Psychiatric Practice Reaches Settlement in FCA Suit to End Allegations of Employing Physician on OIG 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

On February 23, 2022, a psychiatric practice and its owner agreed to pay $310,874 to resolve allegations they improperly hired and employed a physician who was excluded from federal healthcare programs. The physician who was hired was on the OIG’s exclusion list, the “List of Excluded Individuals and Entities” (LEIE). As a result, the government took the position that claims for services the physician provided filed against government programs were illegal pursuant to the false Claims Act (FCA). Details were disclosed in a Press Release by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut.

Geriatric & Adult Psychiatry, LLC (GAP), along with the owner, entered into a civil settlement agreement to resolve their liability under the federal and state False Claims Acts, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release.

Past Conviction Overlooked.

In 2006, the physician had been convicted in the Southern District of Florida of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. Because of his conviction, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) excluded him from all federal healthcare programs. Such exclusion includes Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, Veterans Administration (V.A.), and Indian Health Service (I.H.S.) programs.

When the OIG excludes an individual or entity from federal health care programs, no payments may be made for items or services furnished by that excluded individual. Additionally, the law prohibits any person or organization that receives such funds from employing or contracting with a person on the LEIE, in any way. To avoid potential liability, it is advised that health care providers check the List of Excluded Individuals/Entities (LEIE) on the OIG website: http://oig.hhs.gov/exclusions.

In addition, the OIG has issued a Special Advisory Bulletin to providers who might employ or contract with an excluded individual or entity to provide guidance. To review this OIG Bulletin, click here.

For more helpful information, click here.

Despite this, to medical group hired the former physician as the clinical director in 2016 where he served in that position until 2021. During that time, both the practice and its owner billed and sought reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and the Railroad Retirement Medicare Program. Additionally, GAP’s reimbursements were used to pay the physician’s salary and benefits.

Payment Prohibition & Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs).

Health care providers receiving funds from federal health care programs must check to see if potential employees and contractors are excluded by searching the LEIE to ensure that person is not listed. Providers have mistakenly assumed that exclusion does not apply to an individual or entity that provides services that extend beyond direct patient care; this is wrong. Payment prohibition extends to anyone who chooses to employ or contract with an excluded individual or entity in any capacity. Providers who violate this prohibition are required to pay back all federal health care program funds inappropriately received and may also be subject to civil monetary penalties (CMPs) and action under the False Claims Act (FCA).

Furthermore, payment of an excluded individual’s salary, benefits, or expenses, directly linked to federal health care program funds is expressly prohibited. Click here to read my prior blog and learn more about this.

Little Known Fact: You Must Actively Apply to Get Taken Off the LEIE.

A little-known fact, often overlooked, is that a person or entity on the LEIE must actually apply to be removed from it, no matter how short the period of exclusion. Thus if a person is excluded and placed on the LEIE for only two years, they must apply to the OIG after that period of time, completing its detailed, notarized application, and be removed from the list. Removal is not automatic.

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 Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Yankowski, Peter. “Officials: Hamden psychiatric practice to pay $310,000 settlement over employee who lost medical license.” Stamford Advocate. (February 23, 2022). Web.

Health Law Weekly. “Psychiatric Practice, Owner Pay $310K for Employing “Excluded” Individual.”American Health Law Association (AHLA). (February 25, 2022). 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 Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714; Phone: (407) 331-6620; Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022. The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

2022-04-21T22:35:28-04:00April 12th, 2022|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Florida’s Protecting DNA Privacy Act: How Will It Affect Healthcare Providers?

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

On June 29, 2021, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law HB 833, known as the “Protecting DNA Privacy Act,” which took effect in Florida October 1, 2021. Under the act, collecting or submitting another person’s DNA sample for analysis without his or her express consent now constitutes a second-degree felony in the state of Florida.  It amends Section 760.40, Florida Statutes, with the criminal penalties being set forth in Section 817.5655, Florida Statutes.

The new law clarifies the extent to which individuals own their genetic information. It also creates new crimes for the unlawful collection, retention, analysis, disclosure, or sale of an individual’s DNA sample and the results of a DNA analysis.  The act also has important implications for secondary uses of data by health care providers and others that perform genetic testing and analyze genetic information.


What is Genetic/DNA Privacy Law?

The use and accessibility of genetic testing, primarily through direct-to-consumer options (companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com ), has significantly increased in recent years, which has resulted in growing concerns about the privacy of genetic information and its use by third parties.

The Florida Legislature has focused on strengthening the protections surrounding genetic information. In 2020, it amended Florida law to limit the use of genetic information by life insurance companies for specific insurance purposes, including underwriting. Click here to read the final bill analysis for the act.


The Impact on Healthcare Professionals.

The new law will have the biggest impact on physicians who employ DNA testing in their practices. Physicians who collect or submit a patient’s DNA sample for DNA analysis will have to first obtain the patient’s express consent to do so.

“Express consent” is defined as “authorization by the person whose DNA is to be extracted or analyzed, or such person’s legal guardian or authorized representative, evidenced by an affirmative action demonstrating an intentional decision after the person receives a clear and prominent disclosure regarding the manner of collection, use, retention, maintenance, or disclosure of a DNA sample or results of a DNA analysis for specified purposes.”

This means that physicians who wish to have a patient’s DNA analyzed for a specified purpose need first to explain how the DNA sample will be collected, used, retained, and maintained and how the results of the DNA analysis will be used. This information ideally will be outlined in a formal, written document that the patient will sign. In addition, the legislation allows physicians to obtain a single express consent for every instance of a specified purpose or use.

What This Means For You.

Any healthcare professional engaged in such activities should consider reevaluating their consent processes to determine whether they obtain appropriate consent for all uses of de-identified results of DNA analysis. To learn more, click here.

Click here to view HB 833 in full.

Click here to review Section 760.40, Florida Statutes.

Click Here to review Section 817.5655, Florida Statutes, containing the criminal penalties.


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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

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


Sources:

Peloquin, David. “What Fla. DNA Privacy Law Means For Health Providers.” Law360. (October 4, 2021). Web.

“How the new DNA privacy law could affect your practice.” Florida Society of Clinical Oncology. (September 20, 2021). 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 Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.  Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund Expected To Run Out of Money If Congress Doesn’t Act Soon

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

In 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created the “Provider Relief Fund” (PRF) to help support healthcare providers in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal program has served as a lifeline to frontline healthcare workers who’ve experienced revenue losses and increased demand for their services during the pandemic.

To date, it has allocated more than $178 billion in payments to over 410,000 providers across the United States. Click here to learn more.

COVID-19 Uninsured Relief Fund.

Let’s start with some good news: Under the COVID-19 relief funding, HHS created the “uninsured relief fund.” This program provides claims reimbursement to health care providers for testing, treating, diagnosis, and administering vaccines to uninsured individuals for COVID-19. It has paid out more than $17 billion throughout the pandemic. It has paid out more than $17 billion throughout the pandemic.

Of the $17 billion, HHS has distributed nearly $10 billion for testing, more than $6 billion reimbursed for treatment, and the remainder covered vaccinations. Read more on the statistics here.

Running Out of Money.

Now for the bad news: According to an HHS spokesperson, there’s only $7.6 billion left, and the money will run out in the coming months. Congress isn’t currently considering making more funding available, meaning providers and patients are likely to have soon to bear the costs themselves.

Therefore, many hospitals and healthcare organizations urge Congress to replenish the PRF. “One of the most helpful and patient-oriented uses of the PRF was to help those people who for whatever reasons are uninsured and suffer from COVID-19,” said Federation of American Hospitals CEO Chip Kahn. “It meant that no one should have any reluctance to go to the hospital if they have COVID but no insurance.”

Additionally, on February 9, 2022, the American Hospital Association released a statement urging readers to contact lawmakers to get Congress to provide another $25 billion for the PRF in the government funding package. Read the AHA’s action alert here.

As we approach nearly two years since HHS declared COVID-19 a national public health emergency, PRF has been a lifeline to hospitals, health systems, and medical professionals. It has been helping to keep doors open during the pandemic to continue providing essential care to patients and communities. However, if the program runs out of money and Congress doesn’t appropriate more, hospitals could be left footing the bill, which will hurt both providers and patients in the end.

Read one of my previous blogs on a similar case regarding a Florida Dentist’s COVID-19 Business Interruption Insurance Claim to learn even more.

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

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

Sources:

Hellmann, Jessie. “HHS running out of money to pay providers for treating uninsured COVID-19 patients.” Modern Healthcare. (February 8, 2022). Web.

HRSA. “Covid Uninsured Claim.” Health Resources & Services Administration. (February 2022). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law; he is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Doctor Indicted in $1.3 Million Medicare Fraud Kickback Case Seeks Reinstatement of Medicare Billing Privileges

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

On November 2, 2021, a doctor and his wife who had been indicted for their roles in a $1.3 million Medicare fraud scheme asked a New Jersey court to eliminate a bail condition. The doctor argued that the bail condition impeded his ability to practice medicine. Additionally, the doctor indicated that he was seeking to directly address CMS and the Medical Practice’s ability to bill Medicare and Medicaid.

According to the brief, the defendants argued that the court should not get involved in a licensed physician’s medical practice. They argued that this is the role of the state board of medicine.

Background of Their Case.

Both of the defendants, in this case, were arrested and charged in July 2020 for accepting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for ordering unnecessary genetic tests for patients. Genetic testing has turned out to be the latest area of large-scale health care fraud. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the scheme billed Medicare for a total of $1.3 million for unnecessary tests. Both of the defendants had been released on $250,000 unsecured personal recognizance bonds.

Click here to view the press release issued by the DOJ.

Is It Really Possible?

In a brief filed with the court, the doctor and his spouse specifically asked the judge to allow them to submit claims to the federal government for reimbursement and to allow the referral of patients to certain other providers.

The defendants argued that because CMS had already suspended both individuals from submitting claims, the court’s bail conditions were unnecessary. The defendants wanted to be able to approach CMS and attempt to have the medical practice’s ability to continue billing the Medicare and Medicaid Programs reinstated. They contended that certain safeguards could be put into place if the practice were allowed to do so. The brief further argued that to the extent, the court had the concern that they would continue to submit fraudulent billing, the following arguments would prevent that:

1. A proposed third-party management company and a third-party billing company, with appropriate peer review, would take over all management and billing responsibilities;

2. CMS would need to agree to reinstate the medical practice with whatever conditions and restrictions it felt necessary before the practice submitted any additional Medicare or Medicaid claims;

3. It is already a condition of their bail that the defendants commit no further crimes.

These defendants’ brief argued that these safeguards should adequately address any concerns of possible future wrongdoing.

Defendants Say Bail Conditions Are Unreasonable For a Working Medical Practice.

The defendants claim the court’s order makes it practically impossible for the doctor to keep his Pennsylvania medical practice open. They claimed that the doctor treats a sizable Medicare and Medicaid patient population. It also argued that, as a licensed physician, he must continue treating his existing patients. Lastly, the defendants argued that they are hoping to eliminate a condition which they claim forces the medical practice to choose between meeting required standards of patient care or violating the court’s bail order.

What Was The Court’s Decision?

These all seemed like some pretty well-thought-out arguments that the defendants made. What did the court finally decide on this matter? Unfortunately, you will have to tune in to this blog at a later date to find out. Hopefully, the answer will not be lost in chaos.

Click here to view the defendant’s brief in full.

To read about another recent case involving bribery and kickbacks in a healthcare fraud scheme, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Health Care Fraud, False Claims Act Violations, and Anti-Kickback Statute Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in cases of medical billing fraud, overbilling, Medicare audits, program integrity Contractor audits, False Claims Act cases, and whistleblower/qui tam cases throughout Florida and across the United States. 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, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

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

Sources:

Pagan, McCord. “Indicted Doc In Kickback Case Seeks CMS Billing Privileges.” Law360. (November 2, 2021). Web.

“Two Scranton area doctors charged in genetic testing bribery and kickback scheme.” PA Homepage. (July 17, 2020). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

2022-03-16T13:20:55-04:00March 16th, 2022|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

NPDB Disputes and Appeals: Fight Back Against Adverse Reports

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

The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), created in 1986, was part of the Health Care Quality Improvement Act (HCQIA). Its purpose is to improve the quality of health care by encouraging state licensing boards, hospitals, health care entities, and professional societies to report into a national data bank those physicians and health professionals who demonstrate substandard skills or engage in unprofessional behavior. In part, it is used to make sure that incompetent physicians do not move from one state to another in order to avoid the consequences.

Adverse Reports Stay in the NPDB for Life.

How long does an adverse NPDB report stay in the Data Bank? I have received two (2) different answers to this question from different authorities. I was originally informed that adverse NPDB reports are for life, and believed that for my first 25 or so years of practice. However, more recently I have been informed that they only stay in the Data Bank for 50 years. However, there is little difference whether it is actually 50 years or for life. For most physicians, 50 years is a lifetime for a medical career.

 

A Negative NPDB Report Has the Ability to Ruin Your Career.

All reports in the NPDB on an individual can and are queried by state licensing boards, hospitals, and other health care facilities to assist in investigating adverse incidents and disciplinary actions that may have been taken against a physician applying for a license or clinical privileges. Therefore, adverse NPDB reports can have long-lasting, devastating effects on the career of a health care provider.

Additionally, the real-world consequences of being the subject of an NPDB report include possible exclusion from the panels of health plans and independent physician organizations, termination for cause from state Medicaid programs, loss of medical staff privileges at hospitals and health facilities, increases in professional liability insurance premiums, exclusion from the Medicare Program, and additional licensing investigations and potential discipline by other organizations and states.

If you are the subject of an adverse NPDB report, there are several actions you should take to correct any errors, provide your side of the facts, and possibly have the adverse report removed or corrected.

What Happens If You Disagree With Your Report?

Reports to the NPDB are, for all practical purposes for life, as explained above. But healthcare professionals may appeal adverse reports through a dispute resolution process involving the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). You can dispute reports if you disagree with factual accuracy of the report or if the event reported are not proper under NPDB guidelines. For example, getting fired from a job or having a contract terminated for cause are not proper events to cause an adverse NPDB report. We have had to represent physicians in the past having these types of reports removed from the NPDB.

It’s important to note that entering the report into dispute status does not automatically trigger a review. When in dispute status, you have to notify the reporting organization. The reporting organization can correct, void, or choose to leave the report unchanged. If after 60 days you have received no response from the reporting organization, or you are unsatisfied with the response you received, you can elevate the report to dispute resolution (appeal).

Visit the NPDB website here for more details on this process.

For more reference, you can see what a successful voided NPDB report looks like here.  This example results from The Health Law Firm’s recent successful appeal of an adverse NPDB report for a client.

Your Career May Depend On Having Legal Counsel Who Understands the NPDB.

If you have received a negative National Practitioner Data Bank report and wish to appeal it, contact The Health Law Firm. Our attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, and other healthcare professionals in disputing and appealing NPDB reports. To learn more, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late, Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm attorneys routinely represent physicians, physician assistants (PAs), nurses, nurse practitioners (NPs), dentists and other health professionals in dealing with reports being made to the NPDB, disputing NPDB reports and appealing NPDB reports, hospital clinical privileges hearings, medical staff fair hearings, medical staff peer reviews. 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 Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at http://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 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Court Assesses $170 Million in Fines Against Two Texas Ophthalmologists For False Claims

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

On November 18, 2021, the Justice Department announced that two Texas ophthalmologists and their eye clinic must pay millions of dollars in penalties for fraudulently billing Medicare. The penalties were assessed in connection with their evaluation and treatment of glaucoma.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes assessed $170 million in penalties against the ophthalmologists and their eye clinic in Houston, Outreach Diagnostic Clinic.

A Former Employee Blew the Whistle.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the action resulted from a False Claims Act (FCA) or “qui tam” suit. The whistleblower was a former employee of the clinic. The suit alleged that between February 2006 and December 2011, the two ophthalmologists fraudulently billed the Medicare Program for single eye pressure measurement tests used to assess and treat glaucoma. In addition, the suit claimed that both physicians allegedly billed the federal health care program using an improper reimbursement code that provided a higher reimbursement than that authorized.

The clinic allegedly submitted 14,450 claims and received $807,450 in payments from Medicare during this time relating to the allegations of fraud.

Assessment of Damages and Penalties.

In March 2020, the government won a summary judgment against the Texas clinic. Read more here.

As a result, the judge assessed a treble damages penalty that amounted to $2,422,350. Additionally, Judge Hughes assessed a penalty of $11,803 for each false claim, which is the minimum penalty that could have been assessed under the current version of the statute. According to the press release issued by the DOJ, the court’s assessments resulted in a total of $170,553,350 in penalties.

Click here to read more.

To read about an ophthalmologist involved in a similar Medicare fraud scheme, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent licensed ophthalmologists and other healthcare providers in Medicare audits, integrity 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 Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620.

Sources:

Health Law Weekly. “Ophthalmologists Must Pay $170 Million in Penalties.” American Health Law Association. (December 3, 2021). Web.

“Court assesses $170 million in penalties against two Houston opthalmologists.” Houston Business and Energy Blog. (November 18, 2021). Web.

Paavola, Alia. “Judge orders 2 ophthalmologists to pay $170M for false claims violations.” Becker’s Hoptial Review. (November 19, 2021). 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2022-01-24T17:58:35-05:00February 15th, 2022|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog, In the News|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

CMS Using Medicare Termination to Squash Doctors Involved in Overprescribing Opioids

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

Recently it has come to our attention that there may be a nationwide effort by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) to squelch physicians who prescribe opioids and other narcotic medications. We have seen letters sent out by CMS MACs to physicians notifying them that their Medicare program billing privileges have been terminated because CMS has identified them as a provider who is overprescribing.


Nationwide Effort to Run “Pill Mills” Out of Business.

We are well aware of efforts by the various law enforcement authorities at the state and federal level to prosecute and put out of business physicians identified as “pill mills” and the pharmacies that fill their prescriptions.  These include surprise audits and inspections, followed by administrative actions or criminal prosecutions, by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the state Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Health, statewide task forces, and local sheriff’s offices and police departments.

However, this new heavy-handed tactic hits physicians in the pocketbook. It takes advantage of an arcanely-complex system of administrative appeals that is heavily weighted in favor of the government.

If You Receive a Letter from CMS Regarding Termination of Your Medicare Billing Privileges, Act Immediately.

Do not hesitate or wait if you receive a letter notifying you that CMS is terminating your billing privileges. You must get an experienced health care attorney to represent you right away and appeal the decision through a “request for reconsideration.”  You must also ask that the termination not go into effect while the appeal is pending and provide reasons why it should not.  Often you only have a few days to do this.

In Truth, There May Be No Oversprescribing.

In one recent case, we represented a physician who received such a letter stating she was terminated from Medicare. She was not a pain management physician, and she had over 2,000 patients. She only prescribed a handful (literally, less than ten) of these patients opioids, but the medical necessity was present and well-documented. However, because Medicare was aware of the prescriptions, it terminated her because it was paying for them.

Consequences of a Medicare Privileges Termination.

There are many, many seriously adverse consequences of a termination of Medicare privileges. Often we refer to this as a “death sentence.” It could be the death of your medical practice and possibly your medical career.

Consequences include:

1.    A waiting period of ten (10) years before you can even reapply.

2.    Placement on the OIG’s List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE).

3.    Having to notify hospitals and other health facilities where you are on the staff so that your medical staff privileges can be terminated.

4.    Being terminated from your state’s Medicaid Program.

5.    Being placed on the exclusion list for all federal contracts and contractors.

6.    Being terminated from the provider panels of all health insurers.

7.    Being excluded from any job or any position, including contractor or subcontractor for any organization that receives and government funding.

8.    Possible loss of medical license or non-renewal of medical license because of #1, #2 and #4 above (in most states).

 

Act Fast; Don’t Delay!

Act fast if you receive such a letter. Do not delay.  Retain the services of a health lawyer experienced in Medicare appeals and federal administrative hearings.

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

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions. They also represent them in preparing and submitting corrective action plans (CAPs), requests for reconsideration, and appeal hearings, including Medicare administrative hearings before an administrative law judge. Attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent health providers in actions initiated by the Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs), in False Claims Act cases, in actions initiated by the state to exclude or terminate from the Medicaid Program or by the HHS OIG to exclude from the Medicare Program.

Call now at (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Surgeon, Device Company Owner Arrested For Paying Bribes, Kickbacks

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

On September 7, 2021, federal prosecutors announced the arrest of a Florida surgeon and owner of device company SpineFrontier Inc on charges of bribing surgeons to use products by paying sham consulting fees.

Accused in an indictment in Boston federal court for violating the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and conspiracy to commit money laundering, is the company’s founder and CEO from Florida. Also charged in the indictment were the company’s chief financial officer from Massachusetts and the device company itself. The charges of AKS violations carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, while the money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Click here to view the indictment in full.


Alleged Bribes & Kickbacks.

The allegations are that from March 2013 through December 2018, the defendants entered into consulting contracts in which they allegedly agreed to pay surgeons between $250 and $1,000 per hour for consulting work. However, prosecutors claim that the surgeons paid did little consulting work, and the payments only served as bribes to use their company’s products. During that time, surgeons accepted between $32,625 and $978,000 in improper payments, according to the indictment.

Department of Justice Civil Lawsuit For ‘Sham’ Consulting Fees.

In March 2020, the DOJ filed a civil lawsuit against SpineFrontier, accusing the company of illegally funneling more than $8 million to nearly three dozen surgeons.  The complaint alleges that the defendants created a separate company which was used as an intermediary to funnel illicit payments to surgeons.  Additionally, the indictment lists seven surgeons who have allegedly received bribes totaling $2,747,463 to serve as “sham consultants.”  Read the complaint in full here to learn more.


In Summary.

The Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) prohibits offering, paying, soliciting, or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by Medicare, TRICARE, and other federally funded programs.  It is intended to ensure that a physician’s medical judgment is not compromised by improper financial incentives. Conspiring to violate the kickback laws, can bring up to five years in prison while actually violating the kickback laws can result in a sentence of up to 10 years.

“Kickbacks paid to surgeons as sham medical consultants, as alleged in this case, cheat patients and taxpayers alike,” reportedly said Phillip Coyne, Special Agent in Ccharge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG). “Working with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to investigate kickback schemes that threaten the integrity of our federal health care system, no matter how those schemes are disguised.”

You can read the DOJ’s press release on the case here.

Physicians Beware of Such Schemes.

Physicians should beware of any contract, plan or offer which offers them money for little or no work at all.  They should also be aware of plans in which they are “given” ownership interest in or made officers in companies and businesses without their having to buy into them. Such schemes are often used by unscrupulous non-physicians to sucker in physicians so that they can be used to perpetrate criminal enterprises. In may cases, the scheme is to defraud Medicare or another health insurer.  Often older or retired physicians seeking to supplement their income fail prey to such schemes.  Often the purpose is just to obtain the physician’s personal identification number or DEA number to order false prescriptions and diagnostic tests or to carry out other fraudulent billing schemes.  Physicians should always remember two old adages: “Nothing is free” and “If it seems to good to be true, it isn’t.”


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Health Care Fraud,  False Claims Act Violations, and Anti-Kickback Statute Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in cases of medical billing fraud, overbilling, Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits, False Claims Act cases, and whistleblower/qui tam cases throughout Florida and across the United States. 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, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

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

Sources:

Schulte, Fred. “Florida Spine Surgeon and Device Company Owner Charged in Kickback Scheme.” Kaiser Health News. (September 8, 2021). Web.

Pierson, Brendan. “SpineFrontier execs arrested, charged with kickback scheme.” Reuters. (September 7, 2021). Web.

“Florida Spine Surgeon And Device Company Owner Charged in Kickback Scheme.” Health News Florida. (September 8, 2021). 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2022-01-25T02:54:39-05:00January 25th, 2022|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog, In the Know|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Florida Surgeon Handed Seven Years in Prison for $28 Million Health Care Fraud 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 November 18, 2021, a Tallahassee surgeon was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for committing health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The scheme involved performing hundreds of medically unnecessary, invasive surgical procedures on his patients.

The defendant, a dual citizen of the United States and Ghana, pled guilty to all 58 counts against him in federal court on December 18, 2020. Jason R. Cody, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, announced the sentence. Read more about the sentencing here.

Compromising the Health and Safety of Patients For Illegal Profit.

For almost four years, beginning in 2016 until his arrest in February 2020, it is alleged that the surgeon solicited his victims by establishing relationships with churches, nursing homes, hospitals, and outreach organizations. The 58-count indictment alleges the surgeon defrauded Medicare and Medicaid by billing for dozens of procedures that he never performed. A detailed list shows each claim was for more than $21,000. Federal prosecutors said that the claims that were improperly billed reached $23 million.

A later motion filed by the government alleges that the doctor’s calendar showed that he performed 14 surgeries in one day.

In addition to performing unnecessary surgical procedures, the doctor was accused of victimizing others by falsifying their medical records to reflect surgical procedures that he did not perform. He created erroneous and misleading medical records that could cause doctors who treated the same patients in the future to commit errors in their treatment of the same patients.

The Consequences of the Surgeon’s Actions.

In addition to prison time, the sentence included forfeiture of the surgeon’s assets in the United States and overseas. The assets included luxury vehicles, jewelry, and homes located in Manhattan, Miami, and Houston. The court also ordered the payment of $28.4 million in restitution.

“Instead of caring for his patients, this defendant targeted vulnerable members of our community, subjected them to unnecessary surgical procedures, and falsified documents so he could line his pockets with millions of taxpayer dollars,” a law enforcement authority reportedly stated.

Click here to read the press release in full issued from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to learn more.

To read about a similar case involving another healthcare professional, click here to read my prior blog.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal defense representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in healthcare fraud investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare and Medicaid investigations, Office of Inspector General (OIG) actions, Department of Health (DOH) investigations, and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Sources:

Paavola, Amy. “Florida physician gets 7-year sentence for $29M fraud scheme.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (November 18, 2021). Web.

AHLA. “Florida Surgeon Draws Seven-Year Prison Term for $28 Million Health Care Fraud.” American Health Law Association. (December 3, 2021). Web.

Casey, Monica. “Florida Surgeon Draws Seven-Year Prison Term for $28 Million Health Care Fraud.” WCTV. (November 18, 2021). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

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