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Did You Lose Your ABIM Board Eligible Credentials?

Attorney Achal A. Aggarwal

We have been contacted by numerous physicians who had completed residency programs in internal medicine and only recently discovered that their time has now expired to become board certified.  ABIM considers internal medicine and subspecialist physicians who had met the standards for Board Certification in general internal medicine or any subspecialties to be “Board Eligible” in the relevant specialty for seven (7) years.

Recently, many physicians who had previously been board eligible found out that they could no longer apply for the certification exam or become board certified.

The ABIM Changes the Rules.

In July 2012, The American Board of Internal Medicine (“ABIM”) changed its rules regarding the designation of “Board Eligible” and the qualifications to apply for a board certification exam.

The 2012 rule requires physicians who wish to become board certified in internal medicine, or any of the ABIM’s subspecialties, to register for and take the certification exam within seven (7) years of becoming Board Eligible.  After seven (7) years, if the physician has not taken and passed the board certification exam, that physician loses their “Board Eligible” status and will not be allowed to take the board certification exam.

Requirements if the Time Limit has Expired.

A physician who is no longer “Board Eligible” because more than seven years has passed can only apply for the ABIM’s certification exams if the physician has:

1.    completed one (1) year of retraining in the relevant specialty after the expiration of the physician’s period of Board Eligibility; and

2.    the physician has met all other requirements for board certification in effect at that time.

This means that any physician who loses Board Eligibility and has not been board certified will be required to complete a one (1) year residency/fellowship in the applicable field before qualifying for the ABIM’s certification exams.  The one (1) year residency/fellowship must be at an ACGME-accredited U.S. training program or an RCPSC-accredited Canadian training program.  Additionally, the physician will need to obtain an attestation from the program which states that the physician has demonstrated the requisite competency for unsupervised practice.

Rule Change Limits How Many Times a Physician Can Take the ABIM’s Certification Exams.

In 2011, ABIM implemented a rule that prevents physicians from taking its certification exams more than three (3) times in a row.  After a third failed attempt at a certification exam, the physician will be prevented from registering for an exam for a year.  This means that if a physician fails a certification exam in 2017, 2018, and 2019, then that physician will be prevented from registering for an ABIM certification exam in 2020 and would have to wait till 2021 to re-apply.

This rule only puts a cap on three (3) failed attempts.  If the physician fails twice in a row and then takes a year off, they can still register for an ABIM certification exam the following year.  For example, if a physician fails an ABIM certification exam in 2017 and 2018 and then does not register for the 2019 exam, that physician can still register for the 2020 exam.


What Can Be Done to Obtain Authorization to Take Board Certification Exam if Your Time is Up?

What can be done to obtain authorization to take the ABIM board certification exam if your seven years has expired or you have exceeded the number of attempts allowed? We have prepared petitions for physicians who have been unable to take the examinations because of personal hardships or other mitigating factors.  Although it is expected that approval of a request for additional time to take the exam or an additional attempt to take the exam may not be successful if sufficient hardship and mitigating facts are shown we expect that the ABIM may grant these requests.  There is no guarantee and, as of yet, we have no indication this will work or what percentage may be granted or denied.

For more information, click here to read one of my prior blogs regarding ABIM matters.

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 investigations and hearings of all types.  This includes board certification hearings, medical board hearings, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hearings, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hearings, medical staff peer review and clinical privileges hearings, FBI Investigations, DOJ Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, Medicare and Medicaid overpayment demands and hearings, and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.  We also undertake civil litigation in the same types of cases.

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 Authors: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Achal A. Aggarwal, J.D.  Mr. Indest 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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“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.

How Can I Be Sure I Don’t Have Employees, Contractors Who Are on Medicare’s Exclusion List?

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
We are often consulted by companies in the health care industry and by health professionals after they receive a subpoena or audit regarding their employing or contracting with an individual or business that is on the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG’s) List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE), who are prohibited from contracting with Medicare. This can cause devastating consequences since the law prohibits this by anyone contracting with the government or receiving any payments from any government healthcare program from dealing with these persons. This includes anyone contracting with or receiving payment from Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, the Veterans Administration, and the military, among others. It can also lead to a demand for repayment of claims for services or products provided, as well as civil monetary penalties, fines, and other adverse actions.

To ensure that you do not violate the federal laws and regulations involved, you should check the OIG’s online LEIE for every new employee or contractor with whom you deal.

Be sure that you also check for any other names (maiden names, married names, fictitious business names) and the names of the officers, directors, shareholders, and owners of any business entities.

This should be on your new employee checklist (kept in the personnel file) and your contracting checklist for new contracts.

If you have not previously done this, have your administrator, human relations (HR) director or contracting officer do this right now and place the results in the personnel file or contracting file for each one checked.

You might also adopt a form similar to this and have it completed by all new employees or contractors as a part of the new employee check-in process. You are still responsible for verifying non-exclusion for all contractors and employees, but this form may help eliminate some problems from the outset and will educate all of your employees and contractors to the requirements.

Visit our website and view an example form.

To learn more about how OIG exclusion can affect you, click here to read of our prior blogs.

Don’t let Medicare or Medicaid exclusion ruin your professional career. Click here to learn how The Health Law Firm and help you if you find yourself on the OIG list.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Defending Against Action to Exclude an Individual or Business from the Medicare Program and Assisting in Reinstatement Applications.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have experience in dealing with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and defending against action to exclude an individual or business entity from the Medicare Program, in administrative hearings on this type of action, in submitting applications requesting reinstatement to the Medicare Program after exclusion, and removal from the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE).

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. 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.

By |2020-03-13T18:53:30-04:00March 13th, 2020|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Telemedicine Company Owners Charged in $56 Million Kickback 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 5, 2020, the owners of two telemedicine companies were charged in New Jersey federal court with defrauding Medicare in an alleged $56 million telehealth scheme involving orthotic braces. Some of the fraud alleged to have occurred was through a Florida location. The married co-owners of Advantage Choice Care and Tele Medicare are reported to have used the companies to solicit kickbacks and bribes from patient recruiters, pharmacies, and brace suppliers. The company would then hire providers to order medically unnecessary braces that were billed to Medicare, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

The scheme allegedly took place from March 2017 to April 2019.

Sham Contracts to Hide Kickbacks.

The fraud scheme allegedly was able to evade detection by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by using sham contracts that labeled the kickbacks as “consultations” and “medical expenditures,” the government said. The illegal payments, some as much as $34,910, were all made through bank accounts that indirectly funneled cash into Advantage Choice Care.

Authorities say the pair and others transferred the brace orders to co-conspirator suppliers to support more than $56 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare that were submitted by brace suppliers. According to court documents, Medicare paid these brace suppliers over $28 million for these claims.

The Charges.

The husband and wife were arrested and charged with six counts, according to the indictment. They were charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay and receive health care kickbacks, one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, three counts of receiving health care kickbacks, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. These charges are standard for most fraud prosecutions in federal court. Click here to view the indictment in full.

The couple owned and operated two telemedicine companies which had locations in Bayonne, New Jersey, Boca Raton, Florida, and Richmond Hill, Georgia. To view the DOJ’s press release on this case, click here.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs to learn more about Telemedicine in Florida.

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 health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 or (970) 416-7456 or visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“Telemedicine co. owners charged in $56 million Medicare fraud case.” Modern Healthcare. (February 5, 2020). Web.

Stawicki, Kevin. “Telemedicine Execs Charged In $56M Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Law360. (February 5, 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.

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The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999, and is also a registered service mark.
Copyright © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved

By |2020-03-06T12:08:22-05:00March 6th, 2020|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Nursing Student Files Sexual Harassment, Retaliation Lawsuit Against UNC Greensboro

Attorney George F. Indest Headshot By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On November 29, 2019, a former University of North Carolina nursing student sued the school’s Greensboro campus, saying it improperly dismissed from her a program a month before graduation. She filed two separate suits. She claims she was forced to endure sexual harassment as a student for years. Then, when she accused a supervisor of misconduct, she was gradually pushed out of the nursing program, according to the lawsuit.

She is suing the University of North Carolina’s Greensboro nursing department in state court and UNC’s Board of Directors along with the Raleigh School of Nurse Anesthesia in federal court.

Lawsuit Describes Alleged Harassment, Retaliation.

According to the suit, the harassment began less than a year after she enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Program at UNCG in August 2015, with hopes of becoming a nurse anesthesiologist. She was put under the supervision of a male certified registered nurse anesthetist, or CRNA. In her suit, she alleges that her supervisor began acting inappropriately almost immediately.

When she reported the harassment in July 2016, that’s when the retaliation started, claims the lawsuit. “They started trying to find things,” she reportedly said. She claims that one supervisor told her “If I can’t get you for this, I can get you for something else.” A few months later, on October 31, 2016, she states she was given additional clinical work and reassigned to work with the same CRNA she had previously reported for harassment, according to court documents.

In June 2018, a month before she was to graduate, she was dismissed from the program for what the school said were unsafe nursing practices. She appealed and UNCG allowed her to re-enroll in January 2019 for a tuition of $10,000. However, a month later, she was dismissed again for unsafe nursing practices. UNCG then refused any further appeals and upheld her dismissal in May 2019.

The nursing student is seeking unspecified damages, including loss of income and repayment of tuition, according to the lawsuit.

To read one of my prior blogs on a similar case dealing with a harassment lawsuit at Rutgers University, click here.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys Representing Medical Students, Residents and Fellows.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents medical students, residents, and fellows who run into difficulties and have disputes with their medical schools or programs. We also represent other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections, and audits involving the DEA, 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.

Sources:

“Lawsuit describes harassment, retaliation at UNCG nursing school.” Greensboro News & Record. (December 3, 2019). Web.

Waggoner, Martha. “Lawsuit describes harassment, retaliation at Nursing School.” The Washington Post. (December 3, 2019). 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.

KeyWords: Legal representation for nursing students, legal representation for nurse practice students, legal representation for nurse anesthetist students, nursing student attorney, nurse practice attorney, nurse anesthetist student attorney, nursing student legal counsel, nurse practice legal counsel, nurse anesthetist legal counsel, education law attorney for health professionals, education law legal counsel for health professional students, education law lawyer for health professional students academic review hearing attorney, nursing board defense attorney, nursing board defense legal representation, nursing school attorney, nursing school lawyer, nursing school legal counsel, nursing school legal defense counsel, legal dispute with nursing school, legal representation for CRNAs, attorney for CRNAs, lawyer for CRNAs, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, board of nursing legal defense counsel, board of nursing defense lawyer, board of nursing defense attorney

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

One of 2019’s Largest Healthcare Fraud Case Ever: No 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.

Keywords: Medicare and Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid fraud defense, Medicare and Medicaid fraud defense legal counsel, Medicare and Medicaid fraud defense lawyer, defense of Medicare and Medicaid fraud charges, CMS, ZPIC and RAC audit defense attorney, CMS, ZPIC and RAC audit defense lawyer, CMS, ZPIC and RAC audit legal representation, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) defense attorney, health care clinic fraud audit, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) defense lawyer, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) defense legal counsel, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) subpoena defense attorney, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) subpoena legal representation, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) subpoena defense lawyer, OIG, HHS, DOJ and U.S. Attorney subpoena defense lawyer, OIG, HHS, DOJ and U.S. Attorney subpoena defense attorney, OIG, HHS, DOJ and U.S. Attorney subpoena legal representation, legal representation for allegations of Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, healthcare fraud defense attorney, healthcare fraud defense lawyer, reviews of the Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health law defense attorney, healthcare fraud defense legal representation, legal representation for submitting false claims, false claims defense lawyer, false claims legal defense representation, false claims defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid investigation defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid investigations, OIG investigation defense attorney, legal representation for OIG investigations, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation defnse, DOJ defense representation, False Claims Act (FCA) legal defense attorney lawyer, False Claims Act (FCA) defense legal representation counsel, Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) defense attorney, AKS legal defense representation, AKS defense lawyer

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019/2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-12-30T19:35:03-05:00February 10th, 2020|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Hospital Countersues Whistleblower for Failing to Report Information Internally in FCA Suit

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

The Whistleblower’s Complaint.

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

The Hospital’s Countersuit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

Commins, John. “HOSPITAL COUNTERSUES FALSE CLAIMS WHISTLEBLOWER.” Health Leaders. (May 9, 2019). Web.

About the Author: 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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ADA Files Class Action Lawsuit 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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Physician Gets 40 Years For Illegally Prescribing More Than Half a Million Opioid Doses

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On October 2, 2019, a Virginia doctor received a 40-year prison sentence for illegally prescribing more than half a million opioid pills over 19 months. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia handed down the sentence to Joel Smithers, who was reported to have operated a “pill mill” out of Virginia, according to authorities. In addition to prison time, he was given an $86,000 fine and will serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison time, according to court documents.

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

Alleged Pill Mill.

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

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

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

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

The Problems I See.

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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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.
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Florida’s New E-Prescribing Law: How It May Affect You and Your Career

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
In 2019, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 831 (2019), Electronic Prescribing, into law. The new bill provides important requirements for prescribers to generate and transmit all prescriptions electronically upon their license renewal or by July 1, 2021, whichever is earlier. The bill will go into effect on January 1, 2020.

Summary of New Law, HB 831.

The new law applies to any health care practitioner who is licensed by law to prescribe a medicinal drug. The law, HB 831 sets forth the following general rule for prescribing:

If you are licensed to prescribe a medicinal drug, and you:

(1) Maintain a system of electronic health records; or

(2) Are an owner, employee or contractor of a licensed healthcare facility or practice that maintains a system of electronic health records and are prescribing in your capacity as an owner, employee or contractor of the licensed healthcare facility;
then you must electronically transmit your prescriptions unless an exception applies.

 

How the New Law May Affect You, a Licensed Health Professional.

The law requires prescribers to generate and transmit all prescription electronically, unless:

• The practitioner and the dispenser are the same entity;

• The prescription cannot be transmitted electronically under the most recently implemented version of the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs SCRIPT Standard;

• The practitioner has been issued a waiver by the Department of Health, not to exceed one year, due to demonstrated economic hardship, technology limitations that are not reasonably within the control of the practitioner, or another exceptional circumstance demonstrated by the practitioners;

• The practitioner reasonably determines that it would be impractical for the patient in question to obtain a medicinal drug prescribed by electronic prescription promptly and such delay would adversely impact the patient’s medical condition;

• The practitioner is prescribing a drug under a research protocol;

• The prescription is for a drug for which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires the prescription to contain elements that may not be included in electronic prescribing;

• The prescription is issued to an individual receiving hospice care or who is a resident of a nursing home facility; or

• The practitioner determines that it is in the best interest of the patient, or the patient determines that it is in his or her own best interest to compare prescription drug prices among area pharmacies. The practitioner must document such determination in the patient’s medical record.

About half of Florida’s medical doctors must renew their licenses by January 31, 2020. Medical doctors that renew their licenses between January 1, 2020, and January 31, 2020, must comply with the new law by the date they renew their licenses.

View the full text of HB 831 – Electronic Prescribing here.

For more information, including a list of frequently asked questions, visit the Florida Board of Medicine’s website.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, 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:

“ALERT: Electronic Prescribing Requirements.” Florida Board of Medicine. (October 21, 2019). Web.

Scott, Jeff. “What Florida’s new e-prescribing law means for you.” Florida Medical Association (FMA). (June 18, 2019). Web.

About 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.
Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
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.

Florida Psych Hospital Accused of Cashing in on Baker Act Patients

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

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

Violations of The Baker Act.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

Bedi, Neil. “Lawmakers call for investigations into Wesley Chapel psychiatric hospital.” Tampa Bay Times. (October 7, 2019). Web.

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

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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.

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