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shop online at www.missourivalleyshopper.com November 5, 2019 • Page 3 Sanford Health Entities to Pay $20.25 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations Regarding Kickbacks and Unnecessary Spinal Surgeries The Department of Justice announced Oct. 28 that hospital entities Sanford Health, Sanford Medical Center, and Sanford Clinic (collectively, Sanford), of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, have agreed to pay $20.25 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations that they knowingly submitted false claims to federal healthcare programs resulting from violations of the AntiKickback Statute and medically unnecessary spinal surgeries. The AntiKickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting, or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and other federally-funded programs. “Kickbacks can compromise a physician’s medical judgment, result in unnecessary procedures, and increase healthcare costs for everyone,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “We will continue to hold healthcare providers accountable when they violate the rules intended to safeguard the integrity of federal healthcare programs and the welfare of their beneficiaries.” The settlement announced today resolves allegations that Sanford knew that one of its top neurosurgeons was improperly receiving kickbacks from his use of implantable devices distributed by his physician-owned distributorship (POD). Sanford allegedly received warnings from the neurosurgeon’s physician colleagues and others about the alleged kickback scheme and was aware of the heightened compliance risks associated with PODs. In addition, the neurosurgeon’s colleagues and others repeatedly warned Sanford that the neurosurgeon was performing medically unnecessary procedures involving the devices in which he had a substantial financial interest. The United States alleged that, despite these repeated warnings, Sanford continued to employ the neurosurgeon, continued to allow him to profit from the devices he used in surgeries performed at Sanford, and continued to submit claims to federal healthcare programs for these surgeries, including procedures that were medically unnecessary. “Kickback schemes and other improper financial incentives create inherent conflicts of interest and warp the medical decisionmaking process,” said U.S. Attorney Ron Parsons for the District of South Dakota. “This office will continue to aggressively pursue anyone who colludes to violate federal law and compromise the integrity of our healthcare system.” Contemporaneous with the civil settlement, Sanford entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. The CIA requires, among other things, that Sanford maintain a compliance program, implement a risk assessment program, and hire an Independent Review Organization to review Medicare and Medicaid claims at Sanford Medical Center. It also increases individual accountability by requiring compliancerelated certifications from Sanford Medical Center’s board of directors and key executives. “More than six years ago the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General warned in a fraud alert that PODs were inherently suspect under the Anti-Kickback Statute. Unfortunately, these distributors remain questionable,” said Curt L. Muller, Special Agent in Charge, Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG). “Patients in government healthcare programs rightly expect that surgeries are medically indicated, not performed to increase provider profits.” The settlement resolves allegations originally brought in a lawsuit filed by Drs. Carl Dustin Bechtold and Bryan Wellman, surgeons at Sanford, under the whistleblower, or qui tam, provision of the False Claims Act, which allows private parties to bring suit on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery. The whistleblowers will receive $3.4 million of the settlement proceeds. The settlement was the result of an investigation by the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Dakota, and HHS-OIG. As part of the settlement, Sanford has agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice in litigation related to alleged co-defendants, and the hospital system has taken various remedial steps, including terminating the employment of the neurosurgeon in question and prohibiting all Sanford physicians from profiting from their use of medical devices at Sanford. The lawsuit is captioned United States ex rel. Bechtold, et al. v. Asfora, et al., No. 4:16-cv04115-LLP (D.S.D.). The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability. Noem Urges EPA To Reconsider Proposed Biofuels Rules PIERRE, S.D. – Governor Kristi Noem and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz yesterday sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler urging the agency to honor President Donald Trump’s commitment to follow the Renewable Fuel Standard. As part of President Trump’s Oct. 4 announcement, he directed the EPA to restore the biofuels lost when the agency granted disproportionate small refinery waivers At the time of the announcement, Noem applauded the administration’s plan, calling it a “big win for producers.” In their letter to the EPA, though, Noem and Governor Walz say that the agency’s proposed rules “demonstrate that EPA is oblivious to the harm it has caused.” In the past three years, the EPA has issued 85 small refinery waivers, representing a loss of over 4.3 billion gallons of biofuels. “President Trump’s announcement to expand ethanol production would be an incredible shot in the arm for South Dakota’s farmers. It would increase the demand for corn and improve long-term agriculture stability,” said Noem. “This announcement is meaningless, though, if the EPA fails to honor the president’s direction and shirks its responsibility to American farmers. The EPA’s recently proposed rules fail to fix the problems they previously caused and once again do not enforce ethanol production requirements. I strongly urge Administrator Wheeler and EPA leadership to reconsider this approach and utilize actual exempted gallon data to ensure the support of farmers and ranchers in South Dakota and throughout the nation.” “EPA chose to approve these waivers at a time when farmers and biofuel producers were already hurt by adverse weather conditions, flagging export market opportunities, and chronically low commodity prices. Approving these waivers when the agriculture economy was struggling represented a callous disregard for the economic interest our nation’s farmers,” Noem and Walz wrote in the letter. The governors urged the agency to use a threeyear rolling average of actual exempted gallons as CURE FOR COLLINS PRESENTS SHOP FOR A CAUSE HOLIDAY VENDOR FAIR & BAKE SALE South Dakota NAEP Scores Hold Steady PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota scores on the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the Nation’s Report Card, are mostly steady and remain at or above national scores. Bright spots include state scores in eighth-grade math and fourth-grade reading. A representative sample of students in grades four and eight in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Department of Defense schools take the test every other year. NAEP scores are based on a scale of 0 to 500. The state’s average scale score in eighth-grade math was 287, compared to the national average of 281. This score was higher than that of 30 other states. In eighth-grade reading, South Dakota’s average scale score was 263, compared to a national average of 262. In fourth-grade reading, South Dakota’s average scale score of 222 was higher than the national average of 219 and higher than that of 20 other states. In South Dakota, the fourth-grade reading score remained steady since the test was last administered in 2017, while the fourth-grade reading score average declined at the national level. South Dakota’s average scale score in fourth-grade math the basis to estimate 2020 exempted volumes. Noem is vice chair of the Governor’s Biofuels Coalition, a group of 21 governors who believe that increasing the use of clean-burning biofuels can decrease the nation’s dependence on imported energy resources, improve public health and the environment, and stimulate state economies. at https://nces.ed.gov/ was 241 in 2019, compared nationsreportcard/. to a national average of Sunday, November 10th 240. 11:30am – 3:30pm “South Dakota continues to score above the national Vermillion National average, but we must work Guard Armory Mobile Glass Service to increase our students’ academic successes,” said We’ll come to your home or office for 603 Princeton St. Secretary of Education windshield repair or replacement Vermillion, SD Dr. Ben Jones. “Our work to close the Opportunity Shop from many different vendors Gap will focus on students and craft booths, enjoy a tavern, who need additional sip on some hot cocoa or coffee, support. We are working and enjoy the holiday spirit all while with school districts to shopping for a worthy cause. implement knowledge-rich curriculum, partnering with All proceeds will benefit children in need communities to support in the nd rd th th th th children’s needs, and December 2 & 3 , 9 & 10 , 16 & 17 • 1-3:00PM Vermillion School District. All donations stay local! supporting teachers Bring Your Cameras! in 1915 Broadway, Yankton their critical work in our classrooms.” Find more information Got A Rock Chip? Ron’s Auto Glass 605.665.9841 Always LOW Liquor Prices! •Busch & Busch Light 30 pks ........... $15.79 •Old Milwaukee & Light 30 pks ........$14.99 •Miller High Life & Light 30 pks ........$14.99 •Bud & Bud Light 24 pks ........................$17.99 109 W. 3rd St. • 605-665-7865 * Yankton Meridian District * www.yanktonrexall.com UTV V–Plow Turn your utility vehicle into a sidewalk snow removal specialist. 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