Yale University to Pay $87,500 Settlement For Allegations It Underpaid Female Doctors

By Carole C. Schriefer, J.D.

Yale University agreed to pay $87,500 to resolve discrimination allegations with the U.S. Department of Labor. The discrimination alleged that the Ivy League school paid four women cardiologists significantly less than their male colleagues from October 2016 to September 2017. While not admitting the allegations, the university agreed to the settlement which will reportedly cover the difference in pay for the women affected, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) said.

Alleged Pay Discrimination.

The OFCCP first detected the pay disparities during a routine compliance audit of the university’s medical school, the agreement said. The agency found that in 2016, Yale University paid four female cardiologists less than similarly situated male physicians at the School of Medicine’s Cardiovascular Medicine Section.

According to the settlement, Yale hired the doctors as part of the university’s “acquisition of community practices and hospitals associated with the Yale-New Haven Hospital System.” In 2018, Yale allegedly cut the women doctors’ employment category and moved them to a new faculty category. OFCCP claims that the medical school category is supposed to have a uniform compensation structure in place. Click here to read the settlement agreement in full.

In response to the allegations, a Yale was quoted as saying: “The conciliation agreement involves only four employees out of a workforce of over 16,000. OFCCP admitted that it found no pay disparities as to any but these four employees, who held roles in an employment category that has not existed for over two years.”

To read the press release issued by the Department of Labor, click here.

Additionally, read my recent blog on a previous discrimination lawsuit against Yale.

What does this show us? That at least in federal programs and in educational institutions and medical programs receiving federal funds, discrimination is prohibited and action will be taken to remedy it.

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for physicians, including residents, and fellows, as well as medical students. We also represent other health professionals, clinical professors, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, and other healthcare providers. We represent health facilities, medical 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, physicians, including those involved in clinical research, complaints, and investigations.

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:

Ottaway, Amanda. “Yale Settles OFCCP Claims That It Underpaid Female Doctors.” Law360. (October 5, 2020). Web.

Smith, Paige. “Yale University Settles DOL Claims of Pay Bias Against Women (1).” Bloomberg Law. (October 2, 2020). Web.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and former 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm

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Veterans Urge Federal Court To Reconsider DEA Marijuana Classification

By Carole C. Schriefer, J.D.

On October 1, 2020, military veterans urged the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) restrictive marijuana classification. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) said in an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief that designating the drug a highly controlled substance has impeded medical research that could save lives.

Marijuana Claimed to Be a “Life-saving Treatment” for Veterans.

IAVA’s brief focused on suicide rates among returning soldiers. The group claimed the current status of marijuana on the drug schedules, listing it as a Schedule I drug, one without any medical use, under federal law inhibits studies to demonstrate its potential in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the IAVA’s brief, the Schedule I status of marijuana prevents the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and private practitioners from studying the benefits and risks of medical marijuana. This results in keeping life-saving treatment away from veterans suffering from PTSD who reside in states where they are not available.

The brief stated that 40% of veterans experience some form of PTSD that is not helped by treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In 2019, IAVA conducted a survey showing that 20% of respondents used marijuana for medicinal purposes. Additionally, 90% of survey respondents support expanding clinical research for medical uses, and 90% would use it if it were an option.

To read IAVA’s amicus brief in full, click here.

Click here to read my recent blog on a proposed medical marijuana research bill.

Schedule I Drug.

Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug on the federal drug schedules. “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Some examples of Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Anyone viewing these drugs objectively would come to the conclusion that marijuana is simply not like the others.

It Is High Time for a Change.

Many veterans have returned from overseas combat severely affected by PTSD and other mental disorders. There is simply not enough available care through the VA to take care of them all. Moreover, many of these suffer from illnesses making them paranoid or suspicious of even seeking such care. Many are homeless. Many are able to function, some normal and some almost normally, by self-medicating with marijuana.

As more and more states authorize medical marijuana, the federal government should acknowledge that there is some benefit to its use and reclassify it. It is simply common sense. Too long has the public labored under the unjust and unsupportable assumption that incorrectly categorizes it as a Schedule I drug. It needs to be moved to Schedule V or Schedule IV. Medical bills would go down, drug bills would go down, and legitimate physicians, even federal physicians, would be allowed to prescribe it.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Regulatory Matters and Other Health Care Licensing Matters.

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. We represent health-related businesses and medical professionals in all types of licensing and regulatory matters, including state and federal administrative hearings.

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:

Reisman, Sam. “Veterans Urge 9th Circ. To Hear Challenge To DEA’s Pot Status.” Law360. (October 7, 2020). Web.

Jeager, Kyle. “Military Veterans Group Asks Federal Court To Hear Marijuana Case Challenging DEA Classification.” Marijuana Moment. (October 8, 2020). Web.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and former 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

“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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Tips If You Are Having Academic, Disciplinary or Legal Problems with Your Residency Program

By Carole C. Schriefer, J.D.

Here are some tips to set the record straight on various inaccurate information I have heard from physicians in medical residency programs in representing them in appeals of disciplinary actions including suspension and terminations.

1. Nothing you tell your Program Director, advisor, mentors, attendings, senior resident, or co-resident is confidential. Go ahead and pour your heart out about all of your problems and concerns, but none of it is confidential, even if you said it was “in confidence.” What is confidential: what you tell your priest or religious adviser (preacher, rabbi, imam) and what you tell your own personal physician or psychotherapist (unless you have signed a waiver) that you have hired and you are paying. Anyone else, it is not confidential. So if you tell your program director you were raped when you were younger, not confidential. If you tell your senior resident you suffer from panic attacks, not confidential. You tell your attending that you had cancer ten years ago, not confidential. This applies no matter what “magic words” you attach to it.

2. Take and use whatever time period is offered to you to retain counsel and prepare. If you are given ten (10) days to file an appeal or a request for hearing, take the full ten (10) days. Do not file it on the same day. Otherwise, you are using up valuable preparation time that you cannot get back.

3. Make sure that whatever you are required to file is actually received by the due date indicated. If a request for a hearing must be filed within fifteen (15) days, that means that it must be received within the fifteen days. Check after you send it or deliver it to make sure it has been successfully received.

4. It is never too early to hire an attorney. Hire an attorney to represent and advise you at the first sign of trouble. However, you must be sure to hire an attorney who is experienced in representing residents and fellows in disputes with graduate medical education programs. An experienced attorney can help you prepare any written submissions you make, organize your response and any documents you care to submit, and otherwise assist you in identifying what is relevant and what is not relevant.

5. Always read your program’s graduate medical education (GME) manual, residency manual, due process policy or whatever handbook or manual contains your hearing and appeal rights. Be familiar with them and follow them.

6. If you are given remedial actions you must take, documents your completion of each one. Whether the requirement you must perform is in a corrective action plan (CAP), a remediation letter, or a probation letter, document your completion of it in writing and report it to whatever authority gave you the requirement. Send a courtesy copy (“cc”) to your program director.

7. Make sure any correspondence you send to anyone is complete, correct and in the form of a professional business letter. Make sure it meets all of the requirements of a professional business letter. This is especially true for rebuttals, appeals, hearing requests, etc. What, you don’t know what this is? Then go online and Google it. Your letter should look very similar to any letter you received from your program director or institution. Be sure it has all of your return contact information on it as well as a date. Do not start your letter with “Hi,” “Hello,” or “Good day.” Do place a reference (“Re:”) line or subject line on your letter that states what the subject of your letter is.

8. Do not be afraid to appeal, file a discrimination complaint or exercise any of your legal rights. Often I hear from residents, after they are already terminated from their program, that they are afraid to get a lawyer involved. I usually ask: “What are you afraid of? What is the worst that can happen? You have already been terminated.” Remember, also, that if your program retaliates against you for exercising any of your rights, that is illegal. The ACGME would like to hear about that and in almost all cases, you will then have a legal cause of action upon which you can sue the program.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Resident Physicians, Fellows, Medical Students, Dental Students and Residents, Pharmacy Students and Residents, Mental Health Counselor Interns, and other health professionals. The attorneys of The Health Law Firm, also represent those applicants accused of irregular behavior by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), in responses, hearings and appeals, including on charges of “unprofessional conduct” and “improper behavior.”

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys 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 toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and former 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

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“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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HHS Announces New Changes to Regulatory Process: Secretary Must Sign All Agency Rulemaking

By Carole C. Schriefer, J.D.

In a September 15, 2020 memorandum, the current Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, barred the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other federal health agencies under his authority from independently enacting any new federal regulations. The memo establishes that the Secretary must sign all agency rulemaking. This new policy affects all rules coming from all HHS agencies and offices, the department said, including the FDA, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and Office for Civil Rights. It doesn’t apply to guidance documents, emergency use authorizations, or vaccine or drug approvals.

How long this policy stands after President-elect Biden is sworn in is anybody’s guess. It is my guess that it won’t last long.

Why Make the Changes?

According to HHS, the new regulation-making procedures are to ensure consistency within HHS, compliance with congressional intent, the need to minimize the risk of litigation, and to provide public accountability. HHS regulations have been challenged in court based on the argument that officials who signed new regulations did not have the proper authority to do so.

The memo attempts to rationalize the change in the face of critics who claim that the move could negatively affect public trust in approval of COVID-19 vaccines and the entire approval process.

Rulemaking Process Before and After the Memo.

Before the policy change, the law and established departmental procedure required that all new regulations go through departmental and White House clearance and receive the Secretary’s approval. The regulations were typically signed by the Secretary and by the head of the agency involved. In some instances, other officials to whom authority had been delegated signed the new regulations.

Now, all HHS regulations will still go through departmental and White House clearance and will continue to be approved by the Secretary. But, the change effectively bars the FDA and other health agencies from signing off on any new regulations regarding the nation’s food, medicine, and other products under the HHS umbrella. The HHS Secretary himself must now sign all final regulations.

HHS released the following statement on this action:

“Before and after this action, no regulation issues from any part of HHS without the approval of the Secretary and the White House. The only change made by this memo is that, instead of the Secretary’s just approving all agency regulations, each regulation now also will be formally signed by him.”

Click here to read the HHS Statement on Regulatory Process.

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, 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:

Stein, Shira. “HHS Secretary to Sign All Rules in Bid to Stem Litigation.” Bloomberg Law. (September 21, 2020). Web.

Keller and Heckman LLP. “A New Policy by HHS Secretary Alex Azar Will Prevent FDA and Other Health Agencies From Signing Final Rules.” National Law Review. (September 21, 2020). Web.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and former 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

“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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Senate Republicans Reveal Sweeping New Legislation: The SAFE DATA Act

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

On September 17, 2020, Republican members of the Senate Commerce Committee introduced sweeping federal privacy legislation. The proposed law is called the Setting an American Framework to Ensure Data Access, Transparency, and Accountability (SAFE DATA) Act. The Act is a combination of bills previously introduced in the Senate: the Consumer Data Protection Act, Filter Bubble Transparency Act, and the Deceptive Experiences to Online Users Reduction Act. It hasn’t passed, yet, so let’s wait and see.

HAH! You thought you had learned all of the acronyms and abbreviations because you know what HIPAA, HITECH, FERPA, USCDPA, and FOIA mean. Let’s see how long it takes you to remember what this one stands for.

Details of the SAFE DATA Act.

This proposed legislation has three main components if passed into actual law. It:

1. Provides consumers with more choice and control over their data (allegedly),
2. Directs business to be more transparent and accountable (allegedly), and
3. Strengthens the FTC’s enforcement power (allegedly).

The Act would provide consumer rights, such as access, notice, deletion, opting-out, correction, and a right to data portability. It also prohibits covered entities from discriminating against consumers who utilize some of the proposed rights. It will prohibit organizations from denying goods or services to individuals because they have exercised any of their rights as set forth in the bill.

Implementation of the bill would be financed through a $100 million appropriation to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce its provisions. Therefore, the FTC would gain the authority to obtain injunctions and impose other sanctions for violations.

Integrating Other Privacy Bill Provisions.

The SAFE DATA Act incorporates three main bill provisions into the proposal.

First, it includes the Filter Bubble Transparency Act (don’t ask). It requires a notice on public-facing websites that use algorithmic ranking systems

Second, it contains provisions from the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (“DETOUR”) bill (ouch!). This provision makes it unlawful for an online service with more than 100 million authenticated users to use a user interface to impair user autonomy.

Third, like the United States Consumer Data Privacy Act (CDPA), the proposal requires companies to obtain affirmative, express consent from the customer before processing or transferring individuals’ sensitive data.

According to Julie Brill, former Commissioner of the FTC, a comprehensive privacy law would also address consent and collection issues related to COVID-19 health data, while at the same time promoting racial equality and prohibiting data discrimination. Boy, that’s great; who knew this was likely to be accomplished in our lifetimes.

View the proposed Safe Data Act in full.

You may also read one of my prior blogs to learn more about HIPAA privacy rights violations and medical confidentiality.


Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Defending HIPAA Complaints and Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals, and other healthcare providers and institutions in investigating and defending alleged HIPAA complaints and violations and in preparing Corrective Action Plans (CAPs).

For more information about HIPAA violations, electronic health records or corrective action plans (CAPs) please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620.

Sources:

Cox, Ayeisha. “Lawmakers Introduce the SAFE DATA Act.” American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA). (October 2, 2020). Web.

Traylor. Christian. “Federal Data Privacy Legislation: Will it Help the US Remain Competitive in the Global Marketplace?” JD Supra. (September 29, 2020). Web.

Panakal, Dominic Dhil. “Senate Republicans Stitch Together Safe Data Ideas into New Bill.” The National Law Review. (September 24, 2020).

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.

“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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Two Criminally Charged For Mishandling Deadly COVID-19 Outbreak at Veterans Home

By Carole C. Schriefer, J.D.

On September 25, 2020, two administrators at a Massachusetts veterans home were criminally charged with negligence for their role in a COVID-19 outbreak that killed 76 veterans. Attorney General (AG) Maura Healey reportedly stated that the criminal case involving Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke (SHH) is the first in the country against nursing home operators related to the pandemic.


Did They Mishandle the Deadly Coronavirus Outbreak?

The superintendent and the facility’s former medical director were indicted by a grand jury and charged with recklessly permitting bodily injury or abuse to the residents. The charges stem from their decision to combine two dementia units in March of 2020. They are accused of packing residents who were positive for the coronavirus into the same space as those with no symptoms. According to the AG, the decision contributed to the death of at least 76 residents at the facility.

AG’s Investigation.

The AG’s Office began investigating early April 2020 after learning of serious issues with COVID-19 infection control procedures at SHH. The investigation found that staffing shortages led to the decision to consolidate the two dementia units, totaling 42 residents. It resulted in confirmed COVID-19-positive residents being placed within feet of other veterans at the facility. The AG’s Office alleges that this decision was reckless from an infection control perspective and put the asymptomatic veterans at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 from the positive ones.

Since March 1, 2020, 76 veterans who contracted the coronavirus at SHH have died, officials said. Click here to read the Attorney General’s press release on the case.

To read about a similar case against a Florida nursing home, click here.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Veterans Administration (VA) Physician Representation and Military Physician Representation.

The Health Law Firm attorneys have represented nursing home administrators, health care executives, nurses, nurse practitioners, assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and health professionals working for the Veterans Administration (VA) throughout the United States. Representation has included personnel and employment issues, disciplinary action, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions, and appeals.

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

Sources:

Durkin, Alanna. “2 Charged Over Handling of Virus Outbreak at Veterans Home.” Associated Press. (September 25, 2020). Web.

Dowling, Bryan. “Mass. Vet Home Leaders Charged Over Deadly Virus Outbreak.” Law360. (September 25, 2020). Web.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and former registered nurse. She practices with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado area.  The Health Law Firm, 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com

“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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

Fake Nurse Sentenced to Prison For Health Care Fraud, Identity Theft, and Wire Fraud

By Carole C. Schriefer, J.D.

On September 23, 2020, a Tennessee woman who posed as a nurse working at several medical facilities was sentenced to more than four years in prison. In December 2019, she pled guilty to wire fraud, healthcare fraud, identity theft, and practicing nursing without a license.

How a Phony Nurse Gained Employment.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the woman posed as a registered nurse, despite not having a nursing degree or a nursing license, and having no nursing experience. To accomplish the fraud, she obtained the license numbers of real nurses with similar first names. She admitted to providing fraudulent information on job applications to gain employment. She was employed by at least eight different health care providers between September 2012 and November 2018. She also falsely claimed that she held nursing degrees from two educational institutions, Walters State College and Carson Newman University.

This is a long time, six years, to get away with health fraud. Usually, we only see things like this in Florida. However, in the past few years, Florida seems to be seeing fewer and fewer fake doctors, nurses, and health professionals. Perhaps the crackdown by the Florida Department of Health on the unlicensed practice of health professions has had some impact on this.

Continuing Lies & Fraudulent Behavior.

While posing as a nurse, the fake R.N. worked in various medical settings, including nursing homes, rehabilitation and assisted living facilities, a doctor’s office, and home health agencies. She rendered nursing care to numerous patients, dispensed prescription medications, and gained access to patients’ sensitive and private medical information, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Furthermore, the woman made false entries in patients’ medical records and submitted or caused the submission of at least $500,000 in false claims to public and private health care benefit programs.

The phony nurse performed procedures that she was, of course, unqualified to perform. She failed to act or to notify others of the necessary procedures for patients and failed to chart and document patient care. According to the written plea agreement, at least one patient required re-admittance to the hospital and an additional three-day hospital stay due to her inept care.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch is quoted in the media as having stated: “Our Medicaid Fraud Control Division remains committed to working with our federal partners to ensure healthcare fraud and identity theft cases like this one are addressed and investigated thoroughly.”

Judge Clifton L. Corker of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee sentenced her to 51 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to repay $700,000 in restitution to her employers.

To read the DOJ’s press release about this case in full, click here.

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

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, 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.

Sources:

“Morristown woman posed as nurse for 6 years at 8 health care providers.” ABC 6 Local News. (December 12, 2019). Web.

Starks, Ariel. “Fake nurse sentenced to 51 months in prison, ordered to repay employers $700,000.” WVLT 8 Local News. (September 23, 2020). Web.

Bonvissuto, Kimberly. “Nurse imposter who worked in assisted living sentenced for wire fraud, healthcare fraud, identity theft.” McKnight’s Senior Living. (September 25, 2020). Web.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and former 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

“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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

OSHA Issues Series of Citations for COVID-19-Related PPE Violations

By Carole C. Schriefer, J.D.

On September 14, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a citation against a healthcare system in Louisiana. Christus Shreveport-Bossier Health System is facing fines for failing to safeguard its employees with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus pandemic. OSHA has proposed $13,494 in penalties, the maximum allowed by law.

OSHA’s Investigation for COVID-19 Exposure Risk.

After receiving reports of employee exposure, OSHA opened a coronavirus–related investigation. The agency found that the health system violated workplace safety protocols and put employees at risk of COVID-19 exposure.

In a press release, OSHA stated, “emergency facility employees often shared used protective gowns or did not have protective gowns to wear while treating patients.” Click here to read the press release in full.

Christus Health had 15 business days from receipt of the citation and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings. In a statement, Katy Kiser, a spokesperson for Christus Health, said, “We are actively contesting the citation and the penalty. We have worked hard to secure the PPE we have needed to get us through many phases of the pandemic and maintain a local contingency supply of at least ten days. To date, we have experienced no gaps in PPE supply during pandemic response.”

COVID-19 Citations for Several Different Health Systems.

After receiving criticism that it was not adequately investigating COVID-19 complaints, OSHA announced it would ramp up enforcement. As a result, the agency said it would also issue fines against New Jersey-based Bergen New Bridge Medical Center and Hackensack Meridian Health. The two healthcare systems were cited for failing to provide appropriately fit respirator masks to its home healthcare employees. Additionally, after providing respirators, they didn’t provide adequate training and compliant medical evaluations.

Click here for more on this story.

To read OSHA’s Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease memo that was released in May, 2020, click here.  For additional resources, visit OSHA’s COVID-19 response page on their website here.

Click here to read one of our recent blogs on this topic and learn more.

Health Care Providers Can and Should File Complaints with OSHA for Workplace Violations.

What these cases show is that health professionals whose employers fail to provide proper safety equipment, PPE, and other job-related protections, can file OSHA complaints. OSHA’s main purpose for existing is to protect employees from unsafe working environments. Although the fines OSHA assesses may be small, if the employer is fined, this may provide the basis for a workers compensation claim, a law suit, a union complaint or all of three of these.

Furthermore, if the employer retaliates against the employee for filing an OSHA complaint, then the employee has a valid cause of action against the employer, regardless of any other rights, under OSHA’s “whistle blower protection” provisions.

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, 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:

Campbell, Braden. “OSHA Ramps Up Physical Inspections, COVID Case Reporting.” Law360. (May 19, 2020). Web.

Kutner, Max. “OSHA Fines La. Health System Over COVID-19 Violations.” (September 14, 2020). Web.

Shinkman, Ron. “OSHA fines 3 hospital systems for PPE violations.” Healthcare Dive. (September 15, 2020). Web.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and former 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

KeyWords: Health law defense lawyer, legal representation of health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Department of Health defense attorney, healthcare employment law representation, legal representation for physicians, nurse defense lawyer, nursing complaint defense attorneys, board of nursing defense attorney, nurse defense legal representation, legal representation for healthcare professionals, complex health care litigation attorney, complex civil litigation attorney, complex healthcare litigation lawyer, complex medical litigation lawyer, representation for complex medical litigation, representation for healthcare business litigation matters, representation for administrative hearing, representation for Department of Health (DOH) representation, DORA defense attorney, DOH defense attorney, representation for DOH hearings, representation for DOH investigations, representation for disciplinary charges, representation for disciplinary complaint

“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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

Federal Judge Dismisses Florida Dentist’s COVID-19 Business Interruption Insurance Claim

George Indest Headshot

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

On September 3, 2020, a Florida federal judge dismissed a suit for business interruption insurance payments by a Florida dentist. The dentist claimed he sustained damages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and related civil authority shutdowns of dental services. The dismissal freed Allied Insurance Company of America from having to pay the dentist’s for COVID-19 related losses, holding that the policy’s “virus exclusion” barred coverage of the insurance claim made.

Insurance Coverage for COVID-19 Related Losses.

The dentist sued his insurance carrier for damages that he argued were “caused by or result[ing] from a Covered Cause of Loss.” The causes of the alleged loss, he maintained, included the COVID-19 virus’s impact on his dental practice and the Florida governor’s emergency declaration that limited dental services during a period of time. Specifically, he claimed that he incurred costs to decontaminate his dental office and lost valuable income because of the governor’s dental services limitation. The dentist alleged that Allied breached the insurance contract by denying coverage in April.

Allied’s insurance policy provides coverage “for direct physical loss or damage to covered property at the [plaintiff’s] premises” that is “caused by or result[s] from any Covered Cause of Loss.” Allied argued that there was no direct physical loss or damage to covered property at the clinic due to appointment cancellations or the closure of the dental practice.

Dismissal of the Law Suit.

U.S. District Court Judge John Badalamenti, for the Middle District of Florida, dismissed the case. He found that the dental practice’s loss or damage asserted was “not due to a covered cause of loss.” More importantly, he found that the policy contained an exclusion for loss or damage caused “directly or indirectly,” by “[a]ny virus, bacterium or other microorganisms that induces or is capable of inducing physical distress, illness or disease.”

According to the judge’s order, in order for the insurer to provide coverage, losses from business suspension must be caused by direct physical loss or damage. He ruled that the dentist failed to demonstrate what the policy required in order to be a covered loss. To read the order in full, click here.

With such a specific exclusion as this policy contained, it was difficult for the judge in the case to rule any other way.

 

Litigation on Whether Insurance Policies Should Cover Losses Due to Coronavirus Closures.

This recent Florida dismissal is another in a string of cases where insurers have prevailed in Coronavirus business loss cases, because of similar exclusions in their policies. In a similar case, a Michigan federal judge sided with the insurance company saying it didn’t have to cover a chiropractic office’s COVID-19 claimed losses. Like the case above, the judge said the business failed to allege physical loss and, therefore, the policy’s virus exclusion barred coverage. Click here to read the judge’s order in this case.

According to insurance experts and regulators, most businesses and professionals will probably find it difficult to obtain an insurance payout because of policy changes made after the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak. SARS, which infected 8,000 people, led to millions of dollars in business-interruption insurance claims. As a result, many insurers added exclusions to standard commercial policies for virus losses. The added policy language potentially allows insurance companies to avoid hundreds of billions of dollars in business-interruption claims because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since a wide-scale virus outbreak is such a rare event, most policy purchasers overlooked this exception. There certainly wasn’t any concerted effort to make insureds aware of the exclusion nor to offer them the opportunity to purchase specific virus outbreak insurance coverage.

A global pandemic presents unique problems for insurance companies. After the SARS outbreak at the beginning of this millennium, many insurance companies realized they would not be able to cover such a broad-scale event causing massive losses. Such an event could have damages greater than those sustained in the largest hurricane to strike the U.S. The insurance industry argued to state regulators that such policy exclusions were necessary, considering the overwhelming number of claims that might arise from a single disease outbreak.

This foresight on the part of the insurance companies saved their shareholders billions, if not trillions, of dollars. Unfortunately business and professionals have had to shoulder the losses.

So, it begs the question: Did insurers actually know the potential damage a viral pandemic could wreak on businesses and, therefore, purposefully exclude coverage? Disputes over the precise wording of business insurance policies will most likely continue to generate court battles like those discussed above.

Read my prior blog on this subject to learn more.

Recommendation for the Future.

There are several options that businesses and state insurance regulators should consider to try to prevent such massive losses from going uncompensated in the future.

First would be to create and provide virus damage insurance similar to that provided for flood insurance by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The biggest problem would be that losses could easily exceed the largest hurricane that one could imagine. However, the NFIP has shown this type of plan works.

Second would be similar programs provided at the state level. At the present time, many states, have captive insurance companies to fund losses from wind damage caused by storms. In Florida, the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (CPIC) provides such coverage.

The biggest problem I see with both of the above is that short-sighted and selfish people don’t want to purchase such insurance and, thereby, make it less expensive for all involved. They figure that the government will bail them out anyway in such an event, so why should they pay. Therefore, either making it paid for completely with taxpayer money or a requirement of obtaining a business license or professional license or some combination, may be a way to finance it.

Creating a trust fund with assessments to employers and employees, similar to what is currently done for social security, would be another option. Creating a large trust fund that could cover such tragic events might work best. However, this would have to be made “raider safe” so that Congress does not come back and raid these funds and use them for other purposes like it has done to the United States Postal Service (USPS).

At the very least, some type of universal virus pandemic business loss insurance should be mandated by law or, at least, partially funded by the government. Making it mandatory means making it cheaper and making it work.

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. 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 (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com

Sources:

Zhang, Daphne. “Fla. Dentist’s Bid For COVID-19 Loss Coverage Axed.” Law360. (September 3, 2020). Web.

Zhang, Daphne. “State Farm Needn’t Cover Chiropractor’s COVID-19 Losses.” Law360. (September 3, 2020). Web.

Frankel, Todd. “Insurers knew the damage a viral pandemic could wreak on businesses. So they excluded coverage.” The Washington Post. (April 2, 2020). 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 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.

KeyWords: healthcare employment law representation, legal representation for physicians, doctor defense legal representation, legal representation for healthcare professionals, complex health care litigation attorney, complex civil litigation attorney, complex healthcare litigation lawyer, complex medical litigation lawyer, representation for complex medical litigation, representation for healthcare business litigation matters, business insurance representation, business interruption insurance claims defense, COVID-19 business insurance claim representation, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm Attorneys, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, legal representation for physicians and health care professionals, attorney for physician suits against insurers, complex medical business litigation against health insurers

“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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

New Policy Changes to USMLE Exams and How They Impact Medical Students, Graduates

Attorney Achal A. AggarwalBy Achal A. Aggarwal, J.D. and Carole C. Schriefer, J.D.

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (“USMLE”) is a three-step examination required to obtain a medical license. It is written and administered by the USMLE Secretariat of the National Board of Medical Examiners (“NBME”) and is sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards (“FSMB”) and the USMLE.

Medical students desiring to practice in the U.S. are under immense pressure to not only pass the exams but to excel at them. Specifically, the USMLE Step 1 Examination, the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (“CK”) Examination, and the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills (“CS”) Examination are the most significant deciding factors that residency programs use for selecting applicants to interview for residency positions. However, a lot is about to change.

Important Policy Changes.

On February 12, 2020, the FSMB and the NBME announced the following policy changes:

1. The Step 1 Exam will be changed to pass/fail grading;

2. The number of examination attempts for each exam will be reduced from six (6) to four (4); and

3. All examinees must pass the Step 1 Exam before taking the Step 2-CS Exam.

Changing the Step 1 Exam to Pass/Fail.

The USMLE has announced that it will change the Step 1 exam’s grading system from a three-digit score to a pass/fail grading system. This change will go into effect on January 1, 2022.  A statement published on the website states that changing to pass/fail could help reduce some of the current overemphasis on USMLE performance while also retaining the ability of medical licensing authorities to use the exam for its primary purpose of medical licensure eligibility. Click here to visit the USMLE website and read the statement.

It appears that USMLE, FSMB, NBME, and the American Medical Association (AMA) are attempting to alleviate the stress and pressure the Step 1 exam puts on medical students. However, this change may cause issues for residency programs that are trying to screen for which students they want to interview.

In the current system, the Step 1 score is a three-digit score that is graded on a bell-curve. The minimum passing score for each Step 1 exam is different and depends on the performance of the total universe of the students who take that particular examination.

The three-digit score helps residency programs assess which students were more likely to excel in their program and which students would not. By changing the exam to a pass/fail scoring system, residency programs will be forced to rely more heavily on the Step 2-CK scores, medical school performance, and overall curriculum vitae.

Greater Emphasis to Be Placed on Step 2-CK Exam.

Currently, the Step 2-CK exam is only the fourth-most deciding factor in how residency programs select applicants for interviews. Approximately 80% of residency program directors stated that it was an important factor, but not the most.

On the other hand, the Step 2-CS exam score is a less influential factor, with only 56% of residency program directors saying that it was essential to their decision. Students should anticipate that the Step 2-CK and Step 2-CS will become more important as program directors shift their attention to the scores of those exams.

For more information click here.

What remains to be seen is how these changes will impact international medical graduates (“IMG”), commonly referred to as “foreign medical graduates.” To distinguish themselves, IMGs often tried to get the highest possible USMLE score, as this was the most objective way for them to be compared to other U.S. medical school students.

Since each domestic and international medical school has its own unique clinical grading system, the USMLE Step 1 was one of the most objective ways to compare residency applicants. Now that Step 1 scoring has been eliminated, it might be harder for IMGs to make themselves attractive to competitive residency programs.

Reducing Overall Exam Attempts from Six to Four.

Additionally, the USMLE is changing the limit on the total number of times an examinee may take the same Step exam from six (6) attempts to four (4) attempts. This means that after the policy is implemented, it will be ineligible to take a Step exam if the examinee has made four (4) prior attempts on that Step exam, including incomplete attempts.

The policy is set to be implemented on July 1, 2021. Learn more about the policy here.

Examinees Must Pass Step 1 Before Taking Step 2-CS.

Although the USMLE has suspended the Step 2-CS exam administration at the present time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is set to implement a rule requiring all examinees to pass the Step 1 exam before qualifying to take the Step 2-CS exam.

Implementing such a rule would reduce the USMLE’s burden of administering the Step 2-CS exam multiple times since students will be required to qualify for the exam. Students can currently take the Step 1 exam, Step 2-CS exam, and Step 2-CK exam in any order they choose, depending on the requirements of their medical school. This new rule seeks to shift that burden by funneling students through the Step 1 exam.

The impact of such a change remains to be seen, however, we anticipate that this policy will reduce the testing burden on the USMLE while also maintaining the importance of the Step 1 exam despite changing its scoring to pass/fail.

It does represent a complete shake-up in how the system of testing has previously been administered.

Tips for the New Rules.

The following are suggestions we have concerning the new rules:

1. Take the Step 1 Exam as soon as you can, and begin preparing for the others.

2. Always treat every test administration extremely seriously, as though your future life and career depend on it; they do!

3. Take maximum advantage of commercial preparation courses and always try to take one of the recommended live ones before you take your examination.

4. Take off several weeks prior to the examination and find a hotel within walking distance of the test site where you will take the examination to study. Get rid of all distractions while studying for and immediately prior to taking the examination.

5. Never solicit actual test content or offer to share it with someone else.

For additional common-sense tips on preparing for and taking the USMLE Step exams, see another blog on this subject 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.

About the Authors: Carole C. Schriefer J.D., and Achal A. Aggarwal, M.B.A., J.D. practice health law with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office in the Orlando, Florida area.   1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.  Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com

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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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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