Hagens Berman Blog

Whistleblower News: Hospice Fines, Pharma Lobbyists

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Pharma lobbyists flood state capitols to fend off drug-pricing action

It was expected to be a perfunctory statehouse meeting—three lobbyists and a legislator discussing a proposal to educate Louisiana doctors about the price of drugs they prescribe.

The bill seemed like a no-brainer in a country where even decades-old medicines can cost thousands and consumers are urged to make smart choices in buying health care. The legislation simply required pharmaceutical sales representatives promoting medicines at doctors’ offices to also reveal a price.

No one expected the industry scrum that materialized.

About 10 pharma lobbyists flooded the room in Baton Rouge’s art deco state Capitol, some of them hired guns—lobbyists who’d never represented drug companies before—remembers Jeff Drozda, an insurance lobbyist at the 2016 meeting.

“The message was: We’re going to bring everything at you against these bills,” he said.

They did. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the powerful trade group known as PhRMA, donated directly to more lawmakers in Louisiana than in any other state in 2016, a new IRS filing shows. When discussion of the measure reached its peak last year, the industry hired a lobbyist for every two legislators. Read more »

Haven Hospice, which closed Key West center, hit with $5M fine a month ago

A month before Haven Hospice announced its affiliate, VNA and Hospice of the Florida Keys, will cease operating by Feb. 28, it agreed to pay a $5 million federal fine to resolve allegations it had billed the government for “medically unnecessary” services.

“Haven knowingly submitted false claims to the Medicare and Medicaid programs for medically unnecessary hospice care for certain patients who had lengths of stays greater than three years,” Acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow in Jacksonville said in a prepared statement.

Typically, federal health-care programs pay only for hospice care when patients are in a terminal condition and have a life expectancy of less than six months, prosecutors said on Dec. 21 by announcing the deal.

Haven this week said the Florida Keys hospice agency will shut down at the end of February due to continued financial stress only worsened by Hurricane Irma’s aftermath. The decision will leave the Lower Keys without any hospice services. Read more »