A new attorney general at the helm, plus possible policy changes on the horizon, could spell a slowdown in fraud accusations against providers.
With William Barr confirmed last week as the new U.S. attorney general, some observers are worried that his arrival could mute whistleblower accusations, Modern Healthcare reported. In 2001, Barr had previously called the whistleblower law an unconstitutional “abomination,” and in 1989, he pushed an unsuccessful constitutional challenge against the law.
Along with those comments, the Justice Department last year issued two policy memos aimed at rejecting more whistleblower cases, and it has moved to dismiss two dozen cases since 2017, motions that were typically rare in the past. All this has attorneys and whistleblowers worried about the future climate for fraud cases against nursing homes, but providers cautiously optimistic on the other side.
“There is concern about Barr,” Peter Chatfield, a Washington, D.C., attorney with Phillips & Cohen who represents healthcare whistleblowers, told Modern. “The trend with the current administration is to be more hands-off, allowing bad-faith actors more leeway than they deserve.”
Despite his previous comments, Barr vowed in January that he’d “diligently enforce” the False Claims Act. Meanwhile, one case before the Supreme Court, tied to whether attorneys can “forum shop” cases for jurisdictions with a longer statute of limitations, could also further cutback on FCA cases, Modern noted.
In fiscal 2018 alone, the Department of Justice was able to extract more than $2.5 billion from healthcare providers, the agency touted in a December announcement.