Former University of Florida Professor and Researcher Charged With Fraud and Hiding China Ties

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

On February 3, 2021, a former University of Florida professor was indicted on allegations of fraudulently obtaining a federal grant from the U.S. by concealing his ties with the Chinese government. He is accused of fraudulently obtaining $1.75 million in federal grant money from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He was able to do this by concealing support he received from the Chinese government and a company that he founded in China to profit from that research, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

The former professor is charged with six counts of wire fraud and four counts of making false statements to an agency of the United States.

A Scheme to Defraud National Institutes of Health and the University of Florida.

According to the indictment, the ex-professor obtained a $1.75 million grant from NIH to support his development work on an imaging informatics tool for muscles known as “MuscleMiner.” Additionally, he served as the principal investigator for the grant between September 2014 and July 2019. According to prosecutors, he was required to disclose any foreign research support and any financial conflicts of interest, including financial connections to foreign companies, but he failed to do so.

The indictment alleges that he concealed the information in order to keep his job at the University of Florida and continue to receive NIH grant money. Additionally, the ex-professor signed a document from UF’s College of Engineering in 2019 that said he had no affiliation with any business, business entity, or university in China. Prosecutors said that he left the United States in August of 2019 for China and has not returned.

Each wire fraud count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for each count of making a false statement is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. You can read the complaint in this case here.

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

Research Fraud, Grant Application Fraud, and Scientific Misconduct Allegations Have Serious Consequences.

An accusation, even if later proven to be unfounded, may unfairly tarnish the personal and professional reputation of any scientific, medical, or clinical researcher. It can cause the researcher to lose grants, bonuses, and promotions; his or her employment may be terminated; and, as in this case, he or she may face criminal prosecution for fraud, theft, or other applicable crimes.

To learn more on clinical research fraud and misconduct, click here to visit our Areas of Practice Page on our website and read one of my prior blogs here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Defending Against Allegations of Clinical Research Fraud and Misconduct.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys have experience in representing researchers, investigators, academicians, and clinicians who are the subject of clinical research fraud and misconduct allegations. The Health Law Firm and its attorneys also have experience in representing students, employees, researchers, investigators, and “whistleblowers” who report such matters including those who become the victim of reprisals and retaliation by the person against whom the report is made.

Don’t wait. Obtain the advice and counsel of experienced attorneys who are familiar with such matters and can assist you before it is too late.

If you are facing allegations of research misconduct, research fraud, medical investigation misconduct, please visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call The Health Law Firm at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620.

Sources:

Clough, Chris. “Former Fla. Professor Charged With Fraud, Hiding China Ties.” Law360. (February 3, 2021). Web.

Swirko, Cindy. “Former Florida professor indicted for fraudulently obtaining $1.75M federal grant.” The Gainesville Sun. (February 5, 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.

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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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2021-03-09T10:26:45-05:00March 30th, 2021|Categories: Medical Education Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

New Policy Changes to USMLE Exams and How They Impact Medical Students, Graduates

Attorney Achal A. Aggarwal HeadshotBy Achal A. Aggarwal, J.D.

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (“USMLE”) is a three-step examination required to obtain a medical license. It is written and administered by the USMLE Secretariat of the National Board of Medical Examiners (“NBME”) and is sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards (“FSMB”) and the USMLE.

Medical students desiring to practice in the U.S. are under immense pressure to not only pass the exams but to excel at them. Specifically, the USMLE Step 1 Examination, the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (“CK”) Examination, and the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills (“CS”) Examination are the most significant deciding factors that residency programs use for selecting applicants to interview for residency positions. However, a lot is about to change.


Important Changes That Could Affect You.

On February 12, 2020, the FSMB and the NBME announced the following policy changes:

1. The Step 1 Exam will be changed to pass/fail grading;

2. The number of examination attempts for each exam will be reduced from six (6) to four (4); and

3. All examinees must pass the Step 1 Exam before taking the Step 2-CS Exam.


Changing the Step 1 Exam to Pass/Fail.

The USMLE has announced that it will change the Step 1 exam’s grading system from a three-digit score to a pass/fail grading system. This change will go into effect on January 1, 2022.  A statement published on the website states that changing to pass/fail could help reduce some of the current overemphasis on USMLE performance while also retaining the ability of medical licensing authorities to use the exam for its primary purpose of medical licensure eligibility. Click here to visit the USMLE website and read the statement.

It appears that USMLE, FSMB, NBME, and the American Medical Association (AMA) are attempting to alleviate the stress and pressure the Step 1 exam puts on medical students. However, this change may cause issues for residency programs that are trying to screen for which students they want to interview.

In the current system, the Step 1 score is a three-digit score that is graded on a bell-curve. The minimum passing score for each Step 1 exam is different and depends on the performance of the total universe of the students who take that particular examination.

The three-digit score helps residency programs assess which students were more likely to excel in their program and which students would not. By changing the exam to a pass/fail scoring system, residency programs will be forced to rely more heavily on the Step 2-CK scores, medical school performance, and overall curriculum vitae.


Greater Emphasis to Be Placed on Step 2-CK Exam.

Currently, the Step 2-CK exam is only the fourth-most deciding factor in how residency programs select applicants for interviews. Approximately 80% of residency program directors stated that it was an important factor, but not the most.

On the other hand, the Step 2-CS exam score is a less influential factor, with only 56% of residency program directors saying that it was essential to their decision. Students should anticipate that the Step 2-CK and Step 2-CS will become more important as program directors shift their attention to the scores of those exams.

For more information click here.

What remains to be seen is how these changes will impact international medical graduates (“IMG”), commonly referred to as “foreign medical graduates.” To distinguish themselves, IMGs often tried to get the highest possible USMLE score, as this was the most objective way for them to be compared to other U.S. medical school students.

Since each domestic and international medical school has its own unique clinical grading system, the USMLE Step 1 was one of the most objective ways to compare residency applicants. Now that Step 1 scoring has been eliminated, it might be harder for IMGs to make themselves attractive to competitive residency programs.

Reducing Overall Exam Attempts from Six to Four.

Additionally, the USMLE is changing the limit on the total number of times an examinee may take the same Step exam from six (6) attempts to four (4) attempts. This means that after the policy is implemented, it will be ineligible to take a Step exam if the examinee has made four (4) prior attempts on that Step exam, including incomplete attempts.

The policy is set to be implemented on July 1, 2021. Learn more about the policy here.

Examinees Must Pass Step 1 Before Taking Step 2-CS.

Although the USMLE has suspended the Step 2-CS exam administration at the present time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is set to implement a rule requiring all examinees to pass the Step 1 exam before qualifying to take the Step 2-CS exam.

Implementing such a rule would reduce the USMLE’s burden of administering the Step 2-CS exam multiple times since students will be required to qualify for the exam. Students can currently take the Step 1 exam, Step 2-CS exam, and Step 2-CK exam in any order they choose, depending on the requirements of their medical school. This new rule seeks to shift that burden by funneling students through the Step 1 exam.

The impact of such a change remains to be seen, however, we anticipate that this policy will reduce the testing burden on the USMLE while also maintaining the importance of the Step 1 exam despite changing its scoring to pass/fail.

It does represent a complete shake-up in how the system of testing has previously been administered.

Tips for the New Rules.

The following are suggestions we have concerning the new rules:

1. Take the Step 1 Exam as soon as you can, and begin preparing for the others.

2. Always treat every test administration extremely seriously, as though your future life and career depend on it; they do!

3. Take maximum advantage of commercial preparation courses and always try to take one of the recommended live ones before you take your examination.

4. Take off several weeks prior to the examination and find a hotel within walking distance of the test site where you will take the examination to study. Get rid of all distractions while studying for and immediately prior to taking the examination.

5. Never solicit actual test content or offer to share it with someone else.

For additional common-sense tips on preparing for and taking the USMLE Step exams, see another blog on this subject here.


Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education, and those being challenged by the National Board fo Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG)

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent interns, residents, fellows, and medical school students in disputes with their medical schools, supervisors, residency programs, and in dismissal hearings. We have experience representing such individuals and those in graduate medical education programs in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete integral parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), because of discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, and any other matters. We routinely help those who have disputes with the National Board fo Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), including on hearings and appeals concerning “Irregular Behavior,” “unprofessionalism,” and “Irregular Conduct.”

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.

About the Author: Achal A. Aggarwal, M.B.A., J.D. practice health law with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office in the Orlando, Florida area.   1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.  Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com

“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.

11th Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects Florida Eye Doctor’s Request for New Medicare Fraud Trial

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

On July 31, 2020, a panel of U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal judges upheld a 17-year prison sentence for a Florida ophthalmologist found guilty of Medicare fraud. The three-judge panel rejected an appeal in which Salomon Melgen claimed prosecutors mishandled his 2017 criminal trial.

It upheld the conviction on all 67 counts, deemed the 17-year-sentence to be even-handed, and denied him a new trial.

Details of the Case and Why the Former Ophthalmologist Requested a New Trial.

To understand how the panel reached their decision, it helps to understand the details of the scheme and the accusations. Back in April 2017, a jury in the Southern District of Florida convicted Melgen of carrying out systemic billing fraud at his South Florida medical offices. He stood accused of routinely administering unnecessary, invasive treatments and profiteering off the macular-degeneration drug Lucentis.

Additionally, he was charged with running millions of dollars’ worth of unnecessary diagnostic tests, often using outdated technology that allowed him to bill at higher rates.

According to the opinion, Melgen presented a list of perceived reasons for reversal, including the sufficiency of the evidence and reasonableness of his sentence. He argued that charts comparing his billing rates to his peers were not covered by Federal Rule of Evidence 1006 and, therefore, amounted to inadmissible hearsay in violation of the Confrontation Clause of the U.S. Constitution. To learn more, click here to view his appeal.

Unfortunately for the doctor, the alleged errors in the trial did not persuade the judges.

Other Alleged Errors and How the 11th Circuit Judges Came to Their Decision.

One issue was whether any of the witnesses’ communications with others had tainted their testimony at the trial. In the opinion, the appellate panel stated that Melgen failed to show that the witness interactions affected testimony. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by continuing the trial after the witness intimidation came to light. Lastly, the sentence length the district court imposed was “more than reasonable,” the panel stated.

U.S. Circuit Judge Britt C. Grant, said on behalf of the panel, “The scope of the scheme was easily enough for the jury to conclude that Melgen had engaged in systematic fraud, rather than committing isolated mistakes. We find the evidence sufficient to uphold the jury’s verdict.” You can read the opinion in full here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Optometrists and Ophthalmologists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to optometrists, ophthalmologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Sources:

Kapnick, Izzie. “11th Circuit Upholds Doctor’s Massive Fraud Conviction.” Courthouse News. (July 31, 2020). Web.

Jarvis, Sarah. “11th Circ. Won’t Grant Menendez-Linked Doc New Fraud Trial.” Law360. (July 31, 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.

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

 

 

 

By |2021-02-17T14:01:38-05:00March 17th, 2021|Categories: Medical Education Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

House Committee Advances Medical Marijuana Research Bill

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

On September 9, 2020, a U.S. House of Representatives committee advanced a bill to expand access to marijuana for research purposes. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce voted unanimously by voice vote in favor of HR 3797, the Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2019. The bill would: “amend the Controlled Substances Act to make marijuana accessible for use by qualified marijuana researchers for medical purposes, and for other purposes.”

HR 3797 – Medical Marijuana Research Act.

The amendment to existing federal law would allow researchers to use “marijuana products available through State-authorized marijuana programs” until there are federally-approved suppliers who can meet the demand of the federal researchers. More specifically, there will be no limit on the number of entities that could be federally approved to cultivate and distribute cannabis for research purposes. Additionally, the Secretary of Health and Human Services would be required to submit a report to Congress that includes a review of cannabis research and a note on whether cannabis should be rescheduled on the drug schedules that are used to decide what drugs are controlled substances.

The amendment also takes care of a problem in the law it amends to prevent government law enforcement officials from interfering with the sale or distribution of research marijuana.


Advancement in Cannabis Cultivation.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, (NORML) said in a statement that the amendments to the law advanced by the bill were “necessary and long overdue.”

“Rather than compelling scientists to access marijuana products of questionable quality manufactured by a limited number of federally licensed producers, federal regulators should allow investigators to access the cannabis and cannabis-infused products that are currently being produced in the legal marketplace by the multitude of state-sanctioned growers and retailers,” Armentano said.

George F. Indest III, President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm also stated: “This is a law that is necessary and long overdue.” He urged everyone to contact their U.S. Representative and Senators and ask them to vote in favor of it.

The next step for the bill is a vote on the House floor; however, it is unclear whether this will happen and when it will happen, given everything that is occurring at present.

To read HR3797 in full, click here.

EVERYONE SHOULD WRITE THEIR U.S. CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE AND THEIR TWO SENATORS AND REQUEST THAT THEY SUPPORT THIS BILL.

Click here to go to our Marijuana Law Blog page and read my prior blog on this subject to learn more.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical and Recreational Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists, and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting, and/or licensing while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies, and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

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:

Reisman, Sam. “House Committee Advances Medical Marijuana Research Bill.” Law360. (September 9, 2020).

Rashidian, Nushin. “Key House Committee Advances Cannabis Research Bill.” Cannabis Newswire. (September 9, 2020). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 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 © 202 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Are You Applying for a Medical or Health Professional License? Follow Our Helpful Tips

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

The process of obtaining a medical or health professional license can be challenging and time-consuming. When seeking initial licensure or applying for a license in another state, you should be aware of delays in the application process due to the investigation of credentials and past practice, as well as the need to comply with licensing standards.

Here is a List of Examples That Would Delay Your Application:

• Disciplinary or academic actions during postgraduate training (probation, suspension, remediation)
• Action by another state’s regulatory or licensing board
• Action by a different professional licensing board
• Misdemeanor or felony convictions
• Results of the criminal background check (remember, it shows arrests, not necessarily the results of the arrests)
• Civil judgments/malpractice
• Medical, physical, mental, or chemical dependence impairment/condition within the last five years
• Adverse action against your clinical privileges by a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, skilled nursing facility, or other health facility or professional organization.
• Adverse action (e.g., termination for cause) by a former employer
• Action by a specialty board
• Lack of recent active practice
• Action by DEA against your DEA registration number
• Disciplinary action (especially court-martial) by the military
• Applications that require a petition of waiver or variance for a job

Not being 100% truthful about your history and education is the number one reason for denial of an application for a license! Don’t try to hide potentially derogatory information from a state licensing board, if it is required by the question or the instructions that further elaborate on the question. It is much better to come forward with the information and be upfront.

This being said, you do not want to volunteer adverse information that a question does not ask. For example, if a question asks about felony convictions, DO NOT disclose misdemeanor convictions or traffic ticket convictions. If a question asks about convictions, DO NOT disclose arrests for which you were acquitted or were dismissed. If a question asks about medical malpractice lawsuits, DO NOT disclose civil lawsuits that were not related to malpractice.

How to Speed up the Application Process.

There are ways to ease the process of applying for a medical license and get your application processed quicker. Before submitting your application, contact the licensing board and request a copy of its current licensing requirements and the average time it takes to process applications.

The following are tips to help ease the process of applying for medical licensure:

1. Submit follow-up documents in a timely manner online or mail them to the correct address (as required). If you cannot obtain requested follow-up documentation, provide a separate, detailed explanation (preferably in the form of an affidavit), of why you cannot do so.

2. Keep in mind that any fees you pay have to be processed by the Department vendor. This may take a few days.

3. Identify any variation of names and nicknames.

4. Once you start the process, submit the application within 30 days so that your supplemental documents, including transcripts, will have an application file in which to be filed.

5. Have the correct address on the application for training programs you have attended and the health facilities at which you have worked.

6. Send in necessary back-up documents in a timely manner.

7. Follow up with sources that are sending the Board of Medicine your documents.

8. Watch for letters or e-mail from your reviewer. This is how you will be instructed on what additional documents or information may be needed for your application to be complete.

9. If asked for follow-up information from the Board, please read the request carefully to identify exactly what is needed to make your application complete.

10. Answer questions honestly and provide an explanation where appropriate. But do not provide information that is not being requested.

Medical professionals seeking a license should expect at least a 60-day period from the time they initially submit a completed application and the actual date licensure is granted.

For more information and ways that The Health Law Firm can help in licensure matters, visit our Video Q&A section or visit our website’s Areas of Practice page.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.

If you are applying for a medical license, have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, it is imperative that you contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career. Remember, your license is your livelihood, it is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, dentists, nurses, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues.

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:

“Obtaining a Medical License.” American Medical Association (AMA). Web.

Florida Board of Medicine, “Licensing FAQs,” http://flboardofmedicine.gov/licensure-faqs/

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.

Ex-Employee Claims Disability Discrimination In ADA Suit Against Kaiser Permanente

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 November 4, 2020, a former employee of Kaiser Permanente Insurance filed a class-action suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, claiming discrimination. She says the company required her to take a “competency test” to determine if she could keep her job after the Atlanta business learned of her medical disability (anxiety and depression). The suit claims that the insurance company refused to accommodate her disability and fired her after she failed.

Alleged Disability Discrimination.

The plaintiff worked for Kaiser Permanente Georgia Region between October 2010 and August 2020. According to the lawsuit that was filed, she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in 2018 and in May 2019 but was cleared by her physician to work. According to the suit, Kaiser Permanente singled her out, forced her to disclose her anxiety and depression, and required her to take a “competency test” for a job she already held. It is worth noting that mental conditions such as “anxiety and depression,” are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In March 2019, the plaintiff requested a reasonable accommodation—i.e., a postponement of the testing until she was mentally stable enough to sit for the test. She claims her request was denied outright by Kaiser despite its knowledge of her disability. Per the complaint, the plaintiff was told that she had failed the competency test, despite never having received her scores. In August 2019, she was retested and Kaiser told her that she failed.

On November 8, 2019, the employee was terminated because she “no longer met the job requirements and was not successful at passing the second attempt of the competency test,” the complaint said.

Failure to Accommodate Under the ADA.

The former employee alleged disability discrimination, unlawful medical requests, and failure to accommodate her disabilities under the ADA. She’s seeking unspecified damages for loss of past and future income, mental anguish, and emotional distress, along with her court costs and attorney fees.

Click here to read the complaint in full.

For more information, read our prior blog on a similar case dealing with an insurance company that was sued for mental health discrimination.

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 nurses, resident physicians, mental health counselors, social workers, pharmacists, and health facilities. It also includes medical students, 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:

Konnath, Hailey. “Kaiser Permanente Hit With ADA Suit Over Competency Tests.” Law360. (November 4, 2020). Web.

Shaak, Erin. “Singled Out: Lawsuit Claims Kaiser Permanente Denied ‘Competency Test’ Accommodation for Ex-Employee with Disability.” Newswire. (November 5, 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. 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

By |2021-02-24T12:12:50-05:00February 25th, 2021|Categories: Medical Education Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Florida Court Sides With University of Miami, Says University Is Immune To Medical Malpractice Suit

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 28, 2020, a Florida appeals court tossed out a medical malpractice suit accusing a University of Miami doctor of providing negligent treatment at a public teaching hospital. A panel of the Florida Third District Court of Appeal upheld a circuit judge’s ruling that the university is protected by sovereign immunity when faculty members provide care at Jackson Memorial Hospital, a teaching hospital.


Background of the Suit.

The ruling arose out of a case in which a University of Miami physician provided treatment in 2013 to a patient at Jackson Memorial. A medical malpractice lawsuit was filed against parties including Jackson Memorial, the university, and the physician. The suit alleged that a failure to provide anticoagulants resulted in disabilities.

Jackson Memorial Hospital is owned and operated by Miami-Dade County through the Public Health Trust. It is supported by Miami-Dade County residents through a portion of the county’s sales tax. Because of this, it is considered to be the same as a state agency, and its employees have the same sovereign immunity as state employees do.

The judge dismissed the suit against the doctor, saying that because the doctor provided services at the public teaching hospital, pursuant to the University’s agreement with Jackson Memorial, he should be considered an agent of the hospital. Therefore, he is entitled to sovereign immunity.

Pointing to state law and an agreement with Jackson Memorial, the university also argued that it was shielded by immunity from liability. The university claimed it was entitled to immunity under Sections 768.28(9)(a) and (10)(f), Florida Statutes. Since any liability the university had would be vicarious liability based on the alleged negligence of the physician, if the physician was determined to be immune, the university would have the same defense.

Additionally, Section 768.28, Florida Statutes, was amended by the Florida Legislature in 2011 to cover nonprofit independent universities that provide patient care at government-owned teaching hospitals. The same year, Jackson Memorial and Miami University amended the terms of their agreement to incorporate the amended sovereign immunity statute, according to the judge’s opinion in the case.

The Trial Court’s Ruling.

The appellate court panel agreed with the circuit judge, saying it was undisputed that the doctor was a University of Miami faculty member and employee at the time of the treatment. Additionally, the agreement between Jackson Memorial and the University of Miami was properly redrafted in 2011 to reflect the amendment to the statute. “Under the terms of the 2011 agreement and section 768.28, Florida Statutes, the university is immune from suit here because the physician treated the patient while acting as Jackson’s statutory agent,” the appellate panel said in the opinion.

Click here to read the court’s opinion in full.

Contact Health Attorneys Experienced in Health Law and Employment Law.

The Health Law Firm represents both employers and employees in the health care industry in prosecuting and in defending complex civil litigation in state and federal courts. Our attorneys represent individuals and institutions in litigation, civil or administrative, state or federal.

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:

“State Appeals Court: University Of Miami Shielded From Medical Malpractice Lawsuit.” Miami CBS Local. (October 28, 2020). Web.

Kang, Peter. “Fla. Court Says Univ. Of Miami Immune To Med Mal Suit.” Law360. (October 28, 2020). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law; he is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas 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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

HHS Makes Changes to Regulatory Process for Rulemaking

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

In a September 15, 2020 memorandum, the current Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, barred the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other federal health agencies under his authority from independently enacting any new federal regulations. The memo establishes that the Secretary must sign all agency rulemaking. This new policy affects all rules coming from all HHS agencies and offices, the department said, including the FDA, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and Office for Civil Rights. It doesn’t apply to guidance documents, emergency use authorizations, or vaccine or drug approvals.

How long this policy stands after President-elect Biden is sworn in is anybody’s guess. It is my guess that it won’t last long.

Why Make the Changes?

According to HHS, the new regulation-making procedures are to ensure consistency within HHS, compliance with congressional intent, the need to minimize the risk of litigation, and to provide public accountability. HHS regulations have been challenged in court based on the argument that officials who signed new regulations did not have the proper authority to do so.

The memo attempts to rationalize the change in the face of critics who claim that the move could negatively affect public trust in approval of COVID-19 vaccines and the entire approval process.

Rulemaking Process Before and After the Memo.

Before the policy change, the law and established departmental procedure required that all new regulations go through departmental and White House clearance and receive the Secretary’s approval. The regulations were typically signed by the Secretary and by the head of the agency involved. In some instances, other officials to whom authority had been delegated signed the new regulations.

Now, all HHS regulations will still go through departmental and White House clearance and will continue to be approved by the Secretary. But, the change effectively bars the FDA and other health agencies from signing off on any new regulations regarding the nation’s food, medicine, and other products under the HHS umbrella. The HHS Secretary himself must now sign all final regulations.

HHS released the following statement on this action:

“Before and after this action, no regulation issues from any part of HHS without the approval of the Secretary and the White House. The only change made by this memo is that, instead of the Secretary’s just approving all agency regulations, each regulation now also will be formally signed by him.”

Click here to read the HHS Statement on Regulatory Process.

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:

Stein, Shira. “HHS Secretary to Sign All Rules in Bid to Stem Litigation.” Bloomberg Law. (September 21, 2020). Web.

Keller and Heckman LLP. “A New Policy by HHS Secretary Alex Azar Will Prevent FDA and Other Health Agencies From Signing Final Rules.” National Law Review. (September 21, 2020). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law; he is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Eight Legal Tips If You Are Having Academic, Disciplinary or Legal Problems with Your Residency Program

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

Here are some tips to set the record straight on various inaccurate information I have heard from physicians in medical residency programs in representing them in appeals of disciplinary actions including suspension and terminations.

1. Nothing you tell your Program Director, advisor, mentors, attendings, senior resident, or co-resident is confidential. Go ahead and pour your heart out about all of your problems and concerns, but none of it is confidential, even if you said it was “in confidence.” What is confidential: what you tell your priest or religious adviser (preacher, rabbi, imam) and what you tell your own personal physician or psychotherapist (unless you have signed a waiver) that you have hired and you are paying. Anyone else, it is not confidential. So if you tell your program director you were raped when you were younger, not confidential. If you tell your senior resident you suffer from panic attacks, not confidential. You tell your attending that you had cancer ten years ago, not confidential. This applies no matter what “magic words” you attach to it.

2. Take and use whatever time period is offered to you to retain counsel and prepare. If you are given ten (10) days to file an appeal or a request for hearing, take the full ten (10) days. Do not file it on the same day. Otherwise, you are using up valuable preparation time that you cannot get back.

3. Make sure that whatever you are required to file is actually received by the due date indicated. If a request for a hearing must be filed within fifteen (15) days, that means that it must be received within the fifteen days. Check after you send it or deliver it to make sure it has been successfully received.

4. It is never too early to hire an attorney. Hire an attorney to represent and advise you at the first sign of trouble. However, you must be sure to hire an attorney who is experienced in representing residents and fellows in disputes with graduate medical education programs. An experienced attorney can help you prepare any written submissions you make, organize your response and any documents you care to submit, and otherwise assist you in identifying what is relevant and what is not relevant.

5. Always read your program’s graduate medical education (GME) manual, residency manual, due process policy or whatever handbook or manual contains your hearing and appeal rights. Be familiar with them and follow them.

6. If you are given remedial actions you must take, documents your completion of each one. Whether the requirement you must perform is in a corrective action plan (CAP), a remediation letter, or a probation letter, document your completion of it in writing and report it to whatever authority gave you the requirement. Send a courtesy copy (“cc”) to your program director.

7. Make sure any correspondence you send to anyone is complete, correct and in the form of a professional business letter. Make sure it meets all of the requirements of a professional business letter. This is especially true for rebuttals, appeals, hearing requests, etc. What, you don’t know what this is? Then go online and Google it. Your letter should look very similar to any letter you received from your program director or institution. Be sure it has all of your return contact information on it as well as a date. Do not start your letter with “Hi,” “Hello,” or “Good day.” Do place a reference (“Re:”) line or subject line on your letter that states what the subject of your letter is.

8. Do not be afraid to appeal, file a discrimination complaint or exercise any of your legal rights. Often I hear from residents, after they are already terminated from their program, that they are afraid to get a lawyer involved. I usually ask: “What are you afraid of? What is the worst that can happen? You have already been terminated.” Remember, also, that if your program retaliates against you for exercising any of your rights, that is illegal. The ACGME would like to hear about that and in almost all cases, you will then have a legal cause of action upon which you can sue the program.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Resident Physicians, Fellows, Medical Students, Dental Students and Residents, Pharmacy Students and Residents, Mental Health Counselor Interns, and other health professionals. The attorneys of The Health Law Firm, also represent those applicants accused of irregular behavior by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), in responses, hearings and appeals, including on charges of “unprofessional conduct” and “improper behavior.”

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys have experience representing such individuals and those in graduate medical education programs in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete integral parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), because of discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, and any other matters.

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.

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.

KeyWords: Irregular behavior defense lawyer, irregular conduct legal representation, graduate medical education (GME) defense attorney, resident physician legal representation, resident physician defense attorney, legal counsel for resident physician, international medical graduate attorney, graduate medical education defense lawyer, lawyer for medical students, medical resident physician attorney, residency program legal dispute lawyer, residency program litigation attorney, legal dispute with medical school lawyer, medical student legal counsel, disruptive physician attorney, impaired medical student legal counsel, impaired resident legal defense attorney, United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) defense lawyer, USMLE defense attorney, National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) defense counsel, Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) defense lawyer, ECFMG defense attorney, legal representation for USMLE investigations, legal representation for NBME investigations, legal representation for irregular behavior, irregular behavior defense attorney, irregular behavior defense counsel, health law attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, Philadelphia attorney for ECFMG hearing, Philadelphia lawyer for NBME hearing, Philadelphia legal counsel for USMLE hearing

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Yale University Agrees to Pay $87,500 to Settle Allegations It Underpaid Female Doctors

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

Yale University agreed to pay $87,500 to resolve discrimination allegations with the U.S. Department of Labor. The discrimination alleged that the Ivy League school paid four women cardiologists significantly less than their male colleagues from October 2016 to September 2017. While not admitting the allegations, the university agreed to the settlement which will reportedly cover the difference in pay for the women affected, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) said.

Alleged Pay Discrimination.

The OFCCP first detected the pay disparities during a routine compliance audit of the university’s medical school, the agreement said. The agency found that in 2016, Yale University paid four female cardiologists less than similarly situated male physicians at the School of Medicine’s Cardiovascular Medicine Section.

According to the settlement, Yale hired the doctors as part of the university’s “acquisition of community practices and hospitals associated with the Yale-New Haven Hospital System.” In 2018, Yale allegedly cut the women doctors’ employment category and moved them to a new faculty category. OFCCP claims that the medical school category is supposed to have a uniform compensation structure in place. Click here to read the settlement agreement in full.

In response to the allegations, a Yale was quoted as saying: “The conciliation agreement involves only four employees out of a workforce of over 16,000. OFCCP admitted that it found no pay disparities as to any but these four employees, who held roles in an employment category that has not existed for over two years.”

To read the press release issued by the Department of Labor, click here.

Additionally, read my recent blog on a previous discrimination lawsuit against Yale.

What does this show us? That at least in federal programs and in educational institutions and medical programs receiving federal funds, discrimination is prohibited and action will be taken to remedy it.

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for physicians, including residents, and fellows, as well as medical students. We also represent other health professionals, clinical professors, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, and other healthcare providers. We represent health facilities, medical 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, physicians, including those involved in clinical research, complaints, and investigations.

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:

Ottaway, Amanda. “Yale Settles OFCCP Claims That It Underpaid Female Doctors.” Law360. (October 5, 2020). Web.

Smith, Paige. “Yale University Settles DOL Claims of Pay Bias Against Women (1).” Bloomberg Law. (October 2, 2020). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm

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