New OIG litigation team will tackle Medicare, Medicaid fraud cases

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General has created a new team of attorneys focused solely on litigation involving Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

The new team was announced at the American Health Lawyers Association's annual meeting Tuesday, and aims to help fill an enforcement gap among attorneys handling civil penalty and exclusion cases, OIG officials said. Previously, attorneys worked on OIG-initiated litigation in addition to other cases.

“Lawyers used to have to wear multiple hats, and their attentions could get diverted,” Tony Maida, an attorney at McDermott Will & Emery LLP and a former deputy chief of the OIG's administrative and civil remedies branch, told Bloomberg News.

The new attorney team will focus heavily on owners and executives of healthcare organizations, physicians involved in kickback schemes and top billers of high-risk procedures, Maida said. He advised smaller, independent healthcare providers to especially take note of the new litigation team and the overall crackdown of Medicare and Medicaid fraud by the federal government, since they lack the compliance resources of large organizations.

The newly formed litigation team is the fifth attorney team operating under the OIG's Office of Counsel. The new team will be led by Robert Penezic, deputy branch chief of the administrative and civil remedies branch, and will hire an estimated 10 attorneys.