Summary of Massachusetts Doctor’s HIPAA Violation & Penalty
A federal jury in Massachusetts convicted a Springfield gynecologist, Dr. Rita Luthra, of one count of violation of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and one count of obstruction of a criminal health care investigation. The conviction stems from a 2015 Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation of Warner Chilcott (Chilcott), a pharmaceutical company that pled guilty to felony health care fraud arising from its alleged illegal marketing practices as part of a $125 million settlement. Luthra was one of five people charged as part of the Chilcott investigation.
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According to prosecutors, Chilcott paid kickbacks to physicians, in the form of “speaker” fees and free meals, in exchange for an increased prescription of Chilcott drugs from 2009 to 2013. Chilcott also manipulated prior authorizations to induce insurance companies to pay for prescriptions of their drugs. In 2015, Luthra was initially accused of violating the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) by accepting about $23,500 from Chilcott in exchange for prescribing Chilcott osteoporosis drugs. Prosecutors alleged that Luthra acted as a “speaker” for the company and was paid $750 on 31 occasions to hold educational events. However, later that year, prosecutors revised the indictment and removed the AKS violation charge, instead adding charges of HIPAA violation, witness tampering, and obstruction of a criminal health care investigation. From January through November 2011, Luthra had allowed a pharmaceutical sales representative from Chilcott to access protected health information (PHI) in her patients’ medical files and provided false information to federal agents regarding her relationship with Chilcott. Luthra lied to federal agents when interviewed, stating that she was paid to read and speak about clinical research and never shared confidential patient information.
Criminal Penalties for HIPAA Violations
The charge of a HIPAA violation carries a sentence of up to one year in prison and/or a fine of $50,000 and one year of supervised release. The charge of obstructing a criminal health care investigation carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and three years of supervised release.
Connect With a HIPAA Compliance Expert
Strategic Management Services provides HIPAA compliance consulting and risk assessment services to ensure organizations meet the requirements of HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. If you would like to speak to one of our compliance experts you can contact us online or give us a call at (703) 683-9600.Subscribe to blog