Partner Jeffrey J. Ansley is quoted in the Dallas Morning News article titled, “Here’s why doctors should worry about the feds’ novel approach to prosecuting health care kickback cases.” The piece analyzes the recent guilty verdicts rendered in a jury trial brought by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)’s Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) against a group of doctors and senior hospital personnel who were principals in the now-defunct Forest Park Medical Center. In the case, the government brought charges by using the Travel Act – a 60-year-old statute whose scope covers a wide-swath of crimes, provided that state lines are crossed using mail or electronic communications. The Forest Park matter, in which the government charged an illegal quid pro quo arrangement/kickback scheme between the medical group and its surgeons, is only the second time the Travel Act has been successfully used in a health care matter. As the article details, this success has brought renewed concern and scrutiny to marketing agreements, consulting agreements, medical directorships and office leasing arrangements between physicians and hospitals and other health care facilities.
Ansley described the Forest Park matter as a “very aggressive prosecution” by the government and urged the DOJ to provide more legal guidance, especially since doctors are not routinely trained in the business of medicine. He noted, “there is a lot of gray out there,” with respect to doctor marketing arrangements. “It’s increasingly unclear where the lines are.”
Zooming in on the Forest Park matter specifically, Ansley noted that the defendants were highly educated and had vetted their business arrangements with counsel – and were still convicted, illustrating the complexity of this issue. “You wouldn’t think they went to medical school to commit fraud, and here they are.”
The reporter concludes by noting that Ansley joins other legal health care commentators in drawing the conclusion from the Forest Park outcome that the guilty verdict and the government’s newly successful use of the Travel Act in health care prosecution may serve as a discouragement for doctors considering engaging in business relationships, a dynamic that may not be beneficial to patients.
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