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.

 

NY Court Says Doctor Can Subpoena Yelp for User Info in Defamation Suit

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

On October 7, 2021, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Yelp is subject to a subpoena to reveal the names of anonymous users who left negative reviews for a doctor and his medical practice. The federal court judge found that the statements in the reviews made on Yelp contained factual claims that the doctor did have a legal right to contest in court. This is a factor that is usually missing in such cases. Accordingly, a motion for expedited discovery filed by the plaintiff physician was granted by the federal judge.

A Litigious History of Lawsuits.

The embattled physician has reportedly filed other lawsuits against reviewers for defamation. The doctor himself says he’s won or reached settlements with three of the negative reviewers, forcing them to take down their “false” reviews and paying an undisclosed amount of money.

Most recently, the physician filed suit in November 2020 against nine anonymous Yelp account-holders. According to the complaint, from November 2019 to August 2020, the users posted several reviews that contained statements that harmed his practice by making untrue and libelous comments.

In the present case we are discussing filed against the Yelp reviewer, the judge found that statements such as the physician “diluted” injectables and deceived patients about pricing to be factual statements. (The physician is apparently one who performs cosmetic procedures on patients like using botox and fillers.) Therefore, if they were false statements, as the physician alleged, this establishes a prima facie claim for defamation that courts have the authority to hear. According to the court’s order: “Because Plaintiff has alleged a prima facie case . . . and they cannot identify John Doe[s] without a court-ordered subpoena, the Court agrees that there is good cause to allow for early discovery.”  Click here to view the court’s opinion on our website.

I see this as a positive occurrence. Too often reviewers on Yelp, Google, Glass Door, and other such websites post egregious comments amounting to character assassination and libel, because they believe they can remain anonymous. And the owners of the websites fight tooth and toenail to avoid any liability and to avoid any co-operation when justice is sought by those harmed by their actions. We have had a number of cases we have handled where a “reviewer” uses a phony name and creates a phony user account just for the purpose of making a libelous, damaging review. Then, if caught, they just create a new phony account and re-post the same thing again. If the major carriers and websites like Yelp, Google, Bing, AOL, and Glass Door, want to remain free of liability, then they should co-operate when a person has to hire a lawyer and pursue legal action in order to obtain justice.

Is This Abusing the Legal System in An Effort to Stifle Free Speech?

Yelp reportedly warns users of the physician’s previous attempts to sue over negative reviews in a “Consumer Alert” pop-up notice on the doctor’s review page. Additionally, it reminds users, “reviewers who share their experiences have a First Amendment right to express their opinions on Yelp.”

Unlike a newspaper or television outlet, Yelp, Google, Glass Door, and other Internet carriers and websites enjoy immunity from liability for what they allow to be posted because of a federal law that protects them. Why are they given such a big advantage over more traditional media outlets? Why should they be?

In a separate lawsuit, a judge denied the effort by the same doctor to reveal the anonymous reviewer who wrote: “Cheap product and he’s absolutely not experienced nor does he care!!!!!” Yelp argued that the review is not defamatory as there is no statement of fact that can be proven true or false. The court agreed and found that the review used a “loose, figurative tone,” suggesting that the author expressed opinions rather than facts based on a negative experience.

Therefore, according to the court, the plaintiff was not able to make “a sufficient showing of prima facie defamation.” Click here to read the judge’s order in full in that case.

I disagree with the court’s ruling, however. Whether or not the physician has any experience is certainly a fact. It can easily be proven or disproven. It seems that if a doctor hung up a sign that said “Absolutely no Experience,” this would be perceived by most reasonable people to be a negative thing. I doubt that many people would be attracted to that doctor or his practice.

Key Takeaway From the Case.

The key takeaway from this case is that contrary to what Yelp’s pop-up notice implies, Yelp’s users have “implicitly agreed” to the release of their personal data if ordered by a court.

To learn more about fighting negative reviews on websites like Yelp as a healthcare professional, click here to read my prior blog.

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. 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 and in representing physicians in investigations and at Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine hearings. We represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, in patient complaints and in Department of Health investigations.

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

Sources:

Capriel, Jonathan. “Doc Can Subpoena Yelp User Info In Botox Defamation Suit.” Law360. (October 7, 2021). Web.

Marza, Mike. “Manhattan doctor sues over Yelp reviews he says are false.” ABC 7NY. (November 19, 2019). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

Manager of Dental Office Sentenced to Prison for Defrauding Medicaid Out of More Than $813,000

George Indest Headshot

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

On October 1, 2021, a former dental office manager was sentenced to 12 months in prison for her role in a Medicaid fraud scheme. Mahsa Azimirad, was the office manager for Universal Smiles, a D.C.-based dental practice, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Washington, D.C.

She was indicted in January 2019, along with the dentist who ran the practice. The dentist pleaded guilty in May 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and reportedly admitted that she received over $813,000 through false billings.

The Fraudulent Billing Scheme.

Both the office manager and the dentist were alleged to have participated in a scheme to defraud the D.C. Medicaid Program through their operation of the dental practice. The dentist was a Medicaid provider. As part of the scheme, it is alleged that both of them proceeded to bill Medicaid for thousands of provisional crowns, a significant number of which were allegedly not actually provided to the patients. From August 2012 through February 2014, D.C. Medicaid reportedly paid Universal Smiles approximately $5.4 million in Medicaid reimbursement. Of that amount, it is alleged that the office manager received approximately $813,184.

As part of the sentence, she has been ordered to pay back the full amount she received and will be on three years of supervised release following the completion of her prison term.

Click here to read the press release by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and learn more.

To read about a similar case that also deals with a healthcare professional, click here to read my prior blog.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits and Investigations of Dentists and Healthcare Professionals.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists, dental hygienists, physicians, medical groups, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, physical therapists, behavior analysts, pharmacists, psychologists, mental health counselors, health care facilities, and other health providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits, fraud charges, and recovery actions.

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:

Martin, Colleen. “Rockville Woman Defrauded Medicaid At Dental Office: US Attorney.” Patch. (October 4, 2021). Web.

Bethesda Beat Staff Reporter. “Rockville woman to serve prison term over D.C. Medicaid fraud.” Bethesda Magazine. (October 4, 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. 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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

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Humana Health Insurer To Pay $11.2 Million to End Nurses’ Overtime Suit

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

On September 27, 2021, Humana agreed to pay $11.2 million to end claims that the health insurance company denied a group of nurses overtime pay by misclassifying them as exempt employees. A Wisconsin federal judge approved the deal with Humana, and a group of more than 200 nurses reached, securing a $36,000 average payment for each nurse involved in the suit.

A Violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

This dispute stems from a class-action lawsuit filed in 2017 alleging that Humana misclassified its clinical nurse advisers as exempt employees and denied them overtime compensation, violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Many professionals and supervisors or managerial employees are considered to be exempt from overtime laws.

In the suit, the company faced allegations from nurses who claimed they were never paid for overtime even though they were required to work more than 40 hours per week to meet Humana’s production goals and expectations.

The Settlement.

The settlement agreement will allocate almost $3 million to cover attorney fees and costs. Additionally, the 221 nurses that are part of the settling class will get nearly $8 million based on the number of full-time weeks the nurses worked. According to the motion, the average payment per nurse for unpaid overtime and liquidated damages will be over $36,000.

The case is O’Leary v. Humana Insurance Co., et al., case number 17-cv-1774, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Click here to view the court’s brief in full.

To read about another case dealing with alleged pay discrimination in the healthcare field, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses and Other Healthcare Professionals.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely provide legal representation to nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, dentists, dental assistants, physicians, physician assistants, mental health counselors, and other health providers. We also provide legal representation for employers in EEOC complaints, workplace discrimination complaints, and suits involving harassment or discrimination complaints. We also provide legal representation in Department of Health, Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing investigations and complaints, DORA investigations and complaints. We provide litigation services in state and federal courts and state and federal administrative hearings. We provide legal representation across the U.S., not just in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

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:

Spezzemonte, Irene. “Humana To Pay $11.2M To End Nurses’ Misclassification Suit.” Law360. (September 27, 2021). Web.

Webster, Katherine. “Court OKs $11.2M Overtime Settlement Between Humana, Nurses.” Top Class Actions. (September 30, 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 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 © 2021 The Health Law

 

 

 

 

 

Texas Hospital’s COVID Vaccination Mandate Upheld by Federal Court

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

As some states lift COVID-19 restrictions, the business community is still grappling with the dynamic between the COVID-19 vaccine and workplace operations. To address this, some U.S. employers have elected to adopt mandatory vaccination policies. These policies, in essence, require that, subject to a few exceptions, all employees must receive the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of continued employment.

Not surprisingly, we see various legal challenges to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies across the country. On June 12, 2021, a federal court in Texas became the first to rule on the permissibility of such policies enforced by private employers. In a landmark ruling, the court stated that mandatory workplace vaccination policies are lawful under Texas and federal law and may be enforced as a condition of continued employment.


The Court’s Ruling on Mandatory Vaccination Policies.

The lawsuit, Bridges v. Houston Methodist Hospital, was initially filed on behalf of 117 employees after their employer, Houston Methodist Hospital, instituted a policy requiring employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of continued employment. Employees who were not vaccinated by the deadline were to be placed on a two-week unpaid suspension to allow them to comply with the policy. Under the policy, those who ultimately did not comply would be terminated.

In the law suit challenging the employer’s policy, the Plaintiffs asserted: (1) the employees whose employment was terminated as a result of this policy were wrongfully terminated in violation of Texas law, and (2) the vaccine mandate violated public policy of the state of Texas.

Texas Wrongful Termination Claim.

Under Texas law, the court found that firing an employee who is unwilling to comply with an employer’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy does not constitute wrongful termination. Texas law only protects employees who are fired for refusing to commit an illegal act at the request of their employer. The court reasoned that receiving the vaccine is not an illegal act given the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings upholding involuntary quarantines and mandatory vaccines.

Violation of Public Policy.

The court dismissed the plaintiffs’ public policy arguments because, according to the court, Texas law does not recognize a public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine. Additionally, the court noted that a mandatory vaccine requirement is consistent with public policy. The Supreme Court has previously held that state-imposed quarantine and vaccination requirements do not violate due process of law.

The court held that the plaintiffs were not being coerced to get the vaccine but were being given a basic choice by its employer: get the vaccine so the hospital could safely continue its business of saving lives or seek employment elsewhere.

Lastly, the court also cited recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance in its decision. The guidance states that employers can require employees to be vaccinated, subject to the obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with legitimate medical or religious reasons for not being vaccinated. Click here to view.

To view the court’s order in full, click here.

Important Takeaway From This Court Decision.

While there are sure to be future legal challenges to mandatory workplace vaccination policies, this decision provides strong support for their use and permissibility. However, even with this ruling, employers with policies need to be mindful of their obligations and potentially provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent them from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Of course, we will see numerous legal challenges of all kinds to these decisions.

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. We do NOT represent plaintiffs in COVID-19 injury suits, however.

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:

Downie, Alex. “Federal Court Upholds Employer’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate.” The National Law Review. (June 15, 2021). Web.

Brown, Amanda, Goldstein, Mark. “In first-of-its-kind decision, federal court rules that mandatory workplace COVID-19 vaccine policies are lawful.” Employment Law Watch. (June 16, 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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

18 Former NBA Players Indicted For Alleged $4 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 October 7, 2021, 18 former NBA players were charged in New York federal court for an alleged health insurance fraud scheme to rip off the league’s benefit plan, according to an indictment filed in the Southern District of New York. The defendants allegedly engaged in a scheme from at least 2017 through 2020 which involved the submission of fraudulent claims for reimbursement of medical and dental services that were not provided, prosecutors said. The claims totaled nearly $4 million.

The NBA Players Health and Welfare Benefit Plan provide additional medical coverage on top of existing medical coverage for active and former NBA players and their families. It is primarily funded by contributions from NBA teams.

Their Playbook Included False Claims and Deception.

Allegedly, the defendants provided ‘fake invoices’ for medical and dental services that were never delivered. Each person attempted to claim somewhere between $65,000 and $420,000 in alleged fraudulent claims. When all was said and done, the total ended up being about $3.9 million, from which the defendants got about $2.5 million in illicit proceeds, the indictment alleges.

Flagrant Foul For Violation of Health Care Fraud Laws.

The scheme was discovered partly because of sloppy work by the defendants themselves. Several of the fake invoices and medical forms raised red flags because “they are not on letterhead, they contain unusual formatting, they have grammatical errors,” authorities said. These types of errors are the ones typically seen in the fraudulent e-mails received from Nigerian princes trying to recover their frozen bank accounts and scam e-mails sent to us attorneys trying to phish us into phony attorney’s fees scams.

Additionally, travel records, e-mails, GPS data, and other records showed that the players in question were often nowhere near the location of the health care providers when they claimed to have been treated or used their services, according to the indictment. (I wonder how many Facebook postings also showed this.)

All 19 defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison. To read the indictment in full, click here.

Read the DOJ’s press release on the case here.


Fraud is Fraud; Dishonesty is Dishonesty.

The problem here is, of course, a lack of integrity. Once you cheat or steal, even if it is just for a small amount of money, you are a thief. These guys sacrificed successful careers, stardom, prestige, and freedom, for a little bit of money.

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 accusations of medical billing fraud, health insurance audits, alleged 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:

Dienst, Jonathan. “18 former NBA players arrested by federal authorities in alleged health care scam.” NBC News. (October 7, 2021). Web.

Zaggar, Zachary. “18 Ex-NBA Players Indicted For Alleged $4M Health Plan Fraud.” (October 7, 2021). Web.

D’Angelo, Bob. “18 former NBA players charged in $4M insurance fraud scheme.” Kiro7 News. (October 7, 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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

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