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Although the Law Stacks the Deck Against You, Leaving a Foreign Body in a Patient Doesn’t Always Mean Negligence or Discipline

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

Leaving a foreign object (sometimes referred to as a “retained foreign body” or “RFB”) in a patient, such as a sponge, clamp, forceps, surgical needle, guide wire, part of a surgical instrument or other paraphernalia commonly used in surgical, examination, or other diagnostic procedures, does not necessarily mean that the physician has committed an act of negligence or that the physician will be disciplined by the Board of Medicine (BOM) or Department of Health (DOH). There are many defenses in such a case and many incidents which do not constitute negligence. However, as a preliminary matter, the law does seem to stack the deck against the physician in such cases.

Medical Negligence Statutes.

Section 766.102(3)(b), Florida Statutes (previously Section 768.45, Florida Statutes),
states:

The existence of a medical injury does not create any inference or presumption of negligence against a health care provider, and the claimant must maintain the burden of proving that an injury was proximately caused by a breach of the prevailing professional standard of care by the health care provider. . . . However, the discovery of the presence of a foreign body, such as a sponge, clamp, forceps, surgical needle, or other paraphernalia commonly used in surgical, examination, or diagnostic procedures, shall be prima facie evidence of negligence on the part of the health care provider.

Grounds for Disciplinary Action Against a License.

Chapter 456, Florida Statutes, applies to all health professionals who are licensed by the Florida Department of Health (DOH). Section 456.072(1), Florida Statutes, which provides the grounds for possible discipline of any licensed health professional contains a subsection (cc), which provides the following as a basis for disciplinary action:

Leaving a foreign body in a patient, such as a sponge, clamp, forceps, surgical needle, or other paraphernalia commonly used in surgical, examination, or other diagnostic procedures. For the purposes of this paragraph, it shall be legally presumed that retention of a foreign body is not in the best interest of the patient and is not within the standard of care of the profession, regardless of the intent of the professional.

Applicable to Others than Just Surgeons and Physicians.

We typically envision objects such as clamps or lap pads (“sponges”) being left in a patient after surgery. Note, however, these provisions of the law could apply equally to a nurse practitioner’s leaving a broken needle in a patient or a dentist’s leaving a burr or broken probe in a patient.

Res lpsa Loquitur.

Many surgeons and other physicians who are charged with such an allegation just give up, do not defend themselves, and agree to accept punishment from their professional board. The statutes quoted above are, basically, a restatement of the common law rule known as “res ipsa loquitur in medical malpractice cases.

The term “medical injury” in the statute refers to an injury sustained as a direct result of medical treatment or diagnosis, and does not encompass injuries totally unrelated thereto. Thus, when a plaintiff establishes that the injury is outside the scope of medical treatment or diagnosis, and the facts and circumstances attendant to the injury are such that, in light of past experience, negligence is the probable cause and the defendant is the probable actor, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is applicable.

In Florida, there is a Florida law that is set forth within Chapter 456, Florida Statutes. Chapter 456 of Florida Statutes applies to all health professionals who are licensed by the Florida Department of Health (DOH).

Many surgeons and other physicians who are charged with such an allegation just give up, do not defend themselves, and agree to accept punishment from their professional board.

Florida Cases on Retained Foreign Objects.

Archer v. Maddux, 645 So. 2d 544 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994) a surgeon left a tube in a patient after surgery by accident. The trial court dismissed the case because there was no affidavit from a medical expert corroborating that medical negligence had occurred that had been filed before the running of the statute of limitations. The Court of Appeal upheld the dismissal of the case.

DeAlmeida v. Graham, 524 So. 2d 666 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987), a surgeon left a Kelly clamp inside of a patient.

Moreover, the provision of Fla. Stat. ch. 766.102(4) that discovery of a “foreign body” such as surgical paraphernalia is prima facie evidence of negligence, is clearly inapplicable in a case where the mesh was intentionally placed in patient’s body as part of her treatment, and like screws, plates, pacemakers, and/or artificial joints was intended to permanently remain in her body. (Kenyon v. Miller, 756 So. 2d 133 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000)

Smith v. Zeagler, 116 Fla. 628, 157 So. 328 (1934)
It is negligence per se for a surgeon to leave a sponge in an abdominal incision made in his patient in the course of his performance of a surgical operation upon such patient. The burden of showing due care is upon a surgeon who leaves a sponge enclosed in a wound after the performance of an operation, and he cannot relieve himself from liability unless the sponge was so concealed that reasonable care on his part would not have disclosed it, and conditions were such that, in his professional judgment, a special exploration for the sponge would have endangered the safety of the patient. Where a patient’s condition is critical and the paramount requirement is complete the operation in the shortest possible time, the failure to remove a sponge may be an accidental and excusable ship or inadvertence that is not actionable negligence, depending upon the circumstances of the case, the burden being on the physician to show to the satisfaction of the jury that the particular act was not blame-worthy because of the supervening necessity to complete the operation without delay.

The authorities are legion to the effect that it is negligence [***3] per se for a surgeon to leave a sponge in an abdominal incision made in his patient in the course of his performance of a surgical operation upon such patient. Ruth v. Johnson, 172 Fed. 191; Reeves v. Lutz, 179 Mo. App. 61, 162 S.W. Rep. 280; Rayburn v. Day, 126 Oregon 135, 268 Pac. Rep. 1002; Wynne
v. Harvey, 96 Wash. 379, 165 Pac. Rep. 67; Harris v. Fall, 177 Fed. 79, 27 L.R.A (N.S.) 1174; Moore v. Ivey (Texas Civ. App.), 264 S.W. Rep. 283; 21 R.C.L. 388.

The burden of showing due care is upon a surgeon who leaves a sponge enclosed in a wound after the performance of an operation, and he cannot relieve himself from liability unless the sponge was so concealed that reasonable care on his part would not have disclosed it, and conditions were such that, in his professional judgment, a special exploration [*631] for the sponge would have endangered the safety of the patient. Davis v. Kerr, 239 Pa. 351, 86 Atl. Rep. 1007, 46 L.R.A. (N.S.) 611.


Adverse Consequences of Accepting Discipline in a RFB Case.

Many health professionals agree to accept punishment from their professional board without realizing the harsh consequences. Any disciplinary action will be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). If you are reported to the NPDB or another health care data base, you could have issues obtaining hospital privileges, state licenses, you may be excluded from the Medicare and Medicaid Programs, and it could also affect your ability to work in the health care field. Additionally, similar actions will be taken against any licenses you have in other states.

Shared Responsibility Between Surgeon and Hospital Staff.

Most hospitals have internal policies and procedures which make it a shared responsibility between the surgeon and the hospital’s staff (especially surgical technicians and operating room nurses) to safeguard against leaving foreign objects in patients.

The Health Law Firm has successfully defended physicians and other licensed health care professionals in administrative investigations and patients complaints relating to retained foreign bodies.

For more information on how we can help you in situations such as this, visit our Areas of Practice page on our website.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses 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: Representation for licensed healthcare professionals, National Practitioner Data Bank, NPDB defense lawyer, NPDB representation, 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.

By |2019-05-21T19:58:49+00:00May 21st, 2019|Health Facilities Law Blog|0 Comments

Genetic Testing Scams Ripping off Government Programs for Millions, Part 1 of 2

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

Several genetic testing companies have come into the spotlight for allegations of ripping off Medicare and False Claims Act (FCA) violations. Health care professionals need to be aware of these types of schemes and the dangers they may face if involved. In each of these cases, the companies agreed to a pay a settlement in the millions to resolve allegations they submitted claims for unnecessary genetic testing.

This is part one of a two part blog series. Click here for part two.

The Details.

On February 11, 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that GenomeDx Biosciences Corp. (GenomeDx) agreed to pay $1.99 million to resolve FCA allegations. The false claims to Medicare were for a post-operative genetic test for prostate cancer patients. GenomeDx allegedly submitted claims for the genetic test to Medicare between September 2015 and June 2017. They were not medically reasonable nor necessary because the prostate cancer patients did not have risk factors necessitating the test. You can read the DOJ’s press release and learn more here.

In a similar case, on March 8, 2018, the U.S. Attorney announced a settlement with a California genetics testing company, Natera, Inc. The company agreed to pay $11 million to resolve FCA allegations for improperly billing TRICARE for non-invasive prenatal testing. According to the government, Natera improperly billed for genetic screenings to test a baby’s risk for certain disorders and syndromes. Natera allegedly used an improper billing code to misrepresent the services and screened patients with low-risk pregnancies who did not need it, according to the government.  The suit was initiated by a pair of whistleblowers under the qui tam provisions of the FCA.

Click here to read the press release in full.


Consequences of These Types of Scams.

In both cases, the message is clear, “if you take advantage of programs like Medicare, you will be held accountable,” according to the government. Companies and providers who file false claims to generate more revenue are stealing from the taxpayers and those who rely on those federally funded programs.

Don’t allow your name, provider number and NPI to be used for ordering illegal medically unnecessary tests, procedures or treatments. If you do, you may very well find yourself caught up in a similar FCA or other government investigation. These hefty settlements send a message that pursuing healthcare fraud is a priority to the DOJ. In 2018, it recovered more than $2.8 billion from FCA cases alone. Click here to learn more.

Be sure to continue with part two of this blog series to learn more about these types of fraud scams.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with FCA, Qui Tam or Whistle Blower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent physicians, clinics, health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistle blower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. 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 also represent doctors, nurses and others as relators (whistle blowers) in bringing qui tam or whistle blower cases, as well.  We represent health professionals and health facilities in complex litigation involving medical issues in state and federal courts.

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

Sources:

“Genetic Testing Company Settles Whistleblower Suit for $11.4M.” Constantine Cannon Lawyer Group. (March 14, 2018). Web.

“Whistleblower Suit Over Falsified Prenatal Test Billing Settles.” Allison Legal Law Firm. (March 11, 2018). Web.

Raymond, Nate. “Natera settles U.S. billing probe over prenatal gene tests for $11.4 mln.” Reuters. (March 12, 2018). Web.

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

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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 |2019-05-10T02:04:52+00:00May 10th, 2019|Health Facilities Law Blog|0 Comments

Gov. DeSantis’ Prescription Drug Import Plan Gains FL House Support

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 March 12, 2019, the Florida House of Representatives’ Health Quality Subcommittee voted 15 to 2 to approve House Bill 19 (HB 19) that would implement one of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recently announced health care proposals. In February 2019, the new Florida governor, who was criticized for not having a health care platform while he campaigned, announced the proposal that Florida start importing drugs from Canada.

HB 19 -Prescription Drug Importation Programs.

HB 19 was created for the purpose of safely importing cost-effective prescription drugs from Canada and other foreign nations under specified conditions. The proposed program would go into effect on July 1, 2019.

HB 19 provides eligibility criteria for prescription drugs and program participants; provides distribution requirements; provides annual reporting requirements; provides application and permitting requirements for certain participating entities; and provides that implementation of International Prescription Drug Importation Program is contingent on federal arrangement or obtaining federal guidance. Click here for more information on HB 19.

Two Programs, One Goal – Lowering Prescription Drug Prices.

The program will offer access to FDA-approved prescription drugs imported from Canada, allowing the drugs to be sold to Floridians at a much lower cost than they could otherwise purchase them here. “One of the biggest drivers of this country’s out of control healthcare spending is the cost of prescription drugs,” said Governor DeSantis.

According to the bill, the U.S. spends 30 to 190% more than other developed countries on prescription drugs, and up to 174% more for the exact same for prescription drugs. The proposed bill aims to lower these unnecessary high costs by establishing two different drug importation programs.

The first program would allow the state to import prescription drugs from Canada for use by the Florida Medicaid Program and prison health care system. It would be known as the Canadian Drug Importation Program. It would be run by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).

The second program would be known as the International Drug Importation Program. It would be run by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and would be available to individual residents.

Despite gaining house support, both programs would still need approval from the federal government before they could be implemented in Florida.

To learn more about Gov. DeSantis’ proposal, click here to read his press release.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s 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:

Sexton, Christine. “DeSantis prescription drug savings plan gets early House support.” Orlando Sentinel. (March 12, 2019). Web.

News Service of Florida. “DeSantis Drug Importation Plan Wins House Support.” Sunshine State News. (March 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., 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 |2019-03-18T19:17:55+00:00May 6th, 2019|Health Facilities Law Blog|0 Comments

DOJ Announces $2.8 Billion Recovered Funds From Healthcare Cases in 2018

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

On December 21, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it recovered more than $2.8 billion from False Claims Act (FCA) (also known as “qui tam” or “whistleblower cases”) cases in 2018. Of the $2.8 billion in settlements and judgments that the government obtained during the year through FCA cases, more than $2.5 billion involved health care fraud. These cases included drug and medical device manufacturers, managed care providers, hospitals, pharmacies, hospice organizations, laboratories, and physicians.

Health Care Fraud.

The DOJ’s largest recoveries involving the health care industry in 2018 came from the drug and medical device industry. In one example, AmerisourceBergen Corporation paid a whopping $625 million to settle charges filed under the whistleblower provisions of the FCA. The charges alleged that it illegally distributed misbranded drugs for cancer patients. Of that amount, $581.8 million was paid to the federal government and $43.2 million was paid to state Medicaid programs. Click here to read more on that.

Whistleblower Complaints.

Of the $2.8 billion recovered in 2018, more than $2.1 billion arose from lawsuits filed under the qui tam provisions of the FCA. The government paid out $301 million to the whistleblowers who exposed fraud and false claims by filing these actions. There was a total of 645 qui tam suits filed in 2018. Click here to see the DOJ’s 2018 statistics.  To view the DOJ’s press release on fraud for the fiscal year 2018, click here.

Health Care Fraud is a Serious Matter.

We have been consulted by many individuals, both before and after criminal convictions for health care fraud or related offenses. In many cases, those subject to Medicare fraud audits and false claims investigations refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter. Some may even decide not to spend the money required for a highly experienced health attorney to defend them.

Click here to read one of my previous blog posts regarding health care fraud.

The government is serious about combating health care fraud. It created a Medicare Fraud Strike Force in March 2007, in an effort to further prevent and eliminate fraud and abuse of government health care programs. False claims are a growing problem in the program, costing the government billions of dollars each year. Accordingly, punishments for defrauding the system can be quite severe.

If you are accused of health care fraud, realize that you are in a fight for your life. Your liberty, property/possessions and profession are all at stake. Often it is possible to settle allegations of fraud by agreeing to pay civil monetary penalties and fines. If given such an opportunity, the Medicare provider should consider whether it is worth the risk of facing decades in prison. Be prepared to give up whatever you need to in order to avoid a conviction and preserve your liberty.

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

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

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

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

Sources:

Bantz, Phillip. “US Justice Department Recovered $2.8 Billion From False Claims Act Cases in 2018.” Law.com. (December 28, 2018). Web.

“Health Care Dominates FCA Judgments and Settlements in 2018.” The National Law Review. (December 31, 2018). Web.

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

Keywords: healthcare fraud, healthcare fraud representation, healthcare fraud defense lawyer, Medicare fraud, legal representation for Medicare fraud, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for allegation of defrauding the government, legal representation for submitting false claims, Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare billing defense attorney, health care clinic fraud audit, legal representation for false billing, legal representation for Medicare audits, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation fr Medicaid fraud, legal representation for Medicaid audit, Medicaid audit defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid investigation defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid investigations, OIG investigation defense attorney, legal representation for OIG investigations, False Claims Act (FCA), FCA attorney, FCA representation, FCA defense lawyer, whistleblower representation, whistleblower defense attorney, qui tam lawyer, qui tam defense attorney, qui tam representation, reviews of the Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health law 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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-01-17T01:11:46+00:00January 28th, 2019|Health Facilities Law Blog|0 Comments

Miami Man to Remain Jailed for Trial in Nation’s Largest Medicare Fraud Case

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

On December 3, 2018, a Florida judge ruled that a Miami businessman who has been jailed for more than two years on $1 billion health care fraud charges, must remain in custody through his trial next year. U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. found no violation of his due process rights. He also denied Philip Esformes’ motion to dismiss several money laundering charges.

Trial Date is Set.

A February 11, 2019, trial date has been set for one of the nation’s biggest Medicare fraud cases that Esformes allegedly orchestrated through nursing homes and assisted living facilities he owned. According to the government, the scheme resulted in $1 billion in false billing and at least $464 million in improper reimbursement payments from Medicare and Medicaid.

Esformes, has been in federal custody since his arrest in July 2016, and prosecutors voiced concerns early on about him being a risk for flight, possible witness tampering and his substantial resources enabling him to live comfortably overseas.

Judge Scola found that the bid for release deserved reconsideration, but ultimately found delays in the case were more attributable to giving the defense time to review the overwhelming quantity of evidence than time spent addressing the government’s conduct. He also agreed with the government that the duration of Esformes’ detention is not grounds for release under binding precedent.

Additionally, the judge rejected Esformes’ motion to dismiss nine counts of alleging money laundering concealment. Esformes had argued that the government improperly based transactions cited in other counts as alleged payments or receipts of kickbacks. You can read more about that here.

Despite problems with the conduct of prosecutors and agents, the judge is keeping the fraud case on track. The Miami businessman is charged with conspiracy, obstruction, money laundering and health care fraud. Click here to read the U.S. Department of Justice’s press release on this case.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs about a billion dollar fraud scheme in Florida.

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 audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S., as well as in civil and administrative litigation attempting to recoup claims that have been paid. 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 Medicare and Medicaid Program.

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

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

Hale, Nathan. “Miami Man To Remain Jailed For Trial In $1B Medicare Fraud.” Law360. (December 3, 2018). Web.

Weaver, Jay. “Miami federal judge keeps massive Medicare fraud case on track for trial in January.” Miami Herald. (November 14, 2018). Web.

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

Keywords: Medicare fraud defense representation attorney, legal representation for defense of Medicare fraud charges, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for allegation of defrauding the government, legal representation for submitting false claims, Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare billing defense attorney, health care clinic fraud audit, legal representation for false billing, legal representation for allegations of unnecessary procedures, legal representation for Medicare audits, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation for Medicaid fraud, audit defense lawyer, healthcare fraud representation, healthcare fraud lawyer, legal representation for Medicaid audit, Medicaid audit 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) investigations, DOJ representation, representation for DOJ investigations, licensure defense lawyer, reviews of the Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health law 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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

By |2018-12-07T18:57:36+00:00December 7th, 2018|Health Facilities Law Blog|0 Comments

Dentists Smiling as $80 Million Settlement Reached in Dental Supply Price-Fixing Class Action Suit

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

On August 30, 2018, after two years of litigation, a group of dentists tentatively reached an $80 million settlement in a proposed class action accusing the country’s biggest dental supply companies of colluding to fix prices. The three dominant distributors, Henry Schein Inc., Patterson Cos. Inc. and Benco Dental Supply Co. Inc., allegedly artificially inflated prices on crowns, numbing agents, X-ray accessories and other products.

Artificially Inflating Prices.

In 2016, the three distributors were accused of artificially inflating prices on various dental supplies and equipment. Products at issue included supplies such as adhesives, implants, tooth brushes, pins and posts all the way to equipment such as imaging devices and dental chairs. Although there are hundreds of distributors and manufacturers of dental supplies and equipment, the defendants controlled approximately 80% of the market share. Click here to read my prior blog on this case and learn more.

The $80 million settlement comes roughly 30 months after the dentists first launched their lawsuits against the manufacturers. To learn more, click here to view the consolidated class action complaint  and the order in full.

Collusion?

In response to the suit, the three distributors accused the group of dentists of inaccurately portraying isolated actions as a nationwide conspiracy. However, a New York federal judge found reason to believe the distributors colluded to strong-arm lower cost rivals and boycott trade groups that worked with a newer distributor called SourceOne Dental Inc.

Despite reaching the settlement, the distributors deny any wrongdoing even though the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also filed an administrative complaint against them in February 2018. In the complaint, the FTC accused the nation’s three largest dental supply companies of conspiring to refuse to provide discounts to buying groups representing small dental practitioners in violation of antitrust laws. To view the FTC’s press release, click here. Click here to view the FTC’s complaint.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals.

The Health Law Firm has attorneys who practice in the area of antitrust law and trade regulation. We have defended a hospital in federal court against allegations of violations of the antitrust laws, we routinely provide advice and opinion letters on antitrust and trade regulation matters, we have represented plaintiffs in law suits alleging anticompetitive behavior and violations of state and federal antitrust laws, we have given opinions on and been involved in litigation concerning the Lanham Act and the Robinson-Patman Amendments, and we routinely undertake litigation concerning restrictive covenants.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide advice and representation concerning antitrust law, trade regulation, restraint of trade issues, and regarding deceptive and unfair trade practices. We routinely provide advice and analysis of proposed business ventures that include the foregoing. We have represented both plaintiffs and defendants in state court litigation and in federal court litigation in such matters.

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

Sources:

Overley, Jeff. “Dentists Get $80M From Supply Cos. To End Collusion Case.” Law360. (August 30, 2018). Web.

“Dentists Get $80M From Supply Cos. To End Collusion Case.” InfoTech Consulting. (September 5, 2018). Web.

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

KeyWords: dental class action suit, complex healthcare litigation attorneys, legal representation for antitrust violations, representation for antitrust investigations, complex medical litigation lawyer, representation for complex litigation, representation for healthcare business litigation matters, employment contract representation, representation for physician dentist employment contract, healthcare contract review attorney, restraint of trade legal representation, representation for Board of Dentistry matters, Board of Dentistry representation, dentist lawyer,  attorney for dentists, Board of Dental Examiners legal counsel, representation for Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigations, dental law defense lawyer, representation for dental law, representation for health care professionals, representation for dental clinics, health law defense lawyer, health defense attorney, legal representation for dentists, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm Attorneys, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, board of dentistry defense attorney, dental board defense legal counsel, representation for dentists, dentist defense lawyer

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

By |2018-10-01T02:42:58+00:00November 19th, 2018|Health Facilities Law Blog|0 Comments

New Update to the Medicare Program Integrity Manual Issued by CMS

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

On June 1, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued further guidance for reporting and reviewing final adverse legal actions (ALAs) in provider enrollment applications. Section 15.5.3 of the Medicare Program Integrity Manual (MPIM) was updated through Transmittal 797 to provide more guidance on the types of final adverse actions that must be disclosed. It also provides additional instruction to Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) on how to process disclosed final adverse actions.

New Language Basics.

The update in Section 15.5.3 of the MPIM clarifies the scope of disclosure, the time frames for disclosure and the evidence needed to support a disclosure.

Per the 2018 update, the list of reportable adverse actions includes: felony and misdemeanor convictions within the last 10 years; current or past suspensions/revocations of a medical license or an accreditation; current or past suspensions or exclusions imposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG); current or past debarments for participation in any Federal Executive Branch procurement or non-procurement program; Medicaid exclusions, revocations, or terminations; and current or past federal sanctions of any type.

New Guidance for MACs.

The second part of the update to the Manual provides additional guidance concerning how MACs will review applications and process the disclosure of final adverse actions. The update also covers how MACs should handle both reported and unreported adverse actions. MACs are now required to use either the Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) or the System for Award Management (SAM) to research whether individuals with ownership interest of the applicant entity are excluded.

To view all the language in Transmittal 797, which outlines the updated Section 15.5.3, click here.

For more information, visit CMS’ website.

Click here to view another recent update issued by CMS.

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, skilled nursing facilities (SNF’s) durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative
hearings at both the state and the federal level. We represent health providers in Medicare and Medicaid audits and disputes on a routine basis.

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

Sources:

King & Spalding. “CMS Updates Rules for Reporting Adverse Legal Action.” JD Supra. (August 25, 2018). Web.

Dhillion, Megan. “Update to the Medicare Program Integrity Manual: New Requirements Related to Disclosing and Processing Final Adverse Actions.” AHLA. (August 24, 2018). Web.

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

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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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

By |2018-09-07T19:00:18+00:00September 7th, 2018|Health Facilities Law Blog|0 Comments

Two Nursing Home Co-Conspirators Sentenced in $19 Million Fraud Kickback Scheme

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

On July 9, 2018, two co-conspirators in a $19.4 million healthcare fraud scheme involving a nursing home chain, American Senior Communities, were sentenced in Indiana federal court. Both pled guilty to various conspiracy and money laundering charges.

The Multi-Million Dollar Scheme.

Prosecutors allege that the men reached side deals with vendors who handled things like nurse call systems, food and medical supplies for the nursing home chain. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the kickback scheme generated nearly $19.4 million that the men spent on vacation homes, private planes, golf trips, Rolex watches, gold bullion and casino chips. Both were charged in 2016, along with two others for their roles in the same scheme. Read more about their involvement here.

The Sentencing.

The DOJ said Steven Ganote received a five-year sentence with two years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $7 million in restitution. Additionally, Joshua Burkhart was handed a four-month sentence with two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $420,000 in restitution. Each of the men is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and health care fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS).

To learn more about these types of illegal kickback schemes, click here to read one of my prior blogs on health care fraud.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in cases of medical billing fraud, overbilling, 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.

 

Sources:

Fowler, Haylay. “Nursing Home Schemer Sentenced In $19M Kickback Scheme.” Law360. (July 9, 2018). Web.

Kass, Dani. “Ex-Nursing Home Execs Indicted In $16M Kickback Scheme.” Law360. (October 12, 2016). Web.

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

KeyWords: Medical billing fraud, fraudulent billing representation, fraudulent billing attorney, representation for overbilling, representation for submitting false claims, False Claims Act (FCA) violations, representation for submitting false claims, false claims lawyer, FCA defense attorney, Anti-Kickback Statute(AKS) violations, AKS representation, AKS attorney, representation for fraudulent reimbursement, representation for illegal kickback scheme illegal kickback scheme attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, health fraud defense lawyer, health law defense attorney, health law, The Health Law Firm

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

By |2018-07-12T19:47:47+00:00July 12th, 2018|Health Facilities Law Blog|0 Comments

Pennsylvania Hospital Agrees to Pay $325,000 to Settle Medicare Overbilling Allegations: Inpatient Codes Used for Outpatient Procedures

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

On August 8, 2016, a Pennsylvania hospital accused of overbilling Medicare agreed to settle civil claims with the federal government for $325,000, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia announced. The case arose out of allegations that the hospital used inpatient diagnosis codes for routine outpatient procedures.

Northampton Hospital Co. LLC (Northampton), which operates Easton Hospital, has agreed to resolve allegations of improper Medicare billing for inpatient procedures performed at the health care facility from January 1, 2008, through June 27, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release. Click here to read the press release in full.

Overbilling Medicare.

Northampton provides inpatient and outpatient health care services in Easton, Pennsylvania. The hospital’s services include cardiovascular, orthopedic, oncology, maternal, child health, pediatric, physical therapy rehabilitation, and mental health services. In addition, it offers surgical care, emergency care, occupational and speech therapy, wound healing management, imaging, radiology, home health, hospice, and laboratory services.

According to the DOJ, Northampton allegedly billed inpatient Medicare Part A claims using particular primary diagnosis codes that did not justify patient admission to an acute care hospital. The improper codes that were used correspond primarily to long-term, stable conditions.

“According to the United States, these primary diagnosis codes were used to justify inpatient admissions for routine procedures that should have instead been performed on an outpatient basis,” the office said. “Had these procedures been performed on an outpatient basis, the procedures would have been billed at a lower rate.”

Northampton agreed to pay a total of $325,000 to settle the allegations of overbilling Medicare.

To read a similar case of overbilling Medicare and the repercussions, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

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

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, nurses, medical groups, nurse practitioners, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions. The attorneys at The Health Law Firm, have defended individual health professionals and health facilities in false claims act and whistle blower cases. The attorneys at The Health Law Firm, have also represented plaintiffs (relators or “whistle blowers”) in bringing qui tam or false claims act cases against those involved in falsely billing Medicare.

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

Source:

Wolf, Alex. “Pa. Hospital Settles Medicare Overbilling Claims For $325K.” Law360. (August 8, 2016). Web.

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

KeyWords: Medicare fraud investigation defense attorney, Medicare audit legal counsel, Medicaid audit defense attorney, Medicare false claims attorney, qui tam case attorney, whistle blower legal counsel, fraudulent billing Medicare, Medicare overpayment attorney, Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation defense attorney, Medicare overbilling defense lawyer, legal representation for Medicare fraud, Legal counsel for Medicare audits, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2018-06-25T19:29:51+00:00May 15th, 2018|Health Facilities Law Blog|0 Comments

Hospital Negligence Suit Dismissed by Florida High Court

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

On November 30, 2016, The Florida Supreme Court announced the decision to drop a negligence suit filed against a hospital over the death of patient Ashley Lawson.  Lawson was able to escaped from Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinic, Inc.  The Shands psychiatric hospital is located in Gainesville, Florida and is now known as the UF Health Shands Psychiatric Hospital.

The major legal issue in this case was whether the conduct of the hospital was ordinary negligence or was medical negligence (medical malpractice).  In Florida, if the facts alleged constitute a claim for simple negligence, then there are no pre-suit proceedings required, no medical expert witnesses required, and it is usually much easier and much less expensive to try the case.  However, if the facts stated in the suit are medical negligence allegations, then there are a number of procedural hurdles that a plaintiff must overcome.  Additionally, the case is usually much more expensive and time consuming to try.

Patient Was Mentally Ill.

Ashley Lawson was admitted to the hospital on November 1, 2012, because of a psychiatric illness, impulsive behavior, drug abuse and several suicide attempts, according to reports.  According to her estate’s initial jurisdictional brief, Lawson was transferred to the locked impatient unit at Shands for her own safety.

Lawson Allegedly Freed Herself.

According to reports, an employee’s badge and keys were left unattended, which gave Lawson the opportunity to free herself and escape on January 23, 2013.  Lawson died soon after she had escaped.  She was struck and killed by a tractor trailer on Interstate 75.

A Request To Reconsider The Ruling.

On November 15, 2016, the Florida Supreme Court abandoned its denial of a motion from defendant-appellee Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics, Inc. asking it to reconsider its ruling from September 13, 2016.  The earlier ruling denied a motion for voluntary dismissal filed by the plaintiff, the Estate of Ashley Lawson.  The court’s earlier denials had decided not to dismiss the case by a 4 to 3 split decision, with Chief of Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices Barbara J. Pariente, James F.C. Perry and R. Fred Lewis in the majority and Justices Ricky Polston, Charles Canady and Peggy Quince dissenting.

Since the ruling on November 15, 2016, Lawson’s estate had relinquished its right to file a brief on the merits, noting that the parties are “contractually prohibited from further litigation in this matter.”  This language seems to indicate that a settlement had been reached between the parties.  Shands Hospital filed a motion on November 27, 2016, looking for instructions on its due process rights and its counsel’s duty to proceed.  Shands stated:  “Respondent believes it should be entitled to submit a merits brief to this court and present oral argument since, as this court has made apparent through its orders, it views this case as involving an important issue of statewide impact.”

Where Do You Draw The Line?

This case in particular has raised questions on where the line should be drawn between medical negligence and ordinary negligence.  However, in the motion for reconsideration, Shands Hospital stated that there was no certification of a question of great public importance or a certified district conflict made in the lower court’s decision in the case.

Shands Hospital’s motion to dismiss the case had been denied by the trial court.  Shands then appealed the Florida First District Court of Appeal. The three-judge panel on the Court of Appeal was unable to come up with a definitive result, so the entire Court of Appeal decided to review the case and final reached a 8-6 decision to trump the lower court’s denial.

After that, Lawson’s estate brought the case to the Florida Supreme Court, seeking reversal based on its argument that the First District Court of Appeal’s decision allegedly conflicted with two Fifth District Court of Appeal decisions on what constitutes ordinary negligence verus medical malpractice (medical negligence).  The estate asked for an extension to file its initial merits brief, stating that the parties were discussing a settlement. On July 28, 2016, the estate filed a notice for voluntary dismissal because a deal was in place.

The Supreme Court took the position that the settlement notwithstanding, the Supreme Court should move forward with the case.  Court’s will often do this when they expect that the legal question will come up again and again in the future, unless they go ahead and decide it.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, nurses and 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.  We represent medical students, interns, residents, and fellows in disputes with their graduate medical education (GME) programs.  We represent clinical professors and instructors in contract disputes, employment disputes, clinical privileges matters and other disputes with their employers.  We often act as the physician’s personal counsel in medical malpractice litigation.

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

Sources:
“Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinic Inc. v. Estate of Ashley Lawson.” FindLaw. (August 28, 2015). Web.

Hale, Nathan. “In Shift, Fla. High Court Drops Hospital Negligence Suit.” Law360. (November 30, 2016). Web.

“Justice Won’t Drop Case In Shands Vista Patients Death.” The Gainesville Sun. (September 16, 2016). Web.

“Court Sides With Hospital In Death of Escaped Patient.” Health News Florida. (August 31, 2015). 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 © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2018-07-06T01:38:15+00:00May 15th, 2018|Health Facilities Law Blog|0 Comments
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