Labs in Court

Texas Provider Pays $214K for Violating Federal COVID-19 Workplace Protocols

Case: In what appears to be a first, the Texas parent of an Iowa nursing home has agreed to repay $214,200 in federal monies for not following COVID-19 safety protocols during an outbreak at the facility from April through July 2020. Among other things, the nursing home didn’t properly screen employees or require them to wear personal protective equipment. According to newspaper reports, three employees exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and who subsequently tested positive for the virus were allowed to come to work and be near vulnerable residents, 11 of whom died during the outbreak.

Significance: The relatively small settlement award belies the importance of this case in that it represents the first settlement with a health care provider for violating the COVID-19 workplace safety protocols during the pandemic. Labs that billed Medicare during the pandemic knowing that they were out of compliance with COVID-19 safety rules run the risk of liability under the False Claims Act. Notably, however, the settlement is based not on FCA liability but on “restitution,” which is typically used to describe repayment of money received by mistake. It’s also worth noting that the company in this case cooperated in the investigation, which is a highly advisable strategy if your lab comes under investigative scrutiny. In the meantime, continue to follow the screening, PPE and other safety rules scrupulously.

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