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Nation’s First Conviction Under EKRA

Client Alert

Last month, the Department of Justice announced its first ever guilty plea under the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act of 2018 (“EKRA”). This came following an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General as well as the Kentucky Office of Attorney General, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. The investigation uncovered that a Kentucky woman, Theresa C. Merced, had solicited kickbacks from a toxicology laboratory in exchange for urine drug testing referrals. She then lied about the misconduct and the kickbacks that she received when confronted by law enforcement. Thereafter, Ms. Merced attempted to cover her tracks by requesting an alteration of certain financial records.

Ms. Merced appeared before the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky and pleaded guilty to one count of violating EKRA, 18 U.S.C. § 220, among other charges. Sentencing in this case is scheduled for May 1, 2020 and Ms. Merced faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

On October 5, 2018, the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act of 2018 (“EKRA”) was signed into law as part of the federal government’s ongoing efforts to address and combat the nationwide opioid crisis. Like its predecessor, the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, EKRA established prohibitions against certain health care payment arrangements involving federal health care programs as well as instituted criminal sanctions for any statutory violation. What distinguishes EKRA, however, is that its authority applies to only certain entities including recovery homes, clinical treatment facilities, and laboratories.[1]

EKRA makes it illegal for any person, with respect to services covered by any health care benefit program (federal or private) to knowingly and willfully: (1) solicit or receive renumeration in return for referring a patient or patronage to a Subject Entity, or (2) pay or offer any renumeration to induce a referral to a Subject Entity or in exchange for an individual using the services of a Subject Entity.[2] A Subject Entity includes recovery homes, clinical treatment facilities, and laboratories. [3]

Penalties for a violation under EKRA can include a fine of not more than $200,000, imprisonment for not more than 10 years, or both, for each occurrence.[4]

For questions or more information about this topic, contact Jeana Singleton at jmsingleton@bmdllc.com or 330.253.2001, or feel free to contact any member of BMD’s Health Care Practice Group.

[1] Reesa N. Benkoff, Esq. & Dustin T. Wachler, Esq., EKRA: Enactment and Implications of the SUPPORT Act’s New All-Payor Federal Antikickback Law, American Bar Association (https://www.americanbar.org/groups/health_law/publications/aba_health_esource/2018-2019/march/ekra/).

[2] 18 U.S.C. § 220 (2018)

[3] Id.

[4] Id

 

 


Valley National Bank/Trulieve Loan: A Big Step Out of the Shadows

In a late December press release, Trulieve announced that it had secured a $71.5 million commercial bank loan. In addition to the amount of the loan, which may be the largest commercial bank loan to date to a cannabis company, the release prominently identified Valley Bank and featured both a quote from Valley’s Senior Vice President, John Myers, and a description of the Bank’s service platform and commitment to the cannabis industry.

The End of Non-Competes? The Impact It Will Have on the Healthcare Industry

On January 5, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced a proposed rule that, if enacted, will ban employers from entering into non-compete clauses with workers (the “Rule”), and the Rule would void existing non-compete agreements. In their Notice, the FTC stated that if the Rule were to go into effect, they estimate the overall earnings of employees in the United States could increase by $250 billion to $296 billion per year. The Rule would also require employers to rescind non-competes that they had already entered into with their workers. For purposes of the Rule, the FTC has defined “worker” to also include any employees, interns, volunteers, and contractors.”

2022 Healthcare Recap and 2023 Healthcare Check-Up

As the country begins to return to a new “normal” following the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many healthcare rules changing on both the federal and state levels as a result. Thus, it is important for healthcare providers and their employers to be aware of these changing rules, and any implications they may have on their practice. Look back on healthcare in 2022 and find a checklist for 2023.

Direct Support Professional Retention Payments

On December 15, the Ohio Senate and House passed House Bill 45, which authorizes the Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD), in conjunction with the county boards of developmental disabilities, to launch their initiative to issue retention payments to Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). These retention payments will be distributed quarterly to participating home and community-based waiver providers to address the workforce crisis in the direct provider sector. Governor DeWine needs to sign the Bill to begin the payments, but he is expected to do so by the end of 2022.

Real Estate Investors Position for 2023 Opportunities

Real estate investors weathered another year in a post-pandemic world, with the year closing with yet another interest rate increase coupled with both uncertainty and heightened interest carrying into 2023. Just last Wednesday, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate 0.50 percentage points, shifting the target range to 4.25% to 4.50%. The new level is the highest the fed funds rate has been since December 2007 and marks the seventh rate hike this year. So what does this mean to investors, brokers, lenders, and others in the real estate world? Read a few perspectives below from stakeholders familiar with our BMD clients and the markets in which they do business.