Synergy Blog

Medicare Compliance, or Else Redux: A Third Law Firm Settles with the DOJ for Failing to be MSP Compliant

By Jason D. Lazarus, J.D., LL.M., MSCC

The government takes its reimbursement rights seriously and is willing to pursue trial lawyers who ignore Medicare’s interest.  On November 4th, 2019, The United States Attorney for the District of Maryland announced that a Baltimore-based law firm paid the United States $91,406.98 to resolve allegations that it failed to pay back Medicare for conditional payments that had been paid on behalf of firm clients.  The press release, while scant on details, seems to indicate that the firm had entered into a joint-representation agreement with co-counsel who in turn did not reimburse Medicare at settlement.  According to U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur, “Plaintiffs’ attorneys cannot refer a case to or enter into a joint representation agreement with co-counsel and simply wash their hands clean of their obligations to reimburse Medicare for its conditional payments.”  He went on to say, “We intend to hold attorneys accountable for failing to make good on their obligations to repay Medicare for its conditional payments, regardless of whether they were the ones primarily handling the litigation for the plaintiff.”

Similarly, earlier this year in March, the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland announced that a Maryland personal injury law firm had agreed to pay the United States $250,000 to settle claims that it did not reimburse Medicare for payments made on behalf of a firm client.  As part of the settlement, the firm “also agreed to (1) designate a person at the firm responsible for paying Medicare secondary payer debts; (2) train the designated employee to ensure that the firm pays these debts on a timely basis; and (3) review any outstanding debts with the designated employee at least every six months to ensure compliance.”

This is the third such settlement in the last two years.  Back in June of 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with a Philadelphia personal injury law firm involving failure to reimburse Medicare.  The firm agreed to start a “compliance program” and the DOJ stated that this “settlement agreement should remind personal injury lawyers and others of their obligation to reimburse Medicare for conditional payments after receiving settlement or judgment proceeds for their clients.”  The U.S. Attorney’s office also stated, “When an attorney fails to reimburse Medicare, the United States can recover from the attorney—even if the attorney already transmitted the proceeds to the client.  Congress enacted these rules to ensure timely repayment from responsible parties, and we intend to hold attorneys accountable for failing to make good on their obligations.”

Consequently, in today’s complicated regulatory landscape, a comprehensive plan for Medicare compliance has become vitally important to personal injury practices.  Lawyers assisting Medicare beneficiaries are personally exposed to damages and malpractice risks daily when they handle or resolve cases for Medicare beneficiaries.  Synergy can be your resource for total Medicare Compliance.  For a deeper dive, you can view the following 15-minute video presentation on this subject at:  https://youtu.be/2EH7QWjj2zw

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TESTIMONIALS

“Synergy is our guiding light for deferring our contingent legal fees and planning for retirement. The lawyers at Panter Panter & Sampedro, myself included, have been working with them for over ten years using different methods to defer comp and plan for retirement.”

Brett Panter
Panter, Panter & Sampedro

"I don't think I've directly said "thank you" for helping us with Bridgett’s case. We sent the reduced payment to Medicaid and called Bridgett's mom to tell her approximately how much money was going to be left for Bridgett and she broke down over the telephone. Given only $25k of insurance and a $850k medical bill from the hospital she didn't think Bridgett would ever see a penny."

Tom L. Copeland
Jeffrey Meldon & Associates, P.A.

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Liability MSAs: Is It Time To Worry? Third Thursday Webinar

Join us this month for a special presentation by Synergy's Vice President, Medicare Secondary Payer Compliance, B. Josh Pettingill, to discuss the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) potential regulations on Liability MSAs and best practices for protecting your law firm as it relates to MSP compliance, including Medicare Advantage. A 15-minute question and answer session will follow.