PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced last week that the Cigna Group, a national insurer with corporate offices in Philadelphia, has agreed to pay $172,294,350 to resolve allegations that it violated the civil False Claims Act.
According to a press release from the eastern district of Pennsylvania, Cigna submitted and failed to withdraw inaccurate and untruthful diagnosis codes for its Medicare Advantage Plan enrollees in order to increase its payments from Medicare. Of this amount, Cigna will pay $135,294,350 to resolve allegations arising from an investigation based out of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
“Given the growth of Medicare Advantage plans, investigating fraud involving Medicare Part C is more important than ever. My office has prioritized combatting Medicare Advantage fraud, including applying data-driven investigative methods and working extensively with our law enforcement partners across the country,” said Romero of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “We will hold accountable those who report unsupported diagnoses to inflate Medicare Advantage payment, such as unsupported diagnosis codes for morbid obesity.”
Under the Medicare Advantage (MA) Program, also known as Medicare Part C, Medicare beneficiaries have the option of obtaining their Medicare-covered benefits through private insurance plans called MA Plans. Over half of the nation’s Medicare beneficiaries are now enrolled in MA Plans, and the government pays private insurers over $450 billion each year to provide for their care.
CMS pays the MA Plans a fixed monthly amount for each beneficiary who enrolls. CMS adjusts these monthly payments to account for various “risk” factors that affect expected health expenditures for the beneficiary, to ensure that MA Plans are paid more for those beneficiaries expected to incur higher healthcare costs and less for healthier beneficiaries expected to incur lower costs. To make these adjustments, CMS collects “risk adjustment” data, including medical diagnosis codes, from the MA Plans.
Cigna owns and operates MA Organizations that offer MA Plans to beneficiaries across the country. The United States alleges that Cigna submitted inaccurate and untruthful patient diagnosis data to CMS in order to inflate the payments it received from CMS, failed to withdraw the inaccurate and untruthful diagnosis data and repay CMS, and falsely certified in writing to CMS that the data was accurate and truthful. The settlement resolves these allegations.