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Eight Major Chinese Medical Schools No Longer Listed in World Directory Relied on by ECFMG and USMLE

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

In April 2014, the new World Directory of Medical Schools (“World Directory”) was published. It took over as the definitive list of medical schools in the world (yes, the whole world). There are 180 Chinese medical schools listed on the World Directory of Medical Schools. Medical graduates from these schools are routinely eligible to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step exams, required for licensing in the United States, after applying and obtaining permission through the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

However, in 2019, eight (8) previously recognized Chinese medical schools were dropped from the World Directory or “delisted.” According to the Korean Medical Association (KMA)’s Research Institute for Medical Policy, the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) (the organization that maintains and publishes the directory) deleted the eight Chinese medical schools from the World Directory. The eight (8) Chinese medical schools were delisted from the World Directory of Medical Schools (WDMS) a year after Oriental medical schools in Korea also failed to be listed on the directory any longer.

The eight “delisted” medical schools are Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Guiyang College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine, Liaoning University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanxi College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Yunnan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

According to the Korean Medical Association’s reports and other publications, the WFME’s decisions clearly show that the world’s medical community does not recognize both Korea’s Oriental medicine and traditional Chinese [Oriental] medicine as modern, scientifically-based medicine.

What Does This Mean?

This means that if you graduated from one of the delisted eight (8) Chinese medical schools, you will no longer be allowed to apply for and receive services from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). In addition, it means you will not be able to apply for and take the Step exams administered by the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and you will not be able to become licensed in the United States.

Hey, Don’t Shoot Me! I’m Just the Messenger!

Inquiries and other correspondence regarding the World Directory may be sent to info@wdoms.org or to:

World Federation for Medical Education
13A Chemin du Levant
01210 Ferney-Voltaire
France
www.wfme.org

What Might Possibly Be Done?

Some ideas that might (or might not) work include:

1. Graduates of the delisted schools might apply for recognized medical schools and seek to graduate from one of these. Whether or not you will be able to get any credit for your prior medical school is a different question.

2. Bring pressure on your delisted medical school to add courses and curricula to meet the same requirements as a “Western” medical school or “scientific medical school.”

3. Sorry, that’s about all I could think of. Petitioning for an exception or suing the ECFMG or USMLE is a “non-starter” by my way of thinking.

To read about a similar case involving a Caribbean medical school, click here.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education, and those being challenged by the National Board fo Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG)

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. We routinely help those who have disputes with the National Board fo Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), including on hearings and appeals concerning “Irregular Behavior,” “unprofessionalism,” and “Irregular Conduct.”

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Yuqiao, Ji. “TCM [tradional Chinese Medicine] grads struggle after removal from world medical list.” Global Times. (Nov. 18, 2019) (https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1170466.shtml).

Gwang-seok, I. “8 Chinese medical schools delisted from world directory of medical schools.” Korea Biomedical Review. (November 7, 2019). (https://www.koreabiomed.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=6769).

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., Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888)-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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Good News and Bad News for ECFMG & USMLE Applicants: Recent Changes for the USMLE Step Exams

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

These are some recently announced changes that could significantly impact anyone seeking to take the USMLE Step exams. This could be construed as good news by many and bad news by many others. Regardless, here it is.

Step 1 Exam Changing to Pass/Fail Grade and Score Reporting.

The USMLE announced recently that it would change the scoring and reporting for Step 1 exam scores. Step 1 score reporting will transition to pass/fail only for administrations on or after January 26, 2022. All of the worry about passing with a low score and how that might affect residency choices will be eliminated by this change.

Number of Attempts for Step 1 or Step 2 Exam Limited to Four (4) Lifetime Attempts.

Remember when you had no limit on the number of times you could take a USMLE Step exam? Remember when it was reduced to a maximum of six (6) attempts, not that long ago? Guess what? Not anymore!

Effective July 1, 2021, the number of attempts you can have to pass any USMLE Step exam will change. The change latest change reduces the total number of allowable attempts from six (6) attempts to four (4) attempts for any single Step exam, including any incomplete attempts. This is in effect for all applications submitted on or after July 1, 2021. So now, examinees who have already attempted any USMLE Step exam four (4) or more times and have not passed, will no longer be eligible to apply for the USMLE exams.

Is it possible to obtain an exemption? Depending on your circumstances, we can petition for one, but that does not mean it will be granted.

Step 2-CS Exam Completely Eliminated!!!!

Remember the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), also known as “der Teufel” (1), that used to be required for Foreign Medical Graduates (now known as “International Medical Graduates” or “IMGs”)? No? Well, I don’t either.

Remember when the Step 2-CS was easily considered the most difficult exam for a foreign medical graduate to pass. Well, I do remember this!

The Step 2-CS (for “clinical skills”) exam was supposed to address any foreign language problems in practicing in the United States. This became, in my opinion, one of the biggest obstacles to for IMGs becoming licensed in the U.S. It was originally discontinued for approximately a year and a half because of problems caused by the COVID-19 epidemic.

Guess what? It doesn’t exist anymore. Accordingly, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), co-sponsors of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) by the USMLE Secretariat, announced on January 26, 2021, that it was discontinuing the Step 2-CS exam.

I guess the powers that be learned when they eliminated the Step 2-CS during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, that it was not so necessary after all. Now it is gone.

“Will it ever return, no it will never return; its fate is still unknown.”(1) There is no expectation that it will ever come back. What do you do now with all of those low score “fails” and lows test score “passes” you previously received on the Step 1 exam and the Step 2-CS? The answer is lost in chaos. We will just have to wait and see.

Major Chinese Medical Schools Disqualified in 2019.

See my next blog on what happened to eight (8) major Chinese medical schools so that their graduates cannot take the Step exams or become licensed in the U.S. anymore. Click here to read about the Chines medical schools.

Endnotes:

(1) German for “the Devil”

(2) Paraphrase of verse from “MTA” [standing for the Boston Metropolitan Transit Authority or subway train] written by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes, recorded and made famous by The Kingston Trio in 1959.

(3) Answer to the final question asked at the end of every episode of the Japanese Anime series “Dorohedoro” or “Doro and Doro” (2020) (available on Netflix), about a man named “Caiman” who wakes up one morning with the head of a lizard and amnesia and searches for the reason.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education, and those being challenged by the National Board fo Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG)

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. We routinely help those who have disputes with the National Board fo Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), including on hearings and appeals concerning “Irregular Behavior,” “unprofessionalism,” and “Irregular Conduct.”

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“USMLE policy updates following Step 2 CS discontinuation.” United States Medical Licensing Examination Announcements. (July 21, 2021). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., L.L.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law; he is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com. The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

Centene Will Pay $19 Million to Washington State For Medicaid Fraud Allegations

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

On August 24, 2022, managed healthcare company, Centene Corporation, agreed to pay $19 million to the State of Washington to settle fraud allegations. Centene owns and operates Sunshine State Health Plan, d/b/a Sunshine Health, in Florida. In addition, it has been reported that Centene/Sunshine Health reportedly has over $31 billion in contracts with the state of Florida alone. Click here to learn more.

The agreement with Washington State resolves allegations that it overcharged its Medicaid program for pharmacy benefit management services, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced in a press release.

Under the deal, in addition to the $19 million payment to Washington State, the federal government will receive $13.3 million related to the settlement, according to the Attorney General’s office. In addition, a whistleblower who sued the company on behalf of the state will also receive $1 million. It is the second-largest Medicaid fraud settlement in Washington’s history.

An Investigation and a Whistleblower.

According to the press release, the Washington AG’s office began investigating pharmacy benefit managers in 2019 after a whistleblower said the company failed to disclose actual pharmacy benefits and service costs. Furthermore, Centene allegedly failed to pass on discounts it received to the state Medicaid program, causing inflated fees, according to the release.

Washington sued Centene in July 2022, alleging the company and a subsidiary, Coordinated Care of Washington, violated the state’s Medicaid False Claims Act. Coordinated Care of Washington contracts with Washington’s Health Care Authority to manage its Medicaid program, Apple Health.

Shelling Out Big Bucks For Settlements.

Centene did not admit to any wrongdoing in this case, as is usual with settlement agreements. “This no-fault agreement reflects the significance we place on addressing their concerns and our ongoing commitment to making healthcare delivery local, simple and transparent,” Centene’s spokesperson said.

But, while denying any wrongdoing, it has settled claims over similar alleged conduct in ten other states for more than $260 million. Additionally, it said last year that it was still in negotiations with more states and had set aside $1.25 billion to settle such claims. Click here to learn more. 

To view the settlement agreement in full, click here. 

Similar Patterns of Misconduct?

We need to ask: “Is this the business model of Centene and its different owned subsidiary companies?” We note that on March 22, 2022, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) assessed civil monetary penalties (CMP) against Centene Corporation for similar alleged wrongful activities involving the states of California, South Carolina, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, and others.  And in a letter dated March 11, 2022, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration issued a $9.1 million fine over Centene/Sunshine Health’s improper failure to pay benefits to Florida’s neediest, sick children.  We have not found any report that Centene challenged or appealed either government penalty.

When multiple billions of dollars in government contracts are handed out to one contractor, and it is the subject of so many allegedly wrongful acts, one must ask if it is just treating such penalties and fines as the routine costs of doing business. Considering that $9.1 million is less than three (3) hundredths of a percent (.0003) of its $31 billion in contracts with the state of Florida, this cost may not even be significant enough for it to post on its profit ad loss statements.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Medicare and Medicaid Audits, Healthcare Audits, and Insurance Payment Disputes.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent counselors, therapists, physicians, healthcare providers and healthcare facilities in defense of Medicare and Medicaid audits, audits by insurance companies and managed care, and demands for repayment of overpayments. They represent healthcare providers in audits, audit appeals and repayment disputes against Centene Corporation and Sunshine Sate Health Plan d/b/a Sunshine Health. They also represent healthcare providers in defense against allegations of false billing, overbilling, False Claims Act violations and civil monetary penalties (CMP).

Our attorneys represent physicians, mental health counselors, behavior therapists, professional counselors, occupational therapists, social workers, medical groups, home health agencies, pharmacies, pharmacists, home nursing care providers, and other healthcare providers and institutions.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Redmond, Nell. “Centene to pay $33.3 million to settle Washington Medicaid fraud claims.” Reuters. (August 25, 2022). Web.

Elletson, Grace. “Centene Strikes $33M Deal To End Wash. Medicaid Fraud Suit.” Law360. (September 2, 2022). Web.

Health Law Weekly. “Centene Will Pay $19 Million to Resolve Medicaid Fraud Allegations.” AHLA. (September 2, 2022). 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620

Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm is always looking for qualified attorneys interested in the practice of health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a member of The Florida Bar and are interested, forward a cover letter and your resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax to: (407) 331-3030.

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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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2022-10-14T14:52:30-04:00November 29th, 2022|Categories: Pharmacy Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

When the DEA Comes Knocking: 15 Tips For a “Routine” DEA Inspection

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

As the United States continues to open back up from the COVID-19 shutdown, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is resuming on-site routine inspections.  Therefore, healthcare professionals must ensure compliance and regulatory efforts are in place.

This is part 1 of a 2-part blog series. Check back for part 2 of this blog series soon!

DEA Inspections and Site Visits:  Subpoenas.

DEA agents are often pushy, demanding, and intimidating.  They will try to use subpoenas (which are merely requests for documents that afford you at least ten days to produce the requested documents) as search warrants.  THEY ARE NOT.  They will try to use an administrative subpoena to obtain documents and get your testimony immediately. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PRODUCE THEM RIGHT AWAY. A copy of a sample subpoena used by the DEA is on our website for reference here.

Not Just a Routine Audit, Inspection, or Investigation.

Beware the “Notice of Inspection of Controlled Premises” (DEA Form 82).   Although the DEA often treats it as one, it is not a search warrant.  Also, it is probably NOT a “Routine Inspection.”  IT WILL NOT TAKE ONLY 15 TO 20 MINUTES.

We have had several clients who have had to close down their businesses all day to try to accommodate the demands of the agents performing their “routine inspection.”  The DEA should not cause you to shut down or should not cause you to turn away patients.  It should not interfere with your patient services or your ability to provide them.  You can ask them to come back at a later date.

The DEA often refers to “routine audits” as “Accountability Investigations” and requires the pharmacy or registrant to be given certain rights in connection with it. For example, DEA Form 82 states you are given the following rights:

1.    The constitutional right not to have an administrative inspection without an Administrative Inspection Warrant (AIW),
2.    Has the right to refuse consent to such an inspection,
3.    Presented with a Notice of Inspection,
4.    Given consent voluntarily, without threats of any kind,
5.    May withdraw consent at any time during the course of the inspection, and
6.    Incriminating evidence may be seized and used in criminal prosecution.

Although the DEA agent may tell you that the site visit is “completely random,” do not believe it.  If the DEA agent has brought a list of records to obtain from you, try to keep a copy of it, as your lawyer may find it very useful later when they are defending you.


What to Do When Confronted with a DEA Inspection or Site Visit.

1.    Notify the owner right away.  If you are not the owner, don’t sign anything, give permission, or agree to anything. You probably have no authority to do so.

2.    Call your health lawyer and get them over immediately.  This is an emergency!

3.    Yes, you have the right to consult with your attorney;  do not believe them if they say you can’t (which they may do, believe it or not).

4.    Request photo identification from everyone to ensure the individuals are who they say they are.  No identification? No access. Federal agents, including DEA agents, will always have their photo ID.

5.    Obtain a business card from each person present.  DEA agents always carry business cards.  If they do not have one, you will have to write all contact information for that agent from their photo id card (or photocopy, if they will allow you to do so).

6.    Do the same as the above for anyone else the DEA brings, whether they claim to be a federal or state investigator, Department of Health investigator, or local police. Please note that our experience has been that the DEA and state agencies contend that they don’t go on joint inspections or investigations (however, we don’t believe this to be true).  Therefore, get all parties’ information at the very start, or you may never get it until they testify against you.

7.    DO NOT SIGN A VOLUNTARY AGREEMENT TO RELINQUISH YOUR DEA REGISTRATION.  Agents may try to pressure and intimidate you into signing one by telling you it will be easier if you sign it. They might even try to scare you by warnings of criminal prosecution unless you sign it.  Yes, you have the right to consult with an attorney before deciding whether or not to sign it (they may falsely tell you that you don’t). However, once you sign it, it is gone.  If you are a prescribing physician or health professional, your authority to prescribe is gone forever.  If you are a pharmacy/pharmacist, your ability to order or fill any controlled substances is forever gone. So go ahead and put a sign on the door that says “CLOSED-Out of Business.”

8.    Before the inspection begins, you should be given a form to read and sign. If not, request it. It will usually be a DEA Form 82 “Notice of Inspection of Controlled Premises” Form. Before the inspection, it should be read, explained, agreed to, and signed, not during or after.

9.    Read the form carefully. You have the right to fax it, scan and e-mail it, or call and read it to your attorney before you sign it. If it says you have the right to refuse the inspection, consider putting it off until a later date. Especially if you are busy and have patients you must serve.

10.    Obtain a copy of the form (inspection form or subpoena) at the beginning and keep it.  You will need this later.

11.    Obtain a complete, detailed receipt for any documents, prescriptions, or other items taken by the agents. Again, since this is not a search warrant, the DEA does not have the authority to take your only originals and leave you without a copy.

12.    You may or may not be in serious trouble and subject to future criminal charges or administrative action to revoke your DEA registration. Your attorney should be able to evaluate this and advise you. Don’t bother to ask the agents, as they will not tell you what is in your own best interest to know.

13.    If you don’t have an attorney who is experienced in health law and DEA defense,  get one NOW.  You should begin preparing now.  It often takes the DEA a year or more to work up charges against you.  Once you are served with charges, you will only have a very short time to prepare your defense.  It is a completely unfair system for the subject of charges as the government will have longer to prepare its case against you than you have to prepare your defense.  Take advantage of the time you have. Do not waste it.

14.    Be polite and do not argue with a DEA agent.

15.    Do not volunteer information, but never tell a lie. Making a false statement to any federal agent is a felony criminal offense. A subpoena for documents is not an authorization to interrogate you.  A search warrant is not an authorization to interrogate you.

Lastly, don’t forget to check back to read part 2 of this blog series.

Please remember: This blog’s statements are opinions based on our experience.  If you do not agree with it, then you are probably the DEA.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, medical groups, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (888) 331-6620 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.


Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm.  The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax them to (407) 331-3030.


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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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2022-11-12T21:34:46-05:00November 28th, 2022|Categories: Pharmacy Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Follow These Simple Rules To Keep Your License & Avoid Complaints If You Are a Counselor or Psychotherapists

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

I represent many mental health counselors, social workers, psychologists, and professional counselors, defending them on complaints being investigated against their professional licenses. Many complaints and investigations arise because the therapist has strayed over the line and crossed the therapist-client boundary. In reviewing these cases, I have drawn up a list of a few simple “bright line” rules that can help save you many hours of stress and mental anguish as well as thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and costs defending yourself

These “rules” may seem to be common sense, but there they are, anyway:

1. DO NOT ever meet the client at an outside social activity or attend a social event with the client. This includes “just dinner” or “just-drinks.”

2. DO NOT text the client. Texting is not secure and leads to casual and unprofessional thinking and conversation with the client. Many health care institutions prohibit their physicians and employees from texting with clients because of the HIPAA Security and Privacy Rules. You can use that as an excuse if you need one.

3. DO take a screenshot and print out the text when you violate the above rule. Place it in the client’s health record because you will probably be seeing it again, attached to a complaint.

4. DO send an e-mail or, better yet, a professional letter to the client, instead of texting the client. Print out a copy and place it in the client’s health record, because you will probably see it again.

5. DO NOT EVER make any suggestive or sexual remarks to the client in any communications, oral or written or text, or e-mail. In fact, DON’T even think about it. This includes off-color jokes and comments.

6. DO immediately terminate the relationship with the client, transferring care to a different therapist, if the client suggests anything of a sexual nature involving you.

7. DO NOT talk about other clients with the client.

8. DO NOT talk about your own personal life with the client. Especially DO NOT let the client have your personal home address or personal e-mail address.

9. DO NOT ever have sex with a client or former client. DO NOT even think of it. If you start to think of it, see Rule 6, above. Consider clients and former clients “off-limits” no matter how much you are tempted. If you are religious, just consider this as an attempt by Satan to seduce you. If it works, you are going to be in Hell, even before you die.

10. DO know what professional boundaries are and DO NOT cross them. This includes allowing a personal relationship to grow between you and the client, and includes selling anything to the client (e.g., Girl Scout cookies, tickets to a charitable event, Amway products, candy bars for your kids’ school band, etc.), agreeing to meet the client at any outside event, accepting gifts from the client, hiring the client to work for you, accepting “voluntary” services from the client (including volunteering to work in your office). If you need a friend that bad, terminate the therapist-client relationship and see Rule 6, above.

11. DO know that if you have even a suspicion that your therapist-client relationship is getting out of bounds, then it already is out of bounds. See Rule 6, above.

12. DO call a professional therapist colleague who is more senior to you and consult her or him about the “situation” if you think there may be a “situation.”

These may sound like “no-brainers” to you, but you would be surprised at how many complaints against licensed counselors and psychologists there are as a result of violating one or more of these “rules.”

(Note: These “rules” are just guidelines meant to help you keep out of trouble; these are not meant to be enforced against anyone, nor do they create or represent any “standard of care.”)

For additional information on how our firm can assist you in matters like this, click here to read one of our prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced Investigations of Mental Health Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers, and Family Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to mental health counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and family therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) investigations, board hearings, FBI investigations, and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

We also defend health professionals and health facilities in general litigation matters and business litigation matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620 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 Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620

“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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2022-11-25T19:00:02-05:00November 27th, 2022|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Nurse Faces Suit for Wrongful Death of Jail Inmate Says 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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

On March 3, 2021, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in part, a Utah court’s decision on a lawsuit for the death of a 21-year-old inmate, affirming that the jail’s doctor could claim qualified immunity, but not the nurse. After the inmate’s death, her estate sued for depriving her of her civil rights. The U.S. district court granted summary judgment in favor of the county. It ruled that qualified immunity applied to shield jail supervisors and staff. However, it denied qualified immunity to jail nurse Jana Clyde and to a private doctor who consulted with the prison, Dr. Kennon Tubbs.

The 10th Circuit appeal panel reversed the lower court’s decision, stating that one doctor can claim qualified immunity. It ruled that the jail’s nurse must face claims of civil rights violations, which are not subject to immunity. Court filings alleged that jail staff, including its nurse, ignored the inmate’s rapidly deteriorating health.

Failure to Secure Medical Treatment Despite Obvious Risks to the Inmate.

In 2016, Madison Jensen, the inmate, allegedly died from opiate withdrawal at the Duchesne County jail in Utah. After the 21-year old inmate was booked, she was allegedly placed in a cell with another woman and almost immediately began vomiting. Her vomiting allegedly continued for five days. The jail’s nurse failed to tell the physician’s assistant or doctor about Jensen’s condition, according to the complaint.

The jail’s video recording system captured the female inmate rolling off her bed and having a seizure. About 30 minutes later, both the nurse and doctor discovered she had died in her cell, the complaint said. The inmate’s cause of death was reported to be cardiac arrhythmia from dehydration due to opiate withdrawal.

Civil Rights Violation Claims.

After the inmate’s death, her estate sued for deprivation of her civil rights. The United States District Court for the District of Utah granted summary judgment for the county and the jail supervisors and staff, based on their qualified immunity. However, it denied qualified immunity to the jail nurse and the contracted doctor. Jensen’s estate claimed the jail nurse had shown deliberate indifference to the inmate’s serious medical needs, as she failed to secure medical treatment despite obvious signs and risks. In response, the nurse argued that she took reasonable steps to provide care and that she wasn’t aware that the inmate faced serious medical needs.

The circuit court judges held that “the unique circumstances of this case” allow the doctor to raise the defense of his qualified immunity. As for the jail nurse, the court said, “a trier of fact could conclude that she did not just misdiagnose Ms. Jensen, she ‘completely refused to fulfill her duty as gatekeeper.’ The nurse showed “near-complete indifference” toward the inmate that “grossly deviated from the standard of care for treating severe dehydration, especially when the result of a failure to treat is death” according to the court’s opinion.

“We believe that these circumstances — particularly her [the inmate’s] self-report that she had been vomiting for four days and could not keep down water — present a risk of harm that would be obvious to a reasonable person,” the court said. To read more, click here for the court’s opinion in full.

This isn’t the first case of an inmate’s family suing after Improper Care. Click here to read about a similar wrongful death suit of a Florida inmate.

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, nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Gill, Lauren. “UTAH JAIL NURSE FACES NEGLIGENT HOMICIDE CHARGE IN DEATH OF 21-YEAR-OLD WOMAN.” The Appeal. (August 1, 2019). Web.

O’Brian, Rachel. “10th Circ. Says Nurse Must Face Wrongful Death Suit.” Law360. (March 13, 2021). 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 Avene, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toff-Free: (888) 331-6620.

 

“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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Appellate Court Reverses Nursing Board’s Revocation of License For Florida Nurse; “Due Process Rights Violated” Says Court of Appeal

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

On September 22, 2022, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal reversed a final administrative order from the Board of Nursing, saying that the state agencies engaged in “a game of bait and switch” when revoking a Florida nurse’s license. As a result, the discipline imposed on the nurse, revocation of her nursing license, is reversed. The appeals court said that the Florida Board of Nursing violated the nurse’s due process rights by imposing a penalty for violating patient confidentiality when she was only charged with having her license suspended in another state.

Details About the Case.

In 2018, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) filed a complaint and an amended complaint against the nurse. According to the DOH, she violated section 464.018(1)(b) by having her license to practice nursing in another state suspended. However, the Florida state nursing board issued a final order permanently revoking her Florida license, a punishment that was not within the regulatory guidelines that the Board of Nursing had previously adopted for the offense with which she was charged.

Also, the nurse had originally requested a formal hearing. She was allegedly informed she was not entitled to a formal hearing and was not notified she should appear when the Board of Nursing held the informal hearing on her case.

The nurse claimed the actions by the Florida DOH and the Florida Board of Nursing deprived her of her right to due process of law according to the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. The appellate court agreed.

State Agencies Not Communicating?

According to the court opinion, the Board and the DOH engaged in a “bait and switch game.” The state’s DOH allegedly failed to notify her of all the alleged violations that later led to the permanent revocation of her nursing license. The opinion of the appellate court stated: “More egregious than this, there was no mention in the amended complaint of an alleged violation of section 464.018(1)(h), [of Florida Statutes,] pertaining to her allegedly unprofessional conduct. In essence, the Board punished Appellant [the nurse] for this uncharged violation.”

Moreover, the appellate court said that the DOH applied the wrong disciplinary guideline for the uncharged violation. The applicable guideline only authorized a fine of up to $500 and probation as the maximum penalty. See Rule 64B9-8.006(3)(f)3, Florida Administrative Code (2012).

Based on these findings, the three-judge appellate panel reversed the revocation order, remanding it for further proceedings. Read the entire Florida court opinion on our website.

Click here to read our blog to learn more about state and DOH investigations that could help save your professional license.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Board of Nursing Cases.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health investigations, before the Board of Nursing, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters, in formal and informal administrative hearings, and in appeals of Final Orders.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or toll free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Dunn, Allison. “State Agencies Engaged in ‘Game of Bait-and-Switch’ When Revoking Nursing License, Florida Appeals Court Rules.” Daily Business Review. (September 22, 2022). Web.

Pazanowski, Mary Ann. “Florida Nurse Gets New Hearing in License Revocation Dispute.” Bloomberg Law. (September 21, 2022). 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620.

Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm is always looking for qualified attorneys interested in health law practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a member of The Florida Bar and are interested, forward a cover letter and your resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax to: (407) 331-3030.

“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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Pharmacy Technicians Allowed to Administer Immunizations After New Florida Legislation

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

On July 1, 2022, Florida passed HB 1209, allowing registered pharmacy technicians to administer immunizations to patients. The new law utilizes pharmacy technicians to seek certification to provide immunizations and become “Certified Registered Pharmacy Technicians.” These pharmacy technicians will then be allowed to administer all vaccines listed by the CDC in the Adult Immunization Schedule or recommended by the CDC for international travel. Additionally, it includes vaccines authorized by the FDA under an emergency use authorization or by the Florida Board of Pharmacy in response to a state of emergency declared by the Governor.

This is a big step in medicine, once again broadening the ability of health professionals to provide more efficient and less expensive health care. In the past, properly qualified pharmacists were allowed to administer vaccines, but even then, there was a shortage.

Certification Requirements.

To become certified by the Florida Board of Pharmacy, a registered pharmacy technician must complete six hours of approved immunization-related training. As a renewal condition, an additional two hours of approved continuing education must be completed each cycle, according to the Board of Pharmacy website. For more information, click here.

In comparison, for certification, registered pharmacists must have 20 hours of education to administer vaccines. Registered pharmacist interns (persons with five years of college) who are also under the supervision of a certified pharmacist must take the same 20-hour immunization course that the pharmacists take to become certified to administer immunizations.

While this new Florida law seems to adopt a substantial lessening in training requirements, remember the 20-hour course allows pharmacists to administer vaccines independently. The six-hour course is for pharmacy technicians to administer vaccines under the pharmacist’s supervision. The technician certification program or programs authorized will have to be approved by the Florida Board of Pharmacy in consultation with the Florida Board of Medicine and the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine.

Stay Informed and Prepared.

The Board of Pharmacy has the authority to adopt rules to add new vaccines as added by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but it often takes many months to do so. Pharmacies and the pharmacists, pharmacist interns, and pharmacy technicians who are responsible need to monitor these situations closely.

Pharmacies should print a copy of the CDC adult immunization schedule, the CDC’s recommended vaccines for international travel, and the FDA’s list of vaccines with emergency use authorizations and have this readily available for its staff to review. They should also update this list at least once a month. This will help the pharmacy staff keep on top if either of these federal agencies, the CDC or the FDA, changes its list of immunizations. As we’ve seen from the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping track of vaccine schedules and emergency use authorization changes can be very confusing.

Click here to read Florida HB 1209 – Administration of Vaccines, in full.

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

We routinely provide legal representation to pharmacists, pharmacies, and other health professionals who have received complaints against their licenses, notices of investigations, Medicare or Medicaid audits, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) audits, investigations, subpoenas, search warrants, and orders to show cause (OSC) or who are facing formal or informal administrative hearings.

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 our office now at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Dix, Martin. “A Jump Forward For Fla. Pharmacy Technicians’ Vax Authority.” Law360. (August 19, 2022). Web.

Sexton, Christine. “Checking the pulse of Florida health care news and policy.” Florida Politics. (August 16, 2022). Web.

Dix, Martin. “Florida Legislation Authorizing Pharmacy Technicians to Administer Vaccines Contains Some Surprises.” Akerman. (July 28, 2022). 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620.

Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm.  The Health Law Firm is always looking for qualified attorneys interested in health law practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a member of The Florida Bar and are interested, forward a cover letter and your resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax to: (407) 331-3030.

“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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2022-10-14T00:15:49-04:00November 18th, 2022|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

New Jersey Appeals Court Says Plaintiffs Don’t Need Affidavit to Sue LPN in Medical Malpractice Cases

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

In a precedent-setting case, on November 9, 2022, for the first time, a New Jersey appeals court ruled that plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases do not need an affidavit of merit before filing a claim against a licensed practical nurse (LPN). In many states, Florida included, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) are included in coverage by the state’s medical malpractice pre-suit screening act. This requires a plaintiff to conduct a pre-suit screening and obtain an affidavit of expert opinion from a similar expert witness that states that the nurse has committed malpractice that harmed the patient. without such an affidavit, the suit is not permitted.

No distinction is usually made between the rights of a licensed practical nurse and a registered nurse. After all, they both are required to have licenses from the state.

In this case, the Superior Court of New Jersey,  Appellate Division, said that an LPN is not included in the “licensed person” definition under the state’s affidavit of merit statute. Additionally, the court’s opinion stated that an LPN could not use the lack of such an affidavit to dodge a medical malpractice suit. In this case, the malpractice suit was brought by a widower who says his wife died due to bad advice given by the LPN about how to treat his wife’s pain.

The Details of the Lawsuit.

The plaintiff claimed that the defendant (an LPN) responded to his complaints about his wife being in pain and unable to eat following her colon surgery by blaming the issue on “post-operative gas. “After ignoring numerous messages he left regarding her condition, the LPN allegedly told the husband (plaintiff) to give his wife, Pepto Bismol. The following day, his wife died, according to the lawsuit.

In July 2020, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim as his wife’s estate administrator. The lawsuit originally named as defendants the doctor, Virtua Surgical Group, and an unknown nurse. Following discovery in the case, the plaintiff dismissed the claims against the other defendants and named only the LPN as a defendant. According to the appellate opinion, he alleged that the defendant was negligent in providing medical advice and failing to consult with her doctor.

You can view the court’s opinion in full here on our website.

Is a Licensed Practical Nurse a “Licensed Person” Covered by the Statute?

In New Jersey professional negligence cases, plaintiffs must file an “affidavit of merit,” or AOM, signed by a licensed medical professional with training or credentials similar to those of the professional to be sued. This comes from a tort reform law passed by the state government in 1995. The statute was originally designed to provide a balance between reducing frivolous lawsuits and permitting injured plaintiffs recovery for meritorious claims. It is similar to requirements that exist in many states.

According to the appellate court’s opinion, a plaintiff claiming “malpractice or negligence by a licensed person” must file an “affidavit of an appropriate licensed person” who can attest that there is a “reasonable probability” that defendant’s conduct “fell outside acceptable professional or occupational standards or treatment practices.” This is required before an actual suit is allowed.

The defendant argued that since the nursing portion of the statute defines “the practice of nursing” for “a registered professional nurse,” the Legislature intended for licensed practical nurses to be included. However, the appeals court held that the tort reform package would not protect her from the lawsuit because she did not fall within the definition in the law. She was not a registered professional nurse. Instead, she was a different type of nurse.

In his written opinion for the court, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Robert J. Gilson considered whether a licensed practical nurse is a “licensed person” covered under the AOM statute. “The AOM statute expressly uses the term ‘a registered professional nurse.’ Yet, nowhere in that definition of a registered professional nurse is there a reference to a licensed practical nurse,” he added.

Gilson stated in the opinion that the New Jersey Legislature was aware that it had separately defined the two different types of nurses. Therefore, the statute did not apply to or protect the LPN, and the plaintiff was allowed to pursue claims without an AOM. Nevertheless, the court said, the plaintiff must still prove the defendant’s negligence to succeed.

Click here to view the opinion in full.

Click here to read one of our related blogs about legal issues LPNs often face.

The New Jersey Case is Probably Not a Precedent for Most States.

Usually, the test for whether or not malpractice or professional negligence has been committed for legal purposes is whether or not the individual is a member of a learned profession. This is usually indicated by the requirement of a professional license to practice that profession. Using this definition, both a licensed practical nurse and a licensed registered nurse are considered professionals, and their “professional negligence” is considered malpractice covered by medical (nursing) malpractice laws.

Moreover, the laws in some states, such as Florida, define which professionals are covered by their medical malpractice presuit screening act by listing the licensing laws to which the medical malpractice presuit screening act applies. Thus, in Florida, Section 766.202(4), Florida Statutes refer to those licensed by Chapter 464 (Part I), Florida Statutes. Both licensed practical nurses and registered nurses are licensed in accordance with that Chapter of Florida Statutes. Thus both are covered by the Florida Medical Malpractice Presuit Screening Act.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Representing Nurses and Handling Licensing Issues.

If you are applying for a nursing or healthcare license, have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, you must contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career. Remember, your license is your livelihood. It is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney. The Health Law Firm routinely represents nurses, physicians, dentists, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues. If you have received a notice that a complaint has been filed against you or that you are under investigation by the department of health or your licensing board, we routinely provide legal representation in such matters; often, there may be insurance coverage that may pay for your legal defense.

To contact The Health Law Firm, call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Karpan, Andrew. “No Affidavit Needed To Sue ‘Practical’ Nurses, NJ Court Says.” Law360. (November 9, 2022). Web.

Murphy, Colleen. “NJ Appeals Court: No Affidavit of Merit Needed for Negligence Claim Against Licensed Practical Nurse.” Law.com. (November 10, 2022). 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Employment with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm is always seeking qualified attorneys, paralegals and legal staff interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified legal professional or secretary, who is interested, please forward your cover letter and resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax them to (407) 331-3030.

“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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Centene Will Pay $19 Million Settlement to Washington State For Medicaid Fraud Allegations

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

On August 24, 2022, managed healthcare company, Centene Corporation, agreed to pay $19 million to the State of Washington to settle fraud allegations. Centene owns and operates Sunshine State Health Plan, d/b/a Sunshine Health, in Florida. In addition, it has been reported that Centene/Sunshine Health reportedly has over $31 billion in contracts with the state of Florida alone. Click here to learn more.

The agreement with Washington State resolves allegations that it overcharged its Medicaid program for pharmacy benefit management services, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced in a press release.

Under the deal, in addition to the $19 million payment to Washington State, the federal government will receive $13.3 million related to the settlement, according to the Attorney General’s office. In addition, a whistleblower who sued the company on behalf of the state will also receive $1 million. It is the second-largest Medicaid fraud settlement in Washington’s history.

An Investigation and a Whistleblower.

According to the press release, the Washington AG’s office began investigating pharmacy benefit managers in 2019 after a whistleblower said the company failed to disclose actual pharmacy benefits and service costs. Furthermore, Centene allegedly failed to pass on discounts it received to the state Medicaid program, causing inflated fees, according to the release.

Washington sued Centene in July 2022, alleging the company and a subsidiary, Coordinated Care of Washington, violated the state’s Medicaid False Claims Act. Coordinated Care of Washington contracts with Washington’s Health Care Authority to manage its Medicaid program, Apple Health.

Shelling Out Big Bucks For Settlements.

Centene did not admit to any wrongdoing in this case, as is usual with settlement agreements. “This no-fault agreement reflects the significance we place on addressing their concerns and our ongoing commitment to making healthcare delivery local, simple and transparent,” Centene’s spokesperson said.

But, while denying any wrongdoing, it has settled claims over similar alleged conduct in ten other states for more than $260 million. Additionally, it said last year that it was still in negotiations with more states and had set aside $1.25 billion to settle such claims. Click here to learn more. 

To view the settlement agreement in full, click here. 

Similar Patterns of Misconduct?

We need to ask: “Is this the business model of Centene and its different owned subsidiary companies?” We note that on March 22, 2022, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) assessed civil monetary penalties (CMP) against Centene Corporation for similar alleged wrongful activities involving the states of California, South Carolina, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, and others.  And in a letter dated March 11, 2022, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration issued a $9.1 million fine over Centene/Sunshine Health’s improper failure to pay benefits to Florida’s neediest, sick children.  We have not found any report that Centene challenged or appealed either government penalty.

When multiple billions of dollars in government contracts are handed out to one contractor, and it is the subject of so many allegedly wrongful acts, one must ask if it is just treating such penalties and fines as the routine costs of doing business. Considering that $9.1 million is less than three (3) hundredths of a percent (.0003) of its $31 billion in contracts with the state of Florida, this cost may not even be significant enough for it to post on its profit ad loss statements.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Medicare and Medicaid Audits, Healthcare Audits, and Insurance Payment Disputes.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent counselors, therapists, physicians, healthcare providers and healthcare facilities in defense of Medicare and Medicaid audits, audits by insurance companies and managed care, and demands for repayment of overpayments. They represent healthcare providers in audits, audit appeals and repayment disputes against Centene Corporation and Sunshine Sate Health Plan d/b/a Sunshine Health. They also represent healthcare providers in defense against allegations of false billing, overbilling, False Claims Act violations and civil monetary penalties (CMP).

Our attorneys represent physicians, mental health counselors, behavior therapists, professional counselors, occupational therapists, social workers, medical groups, home health agencies, pharmacies, pharmacists, home nursing care providers, and other healthcare providers and institutions.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Redmond, Nell. “Centene to pay $33.3 million to settle Washington Medicaid fraud claims.” Reuters. (August 25, 2022). Web.

Elletson, Grace. “Centene Strikes $33M Deal To End Wash. Medicaid Fraud Suit.” Law360. (September 2, 2022). Web.

Health Law Weekly. “Centene Will Pay $19 Million to Resolve Medicaid Fraud Allegations.” AHLA. (September 2, 2022). 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620

Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm is always looking for qualified attorneys interested in the practice of health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a member of The Florida Bar and are interested, forward a cover letter and your resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax to: (407) 331-3030.

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2022-10-14T14:49:36-04:00November 7th, 2022|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments
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