I’ve Received a Subpoena from the Feds . . . Now What?

Based on the recent activities of the HEAT strike teams in Texas (see here, here and here) , I would anticipate that many ambulance and other small healthcare providers may be getting subpoenas in the near future.  What should you do if you receive a subpoena from any government agency?

  1. This should be a no-brainer, but you should IMMEDIATELY call your attorney.  You don’t have an attorney?  Well, we won’t cover that here, but you should IMMEDIATELY contact a healthcare attorney familiar with the different types of government subpoenas. When HHS-OIG or the Department of Justice are asking for information, it is not time to chat with your brother-in-law or your best friend.  Don’t walk, but run to consult with an attorney because this is an very serious matter.
  2. Ensure that you have in place policies for document retention and destruction. AND FOLLOW THEM!  Absolutely do not destroy or alter documents.  If you learned nothing from Watergate (or the John Edwards trial for those of you younger than I), it is that a cover-up is always viewed worse than anything you could have possibly done wrong in the first place. And you need to make sure your employees understand the policy. And yes, you need to inform your employees (more on this later – the investigating agency may have already been talking to you people or may be doing so, soon.
  3. If you have followed the advice is No. 1, you can safely ignore this next advice because you will not be speaking with the Special Agent in charge of the investigation.  But if you do choose to speak to the investigating agent, understand that they have no obligation to help you or even tell you the truth.  The agent has a job – to investigate potential cases of healthcare fraud.  You did not receive the subpoena because the government is fishing blindly.  They are dropping a baited hook in the water where they know the fish are feeding – i.e. there is some indication that your billing and/or contracting violate Medicare or Medicaid rules or statutes. Let your attorney talk to the agent – if you have hired an attorney that has knowledge of federal subpoenas and the healthcare business, they will know what to talk to the agents about.

Part II on Thursday.

Marc