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Question: What Should You, as a Dentist, Do If You Or One of Your Employees Tests Positive For the COVID-19 Coronavirus?

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

You or a member of your staff has a confirmed case of COVID-19. What now? Your primary concern is for the individual affected. However, as a health professional operating a professional practice, you also have a duty to your employees and to your other patients. You have to be concerned about any patients with whom your infected staff might have had contact. These steps and protocols, all from prominent government agencies, are meant to help guide you if you or someone in your practice tests positive for COVID-19.

Follow these steps below to help ensure the health and safety of others and to reduce the likelihood of additional transmissions:

• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that employees who were exposed to the infected staff member should be quarantined for 14 days, keep track of their symptoms, and contact their own healthcare provider if the symptoms progress.

• Your entire dental office and facility, especially the waiting areas, restrooms, and treatment areas, should receive a “deep cleaning.” These should be regularly cleaned and sanitized or sterilized as the case may be. Click here for additional information on the proper ways to do so.

• According to the CDC, the Dental Healthcare Provider (DHP) should ensure that environmental cleaning and disinfection procedures are followed consistently and correctly after each patient. However, according to the CDC, the DHP does not need to attempt to sterilize a dental operatory between each patient.

• Sterilization protocols do not vary for respiratory pathogens. According to the CDC, the dental professional should perform routine cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization protocols, and follow the recommendations for “Sterilization and Disinfection of Patient-Care Items” present in the Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Healthcare Settings.

• The Dentists should have and implement sick leave policies for any infected staff. These should be flexible, non-punitive, and consistent with public health guidance.

• As part of routine practice, dentists should also monitor themselves for fever and symptoms consistent with COVID-19 regularly.

• The dentists should screen all staff at the beginning of their shift for fever and symptoms consistent with COVID-19. One person, such as the receptionist, might be assigned to this task. Equipment that does not require actual physical contact, such as an infrared thermometer, should be used. The dentists in the practice should be required to undergo this screening, as well.

For additional information, guidance, and resource documents on this topic, please visit our Health Law Articles and Documents page.  Be sure to visit our blog page regularly to stay updated on the latest news, policies, and health law topics!

We continue to receive inquiries from healthcare practitioners requesting information regarding health law matters during this time of uncertainty. We are here for you! If you have additional questions in the COVID-19 crisis or any health law matter, please call our office at (407) 331-6620.

Additional Resources.

The following are additional resources dentists should consult on this issue:


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in the Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Department of Regulatory Affairs (DORA) investigations, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) HIPAA complaints and investigations, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) subpoenas and investigations, state board of dentistry complaints and investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

Our firm also routinely represents physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, home health care agencies, nursing homes and other health care providers in Department of Health (DOH), Department of Regulatory Affairs (DORA), and Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) inspections, audits, and recovery actions, as well as Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions.

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

 

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Headshot of The Health Law Firm's attorney George F. Indest IIIAbout the Authors: 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, and Achal A. Aggarwal, M.B.A., J.D. 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.

“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.

By |2020-07-28T12:15:48-04:00July 28th, 2020|Categories: Dental Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Insurer Braces for Possible Lawsuits Over Rejected Pandemic Business Interruption Claims

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

On April 14, 2020, several companies announced they are considering a class action lawsuit against Hiscox Insurance over its failure to pay business interruption claims relating to the coronavirus lockdown. Hiscox, sold policies before COVID-19 hit. The policies allegedly stated that they would cover claims related to businesses being forced to shut owing to a notifiable disease. Business owners have reportedly filed claims with Hiscox and other commercial insurance companies, only to be told that their policies don’t cover the losses related to the pandemic.

It’s All in the Details.

The company’s policy wording says business interruption claims can be made if a public authority makes the business premises unusable due to “an occurrence of any human infectious or human contagion disease.”

Hiscox claims the policy’s coverage would only be triggered by “certain specific events at, or local to, the premises.” The insurer said its policies were not designed to cover the extraordinary circumstances caused by the pandemic. In a statement, the company said, “We understand that these are incredibly difficult times for businesses affected by COVID-19. At Hiscox, we strive to pay claims that are covered by the policies fairly and quickly. However, general business interruption policies across the industry, including Hiscox’s, were not designed to cover these extraordinary circumstances. Like terrorism and flood, which have government-backed insurance schemes, pandemics like coronavirus are simply too large and too systemic for private insurers to cover,” it added.

Business Interruption Insurance Specifics.

Business interruption insurance usually provides protection against the closure of business because of damage to property. Multiple “non-damage” extensions can be added to standard policies, including those for denial of access because of communicable disease. A communicable disease extension or addendum will typically cover losses arising from closure resulting from an outbreak of a virus or bacteria on-site or nearby.

Many policies’ word also includes a defined list of diseases covered under the terms of the policy, which range from the SARS virus to smallpox. Others are less specific, offering coverage for any “notifiable disease” outbreak required by law to be reported to authorities. Additionally, sometimes communicable disease policy addendums contain exclusions, which state that an outbreak must have occurred on the business premises or within a defined vicinity.

The Problem With Policies?

The difficulty is that in the majority of cases, these policies cite “direct physical loss or damage” as a requirement to be triggered. Unfortunately, a quarantine, travel ban, shelter-in-place orders, or pandemic might make it impossible for a business to keep its doors open, but unfortunately may not constitute obvious “physical damage.” So, if the wording fits, as far as the insurance company is concerned, it’s not their problem!

Hiscox denied the claims made against them and responded that the clause was designed to cover losses “solely and directly” from restrictions imposed by a public authority. It would not apply in this case because losses would have still occurred even if businesses had not been closed, because of the government-imposed lockdown.

Legal Issues For Insurance Policies.

There are several important points to remember when dealing with insurance policies and claims made to an insurer.

First, insurance is governed by state law, so interpretations and policy coverage requirements may differ from state to state. Always check your state’s insurance laws and the cases that interpret them to see if the issue is governed by them.

Second, your insurance policy is a contract between you and the insurance company. Read the contract and see what it states. If it is vague or there is a doubt after you read it, you may have a good case. See the next step below.

Third, the insurance company wrote the policy. The insurance company had complete control over the wording of the policy. It was up to the insurance company to be definite and specific in what was covered or not covered. If there is doubt in the coverage that is provided in the policy, the courts will usually interpret this against the insurance company so as to provide coverage to the insured for the loss.

Fourth, when there is a problem with an insurance claim or a denied claim, immediately retain the services of one of the many attorneys who are experienced in suing insurance companies. These attorneys usually know what they are doing and will not charge you unless they obtain a recovery for you.

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 (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com

Sources:

Croucher, Martin. “Insurers Face Legal Tests Over Rejected Pandemic Claims.” Law360. (April 17, 2020). Web.

Croucher, Martin. “Hiscox Could Face Class Action Over COVID-19 Response” Law360. (April 14, 2020). Web.

Cox, Josie. “Coronavirus has exposed Britain’s insurance industry as a shambles.” The Guardian. (March 18, 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.

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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.

Are You A Doctor Facing Divorce? Cover Your Assets Now!

Attorney George F. IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
If you are a doctor in Florida who is thinking about a divorce, has filed for a divorce, or has had a divorce thrust upon you by a spouse, there are several important issues to consider which are related to the medical profession. However, many of these same issues that I address in this article will also apply to the circumstances surrounding facing a large court judgment over the limits of your insurance policy or if you have no applicable insurance coverage. One of the first issues to consider is the valuation of your professional practice. There are also several other issues you must consider that are associated with being a high net worth individual.

You may be a physician who is the owner or part-owner of a thriving medical practice or you may be the spouse of one. Either way, there are likely going to be questions regarding whether or not the spouse who is not a doctor may be entitled to a portion of the practice as part of the divorce.

Part of the Medical Practice May Be Considered to Be Marital Assets.

In Florida, a medical license or other professional license is not considered marital property. It cannot be divided or taken by the other spouse during the divorce. However, the medical practice itself, or a business entity, is a different matter.

One determining factor in whether a spouse is entitled a part of the medical practice is whether the value of the practice significantly increased during the marriage. Another factor is whether the other spouse contributed to getting the practice up and running (efforts or income).

Any increase would, under Florida divorce laws, be considered a marital asset. If the physician spouse added the other spouse’s name to the practice, or if marital funds are commingled with the assets of the medical practice, it could be considered marital property, therefore subject to division.

However, few judges would divide a medical practice between spouses, thereby effectively removing the livelihood of the physician-spouse. It is much more likely a Florida judge—in the event, the two spouses were unable to come to a mutual agreement—would allow the physician to keep his or her medical practice, offsetting the value of the business by awarding assets of approximately the same value to the non-physician spouse. The physician spouse might also be required to “buy out” the other spouse’s interests in the medical practice with cash. In such situations, the medical practice will likely be valuated, using income tax returns, financial statements, profit and loss reports, balance sheets, and accounts payable and receivable reports.

Goodwill and the Tangible Assets of a Practice.

The valuation may include what is known as “goodwill,” along with tangible assets. Goodwill is considered an intangible asset. It includes a consideration of the expectation of continued patronage by clients or patients and whether the physician will continue to maintain and increase the number of patients. Goodwill does not necessarily exist in every business. Determining a physician’s goodwill should also take into account the physician’s age, health, skills, knowledge, reputation and earning power. During a valuation of a medical practice, the length of time the practice has been open, the location of the practice, the reputation of the practice among patients and referring doctors and the number of existing patients who will return in the future will all be taken into consideration. There are many other factors which also come into play which space does not permit me to discuss.

Unfortunately, the valuation of a medical practice—or any business, for that matter—can often boil down to a battle of high-priced experts. It could be that you will end up weighing the cost of extended litigation against the division of the medical practice, determining if the fight is worth the end. Because physicians typically make a significant yearly income, when a doctor divorces, that divorce may be considered a high net worth divorce, which comes with its own set of complications.

Other Factors in High Net Worth Divorces.

In a high net worth divorce in Florida, the spouses may share bank accounts, multiple high-worth properties, boats, airplanes, artwork, multiple expensive vehicles, investments, and business assets. These assets must all be carefully separated after it is determined which of the assets are marital assets and which are non-marital assets.

Some of the more common issues associated with a high net worth divorce include the following:

1. The future earning capacity of both spouses, taking a medical degree, medical license and medical practice into account. Florida is one of the states which will almost always award some type of spousal support, and the physician’s future earning capacity may dictate spousal support to the non-physician spouse.

2. Physicians are more likely than the average blue-collar working person to have corporate benefits such as stock options, deferred compensations, retirement funds, 401(k) accounts, IRA’s and good pensions. All these must be assessed, then fairly divided.

3. The valuation of the medical practice will come into play in a high net worth Florida divorce. If it is determined that the practice will continue to grow and thrive, the non-physician spouse may be awarded a portion of that expected growth.

4. There may be extremely complex tax issues associated with a high net worth divorce, as well as one where a medical practice is involved. These tax issues must be addressed before the completion of the divorce.

5. Any asset held in trust for either spouse will be valued and divided, as will all real estate, stocks, and bonds.

6. Art collections, country club or other club memberships, timeshares, vacation properties, expensive jewelry and furnishing and any other type of high net worth collections must be valuated and fairly divided during the Florida divorce.

7. If there were postnuptial or prenuptial agreements, these agreements will be evaluated, and legally adhered to, unless there is a significant legal reason for not doing so.

8. Identifying and retaining the services of a good valuations expert with court experience and experience in conducting valuations of medical practices is a must.

These are just a few of the issues with which you must be concerned if a divorce is in your future and you are a physician. Estate planning and asset protection should be started early by every physician. Every physician should consult with and know a good asset protection attorney who can advise them early in their career. At the first sign of a potential marital separation or divorce, start consulting with divorce lawyers. It is better to be too early than too late in this regard. It’s like planning for death or war: “Plan for the worst and hope for the best!”

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, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, 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 student professors and clinical staff. We represent 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, in patient complaints and in Department of Health investigations.

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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Suite 1000, 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 © 2020 The Health Law

Healthcare Professionals Should Ensure Records Provided in Response to Government Subpoenas are Complete

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
At a recent Florida Board of Dentistry meeting, a dentist was charged with violations of her practice act and standard of care violations. This happened because her prior practice had provided incomplete patient records to an investigator when it received a subpoena. The records that had been provided were missing written notes and other documentation, along with copies of the prescriptions the dentist had written. This is just one example of what can happen if patient records are not provided in an orderly and complete manner to investigators.

Important Points for Board Hearings.

The dentist attended the Board meeting, having requested an informal administrative hearing. To obtain this type of hearing means that the dentist agrees that there are no disputed issues of fact; this equates to a “guilty” plea. The dentist is waiving her right to have a formal hearing, present a defense and contest the allegations made against her. When questioned by the Board, it was clear that the dentist did not understand this. She also stated that she had an attorney, but the attorney was not present to represent her or to advise her during the Board hearing.

Even though this was a dental case, the same principles of administrative law apply in the case of a physician, nurse, mental health counselor, pharmacist or any other licensed health care professional.

Most importantly, the dentist testified that her prior practice had failed to provide a complete copy of the patient’s health record to the Department of Health (DOH) investigator. The prosecuting attorney showed the Board where the records had been subpoenaed from the prior practice twice, and they had been provided to the DOH twice, along with affidavits from the practice that these were complete copies of the entire record. (These affidavits were false.)

Fortunately for the dentist, the Board members reviewed the records that had been provided and could see for themselves that key portions were missing. Also, fortunately, the Board decided to table the case and send it back for more investigation.

If the Board had decided to go forward, the dentist would likely have received discipline on her license forever.

Important Lessons for Dentists, Physicians, and Other Licensed Health Professionals.

Valuable lessons that all licensed health professionals can learn from this case include:

1. Hire an experienced health law attorney as soon as you know you are under investigation. Many times your malpractice (professional) liability insurance will pay your legal defense expenses in these cases.

2. Your experienced attorney will obtain a copy of the complete investigation file (including all documents it contains) shortly after it is completed and long before any hearings. If your attorney doesn’t, then you should do so. You can review it and supplement any incomplete records, documents or information.

3. Do not hire an attorney who is unable to attend the hearing with you. Continuances can be routinely requested and granted if the attorney has a conflicting hearing somewhere else, is ill or is otherwise unable to attend. Don’t attend the hearing without your attorney, if you have one.

4. Know the difference between an informal hearing and a formal hearing. If you request an informal hearing, you are admitting the charges against you are true and you are guilty. (There are only one of two very limited exceptions to this rule) You are only there to argue about how much discipline you should receive.

5. If you are investigated, personally make sure a complete copy of the patient’s record is sent to the DOH investigator. This includes everything: demographics, insurance info, financial responsibility forms, treatment plans, orders, prescriptions, lab reports, periodontal charts, informed consent forms, patient instructions, office visits, telephone notes, operative reports, sedation charts on notes, history and physical, medical clearances from outside physicians, and dental or medical records from other providers. Even if you are no longer employed at that practice, you have the right to request and receive a copy of all of the records you generated when you treated the patient under Section 456.057, Florida Statutes. At least obtain these.

For more information on this topic and to find out more about how The Health Law Firm can assist you in matters like this, read my prior blog here.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists, dental technicians, physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, 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 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: administrative procedure act defense, representation for administrative hearing, Board of Dentistry defense lawyer, representation for Board of Dentistry investigation, representation for Board of Dentistry hearing, Board hearing defense attorney, Board of Medicine defense lawyer, dental hygienist defense lawyer, dentist defense lawyer, representation for dentists Department of Health (DOH) representation, DOH defense attorney, representation for DOH hearings, representation for DOH investigations, representation for disciplinary charges, representation for disciplinary complaint, representation for Florida Administrative Codes, physician lawyer, representation for doctor, representation for healthcare professionals, representation for deposition coverage, last-minute deposition coverage, short notice representation of physician, short notice of representation of doctors, hearing representation for healthcare professional, Board of Medicine defense, Board of Medicine hearing defense lawyer, representation for administrative procedure act, representation for Rules of Civil Procedure, 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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. Altamonte Springs, Florida.

 

The Biggest Healthcare Fraud Case Ever Prosecuted in 2019: Big Surprise! Florida Wins!

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
For years, Florida has topped the lists with the highest rates of Medicare and Medicaid fraud and abuse. But even by the standards of Florida’s rampant healthcare fraud, this 2019 case stands out for its sheer size, making Florida, once again, the leader in fakes and frauds. Often joked and written about by Florida novelists such as Carl Hiassin and Tim Dorsey, this case serves to highlight why the “Debtor’s Haven” state often excels in cases of healthcare fraud.

In April 2019, after decades of alleged schemes, illegal kickbacks and money laundering in connection with fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid, Phillip Esformes was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay $44.2 million in money forfeitures and restitution, and forfeiture of his ownership interests in several skilled nursing homes.

A federal district judge sentenced the South Florida health care facility owner after he was found guilty in the largest health care fraud scheme ever charged by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ).

A Case of “Epic” Fraud.

The nursing home mogul was accused of paying bribes and receiving kickbacks in a massive $1 billion Medicare fraud case touted by federal prosecutors as the largest in the nation. During an eight-week jury trial, prosecutors argued that Esformes himself made $38 million from Medicare and Medicaid payments between 2010 and 2016. Additionally, his South Florida network received more than $450 million through bribes and though services that weren’t medically necessary or which were never provided, according to the prosecution’s case.

To learn more about this case, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Convicted, But Not of Healthcare Fraud.

The shocker, in this case, is that the federal jury convicted Esformes on 20 counts of conspiracy to defraud the taxpayer-funded Medicare program. The lack of a conviction for healthcare fraud itself was puzzling. Many of his alleged co-conspirators had already pled guilty to health care fraud and some had even testified against him at trial. To learn more, click here to read one of my prior blogs on another individual involved in the case.

Despite being billed as the largest healthcare fraud case prosecuted in U.S. history, it is also a stark reminder to prosecutors of how tricky it can be to secure a conviction on any particular charge.

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits, Investigations and other Legal Proceedings.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare and Medicaid audits, and in ZPIC and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. We also represent health providers in civil and administrative litigation by government agencies and insurance companies attempting to recoup claims that have been paid. Our attorneys also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, recovery actions and administrative actions seeking termination from Medicare and Medicaid Programs.

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

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


Sources:

Weaver, Jay. “Miami healthcare exec Esformes sentenced to 20 years in biggest Medicare fraud case.” Miami Herald. (September 12, 2019). Web.

Hale, Nathan. “The Biggest Stories In Florida Legal News Of 2019.” Law360. (December 20, 2019). Web.

Jackson, David. “Nursing home mogul Philip Esformes sentenced to 20 years for $1.3 billion Medicaid fraud.” Chicago Tribune. (September 13, 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. Suite 1000, 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 © 2019/2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-12-30T19:48:35-05:00March 23rd, 2020|Categories: Dental Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

ADA Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Delta Dental For Antitrust Violations

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On November 26, 2019, the American Dental Association (ADA) and two individual dentists filed a class-action lawsuit against the Delta Dental Plans Association, its affiliated national entities, and 39 independent Delta Dental companies. The suit alleges the provider network engaged in anticompetitive conduct and violated federal antitrust laws.

The ADA filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Details of the Suit.

The complaint alleges Delta Dental allocated territories of operation and divided the national market to restrict competition, reduce reimbursement rates, and force unfavorable coverage to dentists. “Its harm is reflected in the suppression of compensation below levels that would prevail in a competitive marketplace to dentists who are members of the Delta Dental provider network,” the suit alleges.

Hurting Both Dentists and Patients.

The complaint goes on to say that Delta’s anticompetitive acts hurt both dentists and patients by limiting the choices of dental care available. When compensation can’t cover dentists’ costs, they aren’t able to take time from commercially insured customers and serve the dental needs of other patients, like those on Medicaid, said the ADA.

Click here to view the complaint in this case in full.

To read the press release issued by the ADA, click here.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar case dealing with dentists and an antitrust case.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in the Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Board of Dentistry and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

Our firm also routinely represents physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, home health care agencies, nursing homes and other health care providers in AHCA investigations, audits and recovery actions, as well as Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions.

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

Sources:

Cullen, Anne. “Dentists Sue Delta Dental Over Antitrust Conspiracy.” Law360. (November 27, 2019). Web.

Versaci, Mary Beth. “American Dental Association files lawsuit against Delta Dental.” ADA. (November 26, 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 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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Dentists: Challenge Overpayment Demands from Medicare, Medicaid Audits!

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

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


What Happens During Prepayment Review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Must Challenge All Improperly Denied or Reduced Claims.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals, and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

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

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

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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 |2019-11-12T17:55:46-05:00November 6th, 2019|Categories: Dental Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

You Could Face Steep Repercussions From License Discipline or Resignation After Notice of Investigation

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

Do you have a dental, medical, pharmacy or nursing license in several different states? Do you have a license in more than one health care profession? Have you been notified that an investigation has been opened against you? Are you thinking about resigning your professional license or voluntarily relinquishing such a license? Then you must be aware of the following information.

First, you should never voluntarily relinquish or resign your license after you know that an investigation has been opened or that disciplinary action has been taken against you. Such resignation is considered to be a “disciplinary relinquishment” and is treated the same as if your license had been revoked on disciplinary grounds.

Second, this will be reported out to other states, agencies, to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), to any certifying bodies for certifications you have and to other reporting agencies (such as the National Council of State Board of Nursing, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy or the American Board of Internal Medicine). Other states and other professional boards will most likely initiate disciplinary action based upon the first one.

Protect Your Professional License from These Adverse Actions.

The following is a list of some of the adverse actions that you can expect to be taken against you after discipline on your license or after you resign your professional license after receiving notice of investigation:

1. A mandatory report to the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB) which remains there for 50 years. Note: The Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank or HIPDB recently merged into the NPDB.

2. Must be reported to and included in the Department of Health (DOH) profile that is available to the public online (for those having one), and remains for at least ten years.

3. Any other states or jurisdictions in which the nurse has a license will also initiate an investigation and possible disciplinary action against him or her in that jurisdiction. (Note: I have had two clients who had licenses in seven other states and all, even ones that were inactive or not renewed years ago, initiated action).

4. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will take action to exclude the provider from the Medicare Program. If this occurs (and most of these offenses require mandatory exclusion) the provider will be placed on the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) maintained by the HHS OIG.

a. If this happens, you are prohibited by law from working in any position in any capacity for any individual or business, including hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, physicians, medical groups, insurance companies, etc., that contract with or bill Medicare or Medicaid. This means, for example, you are prohibited from working as a janitor in a nursing home that accepts Medicare or Medicaid, even as an independent contractor.

b. If this happens, you are also automatically “debarred” or prohibited from participating in any capacity in any federal contracting, and you are placed on the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) debarment list. This means you are prohibited by law from working in any capacity for any government contractor or anyone who takes government funding. This applies, for example, to prevent you from being a real estate agent involved in selling property financed by a government-backed loan, prohibited from working for an electrical company that bids on contracts for government housing projects, working as a school teacher in a public school, etc.

c. If this happens, your state Medicaid Program is required to terminate you “for cause” from the state Medicaid Program. In many states, this is also grounds for revocation of your license.

5. Any profile or reporting system maintained by a national organization or federation (e.g., NURSYS profile maintained by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, American Medical Association physician profile, or the Federation of State Board of Physical Therapy profile) will include the adverse action in it, generally available to the public.

6. If you are a nurse practitioner or other professional with clinical privileges at a hospital, nursing home, HMO or clinic, action will be taken to revoke or suspend the clinical privileges and staff members if you have such. This may be in a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, skilled nursing facility, staff model HMO or clinic. This will usually be for physicians, physician assistants (PAs), advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), nurse midwives or certified nurse anesthetists (CNAs), podiatrists, clinical psychologist or clinical pharmacists.

7. Third party payors (health insurance companies, HMOs, etc.) will terminate the professional’s contract or panel membership with that organization.

8. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will act to revoke the professional’s DEA registration if he or she has one.

9. Many employers will not hire you or will terminate your employment if they discover your license has been disciplined in another state.

So, What Should You Do?

– Don’t take the easy way out by immediately relinquishing your license if you are notified you are under investigation.

– Don’t hide your head in the sand by thinking the case will just go away on its own.

– Don’t take the easy way out. If you are innocent of the charges, request a formal hearing and contest the charges; defend yourself.

– Do not request an informal hearing or a settlement agreement in which you admit the facts alleged against you are all true. If you do this, you are “pleading guilty.”

– Do immediately seek the advice of an attorney who has experience in such professional licensing matters and administrative hearings. They are out there, but you may have to search for one. Do this as soon as you get notice of any investigation and especially before you have talked to or made any statement (including a written one) to any investigator.

– Do purchase professional liability insurance that includes legal defense coverage for any professional license investigation against you, whether it is related to a malpractice claim or not. This insurance is cheap and will provide needed legal assistance at the time when you may be out of a job and not have money to hire an attorney. Beware of the insurance policy that only covers professional license defense if it is related to a malpractice claim.

Professional Liability Insurance.

We strongly encourage all licensed health professionals and facilities to purchase their own, independent insurance coverage. Make sure it covers professional license defense under all circumstances. Make sure you have enough coverage to actually get you through a hearing. $25,000 coverage for just professional licensure defense is the absolute minimum you should purchase; $50,000 may be adequate but $75,000 or $100,000 may be what you really need in such a situation. For a few dollars more (and I do mean only a few) you can usually purchase the higher limits.

Also, I will repeat, make sure it covers your legal defense in an administrative disciplinary proceeding against your license, even if there is no malpractice claim filed against you or likely to be filed against you.

We also recommend that you purchase coverage through an insurance company that allows you to select your own attorney and does not make you use one that the insurance company picks for you.

Companies we have encountered in the past who provide an inexpensive top quality insurance product for professional license defense costs include: CPH & Associates Insurance, Nurses Service Organization (NSO) Insurance, Healthcare Providers Organization (HPSO) Insurance and Lloyd’s of London Insurance.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacies, dentists, mental health counselors, massage therapists and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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: Department of Health investigation representation, DOH defense lawyer, DOH investigation, representation for DOH investigations, DOH investigation defense attorney, DOH representation, representation for board licensing complaint, board licensing complaint representation, board licensing complaint lawyer, board representation for healthcare professionals, licensure defense, licensure defense attorney, licensure defense representation, representation for administrative complaint, administrative licensure investigation representation, administrative hearing attorney, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) representation, AHCA attorney, AHCA defense lawyer, nurse attorney, representation for nurses, nurse defense lawyer, healthcare attorney, representation for healthcare professionals, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, FBI agents, OIG special agents, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) investigators, representation for physicians, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews for The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

DOH: Thousands of Florida Dentists Skipped Required Opioid Training

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 5, 2019, state officials announced that about one in four Florida health care providers failed to take a required two-hour continuing education (CE) course on prescribing controlled substances.  The deadline for the mandated course was January 31, 2019. The Florida Department of Health (DOH) is now preparing to send non-compliance letters advising the providers that they have 15 days to take the mandated course or face disciplinary action, said DOH agency spokesman Brad Dalton.

“If the department does not receive a response within 15 days from receipt of the notice, a formal complaint will be initiated,” he said.


New Standards for Prescribing Controlled Substances.

A law in 2018 required all health care providers registered with the DEA and authorized to prescribe controlled substances to take a CE course.  The course covers the current standards for prescribing controlled substances, particularly opiates.

Click here to read our prior blog and learn more about House Bill 21, the Controlled Substances Bill.

In in the of Florida, dentists physicians, podiatrists, physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses practitioners (APRNs) can prescribe controlled substances for pain. Prior to the passage of this law in 2018, only physician assistants and APRNs were required to take CE courses on controlled substances as part of licensure requirements.

The new mandate impacts an estimated 114,000 Florida healthcare providers including all dentists, according to the DOH.

Click here to read one of our prior blogs on the importance of health care compliance for all health care providers.

We have seen firsthand the kinds of problems that can arise when licensed health professionals do not follow up on continuing education requirements.  Click here to read one of my prior blogs and learn more.


How a Disciplinary Action May Affect Your Dental License.

It is important that health care providers understand how this could impact your professional license and professional reputation. Failing to obtain the required CE during the time period set forth by state and board regulation can result in disciplinary action being taken against a licensee. Disciplinary action in one state can lead to disciplinary action commenced against a license held in another state, if the licensee holds multiple licenses.

Often consulting an experienced health law attorney on such matters can save a great deal of turmoil, mental anguish, cost and damage. Click here to read one of our prior blogs and learn more.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Investigations of Dentists and Other Healthcare Professionals.

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 (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“A Quarter Of Florida Docs, Dentists Skip Required Opioid Training.” Health New Florida. (February 5, 2019). Web.

Sexton, Christine. “Thousands of Florida doctors, dentists skip required opioid training.” Orlando Sentinel. (Web.)

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

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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 |2019-05-10T01:11:40-04:00May 10th, 2019|Categories: Dental Law Blog|0 Comments

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 |2019-04-18T18:44:05-04:00April 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
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