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DOJ pursues EKRA charges against drug treatment facility

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced it will pursue a conspiracy to violate the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act (EKRA) charge against a drug treatment facility owner. When faced with these charges, the owner, Dr. Akikur Mohammad, chose to plead guilty. He now faces up to five years imprisonment and $250,000 in fines or twice the gross gain from the offense.

What can we learn from this case?

EKRA, enacted by Congress in 2018, is a relatively new law. Lawmakers intend it to bar kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals at drug treatment facilities, but the broad nature of the language of the law has led to some confusion over how it will actually be used by the government. Due to this confusion, following any cases can help provide some guidance on the role this law will play in healthcare operations.

What were the charges in this situation?

In this case, the feds claim Dr. Mohammed was part of scheme that used a referral company that bribed individuals addicted to heroin and other drugs to enter a rehab center. The referral company would allegedly first make sure the individuals had sufficient insurance to cover the cost of the rehab center, then refer the qualifying individuals to Dr. Mohammed and others. The rehab owners would then pay the referral company a fee for the recommendations, often ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 per patient.

What should physicians learn from this case?

The government is pursuing charges when evidence is present to support allegations of an EKRA violation — and these charges can lead to imprisonment. Take the time to review your marketing practices to make sure they do not violate EKRA or other federal regulations. A failure to do so could result in criminal charges.