protection
- FAR Amendment Bars Agencies from Subsidizing Whistleblower Retaliation
- NDAA Contractor Whistleblower Protection Law Highly Effective in Rooting Out Fraud
- Congress Enacts Anti-Gag Provision in Cromnibus Spending Bill
- Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Zuckerman Will Speak About False Claims Act Litigation at Taxpayers Against Fraud Conference
- Whistleblower Protections Under the Whistleblower Protection Act, Practical Law (October 2016)
- Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Zuckerman Quoted in National Law Journal
- Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Zuckerman Quoted About Federal Employee Whistleblower Rights
- Washington Post Quotes Whistleblower Attorney Jason Zuckerman About Chilling Effect of Insider Threat Program
- How to foster a more ethical culture
- Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Zuckerman Quoted About MacLean Whistleblower Protection Act Case
- Trump Questionnaire Raises Concerns About Retaliation Against Energy Department Staff
- CFPB official wants to silence a whistleblower before he can talk to Congress