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What to Do If You Receive an Inquiry From the USMLE, ECFMG, or NBME

By Achal A. Aggarwal, J.D., M.B.A., Attorney, The Health Law Firm

The National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) is an organization that sets certain standards for anyone seeking licensure in the U.S. It prepares and administers state recognized examinations for medical students and medical residents, to assure they meet certain requirements for clinical knowledge (CK) and ability to interact effectively with patient using the English language, the latter know as “clinical skills” (CK). The NBME’s mission is centered on the assessment of physicians. The NBME develops and manages the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) through the USMLE Secretariat.

The USMLE is a multi-part professional examination sponsored by the NBME and the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). In order to obtain a license to practice medicine or to participate in medical specialty residency programs in the U.S., one must take and successfully pass all four parts of the USMLE. Each part of the USMLE is referred to as a “step.”

Foreign medical graduates must register with and be screened by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), in order to take the USMLE step examinations and become licensed in the U.S. They must also pass all of the steps of the USMLE.

The USMLE is administered in four parts: USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK), USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS), and the USMLE Step 3.

When a medical student or medical resident is suspected of compromising the validity, integrity, or security of the examination process, the USMLE and the NBME will investigate. The investigation is to determine whether or not that student or resident obtained proprietary information or helped others to cheat on the USMLE.

The Consequences of Irregular Behavior Charges.

When the USMLE, NBME, or ECFMG has initially determined that a student, medical school graduate, resident or fellow, may have committed some act that may have violated the integrity of the examination, may have attempted to gain an unfair advantage over other test-takers, or may have violated the security of the test, then it will charge that student or resident with what is called “irregular behavior.” This term could probably be interchanged with the word “cheating” but is much broader than and may encompass far more than what you would normally think of as cheating.

A charge of irregular behavior can have many unforeseen adverse consequences. Not only can these be adverse actions taken by the NBME, USMLE, or ECFMG, they may extend even wider.
The NBME, USMLE, or ECFMG may, for example void test scores, prohibit you from taking a test exam for a number of years, ban you from ever taking the step exams again, or may simply mark your transcript of test scores with the finding of “Irregular Behavior” (think of a big red stamp on your transcript that says “Irregular Behavior” or “Cheated”). However, such a finding may also result in the student’s being expelled from their medical school, not receiving a medical degree, or prevented from applying in the match program.

However, before the medical student or resident is officially charged with committing irregular behavior, the USMLE, NBME, or ECFMG sends a letter informing the individual of the charge and giving the person ceratin rights. The letter also offers the student or resident an opportunity to defend the allegation and attend a hearing in front of a committee (usually called the “Committee for Individualized Review” or CIR) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What to Do If You Receive a Letter from the USMLE Accusing You of Irregular Behavior.

The letter will usually include certain information and analysis including: the number of times the student or resident took the particular Step examination previously, the percentage of actual test questions to which the student was exposed, how well other test-takers did on the same individual questions, the time spent on the questions, the actions the person allegedly committed which violated the organization’s guidelines, and other information that may be relevant regarding the alleged “Irregular Behavior.”

Details on the rights the individual has to retake the tests or to challenge the findings by requesting a hearing is also included. These are contained in a section of the letter or in a separate attachment called “Policies and Procedures.”

If requested in writing in a timely manner, the CIR will schedule a time to review the facts surrounding the allegations (a hearing) and to hear from the individual. The person may just submit an explanation in writing without requesting an in-person hearing, but we recommend strongly against this. The student or resident may request and attend a hearing before the committee, in person or with an attorney (which we strongly recommend), if he or she so desires. The hearing takes place in Philadelphia.

Evidence may be submitted by the student, including his or her own testimony. The student may have legal representation (an attorney) with him or her at the hearing. Hearings have resulted in students having their test scores validated and being allowed to progress with their professional careers unfettered. They have also resulted in bans from ever retaking the step exams (in the most egregious cases).

Important Factors to Consider for a Hearing Before the Committee for Individualized Review.

Attending a hearing before the CIR is not a process that should be taken lightly, not is it a procedure that you should attempt without experienced counsel. We do not recommend attending such a hearing without an attorney and plenty of advance preparation.

When deciding whether or not to hire an attorney to represent you in this matter, consider the cost and time you expended in preparing for and taking these examinations. In addition, consider the time you will lose from your medical education, residency, internship, or future career if your passing scores are not validated and your studies and career are delayed. It seems illogical not to retain the services of an attorney experienced with this type of matter and this type of hearing, given the high stakes at issue. Even if you have some knowledge of law, evidence, and civil procedure, it is difficult to represent yourself while also being your own witness. Those who are not experienced in such matters will make fundamental mistakes that will harm their case.

Procedural guidelines furnished by the committee need to be followed regarding how evidence is given to the committee and presented at the hearing. Preparation for the hearing would include meetings in advance, preparation of questions and answers and other matters to help ensure a proper presentation. One who is not familiar with such proceedings may overlook key issues and concentrate on issues that are not relevant to the committee’s determination. Any presentation of documents for consideration at the hearing must include excellent organization and a professional presentation. This must be done well in advance of the hearing. In certain cases, it may be necessary to hire an expert witness if the issues and facts require it; however, live witnesses, other than the individual charged, are not allowed at the hearing. It is important to note that the CIR will have its own attorney present at the hearing and there are several attorneys who may be on the committee itself.

Finally, anyone with a charge of irregular behavior should remember that the CIR is not comprised of individuals who are “on your side.” The CIR’s purpose is to ensure that the USMLE policies and procedures are strictly enforced and will enforce them if it does not find your case convincing. The best way to make your strongest argument is to hire someone who has experience with CIR hearings and has won cases in front of it.

Everyone needs someone on their side and we strongly encourage you to hire someone who knows the process associated with Irregular Behavior and the CIR and who will fight for your right to defend yourself.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent interns, residents, fellows and medical school students in disputes with their medical schools, supervisors, residency programs and in dismissal hearings. We have experience representing such individuals and those in graduate medical education programs in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete integral parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), because of discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation and any other matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: Achal A. Aggarwal is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Graduate medical education (GME) defense attorney, international medical graduate attorney, graduate medical education defense lawyer, lawyer for medical students, medical resident physician attorney, residency program legal dispute, residency program litigation, medical school litigation, legal representation for medical residents, legal dispute with medical school, medical students legal counsel, disruptive physician attorney, impaired medical student legal counsel, impaired resident legal defense attorney, United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) defense lawyer, USMLE defense attorney, National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) defense counsel, Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) defense lawyer, ECFMG defense attorney, legal representation for USMLE investigations, legal representation for NBME investigations, legal representation for irregular behavior, irregular behavior defense attorney, irregular behavior defense counsel, health law attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, Philadelphia attorney for ECFMG hearing, Philadelphia lawyer for NBME hearing, Philadelphia legal counsel for USMLE hearing

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Florida’s Medical Marijuana Once Again Threatened by Unnecessary Legal Setbacks

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The resignation of Florida’s medical marijuana chief on August 17, 2018, and a series of recent court losses, has once again threatened the state’s efforts for controlled legalization of marijuana.

On August 2, 2018, a Tallahassee judge struck down the licensing structure that the state Legislature and Department of Health (DOH) enacted for medical marijuana providers. In his order, Circuit Judge Charles Dodson said the state’s imposition of a cap on the number of medical marijuana treatment centers and its requirement for vertical integration from growing to dispensing “directly contradicts” a 2016 amendment to the Florida Constitution.

“Implementing” the Law or Impeding the Law?

In 2014, the Florida Legislature took the first step toward a sane approach to marijuana by legalizing a non-euphoric strain, known as Charlotte’s Web.

In November 2016, Amendment 2 to the Florida Constitution, legalizing medical marijuana, passed with 71 percent approval, its authorization for medical use. However, since that happened, state officials, state bureaucrats and the state legislature have done nothing but attempt to restrict and impede its use, ignoring the will of the people they are supposed to be serving.

The legislature passed an “implementing” law for the amendment in 2017, but the rule-making process and initial rollout has been slow and bogged down by complex litigation. To read more on the law, click here.

Attempts to artificially limit the number of growers, the number of dispensaries, and the forms that are legal to use, have all been used to impede implementation.

Such herculean efforts by state bureaucrats and legislatures, who are supposed to be carrying out the will of the citizens, is unconscionable. Even when the Florida Constitution itself requires them to preform certain duties, they just obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. Thank goodness for conscientious judges like Judge Dodson, who honor the law, follow the law, and will hopefully help enforce the law, regardless of the politics of those who chose to ignore and impede it.

This just shows that future constitutional amendments concerning the legalization of marijuana and marijuana products, and I am sure nothing less than additional constitutional amendments will be required, will need to state that they are self-implementing and no act of the state legislature or rule of any state agency is required carry it out. In fact, any such future constitutional amendment should specifically prohibit them from interfering with its implementation.

Ongoing Legal Battles.

With the recent rulings rejecting a smoking ban and saying a cancer patient can grow his own plants, experts fear that Judge Dodson’s August ruling will drastically alter the current landscape. Lawyers, who specialize in the field of marijuana law, say this ruling has the greatest potential impact of any decision to date. Additionally, banking and money issues, litigation and politics have continued to shake up the outcome.

Thanks for attorney John Morgan and other advocates who take up and challenge the attempts to fight the will of the people of Florida. During the next election, marijuana advocates should run advertisements specifically targeting those officials who enacted legislation or who attempted to enact agency rules placing obstacles to implementing the constitutional amendment.

What Outcome is Best for the State of Florida?

The state of Florida has the potential to become one of the nation’s largest markets for medical marijuana, likely worth billions of dollars. It has the third-largest population, which is growing and features a large number of elderly residents, lawyers noted. So, when it comes to medical marijuana, the question remains, “What is best for the state of Florida in the long run?”

To learn more on the status of Florida’s marijuana legalization, click here to read one of my prior blogs. Be sure to check our Marijuana Law Blog regularly for updates.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact the Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Hale, Nathan. “Fla. Medical Marijuana Measure May Boost Business For Firms.” Law360. (October 25, 2016). Web.

Hale, Nathan. “Setbacks Shake Up Fla.’s Medical Marijuana Rollout.” Law360. (August 17, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Florida medical marijuana legislation, medical marijuana representation, marijuana attorney, medical marijuana lawyer, marijuana defense attorney, legal representation for medical marijuana issues, Florida marijuana law attorney, marijuana law defense lawyer, representation for marijuana growers, representation for marijuana distributors, defense attorney for marijuana growers, defense attorney for marijuana distributors, defense lawyer for medical marijuana, decriminalization of marijuana in Florida, health law defense attorney, Florida medical cannabis representation, medical cannabis lawyer, cannabis defense lawyer, medical marijuana defense attorney, health lawyers for marijuana distributors, legal counsel for marijuana growers and distributors, medical marijuana laws, medical marijuana legalization, recreational marijuana laws and regulations, legal representation for recreational marijuana in a business, legal counsel for marijuana law, legal representation for marijuana criminalization, legal representation for marijuana regulations, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Hey, Health Care Professionals…Why Can’t We Be Friends?!

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Every year, our firm sponsors and attends various medical industry events. Needless to say, our law firm table is not the most popular hangout spot. If we had a penny for every time we have heard “Yikes, an attorney! I hope I never need you.” we could close our doors and all retire.

The feeling is akin to being the last kid picked for teams in gym class. So we ask ourselves: why are we attorneys shunned by health care professionals? Why won’t anyone make eye contact with us at meetings and events? Why is there a negative stigma attached to the phrase “law firm?”

We found the answer.

It’s Not Us. It’s You.

Before you take great offense to such a bold statement, hear me out. Society as a whole seems to have a misconceived notion that a law firm’s services are solely for reactive purposes. Meaning, you need defensive legal assistance. In these reactive situations, lawyers defend their clients to make the most out of an unfortunate situation. I frequently hear, “well nothing has gone wrong yet, so why do I need an attorney?” Here’s the secret: We can do much more than help you when something has gone wrong.

To reap the maximum potential from your profession, you should be utilizing “legal checkups” instead of burying your head in the sand. First, it’s more cost effective to hire a lawyer proactively BEFORE something goes wrong. When you are proactive about your legal needs, you have time to be selective in choosing the right lawyer for your needs. You can build a foundation before you invest in your legal needs. Typically, if you are in need of a lawyer to reactively defend you, you’re already knee-deep and you won’t be afforded the opportunity to find the best attorney.

Taking The Initiative Legal Business Advice.

The benefits of proactively obtaining an attorney are often overlooked. Having an attorney available at any time for legal protection and business advice may not always cross a health care professional’s mind. I find this to be ironic. Health care professionals recommend patients to eat healthy, exercise often, take daily vitamins, and schedule regular checkups. All these suggestions are proactive measures to ensure a stable life, full of longevity. Doesn’t it grind your gears when patients overlook your expert advice until something goes terribly wrong? We can both agree that preemptive measures are necessary in health and health care business.

I am not a medical expert, therefore, I would not attempt to perform a surgical procedure or offer a diagnosis. Legal services are the same. Most health care professionals cannot draft a contract themselves or set up a partnership office flawlessly without experienced legal expertise.

Proactive Legal Help We Often See Overlooked.

Whether it be our firm or not, health care professionals and businesses need a trusted health law attorney readily available to ask for help when additional legal knowledge, experience, or judgment is needed. The following list outlines health care business legal services that are proactive in nature.

– Obtain a contract review, of any agreement, before you sign the dotted line. It is crucial to
have a lawyer experienced in health law review convoluted documents that may bind you to
terms and conditions that you should not be liable for.

– Hire an attorney to negotiate your employment contracts to ensure that you are fairly
compensated for your work.

– A health law attorney adept in assisting with a business restructuring is invaluable. Whether
you are opening or closing a medical office, taking part in a merger, or launching or dissolving
a partnership, these transactions are complex. It is not in your best interest to attempt any
business maneuver without the input of a trusted health law attorney who is familiar with your
professional business goals.

– A compliance assessment is an important proactive measure for health providers and
businesses. With the increase of federal and state oversight, it is wise to have a thorough
review and analysis of your business protocols and procedures on a regular basis. An
experienced health law attorney can help you avoid critical administrative pitfalls. These
assessments verify compliance in areas such as: Medicare/Medicaid billing claims, patient
record keeping, HIPAA and HITECH procedures, etc.

You know what they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Hiring an attorney is NOT solely for the purpose of negative occurrences or damaging mistakes. As a health care professional, it is crucial to work with a trusted health lawyer to advise you in your business decisions. Don’t rely on the notion that you don’t need a lawyer until you are in trouble. Heeding our warning, you could save yourself a lot of time and money.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in Negotiating and Evaluating Physician and Health Professional’s Business Transactions.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, durable medical equipment suppliers (DME), medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider or facility.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, preparing contracts, helping employers and employees enforce contracts, advice on setting aside or voiding contracts, litigation of contracts (in state or federal court), business transactions, professional license defense, opinion letters, representation in investigations, fair hearing defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, litigation of restrictive covenant, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Proactive legal services, health law legal advice, health care professional legal help, corporate law, corporate health law, contract review, employment contract reviews, office reconstruction, medical office reconstruction, compliance assessment, partnership dissolutions, mergers, legal business advice, corporate law attorney, corporate lawyer, employment law, employment law attorney, contract negotiation, contract negotiation attorney, contract negotiation lawyer, health law, business law, legal business advice, legal advice, health care professional, attorney for health care professionals, representation for health care professionals, representation for health care facilities, health law defense lawyer, employment law representation, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

NYC Doctor Gets Prison Term for Posing as Clinic Owner in $30 Million Fraud Scheme

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On August 22, 2018, a doctor received a sentence of one year and a day in prison from a New York federal court for his part in a $30 million scheme to defraud Medicare and the state Medicaid program. The doctor admitted to posing as the owner of a medical clinic and falsely claiming to have seen hundreds of patients. He pled guilty on January 11, 2018, to health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Lies and Cover-ups.

The New York City doctor accepted responsibility for falsely posing as the owner of two medical clinics that were actually owned by a corrupt businessman, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Under New York state law, medical clinics must be owned and operated by a medical professional. The businessman was able to evade the requirements of the law by hiring doctors to pose as the owners of each clinic.

The corrupt businessman owned and operated six medical clinics in Brooklyn between 2007 and 2013 that fraudulently billed Medicare and Medicaid. Approximately $30 million was billed for services and supplies that were not provided, according to the indictment and other documents filed in federal court, as well as statements made during the doctor’s plea proceeding and sentencing.

Additionally, the doctor fabricated false medical records to support the fraudulent reimbursement claims and wrote prescriptions and referrals for medically unnecessary tests and supplies, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

The Punishment.

U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield sentenced the doctor to three years of supervised release in addition to the prison term for his role in the scheme. He was also ordered to pay restitution of approximately $1.83 million and to forfeit $269,412 in unlawful gains. The three other defendants involved in this case, a doctor, a physical therapist and an occupational therapist, are scheduled to go to trial at a later date. Click here to learn more.

“The Medicare and Medicaid programs are intended to provide essential medical services to the elderly and the needy, not to enrich corrupt doctors and other fraudsters,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement. “Today’s sentence sends a strong message that those who cheat Medicare and Medicaid, including physicians who abuse their licenses and professional oaths, will be held accountable.” You can view the U.S. Attorney’s press release here.

To read about a similar case of fraud, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

This is a Dangerous Pitfall of Which all Doctors and Dentists Must Be Aware.

This is the type of situation we often see in which a doctor or dentist is victimized by dishonest and corrupt scofflaws, especially here in Florida. Most often an older physician who is retired or semi-retired is asked to become the “medical director” or “dental director” of a clinic that is owned in whole or in part by someone else. The physician may not even know who its true owners are. Later the physician or dentist is asked to serve as the “president” or as a “director” of the company and his/her name is placed on all the corporate papers. The trouble really begins, however, when the true owner(s) places the physician’s or dentist’s name on corporate papers and licensing papers as an “owner,” “shareholder” or “member” of the business, when the physician has paid nothing for the business and is not truly the owner.

If a physician or dentist becomes aware of such a scheme and gets out of it as soon as she or her finds out, the physician or dentist may be able to avoid prosecution or liability. However, if the physician or dentist continues to do business with the true owners as an “owner on paper,” “shell owner,” or “sham owner,” (they all mean the same thing, “fraudulent owner”) then he or she can be in for some serious civil and criminal liability.

There can be serious criminal penalties, such as the one reported on in this blog. For example, in Florida, it is a felony for a non-dentist (meaning a dentist not licensed in Florida) to own or control a dental clinic in Florida. It is also a criminal offense for a layperson (or a business entity owned by lay persons), to own or control a medical clinic, unless it goes through the strict health care clinic license requirements that Florida law requires. If the clinic is owned or operated illegally (even if it’s “just on paper”), then all of the bills it issue are also illegal.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare and Medicaid Fraud Cases.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions. They also represent them in preparing and submitting corrective action plans (CAPs), requests for reconsideration, and appeal hearings, including Medicare administrative hearings before an administrative law judge.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Hanson, Joyce. “Doc Gets Year In Prison For Role In $30M Medicare Fraud.” Law360. (August 22, 2018). Web.

“NYC Doctor Gets Prison Term for Role in $30M Fraud Scam.” Bloomberg Law. (August 22, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Medicare and Medicaid fraud representation, false claims attorney, false claims representation, representation for overbilling, representation for DOJ investigations, fraud defense attorney, representation for medicare issues, representation for Medicaid issues, Medicare lawyer, Medicaid lawyer, health care fraud investigation representation, health care fraud defense representation, Medicare fraud representation, health care professional representation, representation for physicians, representation for physician reimbursement, licensure defense attorney, professional license representation, licensure defense representation, representation for health care professionals, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, Florida health law defense lawyer, owner on paper, shell owner, or sham owner, paper owner, Florida dental clinic ownership, health care clinic license

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

New Update to the Medicare Program Integrity Manual Issued by CMS

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On June 1, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued further guidance for reporting and reviewing final adverse legal actions (ALAs) in provider enrollment applications. Section 15.5.3 of the Medicare Program Integrity Manual (MPIM) was updated through Transmittal 797 to provide more guidance on the types of final adverse actions that must be disclosed. It also provides additional instruction to Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) on how to process disclosed final adverse actions.

New Language Basics.

The update in Section 15.5.3 of the MPIM clarifies the scope of disclosure, the time frames for disclosure and the evidence needed to support a disclosure.

Per the 2018 update, the list of reportable adverse actions includes: felony and misdemeanor convictions within the last 10 years; current or past suspensions/revocations of a medical license or an accreditation; current or past suspensions or exclusions imposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG); current or past debarments for participation in any Federal Executive Branch procurement or non-procurement program; Medicaid exclusions, revocations, or terminations; and current or past federal sanctions of any type.

New Guidance for MACs.

The second part of the update to the Manual provides additional guidance concerning how MACs will review applications and process the disclosure of final adverse actions. The update also covers how MACs should handle both reported and unreported adverse actions. MACs are now required to use either the Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) or the System for Award Management (SAM) to research whether individuals with ownership interest of the applicant entity are excluded.

To view all the language in Transmittal 797, which outlines the updated Section 15.5.3, click here.

For more information, visit CMS’ website.

Click here to view another recent update issued by CMS.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, skilled nursing facilities (SNF’s) durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative
hearings at both the state and the federal level. We represent health providers in Medicare and Medicaid audits and disputes on a routine basis.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

King & Spalding. “CMS Updates Rules for Reporting Adverse Legal Action.” JD Supra. (August 25, 2018). Web.

Dhillion, Megan. “Update to the Medicare Program Integrity Manual: New Requirements Related to Disclosing and Processing Final Adverse Actions.” AHLA. (August 24, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Ready or Not, It’s Irregular Behavior Season Once Again…

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Every year, our firm receives calls from panicked medical students and residents about a recent letter they have received, alleging irregular behavior on standardized medical examinations.

This letter may come from the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), or the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). No matter the organization, if you receive a letter alleging irregular behavior, it will typically say the following:

A bulletin or policy related to the exam stating that Irregular Behavior is not permitted.

The facts alleging irregular behavior in this case.

You have an opportunity to respond to the allegations, in person, with counsel.

Often there is a very short window of time to respond to such allegations. While this is important because it is urgent that you get your results test results, it also gives a limited time to prepare to defend yourself.

What is Irregular Behavior?

Although irregular behavior is not the same thing as cheating, it is often thought of as the same by medical school officials and residency program directors. A notice of irregular behavior may hold up and delay your entry into a residency program, your graduation from medical school, and your job opportunities. Your examination scores will be held up while the matter is reviewed by a USMLE Committee on irregular behavior or until a hearing can be held.

What Should You Do?

Once you receive an irregular behavior letter, begin to compile documents to defend yourself. Write out your version of events in order to recall what happened. Collect character reference letters from professors and administrators that attest to your integrity.

Place the personal appearance date listed in your letter on your calendar. It is of upmost importance that you attend in person, preferably with representation. Hearings are usually held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, so plan accordingly.

Why Hiring an Attorney Matters.

An attorney can provide the following services to someone accused of irregular behavior:
Review documents, videos, photographs, and all other information that pertains to your case.

Recommend other documents that you should obtain in your defense.

Prepare you for a personal appearance before the respective board or committee making the allegations, and will also make a personal appearance with you at hearing.

Prepare you to answer questions under pressure and on the day of your hearing.

The takeaway message is that retaining an attorney to represent you against irregular behavior allegations could be the difference between a clear record and a mark that will follow you for the rest of your career. Don’t risk jeopardizing your future as a healthcare practitioner. Consult with an attorney as soon as you receive notice of allegations against you regarding irregular behavior.

Consequences of an Irregular Behavior Finding.

If a finding of irregular behavior is made against you, then this usually means that your best score is voided, and you must retake it. The USMLE Committee may require you to wait a year or more to retake the examination. This can prevent you from obtaining or entering a residency program or it may delay you from graduating. Furthermore, the notation that you were found to have committed irregular behavior will be placed on your Step exam transcript. This will be reported out when your test scores are reported.

As indicated above, many medical decision makers view this as similar to cheating. It may disqualify you for many jobs or residency programs that you would otherwise be considered for. If you are accused of irregular behavior, immediately consult with an attorney who has actual experience in dealing with this matter. You can find more information about irregular behavior by clicking here to watch our informational video blog. Click here to read one of my prior blogs on USMLE.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys For Irregular Behavior or USMLE Issues Today.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to medical students, residents, interns and fellows in academic disputes, graduate medical education (GME) hearings, contract negotiations, license applications, board certification applications and hearings, credential hearings, and civil and administrative litigations.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

Keywords: National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), medical students, medical resident, irregular behavior, United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), Examination Committee for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), cheating, USMLE preparation course , USMLE hearings, USMLE appeals, defense attorney, defense lawyer, legal representation, medical student lawyer, medical student attorney, medical resident lawyer, medical resident attorney, medical intern lawyer, medical intern attorney, accused of irregular behavior, The Health Law Firm reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Helpful Tips to Speed Up the Medicare Prepayment Review Process

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

For Medicare providers, being notified of an impending audit is not welcome news. Being notified of a prepayment review is even worse. In a prepayment review, the health care provider must submit documentation to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) contractor before ever receiving payment. The health care provider will only receive payment (typically months later) if the contractor is satisfied with the provider’s documentation. This can be financially disastrous for the health care provider, who still must pay day-to-day expenses while waiting for a decision.

CMS Contractors.

If you have received notice of prepayment review, you first need to determine the contractor that has initiated the review. CMS contracts with four types of contractors:

– Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs);
– Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) contractors;
– Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs); and
– Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs).

Both the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) and Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) can initiate prepayment reviews.

MAC Prepayment Reviews.

MACs will initiate prepayment reviews of health care providers suspected of improper billing for services. If the MAC detects anything resembling fraud during the process, the prepayment review can extend for up to a year or more. However, MACs will generally terminate the prepayment review when the health care provider demonstrates a pattern of correct billing. Health care providers who are notified of a MAC prepayment review should consult with an experienced health care attorney from the beginning of the process. An experienced health attorney will be able to assist the health care provider to ensure everything is in place for a speedy prepayment review.

ZPIC Prepayment Reviews.

A MAC may refer a health care provider to a ZPIC for a benefit integrity prepayment review if they suspect fraud. A ZPIC can also initiate a benefit integrity prepayment review based on data analysis.  Unlike MACs, ZPICs generally are less willing to communicate with health care providers about the prepayment review.

Additionally, there are different time limitations for a benefit integrity prepayment review. The MAC prepayment review is governed by Medicare Manual provisions that stipulate a maximum length of time on a prepayment review. However, a benefit integrity prepayment review can last indefinitely, if the basis for the review is not timely and properly addressed by the health care provider.

Further, ZPICs make fraud referrals to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Thus, health care providers should view ZPIC correspondence as the start of a potentially larger investigation. An experienced health care attorney should be contacted immediately after a health care provider receives any contact from ZPIC.

How to Accomplish a Speedy Review.

In many cases, the health care provider will be on Medicare prepayment review until its billing accuracy reaches a certain percentage. However there are other steps to help speed up the Medicare prepayment audit process.

1.  Read all Correspondence from the Contractor Carefully.

Pay close attention to all correspondence sent by the contractor. Make a note of the due date given and make sure your response is sent well within the time limits. Denials will usually occur if a response is not received by the given deadline. Also be sure that you send your response to the correct office.

2.  Be Familiar with Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs).

You should read and be familiar with any and all applicable local coverage determinations (LCDs) and national coverage determinations (NCDs) for any codes, services, supplies or equipment you are billing.

3.  Contact an Experienced Health Care Attorney Immediately.

A health care attorney who is experienced in prepayment reviews will be able to help you file a proper response in a timely fashion. An attorney will also be able to help find out additional information on why you have been placed on prepayment review and exactly what documentation the auditor is looking for. Alternatively, a health care consultant who has actual experience in working on Medicare cases and who has been an expert witness in Medicare hearings may be able to assist, as well.

4.  Contact the Contractor Responsible for the Review.

After you have consulted with an attorney, schedule a call with the contractor responsible for your prepayment review. During the call learn as many details about the audit as you can and find out what the reviewer wants in the documentation.

However, do not:
a. Argue with the auditor.
b. Berate or demean the auditor.
c. Challenge the auditor’s knowledge, competence or credentials.
d. Ask the auditor to prove anything to you.
e. Demand to speak to the auditor’s supervisor.

5.  Do Not File Duplicate Claims.

Keep track of all requests for additional documentation and when they were received. Do not think that you need to file another claim for the same items just because you have not received a response as quickly as other claims where additional documentation was not requested. If you provide duplicate claims, the contractor’s decision can be delayed.

6.  Organize all Submissions and Results.

You must keep track of the date you receive the document request for a claim, the date you submitted the documentation for review, the result of the audit and the date the result was received. This will help you realize how quickly claims are reviewed. If a one claim’s review has taken longer than the others you’ve submitted, you can contact the reviewer to make sure they have received the claim and everything is in order.

7.  Follow-up with the Contractor for Feedback.

Keep in contact with the contractor throughout the review. This will help to maintain the relationship you initiated after first receiving notice of the prepayment review. This will also help you keep track of any issues and resolve them. Be sure to discuss how you can improve your claim submissions to meet the standards of your particular reviewer.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent health care providers in prepayment reviews. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Sources:

Baird, Jeff. “Q&A with Jeff Baird: How to Prepare for and Survive Prepayment Reviews.” Home Care. (Sept. 13, 2010). From http://homecaremag.com/news/prepayment-review-faq-20100913/

Greene, Stephanie Morgan. “5 Steps to Get Off Pre-Payment Audit – Quickly!” Harrington Managment Group. (Mar. 18, 2011). From
http://homecaremag.com/news/prepayment-review-faq-20100913/

About the Author:  George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Tag Words: prepayment audit, prepayment review, Medicare audits, Medicare, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS, RAC, Recovery Audit Contractor, ZPIC, Zone Program Integrity Contractor, MAC, Medicare Administrative Contractor, CERT contractor, Comprehensive Error Rate Testing contractor, overpayment, prepayment reviews, First Coast Service Options, Medicare contractor, Medicare fraud, Medicare investigation, Medicare overbilling, OIG

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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