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Welcome to The Health Law Blog2019-11-12T16:53:24+00:00

Tips to Prepare For Clinical Privileges and Peer Review Hearings Part 1 of 2

Attorney Indest headshotIf you are a physician or licensed other licensed health professional with clinical privileges in a hospital, chances are that one day you will be subject to peer review hearings. It may be a simple one-time matter based on an adverse outcome, or it may be a lengthy process involving a large number or your cases and records.

A peer review action may be initiated because of a patient complaint. It may be commenced because of complaints filed by hospital staff. It may be begun because of an unexpected adverse outcome. It may be begun because a patient files a medical malpractice lawsuit. It may result from a statistical review by the Utilization Review office or the Quality Improvement office.

This is part 1 of a 2 part blog series. Stay tuned for part 2.

A Notice of A Peer Review Should Not Be Treated Lightly.

Regardless of the source, or how petty or meritless it may seem, the health professional who is the subject of the peer review must treat it seriously. The actions you take may resolve the matter at a preliminary stage or it may cause an escalation to a hearing, adverse action, and a National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) Report, with career-ending results.

Tips to Survive Peer Review Hearings.

The following are tips that the individual who is the subject of a peer review action that may help you to resolve it at the lowest level feasible under the circumstances.

1. Do not resign or allow your clinical privileges to expire while the matter is pending. If you do so, this will be treated similarly to having your privileges revoked in clinical privileges matters and it will be reported out as such to the NPDB and other reporting organizations.

2. Provide a response or explanation if given the opportunity. But make sure you have reviewed the records, researched the medical issues as appropriate, and provide a well-organized, thought-out, objective and professional response.

3. Remember that this review is only about you and your actions. It is not about anyone else and this is not the place to make accusations about others. Discuss what you did (or did not do); do not point the finger at others and argue that they have done the same thing or worse.

4. Remain objective. Do not lose your temper and respond in a defensive, inflammatory matter. Assume that everyone is just trying to do their jobs.

5. In any written response, address the facts. Do not address what you think the motives of other individuals are.

6. Make sure your response is objective. Try to avoid subjective statements. Speak in terms of provable facts and what the record or other documents show. If you have documents (e.g., office records, algorithms, standards, guidelines) that those conducting the peer review do not have, attach them to your response.

7. Make sure your response is professional. Follow the rules for professional correspondence, that I wrote about in a prior blog.

8. If you don’t have all of the records on the matter, ask for them. Also, obtain and review any applicable hospital or department policies and procedures. Review the medical staff Rules and Regulations, as well.

9. Support and explain what you did logically and reference medical journal articles and medical treatises. Attach legible copies of any relevant medical literature (or relevant portions of it). Be sure to completely identify any medical literature you attach by including a title page, publication info, date, volume, pages, etc.

To find out the rest of the tips, look for Part 2 of this blog series.

For more information, read one of my prior blogs on peer review hearings, avoiding the disruptive physician label and clinical privileges.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late, Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Clinical Privileges and the Peer Review Process.

If you are the subject of a peer review proceeding, immediately retain experienced, knowledgeable health care counsel to represent you. The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have experience in most, if not all, types of “fair hearings” involving health care issues and health care providers.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for physicians and other health care providers. This includes nurse practitioners, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions. We also represent physicians and health care providers in complex litigation in both state and federal courts.

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: Legal representation for peer review, peer review defense attorney, medical staff peer review confidentiality, medical staff fair hearing legal representation, medical staff fair hearing attorney, clinical privileges hearing defense attorney, clinical privileges hearing legal representation, clinical privileges hearing attorney, legal counsel on peer review process, legal representation for physician defamation, health law defense attorney, economic credentialing, sham peer review attorney, health law peer-review attorney, legal representation for peer review investigations, health care litigation legal counsel, complex health care litigation attorney, legal representation for health care employment issues, disruptive physician representation, legal representation for disruptive physicians, health care employment defense attorney, 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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Dentists: Challenge Overpayment Demands from Medicare, Medicaid Audits!

Attorney Indest headshotDuring our years of experience, we have gotten many calls from dentists who have been placed on prepayment review after failing to challenge the results of Medicare and Medicaid audits. Once placed on prepayment review, the payments are held up for many months. Some providers are even forced out of business as a result.

Failing to challenge, follow-up on, and appeal any adverse results of Medicare and Medicaid audits can be very detrimental. An error rate above 15% will usually result in the provider being placed on prepayment review.


What Happens During Prepayment Review.

While on prepayment review, the dentist or provider will be required to submit documentation for medical records by mail to support each claim submitted. Additionally, they must have those claims and supporting documentation audited, before any claims are paid. Often, the auditing agency will come back repeatedly to demand additional information and documentation on claims instead of immediately processing them. This can hold up the processing of the claim for months. Often, the resulting termination of income flow will force the dentist or other healthcare providers out of business. This saves the government lots of money because the provider has then provided services to Medicare or Medicaid recipients for many months without getting paid for it.

These are some of the reasons why we recommend that dentists and all healthcare providers always hire a Board Certified Health Law Attorney experienced in Medicare and Medicaid audits from the very beginning.

Here’s an Example of the Trouble Caused by a Medicare Audit.

In one case we are familiar with, a therapist was audited by Medicare. The audit by the Medicare administrative contractor (MAC) requested only 30 records. The therapist provided copies of the records he thought the auditors wanted. He did not number the pages or keep an exact copy of what he provided. The MAC came back and denied 1% of the claims audited.

However, since the amount demanded back by the MAC was only a few thousand dollars, the therapist never hired an attorney and never challenged the results. Instead of retaining legal counsel and appealing the results, the therapist paid the entire amount, thinking that was the easy way out.

Unfortunately, because of the high error rate, the MAC immediately placed the therapist on a prepayment review of all claims, assuming the prior audit had disclosed fraud or intentional false coding. All claims the provider submitted from that point on had to be submitted on paper with supporting medical records sent in by mail. The MAC refused to decide on any of the claims, instead, holding them and requesting additional documentation and information from time to time. As a result, the therapist has most of his claims tied up in prepayment review, some for as long as five months with no-decision.

The therapist conveyed to me that he contacted the auditor to attempt to obtain decisions on some of his claims so that he could at least begin the appeal process if the claims are denied. He advised me that the auditor at the MAC expressed surprise that he was still in business.

You Must Challenge All Improperly Denied or Reduced Claims.

These situations are very unfair and unjust, especially to smaller healthcare providers. The reduced cash flow even for a month or two may be enough to drive some small providers out of business. Larger healthcare providers have vast resources sufficient to handle such audit situations on a routine basis. They may have similar problems but are better equipped and have more resources to promptly handle it. Rather than immediately pay whatever amount is demanded on an audit and waive any appeal/review rights, the provider should review each claim denied or reduced and challenge the ones that have been improperly denied or reduced. Otherwise, you may wind up with a high error rate which will cause you to be placed into prepayment review. Once placed in the prepayment review, it is difficult to get out of it. Often, it takes six months or longer.

Don’t Let Yourself Get Caught Up in the Never-Ending Audit Cycle.

The audit contractors will keep you on an audit cycle for many future audits if they are successful in obtaining any sort of recovery from you on the initial audit. This is similar to what happens if your tax return is audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If they recover a significant payment from you because you did not have the documentation to support your deductions, you can expect to be audited for at least the next two years.

The value of competent legal representation at the beginning of an audit cannot be overestimated. It is usually long after the audit is over, and the time to appeal the audit agency’s findings has passed, that the health care provider realizes he should have retained an audit consultation.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs about Medicare audits and challenging an OIG exclusion.

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 healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. 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.

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: Healthcare fraud representation, healthcare fraud defense lawyer, Office of Inspector General (OIG) Medicare exclusion attorney, OIG investigation legal defense representation, OIG exclusion defense attorney, OIG exclusion defense lawyer, Medicare audit defense legal counsel, Office of Inspector General (OIG) Medicare exclusion defense counsel, Medicare audit defense attorney, Office of Inspector General (OIG) Medicare exclusion legal defense counsel, attorney legal representation for OIG notice of intent to exclude, Medicare exclusion hearing defense attorney, Medicare administrative law judge hearing legal representation, Medicare administrative law judge hearing defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid audit defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid audits, health care fraud defense attorney, legal representation for health care fraud, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), legal representation for CMS investigations, health care professional defense attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, legal representation for fraud investigations, reviews for The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, healthcare fraud representation, allegations of healthcare fraud, representation for CMS investigations, representation for healthcare investigations, representation for medical overbilling, False Claims attorney, FCA lawyer, FCA attorney, representation for submitting False Claims, representation for overbilling Medicare, medical overbilling, allegations of overbilling Medicaid, FCA defense lawyer

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Psychiatric Hospital Accused of Cashing in on Baker Act Patients

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

In September 2019, a report on an investigation by The Tampa Bay Times stated that a North Tampa psychiatric hospital might be more harmful than helpful to its patients. The Tampa Bay Times claimed the health facility exploited patients held under the state’s mental health law known as the Baker Act. The Baker Act allows the involuntary confinement of a person in a mental health facility for a limited period of time if that person presents a threat to himself or to others; however, there are many limitations on this and rights that such persons have. The center has routinely held patients inappropriately against their will, making millions of dollars in the process, the newspaper reported.

After analyzing hospital records, police reports, court records, and interviews with former patients, the Tampa Bay Times was able to show that the hospital tricked or used coercive methods to keep patients locked up. Additionally, some patients described getting virtually no psychiatric treatment while admitted, according to the story.

Violations of The Baker Act.

Patients are often checked in for 72 hours the Baker Act, the Florida law that allows mental health centers to detain patients who are at risk of self-harm. The 72 hour period is to allow time for psychiatrists to evaluate the patient to see if the patient meets criteria to be confin3ed beyond the 72 hours. After 72 hours, unless a psychiatrist has found otherwise, facilities cannot legally hold patients against their will.

Despite the law, the Florida psych hospital allegedly used loopholes in the statute to hold patients longer than the law permits, thereby running up their hospital treatment bills, according to the report. The investigation exposed that the hospital uses a variety of tactics to keep patients beyond 72 hours. Some patients were tricked into thinking they had waived their right to leave the facility. Others were forced to wait around for court hearings that never happened. The extended stays were proven to be very lucrative to the facility named in the news report. It reportedly had the fourth-highest profit margin of any Florida psychiatric hospital in 2017.

Following the investigation by the Tampa Bay Times, Florida lawmakers are now calling for government regulators to further investigate the facility. Click here for more information, including a letter sent by a state representative to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

For more information on the Baker Act law, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Click here to visit our Areas of Practice page on our website and learn more about specific Baker Act cases and how we can assist you in these matters.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Victims of Involuntary Confinement Through the Baker Act and Marchman Act.

The Health Law Firm represents individuals, families and friends in challenges to and hearings related to the Florida Baker Act and Marchman Act, when the basic criteria for confinement are not met and there is no medical necessity for further confinement.

Our firm has a process we follow to make sure that a person who should not be held under the Baker Act may be released in a very short time. If the basic criteria for a Baker Act confinement are not present, the person is not required to be held and should be released. If the person has been living independently for decades, has family and a support system available, and has had no prior mental health problems, the odds are he or she should not be involuntarily confined. We act immediately to begin our representation, to make the hospital and its physicians aware that we are representing you, and to take measures to obtain release. If required, we are prepared to file an emergency Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the local Circuit Court to have you brought before the judge for an emergency release hearing. These cases can be time-intensive, require a great deal of immediate work, but can yield fast results in most cases.

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

Sources:

Bedi, Neil. “How one Florida psychiatric hospital makes millions off patients who have no choice.” Tampa Bay Times. (September 18, 2019). Web.

Harnes, Anna. “Florida Psych Hospital Holds Patients Captive To Make Millions In ‘Shocking’ Report.” Inquisitr. (September 21, 2019). Web.

Bedi, Neil. “Lawmakers call for investigations into Wesley Chapel psychiatric hospital.” Tampa Bay Times. (October 7, 2019). 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: Baker Act defense attorney, legal representation for Baker Act cases, legal representation for involuntary Baker Act confinement, legal representation for involuntary confinement, mental health confinement defense attorney, petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Baker Act attorney, Baker Act defense lawyer, legal representation for Florida Baker Act, Florida Marchman Act defense attorney, Florida Baker Act lawyer, mental health lawyer, mental health representation, legal representation for Baker Act law, representation for mental health facilities, representation for mental health professionals, psychologist defense counsel and legal representation, social worker legal counsel and mental health counselor defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, The Health Law Firm 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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Doctor Sentenced to 40 Years For Alleged Interstate Pill Mill

By Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D.

On October 2, 2019, a physician in Virginia received a 40-year prison sentence for illegally prescribing more than half a million opioid pills over 19 months. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia handed down the sentence to Joel Smithers, who reportedly operated a “pill mill” out of Virginia, according to authorities. In addition to prison time, he was given an $86,000 fine and will serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison time, according to court documents.

The sentence is lighter than it could have been. He was facing up to life in prison and a fine of more than $200 million, according to officials at the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ). Click here to view the court’s sentencing document in full.

The Alleged Interstate Pill Mill Operation.

In May 2019, Smithers was convicted by a jury on more than 859 federal drug charges, including one count of possessing with the intent to distribute controlled substances and one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawfully distributing controlled substances. Additionally, he was convicted on hundreds of counts of unlawfully distributing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose or beyond the bounds of medical practice.

When he opened his Virginia practice in 2015, officials said he prescribed controlled substances to “every patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances being distributed.” Authorities say that he allegedly ran an operation that was less a medical practice and more an interstate drug distribution network.

Smithers was able to rake in over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments before the search warrant was executed at his office on March 7, 2017. Click here to read the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia.

To learn about a similar case involving two Florida doctors, click here.


The Problems I See in This Case.

I tell you that I take issue with many of the cases of this sort. I do not know enough about the actual facts of this physician’s case, but I can comment generally based on other similar cases I have had in the past. The government, both state and federal, has come down like a hammer on individual physicians and pharmacists in its over-zealous campaign to crack down on opioids. Many physicians and pharmacists, just trying to do a good job and legitimately treat their patients, are being caught up and persecuted. Chronic pain patients, many of whom are disabled veterans or people injured on the job, are unable to find physicians to treat them anymore or, if they can, any pharmacists willing to fill their prescriptions.

All sorts of under-handed techniques are used to try to make a case against conscientious health professionals who are merely trying to do their jobs. These do include the tactic seen in the case we are reporting on, which I call “bean counting.” The government comes in and, instead of proving how many allegedly illegal prescriptions were written or how many patients the physician gave the prescriptions to, breaks these out into the number of pills. This greatly exaggerates the case and these large numbers alone make it look like the doctor (or pharmacist) is doing something wrong or extremely way out of the norm.

For example, if a patient was receiving a low dose of a pain killer, say 10 mg Oxycodone every 4 to 6 hours, prescribed for four times a day, the ordinary monthly prescription for this medication alone (and such patients rarely receive one type of medication alone) this equates to 120 pills per month. If 10 mg pills are not available and/or the prescription is filled with 5 mg pills, instead, this is 240 pills a month. A years’ worth is 1,440 pills or 2,880 pills for just one patient. If the physician has 50 similar patients, this is 72,000 pills or 144,000 pills a year that the physician is writing and a pharmacy or pharmacies are filling.

This does not seem extreme or unusual to me, at all, and these amounts are on the low side. Yet just as government agencies love to inflate the “street value” or contraband drugs they seize, they love to break down the number of opioids a physician writes so it seems to a layperson to be extraordinarily large. Furthermore, a pain management physician or any other kind of physician cannot survive with just 50 patients a month. It is far more likely for a physician to have a thousand (1,000) or more patients a month. I call this type of numerical exaggeration “bean counting.” But it has put a number of physicians and pharmacists in jail.

Judges should not allow such exaggerated numbers to be introduced into evidence in the absence of further information that places them in context. It is unfairly prejudicial to the defendant to do so.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cases, board of medicine cases and board of pharmacy cases regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Booker, Brakkton. “Doctor Gets 40 Years For Illegally Prescribing More Than Half A Million Opioid Doses.” NPR. (October 2, 2019). Web.

“Virginia doctor could get life in prison today for prescribing 500,000 opioid pills.” RTV6. (October 2, 2019). Web.

Almasy, Steve. “Virginia doctor who illegally prescribed 500,000 opioid pills sentenced to 40 years in prison.” CNN. (October 2, 2019). Web.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and registered nurse. She practices with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

KeyWords: legal representation for pain management physicians and pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies, pharmacy defense attorney, pain management physician defense attorney, pharmacist defense lawyer, pain management physician defense lawyer, representation for False Claims Act (FCA) investigation, False Claims Act representation, FCA defense lawyer, board representation for pharmacists, board representation for pharmacies, board representation for physicians, Board of Pharmacy investigation representation, legal representation for board investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defense attorney, board of medicine attorney, board of pharmacy attorney, Department of Health investigations, pain clinics, over prescribing painkillers, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation attorney, The Health Law Firm, administrative hearing defense attorney, DEA order to show cause (OSC) defense lawyer, legal representation for administrative hearings, administrative complaint representation, Board of Medicine representation, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, representation for Board of Medicine investigations, representation for Board of Medicine complaints, DEA hearing defense attorney, DEA investigation attorney, DEA hearing representation, DEA investigation representation, representation for DEA investigations against physicians, representation for pill mill allegations, representation for allegations of overprescribing, representation for overbilling, DOJ defense lawyer, representation for DOJ investigations, representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, DEA order to show cause (OSC) defense attorney

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Physician Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison For Illegally Prescribing Opioid Pills

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

On October 2, 2019, a Virginia doctor received a 40-year prison sentence for illegally prescribing more than half a million opioid pills over 19 months. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia handed down the sentence to Joel Smithers, who was reported to have operated a “pill mill” out of Virginia, according to authorities. In addition to prison time, he was given an $86,000 fine and will serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison time, according to court documents.

The sentence is lighter than it could have been. He was facing up to life in prison and a fine of more than $200 million, according to officials at the U.S. Justice Department. Click here to view the court’s sentencing document in full.

Alleged Interstate Pill Mill.

In May 2019, Smithers was convicted by a jury on more than 859 federal drug charges, including one count of possessing with the intent to distribute controlled substances and one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawfully distributing controlled substances. Additionally, he was also convicted on hundreds of counts of unlawfully distributing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose or beyond the bounds of medical practice.

When he opened his Virginia practice in 2015, Justice Department officials said he prescribed controlled substances to “every patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances being distributed.” Authorities say that he allegedly ran an operation that was less a medical practice and more an interstate drug distribution network.

Smithers was able to rake in over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments before the search warrant was executed at his office on March 7, 2017. Click here to read the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia.

To learn about a similar case involving two Florida doctors, click here.

The Problems I See.

I tell you that I take issue with many of the cases of this sort. I do not know enough about the actual facts of this physician’s case, but I can comment generally based on other similar cases I have had in the past. The government, both state and federal, has come down like a hammer on individual physicians and pharmacists in its over-zealous campaign to crack down on opioids. Many physicians and pharmacists, just trying to do a good job and legitimately treat their patients, are being caught up and persecuted. Chronic pain patients, many of whom are disabled veterans or people injured on the job, are unable to find physicians to treat them anymore or, if they can, any pharmacists willing to fill their prescriptions.

All sorts of under-handed techniques are used to try to make a case against conscientious health professionals who are merely trying to do their jobs. These do include the tactic seen in the case we are reporting on, which I call “bean counting.” The government comes in and, instead of proving how many allegedly illegal prescriptions were written or how many patients the physician gave the prescriptions to, breaks these out into the number of pills. This greatly exaggerates the case and these large numbers alone make it look like the doctor (or pharmacist) is doing something wrong or extremely way out of the norm.

For example, if a patient was receiving a low dose of a pain killer, say 10 mg Oxycodone every 4 to 6 hours, prescribed for four times a day, the ordinary monthly prescription for this medication alone (and such patients rarely receive one type of medication alone) this equates to 120 pills per month. If 10 mg pills are not available and/or the prescription is filled with 5 mg pills, instead, this is 240 pills a month. A years’ worth is 1,440 pills or 2,880 pills for just one patient. If the physician has 50 similar patients, this is 72,000 pills or 144,000 pills a year that the physician is writing and a pharmacy or pharmacies are filling.

This does not seem extreme or unusual to me, at all, and these amounts are on the low side. Yet just as government agencies love to inflate the “street value” or contraband drugs they seize, they love to break down the number of opioids a physician writes so it seems to a layperson to be extraordinarily large. Furthermore, a pain management physician or any other kind of physician cannot survive with just 50 patients a month. It is far more likely for a physician to have a thousand (1,000) or more patients a month. I call this type of numerical exaggeration “bean counting.” But it has put a number of physicians and pharmacists in jail.

Judges should not allow such exaggerated numbers to be introduced into evidence in the absence of further information that places them in context. It is unfairly prejudicial to the defendant to do so.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cases, board of medicine cases and board of pharmacy cases regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Booker, Brakkton. “Doctor Gets 40 Years For Illegally Prescribing More Than Half A Million Opioid Doses.” NPR. (October 2, 2019). Web.

“Virginia doctor could get life in prison today for prescribing 500,000 opioid pills.” RTV6. (October 2, 2019). Web.

Almasy, Steve. “Virginia doctor who illegally prescribed 500,000 opioid pills sentenced to 40 years in prison.” CNN. (October 2, 2019). 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: legal representation for pain management physicians and pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies, pharmacy defense attorney, pain management physician defense attorney, pharmacist defense lawyer, pain management physician defense lawyer, representation for False Claims Act (FCA) investigation, False Claims Act representation, FCA defense lawyer, board representation for pharmacists, board representation for pharmacies, board representation for physicians, Board of Pharmacy investigation representation, legal representation for board investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defense attorney, board of medicine attorney, board of pharmacy attorney, Department of Health investigations, pain clinics, over prescribing painkillers, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation attorney, The Health Law Firm, administrative hearing defense attorney, DEA order to show cause (OSC) defense lawyer, legal representation for administrative hearings, administrative complaint representation, Board of Medicine representation, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, representation for Board of Medicine investigations, representation for Board of Medicine complaints, DEA hearing defense attorney, DEA investigation attorney, DEA hearing representation, DEA investigation representation, representation for DEA investigations against physicians, representation for pill mill allegations, representation for allegations of overprescribing, representation for overbilling, DOJ defense lawyer, representation for DOJ investigations, representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, DEA order to show cause (OSC) defense attorney

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Thinking About Contacting the PRN or IPN Programs? Read This First!

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

Physicians, dentists, nurses, and other health professionals, accused of wrongdoing, may be referred to or receive recommendations from colleagues to refer themselves to the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) or the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN).  This is often done by someone who has little to no knowledge about these programs or what they require.  An individual who does this may find himself or herself in a situation that they rapidly come to regret.

Both programs have done some wonderful things. They have saved the lives and careers of many health professionals who have issues with drugs and alcohol, or who suffer from mental illnesses.  However, often a person may be accused of being an addict, alcoholic, serious substance abuser or having an uncontrolled mental illness when nothing is further from the truth.  Then these programs may not be right for that individual.

Often we find that a physician may be referred to PRN if he or she is suspected of excess drinking if alcohol is smelled on that person’s breath, if the physician is suspected of using drugs, or if he/she exhibits behavior that is now being labeled as “disruptive.”  To read a previous blog I have written about those accused of being “disruptive physicians,” click here.

Nurses are routinely instructed that they “must” report to IPN when there is some discrepancy in the narcotics count at a hospital or nursing home, someone makes an anonymous complaint (even a false one) about the nurse or the nurse is suspected (even wrongly) of diverting drugs.  We have found that some hospitals and nursing homes routinely do this to their nurses without any consideration of whether the person is innocent.

Many health professionals are advised by their colleagues that they should falsely claim they are alcoholics or addicts to get into PRN or IPN to avoid disciplinary action against their licenses.  For those afflicted with a serious substance abuse problem or a mental illness, this may be correct.  However, if it is not the case, this advice is egregiously wrong.

PRN and IPN Are Not the “Easy Way Out.”

These organizations may be lifesavers for those who actually need them but may seem like punishment to those who do not.  Either way, these programs are not the “easy way out” of legal problems.

For an example of one physician’s reported experiences with such a program, click here.

Although these articles are dated, we were recently contacted by a physician who disclosed a similar anecdote as reported in these articles.

If you are accused of wrongdoing, violating your practice act, or if you are threatened with being reported to the Department of Health (DOH) or your professional board, especially if you are being falsely accused, then it is much better to defend yourself and fight such charges instead of trying to “take the easy way out.”


Speak with an Attorney Immediately, at the Beginning and Prior to Making Any Decisions or Calls.

You should obtain information on the facts and alternatives immediately when accused and prior to making any such decision, calling anyone, or speaking with any investigator.  Contact our firm to speak with an attorney who can provide information to you on your options.

Click here to read my prior blog on impaired practitioner programs and learn more valuable information.

You Must Carry Insurance Which Covers the Legal Fees For Defending a Complaint Against Your License.

We always recommend that all health professionals carry insurance that covers their attorney’s fees and their legal defense expenses when they are accused of an offense that may affect their licenses.  Most physicians and dentists already have insurance that covers this.  Nurses can buy insurance that covers this for less than ten dollars ($10) a month (note:  available from Nurses Service Organization (NSO), CPH & Associates and other carriers).  Other health professionals such as pharmacists, psychologists, mental health counselors, massage therapists, respiratory therapists, aids and technicians should either pay extra for such coverage on their existing policies or should buy a separate policy which covers this (note:  available from Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO), Lloyd’s of London and other carriers).  The absolute minimum coverage you should have for this purpose is $25,000;  if you don’t have this much coverage for professional license defense, purchase more.

Remember This Is My Opinion.

What I say in this blog is my opinion.  There are those who may disagree with it.  If so, tough!  It is my experience as an attorney with more than 33 years of experience, and I’m sticking by it.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys in Matters Involving PRN or IPN.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, nurses and other health professionals in matters involving PRN or IPNOur attorneys also represent health providers in Department of Health investigations, before professional boards, in licensing matters, and in 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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for impaired physicians, legal representation for Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN) defense attorney, Professionals Resource Network (PRN) defense legal counsel, DOH investigation defense attorney, legal representation for investigations against health care professionals, legal representation for Florida DOH investigations, Florida DOH representation, DOH complaint defense, legal representation for DOH complaint, Florida impaired practitioners program, legal representation for PRN matters, legal representation for IPN matters, legal representation for disruptive physician issues, health law defense attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, changes to Florida impaired practitioners program, legal representation for health care investigations, 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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Need Last Minute Deposition or Hearing Representation? Call The Health Law Firm

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

Our office often takes phone calls from pharmacies and pharmacists needing short-notice representation at a Board of Pharmacy hearing or at a deposition related to a health care matter.

In our experience, many other law firms refuse to represent clients at hearings unless the firm is given plenty of advance notice. We always prefer to have sufficient time to obtain documents, review files, interview witnesses, conduct research and prepare, in order to provide the best possible representation to our client. However, we realize that in certain cases, the alternative is that the client either gets legal representation on little or no advance notice or has to suffer the consequences of having no legal representation.

Administrative Proceedings Can be Complex.

In some cases, individuals may be fooled into believing that they can effectively represent themselves. They later find out that they have gotten in over their heads. Laypersons (meaning, in this case, nonlawyers) who are not aware of such complex matters as the Administrative Procedure Act, the Rules of Civil Procedure, the Rules of Evidence, the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) Rules which the Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Health (DOH) have enacted, may quickly be confused.

The inexperienced individual, or even the inexperienced attorney, in these matters, can fall into a number of procedural traps that damage an effective defense. This can be advising the individual to talk to the DOH investigator, filing an unnecessary answer to an Administrative Complaint, forgetting or not knowing that the client’s right to be free of self-incrimination applies in this type of case and many, many others.

Procedural Mistakes Can Be Damaging To Your Legal Defense.

Often you will find that merely having an experienced attorney to represent you at a hearing or Board meeting will assist you in avoiding mistakes that damage your case and assist you in preserving your rights for an appeal. In other cases, it may even be possible to obtain a change in the forum to obtain a better result. For example, many laypersons do not know that if you elect an informal hearing before the Board of Pharmacy, you have waived your right to prove you are innocent by contesting the facts alleged against you.

What few know or think of in the heat of the moment is that you can ask at the informal hearing before the Board of Pharmacy to contest the facts, to prove you are not guilty of the charges, and to have the hearing converted to a formal hearing. A formal hearing will be in front of a neutral Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), and you have a great many more procedural rights than you have at an informal hearing. However, we still recommend that you have an experienced health lawyer represent you at a formal hearing.

Professional Liability Insurance May Pay Legal Fees for Deposition Coverage.

If you are a pharmacist or pharmacy that has professional liability insurance, these often provide legal coverage for depositions. This is primarily because the outcome of the deposition may include having you named as a defendant in a professional liability or negligence lawsuit or having disciplinary charges filed against you.

One of the first things you should do if you receive a subpoena or a notice of a deposition is to contact your professional liability insurance carrier and see if it will pay for an attorney to represent you. For example, Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO), CPH & Associates, Nurses Service Organization (NSO), Dentists Advantage and many other malpractice insurance companies provide excellent deposition coverage.

The second thing you should do is to call an experienced attorney and schedule a consultation. Even if you cannot afford to retain the services of the attorney for the actual deposition, a consultation may assist you in properly preparing. Click here to read our blog on this matter and learn more.

Consult With A Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Pharmacists and Pharmacies.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to pharmacists, pharmacies and other health professionals being deposed in criminal cases, negligence cases, civil cases or disciplinary cases involving other health professionals.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians, physician assistants and other health professionals in investigations and at Board of Pharmacy hearings. Call now or visit our website 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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Florida Board of Pharmacy, Legal Defense for Pharmacists, Pharmacist, Pharmacy and tagged Administrative Law Judge, administrative procedure act, administrative proceeding, ALJ, Board of Pharmacy, Board of Pharmacy hearing, defense attorney, defense lawyer, Department of Health, deposition coverage, disciplinary charges, disciplinary complaint, FAC, final hearing, Florida Administrative Code, formal hearing, health law firm, health professional, hearing representation, Informal hearing, last-minute deposition coverage, legal representation, legal representation for pharmacist, legal representation for pharmacy, local deposition coverage, negligence lawsuit, noticed of a deposition, pharmacist, pharmacy, professional liability insurance, rights for an appeal, Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Evidence, short notice of representation of pharmacy, short notice representation of pharmacist, subpoena, The Health Law Firm

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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