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Hospital Countersues FCA Whistleblower for Failing to Report Information Internally

Carole C. SchrieferBy Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D.
On March 13, 2019, a West Virginia hospital facing a whistleblower lawsuit countersued a former employee who filed the False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit against the health system. Wheeling Hospital alleges that the former executive, who is the whistleblower/relator in the lawsuit, breached his fiduciary duty to the company by failing to report the unlawful conduct internally, first. Instead, he used the information as the basis for his whistleblower claim. In the countersuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, the Hospital accuses the former executive-turned-whistleblower of attempting to ‘extort a settlement’ and filing the FCA whistleblower suit as an act of revenge.

The Whistleblower’s Complaint.

The whistleblower, a former accountant, and senior executive at Wheeling Hospital, was discharged in August 2015. In December 2017, he filed a complaint under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act (FCA). He alleged the hospital violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) by paying kickbacks to physicians for patient referrals to the Hospital. Based on this, it is alleged, the claims for the services the hospital provided to the referred patients were false claims, subject to recoupment by the government.

The Hospital’s Countersuit.

In an unusual strategy, the Hospital filed a counter-suit against the whistleblower, alleging that he breached his fiduciary duty to the Hospital and abused the legal process. The Hospital’s case asserts that instead of carrying out his duty to the Hospital, instead, he capitalized on his alleged knowledge of the conduct to “extort a settlement” through a “false and frivolous” FCA suit as an act of revenge.

Additionally, the Hospital alleges that “at no time during his employment, or in his role as a partner at Deloitte, did he report any suspicions of fraud or violations of federal regulations to Wheeling Hospital’s compliance officer.”

You can read Wheeling Hospital’s countersuit against the whistleblower on our website in full.

The Significance of This Case: Unique Defense Strategy for Defending a Whistleblower Suit.

This case shows a unique, but legally valid, defense strategy that might be used in other future whistleblower cases. Often the information about false claims is produced by a high-ranking hospital or institutional employees whose job duties may have required them to report what they knew to the company as part of their job. The company should then have the opportunity to investigate and correct any improper billing or other misconduct that an errant employee might be carrying out on his own. By failing to do this, the employee may breach his duties to the company, may violate his employment contract, and may be subject to a suit or counter-suit over this. To the extent that the actions of the ex-employee cause the employer damages, the employer may be entitled to indemnification from the ex-employee.

However, the other side of the story is when an employee does make his or her superiors aware of suspected misconduct and false claims within the company and the company does nothing about it. This is often the case that we have when potential blowers contact us about filing a False Claims Act case. Often the whistleblower attempts to do the right thing by reporting it within the company and is stymied by his or her superiors. To us, this opens the door to legitimate whistleblower suits.

To read one of my prior blogs about South Florida Hospital reaching a settlement for similar FCA
claims, click here.

Click here to learn more about who can file a whistleblower/qui tam lawsuit and the reward programs for coming forward with a false claim.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm represent physicians, nurses and other health professionals who desire to file a False Claims Act (whistleblower or qui tam) case. However, the attorneys of The Health Law Firm also defend physicians, medical groups and health facilities that have been sued in False Claims Act (whistleblower or qui tam) cases or have had administrative or civil complaints filed against them to recover civil monetary penalties. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

Sources:

Pearlman, Steve and Freeman, Meika. “Top 10 Whistleblowing And Retaliation Events Of The Year.” Law360. (December 20, 2019). Web.

Goldberg, Pinchos. “Hospital Sues Whistleblower for Failing to Report Information And Choosing Instead to Use As Basis for Claim.” JD Supra. (May 8, 2019). Web.

Commins, John. “HOSPITAL COUNTERSUES FALSE CLAIMS WHISTLEBLOWER.” Health Leaders. (May 9, 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.

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By |2019-12-30T20:53:58+00:00December 30th, 2019|Categories: Colorado Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Florida Doc Charged in Largest Medicare Scheme Ever Reported Involving Genetic Testing

By Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D.
On October 1, 2019, a Florida doctor was implicated in what federal investigators say is one of the largest health care fraud schemes ever charged. According to prosecutors, the doctor allegedly authorized genetic testing for patients he never met, in a state where he’s not licensed to practice.

The vast fraud scheme totaled $2.1 billion worth of false Medicare and Medicaid claims between July 2018 and January 2019. The physician is being charged in the United States District Court of New Jersey with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Alleged Fraudulent Genetic Testing.

Thirty-five separate defendants are now facing felony charges for their alleged participation in one of the largest health care fraud schemes ever investigated and charged. All defendants involved were somehow associated with telemedicine companies and cancer genetic testing laboratories, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) news release. Click here to read the DOJ press release in full and learn more about the case and all the defendants being charged.

According to the release, one of the defendants, the Florida doctor, submitted fraudulent orders for genetic tests to numerous clinical laboratories. He allegedly authorized his signature on patient documents to order tests for patients he had never met, seen, treated or evaluated. Additionally, according to an indictment filed by the District Court of New Jersey, this physician received about $5,000 a month for his role as Privy Health Lab’s medical director in Illinois. During this period, according to prosecutors, he falsely reported himself as the patients’ ordering physician so that he could sign orders for the genetic testing. In 2018 alone, Medicare paid clinical laboratories at least $4.6 million for genetic tests that he allegedly ordered in this manner.

The Gainesville doctor faces charges of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud following an investigation by the DOJ, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

To learn about a similar case of healthcare fraud dealing with genetic testing, click here to read part one and here to read part two of my blog series on a prior scam.

Innocent until Proven Guilty in a Court of Law.

We are writing this blog from information from several different media sources including those referenced below and a DOJ press release. It must be remembered that just as is consistently stated in the “Bad Boys” television series, “the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Health Care Fraud and Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical practices, clinical labs, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (ALfs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and others who may desire to file a qui tam, False Claims Act or whistleblower suit. We work with physicians, nurses and other professionals to investigate, document and file such cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented several doctors and other licensed health professionals as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases. Our attorneys are also available to defend physicians, medical groups and health care providers in qui tam or whistleblower cases.

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

Sources:

Mavrakis, Emily. “Gainesville doctor charged for fraud over genetic testing.” The Gainesville Sun. (October 1, 2019). Web.

Villegas, Brianda. “Gainesville doctor charged in federal health care fraud case.” WCJB TV20. (October 1, 2019). Web.

U.S. Department of Justice, Press Release dated September 26, 2019, (https://www.justice.gov/usao-nj/pr/federal-health-care-fraud-takedown-northeastern-us-results-54-defendants-charged-and)

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.

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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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-12-05T20:30:00+00:00December 5th, 2019|Categories: Colorado Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

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.

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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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-11-06T20:48:18+00:00November 6th, 2019|Categories: Colorado Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

How Criminal Charges Can Affect Your Professional Medical License

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

Every health care provider knows that their license to practice can be disciplined for misconduct on the job. However, many are surprised to learn that they can also be disciplined for actions including criminal charges that occur outside their professional lives.  A criminal conviction for a felony or misdemeanor that is not directly related to their profession can still result in discipline.

Criminal Charges Do Impact Professional Licenses.

Licensing authorities are charged with protecting the general public, not the individuals they regulate. Most health care practitioner practice acts include criminal convictions as one of the grounds for the denial or discipline of a professional license. Some of those acts (for example, Florida) allow the disciplinary authority to impose discipline upon a conviction even when adjudication is withheld.

These authorities can and do impose discipline based upon the facts underlying a conviction, even when the conviction itself is not directly related to the practice of a profession.  For example, a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) or reckless driving can raise the question of whether the practitioner could be impaired or reckless while providing patient care.  The licensing authority will most likely investigate these matters and the facts underlying the offense to determine if the practitioner poses a threat to the public.

Therefore, if you have been arrested for DUI, disorderly conduct, assault, or any other misdemeanor, you can anticipate that the state, the Department of Health (DOH) or the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs will start an investigation. It is imperative that you retain an attorney who can immediately defend your freedom during your criminal case and also protect your livelihood during licensing proceedings.


Conviction of Felony or Misdemeanor Charges May Lead to Suspension of Professional License.

In the event of a conviction, in many cases, this may trigger a report to the state licensing board.  In Florida, for example, a physician or other licensed health professional who is required to have a practitioner profile must update that profile with the information about the conviction within 15 days.  In Florida, a physician or other licensed health professional must also notify his or her licensing board for the Department of Health (when there is no board), in writing, within 30 days.

If you are facing felony or misdemeanor charges, it is imperative that you seek the advice and experience of an attorney who can navigate the criminal and administrative courts and get you the best possible result to protect your freedom and livelihood. Remember, your profession is often your only means of support.

Practitioners who have been arrested generally want their criminal cases resolved as quickly and quietly as possible.  Unfortunately, they may inadvertently accept a plea arrangement that results in severe discipline or revocation of their license.  All health care providers and their criminal attorneys should consider the consequences to the practitioner’s license before accepting a plea arrangement and should consult with an experienced health law attorney. Click here to read one of our prior blogs for more information on this.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Licensure Matter and Disciplinary Matters.

If you have been arrested, it is strongly recommended that you retain an experienced health care attorney who can advise you and your criminal counsel as to the effects a potential outcome could have on your license.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners in licensure matters.  We frequently consult with criminal defense attorneys regarding defense strategies tailored to minimizing criminal sanctions while at the same time preserving the practitioner’s license.

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.

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

Dental Clinic Owners Found Guilty of $1 Million Medicaid, Tax Scheme

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

On February 21, 2019, a federal jury found the owners of several dental clinics in Missouri guilty of a $1 million scheme to defraud the government. The owners of All About Smiles LLC, were convicted of submitting false claims to Medicaid for dentures and other services and payroll tax fraud, according to prosecutors.

Submitting False Claims.

Prosecutors alleged that the couple that owned the practice ran several schemes through the dental clinics from 2010 to 2015, including conspiring to defraud Medicaid. A main part of the scheme was to provide dentures and other services to adults who didn’t qualify for Medicaid. They would then bill the Medicaid program anyway, receiving more than $720,000, according to the DOJ.

The pair also allegedly ran a similar scheme with orthodontic equipment, racking up an estimated 241 false claims, said prosecutors. All About Smiles was paid approximately $165,700 during the the duration of the scheme.

Payroll Problems.

In addition to the fraud, the owners allegedly failed to forward payroll taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) even though the money was withheld from employee paychecks. Instead, the married pair used the almost $195,000 to cover lavish personal expenses and make payments on a variety of vehicles, said the DOJ.

Not Smiling Anymore.

Jurors found the couple guilty on all charges detailed in a 40-count indictment accusing them of fraudulently operating three All About Smiles LLC dental clinics, said the DOJ. Additionally, their legal woes continued to stack up as each was also convicted on a count of theft of public money for collecting unemployment benefits while working.

The female owner faces up to 10 years in prison on every count besides the payroll tax conspiracy charge, which comes with a maximum penalty of five years. The husband owner could get up to a decade for obtaining unemployment benefits and five years for each additional charge, prosecutors said.

Click here to read the DOJ’s press release.

To read one of my prior blogs on a similar case about a dentist defrauding medicaid, click here.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent dentists, oral surgeons, and other health care providers in Medicaid audits, Medicare audits, insurance billing audits, ZPIC audits, RAC audits, administrative litigation and civil litigation 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 licensure complaints and investigations, DEA investigations, Medicare and Medicaid fraud investigations, audits, recovery actions and terminations from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

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

Sources:

“All About Smiles Owners Convicted of Fraud.” Ozark Independent. (February 21, 2019). Web.
Posses, Shayna. “Couple Found Guilty Of $1M Medicaid, Payroll Tax Scheme.” Law360. (February 21, 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.

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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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-04-18T18:44:05+00:00April 18th, 2019|Categories: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Dental Law Blog, Dentist Defense attorney, Health Care Fraud, Health care Law, Medicaid Fraud, Medicaid fraud|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Colorado Jury Rules in Favor of Marijuana Grow Business in Federal RICO Lawsuit

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

On November 14, 2018, a federal jury in Denver rejected claims involving the odor that was allegedly coming from a pot farm. This was a case that was being closely watched by the marijuana industry. The marijuana business had been sued for damages to neighboring property value under anti-racketeering laws.

A Closely Watched Lawsuit.

This was an important suit for the marijuana industry because it was the first federal suit brought under federal anti-racketeering laws. If the lawsuit had been successful, it could have created a new blueprint for opponents of marijuana legalization to dismantle the industry through civil cases under RICO laws.

The couple who own and live on land adjacent to the grow facility said the facility damaged their property values because of noise and odor. Because it harmed their views, and because no one wants to live near illegal activity, they claimed damages of $1 million.

The grow facility argued during trial that it didn’t cause any odor; its odor-control system doesn’t vent outdoors.

After a short deliberation, the jury ruled in favor of the marijuana grow facility and found it was not responsible for any of the alleged damages. Attorneys that represent similar marijuana facilities said proving property damages in cases like these are very difficult and hope the outcome of this case will deter others from trying the same. Click here to read more on this case.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs on this case.

It is unclear to me why the Plaintiffs in this case prosecuted the case under a RICO theory since such a cause of action is usually very difficult to prove. However, I am not aware of all the facts of the case. It seems to me that a simple suit for nuisance against the marijuana grow farm would have been easier to prove and obtain an injunction on.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

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

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

Sources:

Foody, Kathleen. “Colorado Lawsuit Could Ripple Through US Cannabis Industry.” Health News Florida. (October 30, 2018). Web.

Ingold, John. “Jury finds in favor of Colorado marijuana grow in closely watched federal lawsuit.” The Colorado Sun. (November 18, 2018). Web.

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

KeyWords: Growing marijuana industry, marijuana defense attorney, medical marijuana defense attorney, lawyer for medical marijuana growers and distributors, health lawyers for marijuana distributors, complex health care litigation attorney, federal medical litigation attorney, legal counsel for marijuana growers and distributors, medical marijuana laws, marijuana laws, medical marijuana legalization, recreational marijuana laws and regulations, legal representation for recreational marijuana in a business, legal counsel for marijuana law, marijuana law attorney, legal representation for marijuana decriminalization, legal representation for marijuana regulations, legal representation for U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, DOJ investigation attorney, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, The Health Law Firm, complex medical business litigation lawyer, professional license dfense attorney, medical marijuana license 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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

ECFMG Affidavit to Complete? Attending a Caribbean Medical School? Being Investigated for Irregular behavior by the ECFMG or USMLE? You need Legal Advice! Your Residency Matching Might Now Be at Issue, as Well!

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

Have you recently unexpectedly received an affidavit from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG or the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat? Are you attending or have you graduated from a Caribbean medical School such as the University of Science, Art and Technology (USAT), Faculty of Medicine, in Montserrat, or the Atlantic University School of Medicine (AUSOM) in St. Lucia? Then you are probably, unknowingly, being investigated for misconduct, improprieties in your medical school attendance or other “irregular behavior.” You need to consult with a lawyer and specifically a lawyer who knows and understands the processes followed by the ECFMG and the USMLE.

Large Number of Legal Inquiries Being Received from Current Students and Graduates of USAT.

A year ago, our firm was receiving a large number of calls from students and graduates of the Atlantic University School of Medicine (AUSOM) concerning inquiries and letters they were receiving from the ECFMG and/or the USMLE. However, over the past several months, we have now received an even larger number of inquiries from students and alumni of the University of Arts, Technology and Sciences (USAT) Faculty of Medicine in Montserrat. We have now seen several different affidavits which the ECF image he has sent to students and graduates of USAT which request some very specific and detailed information about their course attendance and experience as students at USAT.

Each inquiry we have received from students and graduates of USAT has disclosed facts and circumstances that are slightly different from the other. From these we have been able to piece together a fairly comprehensive picture of what is probably going on. To summarize, it appears that you SAT is under investigation by the ECF image he for the various irregularities that our clients have disclosed have occurred in the past.

Affidavits from the ECFMG and the USMLE Should Be Taken Very Seriously. They Should Be Answered Truthfully and Must Be Returned Promptly.

The Handbook and Guidelines published by the ECFMG and the USMLE, require that any student or graduate who applies for their services must promptly respond to requests for information. This would include responding to the affidavits (which are really questionnaires to be completed under oath). Otherwise, the applicant can be charged by the ECFMG or the USMLE with “irregular behavior” in accordance with the Handbook and Guidelines that they previously agreed to follow when initially applying.

We hear from our callers, clients, and potential clients that they may have received instructions from their schools or from other sources that they do not have to do send these affidavits back in or respond to these requests for information. We do not believe that this is correct and vice. If confronted by having been sent such an inquiry or affidavit by the USEMLE or ECFMG, you should immediately contact competent, experienced, legal counsel to advise you on the exact issues and facts of the situation. You will only receive advice that takes your own personal interests into consideration from your own personal attorney; you are not likely to receive it from anyone else.

View Our Other Blogs on Our Experience with the USMLE, ECFMG, and NBME, and Hearings on “Irregular Behavior.”

Our law firm is had a great deal of experience representing students and graduates in disputes with and defending charges of “irregular behavior” against the USMLE, ECFMG and he NBME. To review a few of these please see:
What to Do If You Receive an Inquiry From the USMLE, ECFMG, or NBME
GOING TO TAKE THE USMLE STEP EXAMS? BEWARE OF ACTIONS THAT CAN BE CALLED “IRREGULAR BEHAVIOR”-PART 1, and
Accused of Irregular Behavior on the USMLE? Here’s What You Will Do Wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Implementing” the Law or Impeding the Law?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ongoing Legal Battles.

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

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

What Outcome is Best for the State of Florida?

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

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

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

Florida Gets a Green Light on First Five Growers as Medical Marijuana Program Expands: Five Pot Growers Hit Jackpot

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) awarded the state’s first licenses to five nurseries, allowing them to legally grow and cultivate marijuana for medical purposes. The nurseries selected are Costa Nursery Farms in Miami, Alpha Foliage of Homestead, Knox Nursery of Winter Garden, Hackney Nursery Company in Tallahassee and Chestnut Hill Tree Farm of Alachua.

Compassionate Use in Florida.

With these licenses, the five nurseries are permitted to grow Charlotte’s Web, a liquid form of cannabis low in THC, the chemical that gives a euphoric feeling. It is intended to treat patients with epilepsy and advanced stages of cancer. For patients to qualify for the treatment, they must obtain permission from a qualified doctor and be added to the Compassionate Use Registry. Compassionate use is the experimental use of a medical product that has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To read more about compassionate use and the registry from The DOH, click here.


Applicant Rules and Guidelines.

The five nurseries were selected out of a pool of 28 applicants with businesses in Florida for at least 30 years that grow a minimum of 400,000 plants. Each of the growers now have 10 business days to post a $5 million performance bond to prove they are serious about the license. Several nurseries that were selected have partnered with consultants, investors, security firms and out of state marijuana growers to help develop plans and secure the performance bond.

Expanding the Medical Marijuana Program.

Medical Marijuana is well on its way to Florida and these first five growers are just the beginning. A Florida House Panel recently approved House Bill 307, to expand the small medical marijuana program. Under this Bill, terminally ill patients can purchase marijuana from a licensed grower with approval from two doctors. Not only did the House Justice Subcommittee approve House Bill 307 by a 9-4 vote, they tacked on new language to increase the number of growers to 20. The bill passed its first hurdle and moves next to the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. To find out more details on House Bill 307, click here.

To read further on Medical Marijuana legislation in Florida, read one of our past blogs here.

Serious Questions Regarding Monopolistic Actions.

I have some very serious questions as to whether or not the state is unfairly limiting the number of medical marijuana growers. Surely there is a need for more than five of them. This has got to be perceived as capricious and arbitrary by any court reviewing it.

If the proposed Florida constitutional amendment passes during the next election, as many predict it will, then such an artificial limitation on the number of growers may well be determined to violate the intent of the amendment. With all of the scrutiny being focused on state medical agencies by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) for anti-competitive practices, the artificially low number of permitted growers is found to invite future litigation from pateints and from competing growers who were shut out of the market.

Comments?

What are your thoughts on the availability of medical marijuana in Florida? Do you agree with the expansion of the medical marijuana program? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

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

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 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.

Sources:

Auslen, Michael. “Florida medical marijuana plan expanded to 20 growers.” Bradenton Herald. 17 Nov. 2015. Web.

Klas, Mary Ellen. “Florida approves 5 nurseriers to grow medical marijuana.” Miami Herald. 24 Nov. 2015. Web.

Powers, Scott. “5 growers get state’s 1st pot license.” Orlando Sentinel. 24 Nov. 2015. Print.

KeyWords: Florida medical marijuana, medical marijuana growers, medical marijuana cultivation, medical marijuana license, Charlotte’s Web, House Bill 307, medical marijuana lawyer, marijuana attorney, low-THC cannabis, medical cannabis, Department of Health (DOH), Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, medical marijuana regulations, medical license defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, health law attorney, cannabis for treatment of debilitating medical condition

“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 © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

DEA Nixes Removing Marijuana From Its Highly Restricted Drug Classification

7 Indest-2008-4By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On August 11, 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) denied a petition to lessen federal restrictions on the use of marijuana for the fourth consecutive time. The DEA rejected petitions to remove marijuana from its most highly restricted classification of drugs, which includes heroin and ecstasy, but announced a new policy to support expanded research into the substance.

The Federal Status of Marijuana.

Reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 2 drug would have made it easier to get federal approval for studies of its uses as well as for doctors to start writing prescriptions for medical marijuana-based treatments. Additionally, the current federal status of marijuana makes it impossible for state-legal marijuana businesses to take the same tax deductions afforded to other business. Federal restrictions also make banks reluctant to work with marijuana businesses, leading many of them to become all-cash operations — with all the risks that entails.

The acting head of the DEA, Chuck Rosenburg, stated that “it has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision and a high potential for abuse.”

Marijuana for Scientific Research.

In a proposal issued on the same day, the DEA said that it will allow universities and private companies to grow marijuana for scientific research. Despite this, the DEA says it cannot change the legal status of marijuana unless the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines it has a clear medical use. However, the FDA cannot determine it has a medical use in part because of the highly restrictive legal status of the drug. It’s a classic catch-22.

To read more on the status of medical marijuana, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Stop Perpetuating the Insanity.

Like Yosarian said in the novel Catch 22, a novel about the absurdities and contradictions inherent in large government bureaucracy: “That’s some catch, that ‘catch 22.’ ” And the DEA is helping to perpetuate it. It’s difficult to understand how states can be legalizing medical marijuana, authorizing doctors to write prescriptions for it and issuing licenses to medical marijuana growers, if the DEA keeps it on its Schedule 1. Yeah, it’s right up there with heroin and PCP, isn’t it? My question is why aren’t cigarettes and chewing tobacco on that schedule? Someone needs to wake up and smell the coffee (or the ganja smoke)!

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

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

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

Sources:

Ingraham, Christopher. “Why the DEA just said ‘no’ to loosening marijuana restrictions.” The Washington Post. (August 16, 2016). Web.

Saint Thomas, Catherine. “DEA keeps marijuana on the dangerous list of drugs.” The New York Times. (August 16, 2016). Web.

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

KeyWords: Florida medical marijuana use, legal counsel for medical marijuana, marijuana defense attorney, marijuana for scientific research, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) administrative actions, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) defense attorney, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) legal counsel, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defense attorney, medical marijuana attorneys, marijuana growers attorney, Charlotte’s Webb, The Health Law Firm Reviews, legal representation for medical marijuana growers, health lawyer, The Health Law Firm Attorney Reviews, Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO attorney, Nurses Service Organization (NSO) defense attorney, 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 © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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