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Two Admins at a Veterans Home Criminally Charged For Mishandling Deadly COVID-19 Outbreak

George Indest Headshot

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

On September 25, 2020, two administrators at a Massachusetts veterans home were criminally charged with negligence for their role in a COVID-19 outbreak that killed 76 veterans. Attorney General (AG) Maura Healey reportedly stated that the criminal case involving Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke (SHH) is the first in the country against nursing home operators related to the pandemic.

Mishandling of the Coronavirus Outbreak.

The superintendent and the facility’s former medical director were indicted by a grand jury and charged with recklessly permitting bodily injury or abuse to the residents. The charges stem from their decision to combine two dementia units in March of 2020. They are accused of packing residents who were positive for the coronavirus into the same space as those with no symptoms. According to the AG, the decision contributed to the death of at least 76 residents at the facility.

The Investigation.

The AG’s Office began investigating in early April 2020 after learning of serious issues with COVID-19 infection control procedures at SHH. The investigation found that staffing shortages led to the decision to consolidate the two dementia units, totaling 42 residents. It resulted in confirmed COVID-19-positive residents being placed within feet of other veterans at the facility. The AG’s Office alleges that this decision was reckless from an infection control perspective and put the asymptomatic veterans at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 from the positive ones.

Since March 1, 2020, 76 veterans who contracted the coronavirus at SHH have died, officials said. Click here to read the Attorney General’s press release on the case.

To read about a similar case against a Florida nursing home, click here.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Veterans Administration (VA) Physician Representation and Military Physician Representation.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have represented nursing home administrators, health care executives, nurses, nurse practitioners, assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and health professionals working for the Veterans Administration (VA) throughout the United States. Representation has included personnel and employment issues, disciplinary action, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions, and appeals.

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

Sources:

Durkin, Alanna. “2 Charged Over Handling of Virus Outbreak at Veterans Home.” Associated Press. (September 25, 2020). Web.

Dowling, Bryan. “Mass. Vet Home Leaders Charged Over Deadly Virus Outbreak.” Law360. (September 25, 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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Going For an Evaluation With Your State Providers Health Program, Peer Assistance Program, Intervention Project for Nurses, or Professionals Resource Network? Tips on What NOT To Do!

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

So you are a physician, nurse or other health professional who has been accused of drug diversion, alcohol use at work, being impaired because of use of drugs or alcohol, or being positive on a drug test. You have been reported to the state board or to your employer who has now reported you to the Professionals Resource Network (PRN), the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN), the state peer assistance program, or the providers health program. It has contacted you and you have agreed to go to an evaluation by one of the program’s trained evaluators.

Here are a few tips that may help you. These are based on the mistakes that our clients have made before contacting us or retaining us to advise and assist in such matters.

1. Stop drinking alcoholic beverages immediately upon learning that you are facing scrutiny. Do not begin drinking again until the entire case is completely resolved. (Hint: If you cannot stop drinking or do not want to stop drinking, then you are probably an alcoholic and should be in a recovery monitoring program.)

2. In most cases, you will be required to provide a urine sample, a blood sample, a nail sample and/or a hair sample. This may disclose your use of drugs and alcohol even many weeks or months after-the-fact. Be aware that this may occur.

3. Be on time to your evaluation. Being late for an important, career-affecting event may be the sign of a real problem or lack of adequate judgment. Plan ahead. Leave early. Prepare for the unexpected.

4. Do not take tranquilizers, mood stabilizers or other medications immediately prior to your appointment with

5. Dress and groom appropriately. If your clothes and your person are dirty and unkempt, this may be considered to be a sign of an underlying problem.

6. Answer any questions the evaluator asks briefly and concisely. Do not volunteer information not requested. This is not a confessional, you are not there to confess your sins. You should know that there are a number of “red flags” that psychologists and psychiatrists use against you to find that you have a significant problem that requires treatment and long-term monitoring. For example, if your parents divorced, this is a red flag and counts against you (yes, I have argued with a psychologist that over half the marriages in the U.S. wind up in a divorce). Having a relative with an addiction an alcohol problem or a mental disorder will also do this. Be careful about whom you say was an alcoholic if you haven’t seen the doctors’s diagnosis of it.

7. There are some things that the only way the evaluator will know of these is if you tell her. For example, if no one knows you were sexually abused by a relative when you were young, this is not the time or place to tell. You are not there for treatment. This is not your doctor or therapist.

8. There is no confidentiality in such an evaluation. Nothing you tell the evaluator is confidential;. And it can be used against you later.

Before going for such an evaluation, consult with an experienced health care attorney, one who is familiar with such matters and is familiar with the licensing issues for your profession. To learn more, read one of our prior blogs on this topic here.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys in Matters Involving PRN or IPN.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, nurses and other health professionals in matters involving PRN or IPN. Our attorneys also represent health providers in Department of Health investigations, before professional boards, in licensing matters, and in administrative hearings.

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.

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

“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.

Woman Posing as Nurse For Six Years Sentenced to Prison For Health Care Fraud, Identity Theft, and Wire Fraud

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 September 23, 2020, a Tennessee woman who posed as a nurse working at several medical facilities was sentenced to more than four years in prison. In December 2019, she pled guilty to wire fraud, healthcare fraud, identity theft, and practicing nursing without a license.

How a Phony Nurse Gained Employment.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the woman posed as a registered nurse, despite not having a nursing degree or a nursing license, and having no nursing experience. To accomplish the fraud, she obtained the license numbers of real nurses with similar first names. She admitted to providing fraudulent information on job applications to gain employment. She was employed by at least eight different health care providers between September 2012 and November 2018. She also falsely claimed that she held nursing degrees from two educational institutions, Walters State College and Carson Newman University.

This is a long time, six years, to get away with health fraud. Usually, we only see things like this in Florida. However, in the past few years, Florida seems to be seeing fewer and fewer fake doctors, nurses, and health professionals. Perhaps the crackdown by the Florida Department of Health on the unlicensed practice of health professions has had some impact on this.

Continuing Lies & Fraudulent Behavior.

While posing as a nurse, the fake R.N. worked in various medical settings, including nursing homes, rehabilitation and assisted living facilities, a doctor’s office, and home health agencies. She rendered nursing care to numerous patients, dispensed prescription medications, and gained access to patients’ sensitive and private medical information, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Furthermore, the woman made false entries in patients’ medical records and submitted or caused the submission of at least $500,000 in false claims to public and private health care benefit programs.

The phony nurse performed procedures that she was, of course, unqualified to perform. She failed to act or to notify others of the necessary procedures for patients and failed to chart and document patient care. According to the written plea agreement, at least one patient required re-admittance to the hospital and an additional three-day hospital stay due to her inept care.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch is quoted in the media as having stated: “Our Medicaid Fraud Control Division remains committed to working with our federal partners to ensure healthcare fraud and identity theft cases like this one are addressed and investigated thoroughly.”

Judge Clifton L. Corker of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee sentenced her to 51 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to repay $700,000 in restitution to her employers.

To read the DOJ’s press release about this case in full, click here.

To read about a similar case in Florida, click here to view one of my prior blogs.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists, and other health providers in 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 (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“Morristown woman posed as nurse for 6 years at 8 health care providers.” ABC 6 Local News. (December 12, 2019). Web.

Starks, Ariel. “Fake nurse sentenced to 51 months in prison, ordered to repay employers $700,000.” WVLT 8 Local News. (September 23, 2020). Web.

Bonvissuto, Kimberly. “Nurse imposter who worked in assisted living sentenced for wire fraud, healthcare fraud, identity theft.” McKnight’s Senior Living. (September 25, 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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Judge Dismisses Dentist’s COVID-19 Business Interruption Insurance Claim in Florida

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 September 3, 2020, a Florida federal judge dismissed a suit for business interruption insurance payments by a Florida dentist. The dentist claimed he sustained damages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and related civil authority shutdowns of dental services. The dismissal freed Allied Insurance Company of America from having to pay the dentist’s for COVID-19 related losses, holding that the policy’s “virus exclusion” barred coverage of the insurance claim made.

Insurance Coverage for COVID-19 Related Losses.

The dentist sued his insurance carrier for damages that he argued were “caused by or result[ing] from a Covered Cause of Loss.” The causes of the alleged loss, he maintained, included the COVID-19 virus’s impact on his dental practice and the Florida governor’s emergency declaration that limited dental services during a period of time. Specifically, he claimed that he incurred costs to decontaminate his dental office and lost valuable income because of the governor’s dental services limitation. The dentist alleged that Allied breached the insurance contract by denying coverage in April.

Allied’s insurance policy provides coverage “for direct physical loss or damage to covered property at the [plaintiff’s] premises” that is “caused by or result[s] from any Covered Cause of Loss.” Allied argued that there was no direct physical loss or damage to covered property at the clinic due to appointment cancellations or the closure of the dental practice.

Dismissal of the Law Suit.

U.S. District Court Judge John Badalamenti, for the Middle District of Florida, dismissed the case. He found that the dental practice’s loss or damage asserted was “not due to a covered cause of loss.” More importantly, he found that the policy contained an exclusion for loss or damage caused “directly or indirectly,” by “[a]ny virus, bacterium or other microorganisms that induces or is capable of inducing physical distress, illness or disease.”

According to the judge’s order, in order for the insurer to provide coverage, losses from business suspension must be caused by direct physical loss or damage. He ruled that the dentist failed to demonstrate what the policy required in order to be a covered loss. To read the order in full, click here.

With such a specific exclusion as this policy contained, it was difficult for the judge in the case to rule any other way.

Litigation on Whether Insurance Policies Should Cover Losses Due to Coronavirus Closures.

This recent Florida dismissal is another in a string of cases where insurers have prevailed in Coronavirus business loss cases, because of similar exclusions in their policies. In a similar case, a Michigan federal judge sided with the insurance company saying it didn’t have to cover a chiropractic office’s COVID-19 claimed losses. Like the case above, the judge said the business failed to allege physical loss and, therefore, the policy’s virus exclusion barred coverage. Click here to read the judge’s order in this case.

According to insurance experts and regulators, most businesses and professionals will probably find it difficult to obtain an insurance payout because of policy changes made after the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak. SARS, which infected 8,000 people, led to millions of dollars in business-interruption insurance claims. As a result, many insurers added exclusions to standard commercial policies for virus losses. The added policy language potentially allows insurance companies to avoid hundreds of billions of dollars in business-interruption claims because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since a wide-scale virus outbreak is such a rare event, most policy purchasers overlooked this exception. There certainly wasn’t any concerted effort to make insureds aware of the exclusion nor to offer them the opportunity to purchase specific virus outbreak insurance coverage.

A global pandemic presents unique problems for insurance companies. After the SARS outbreak at the beginning of this millennium, many insurance companies realized they would not be able to cover such a broad-scale event causing massive losses. Such an event could have damages greater than those sustained in the largest hurricane to strike the U.S. The insurance industry argued to state regulators that such policy exclusions were necessary, considering the overwhelming number of claims that might arise from a single disease outbreak.

This foresight on the part of the insurance companies saved their shareholders billions, if not trillions, of dollars. Unfortunately business and professionals have had to shoulder the losses.

So, it begs the question: Did insurers actually know the potential damage a viral pandemic could wreak on businesses and, therefore, purposefully exclude coverage? Disputes over the precise wording of business insurance policies will most likely continue to generate court battles like those discussed above.

Read my prior blog on this subject to learn more.

Recommendation for the Future.

There are several options that businesses and state insurance regulators should consider to try to prevent such massive losses from going uncompensated in the future.

First would be to create and provide virus damage insurance similar to that provided for flood insurance by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The biggest problem would be that losses could easily exceed the largest hurricane that one could imagine. However, the NFIP has shown this type of plan works.

Second would be similar programs provided at the state level. At the present time, many states, have captive insurance companies to fund losses from wind damage caused by storms. In Florida, the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (CPIC) provides such coverage.

The biggest problem I see with both of the above is that short-sighted and selfish people don’t want to purchase such insurance and, thereby, make it less expensive for all involved. They figure that the government will bail them out anyway in such an event, so why should they pay. Therefore, either making it paid for completely with taxpayer money or a requirement of obtaining a business license or professional license or some combination, may be a way to finance it.

Creating a trust fund with assessments to employers and employees, similar to what is currently done for social security, would be another option. Creating a large trust fund that could cover such tragic events might work best. However, this would have to be made “raider safe” so that Congress does not come back and raid these funds and use them for other purposes like it has done to the United States Postal Service (USPS).

At the very least, some type of universal virus pandemic business loss insurance should be mandated by law or, at least, partially funded by the government. Making it mandatory means making it cheaper and making it work.

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. 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 (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com

Sources:

Zhang, Daphne. “Fla. Dentist’s Bid For COVID-19 Loss Coverage Axed.” Law360. (September 3, 2020). Web.

Zhang, Daphne. “State Farm Needn’t Cover Chiropractor’s COVID-19 Losses.” Law360. (September 3, 2020). Web.

Frankel, Todd. “Insurers knew the damage a viral pandemic could wreak on businesses. So they excluded coverage.” The Washington Post. (April 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.

KeyWords: healthcare employment law representation, legal representation for physicians, doctor defense legal representation, legal representation for healthcare professionals, complex health care litigation attorney, complex civil litigation attorney, complex healthcare litigation lawyer, complex medical litigation lawyer, representation for complex medical litigation, representation for healthcare business litigation matters, business insurance representation, business interruption insurance claims defense, COVID-19 business insurance claim representation, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm Attorneys, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, legal representation for physicians and health care professionals, attorney for physician suits against insurers, complex medical business litigation against health insurers

“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.

 

OSHA Issues Citations to Health Care Systems Over COVID-19 PPE Violations

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

On September 14, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a citation against a healthcare system in Louisiana. Christus Shreveport-Bossier Health System is facing fines for failing to safeguard its employees with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus pandemic. OSHA has proposed $13,494 in penalties, the maximum allowed by law.

OSHA’s Coronavirus-related Investigation.

After receiving reports of employee exposure, OSHA opened a coronavirus–related investigation. The agency found that the health system violated workplace safety protocols and put employees at risk of COVID-19 exposure.

In a press release, OSHA stated, “emergency facility employees often shared used protective gowns or did not have protective gowns to wear while treating patients.” Click here to read the press release in full.

Christus Health had 15 business days from receipt of the citation and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings. In a statement, Katy Kiser, a spokesperson for Christus Health, said, “We are actively contesting the citation and the penalty. We have worked hard to secure the PPE we have needed to get us through many phases of the pandemic and maintain a local contingency supply of at least ten days. To date, we have experienced no gaps in PPE supply during pandemic response.”

A Series of COVID-19 Citations for Different Health Systems.

After receiving criticism that it was not adequately investigating COVID-19 complaints, OSHA announced it would ramp up enforcement. As a result, the agency said it would also issue fines against New Jersey-based Bergen New Bridge Medical Center and Hackensack Meridian Health. The two healthcare systems were cited for failing to provide appropriately fit respirator masks to its home healthcare employees. Additionally, after providing respirators, they didn’t provide adequate training and compliant medical evaluations.

Click here for more on this story.

To read OSHA’s Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease memo that was released in May 2020, click here.  For additional resources, visit OSHA’s COVID-19 response page on their website here.

Click here to read one of our recent blogs on this topic and learn more.

Health Providers Can and Should File Complaints with OSHA.

What these cases show is that health professionals whose employers fail to provide proper safety equipment, PPE, and other job-related protections, can file OSHA complaints. OSHA’s main purpose for existing is to protect employees from unsafe working environments. Although the fines OSHA assesses may be small, if the employer is fined, this may provide the basis for a workers compensation claim, a lawsuit, a union complaint, or all of three of these.

Furthermore, if the employer retaliates against the employee for filing an OSHA complaint, then the employee has a valid cause of action against the employer, regardless of any other rights, under OSHA’s “whistleblower protection” provisions.

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:

Campbell, Braden. “OSHA Ramps Up Physical Inspections, COVID Case Reporting.” Law360. (May 19, 2020). Web.

Kutner, Max. “OSHA Fines La. Health System Over COVID-19 Violations.” (September 14, 2020). Web.

Shinkman, Ron. “OSHA fines 3 hospital systems for PPE violations.” Healthcare Dive. (September 15, 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.

KeyWords: nurse defense lawyer, nursing complaint defense attorneys, board of nursing defense attorney, Health law defense lawyer, legal representation of health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Department of Health defense attorney, healthcare employment law representation, legal representation for physicians, nurse defense legal representation, legal representation for healthcare professionals, complex health care litigation attorney, complex civil litigation attorney, complex healthcare litigation lawyer, complex medical litigation lawyer, representation for complex medical litigation, representation for healthcare business litigation matters, representation for administrative hearing, representation for Department of Health (DOH) representation, DORA defense attorney, DOH defense attorney, representation for DOH hearings, representation for DOH investigations, representation for disciplinary charges, representation for disciplinary complaint

“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.

 

 

Woman Posing as Nurse For Six Years Sentenced to Prison For Health Care Fraud, Identity Theft, and Wire Fraud

 

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

Medical lawsuit. Arrest for medical crime concept. Handcuff near stethoscope on blue background top view.On September 23, 2020, a Tennessee woman who posed as a nurse working at several medical facilities was sentenced to more than four years in prison. In December 2019, she pled guilty to wire fraud, healthcare fraud, identity theft, and practicing nursing without a license.

How a Phony Nurse Gained Employment.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the woman posed as a registered nurse, despite not having a nursing degree or a nursing license, and having no nursing experience. To accomplish the fraud, she obtained the license numbers of real nurses with similar first names. She admitted to providing fraudulent information on job applications to gain employment. She was employed by at least eight different health care providers between September 2012 and November 2018. She also falsely claimed that she held nursing degrees from two educational institutions, Walters State College and Carson Newman University.

This is a long time, six years, to get away with health fraud. Usually, we only see things like this in Florida. However, in the past few years, Florida seems to be seeing fewer and fewer fake doctors, nurses, and health professionals. Perhaps the crackdown by the Florida Department of Health on the unlicensed practice of health professions has had some impact on this.

Continuing Lies & Fraudulent Behavior.

While posing as a nurse, the fake R.N. worked in various medical settings, including nursing homes, rehabilitation and assisted living facilities, a doctor’s office, and home health agencies. She rendered nursing care to numerous patients, dispensed prescription medications, and gained access to patients’ sensitive and private medical information, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Furthermore, the woman made false entries in patients’ medical records and submitted or caused the submission of at least $500,000 in false claims to public and private health care benefit programs.

The phony nurse performed procedures that she was, of course, unqualified to perform. She failed to act or to notify others of the necessary procedures for patients and failed to chart and document patient care. According to the written plea agreement, at least one patient required re-admittance to the hospital and an additional three-day hospital stay due to her inept care.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch is quoted in the media as having stated: “Our Medicaid Fraud Control Division remains committed to working with our federal partners to ensure healthcare fraud and identity theft cases like this one are addressed and investigated thoroughly.”

Judge Clifton L. Corker of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee sentenced her to 51 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to repay $700,000 in restitution to her employers.

To read the DOJ’s press release about this case in full, click here.

To read about a similar case in Florida, click here to view one of my prior blogs.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists, and other health providers in 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 (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“Morristown woman posed as nurse for 6 years at 8 health care providers.” ABC 6 Local News. (December 12, 2019). Web.

Starks, Ariel. “Fake nurse sentenced to 51 months in prison, ordered to repay employers $700,000.” WVLT 8 Local News. (September 23, 2020). Web.

Bonvissuto, Kimberly. “Nurse imposter who worked in assisted living sentenced for wire fraud, healthcare fraud, identity theft.” McKnight’s Senior Living. (September 25, 2020). Web.

Headshot of The Health Law Firm's attorney George F. Indest IIIAbout 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.

KeyWords: nursing license defense attorney, legal representation for nursing license defense, legal representation for board of nursing complaints and investigations, unlicensed practice of medicine defense attorney, unlicensed practice of nursing defense lawyer, Department of Health defense attorney, DORA investigation defense lawyer, legal representation for DOH or DORA investigations, DOJ defense lawyer, legal representation for DOJ investigations, legal representation for nurses, health law attorney, nursing law attorney, health care fraud defense attorney, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for health care fraud investigations, health care fraud investigation representation, legal representation for U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, DOJ investigation representation, Medicare fraud defense lawyer, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, representation for Medicare and Medicaid fraud, representation for false billing, representation for submitting false claims, False Claims Act (FCA) defense attorney, FCA legal representation, FCA investigation representation, representation for FCA investigations, review of The Health Law Firm attorneys, The Health Law Firm reviews, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) defense attorney

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

Florida Passes New Law for Health Professional Background Screening

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

For several years, many healthcare professionals have been required to pass a Level II background check in order to work in most Florida healthcare facilities licensed by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Many healthcare professionals are also required to pass a Level II background check in order to be licensed by the Florida Department of Health (DOH). In March 2020, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 713, which will add the offenses of battery on a vulnerable adult and battery on a patient or resident of certain healthcare facilities (primarily nursing facilities) as a disqualifying offense. The law took effect on July 1, 2020. Previously, only felony battery and battery on a minor were disqualifying offenses for purposes of the Level II background screening.

More Details on the New Legislation.

A health professional who previously passed the Level II background check may nevertheless be deemed “not eligible” for employment in a licensed health facility on the next Level II background check. This would occur if the practitioner has been found guilty of, regardless of adjudication, or entered a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to battery of a vulnerable adult, or battery on a patient or resident of a healthcare facility. (This is the wording of the statute, not mine.)

A practitioner who is determined to be “not eligible” on a Level II background check due to a disqualifying offense must apply for an exemption from that disqualifying offense, in order to be permitted to work. The practitioner seeking an exemption has the burden of proving that the exemption should be granted. The provider must prove this with clear and convincing evidence, a standard that is higher and stricter than that in a civil trial.

Any health professional seeking an exemption from a disqualifying offense should seek the assistance of an experienced health law attorney familiar with the application process, and the types of evidence that can prove that the health professional should be granted an exemption.

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

About the Author: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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

Federal Judge Says Colorado Board of Pharmacy Must Hand Over Patient Identifying Data to DEA

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On April 22, 2020, a federal judge ordered the Colorado Board of Pharmacy to give the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) prescription drug monitoring program data on two pharmacies that the DEA is investigating. The data includes patient identifying information of more than 14,000 patients. The state must turn over the data by May 15, 2020, according to the order.

Pharmacy Investigations.

Citing concerns about the two pharmacies’ handling of controlled-substance prescriptions, the DEA issued subpoenas under the Controlled Substances Act in 2019. The DEA requested the information as part of an investigation into whether the two unnamed pharmacies broke the law in dispensing opioids and other drugs.

Clash Over Patient Privacy.

The DEA’s requested information is kept under the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program or PDMP. For controlled-substance prescriptions, Colorado pharmacies and pharmacists are required by state law to report information that includes the names of patients, their doctors, and pharmacies.

Colorado state officials refused to release the data citing patient privacy concerns. The DEA’s “overly broad, undifferentiated demand for access would violate the Fourth Amendment right to privacy guaranteed to more than 14,000 patients whose medical data is at issue,” the state said.

According to the order, the Colorado statute allows the prescription-monitoring data to be disclosed but only to specific recipients including in response to law enforcement subpoenas. However, the state argued that the Colorado statute only applies to a “bona fide investigation of a specific individual.”

To read about a similar case involving a DEA investigation into pharmacy prescription practices, click here to read my prior blog.

The Decision.

U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore denied Colorado’s objections to the DEA’s subpoenas for the prescription data including patients’ information such as names, birth dates, and addresses. The judge said the DEA has shown that the requested information is relevant and needed for the ongoing investigation of the two pharmacies, and no warrant is needed to obtain it. The order directs the Colorado Board of Pharmacy and Patty Salazar, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) to provide the data to the DEA no later than May 15, 2020.

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

For more information, click here to read the press release issued from the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado.

States Must Act to Protect the Integrity of Such Programs.

State prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) were sold to pharmacists and physicians based on a promise that they were solely for the purpose of protecting patients from overdoses and preventing “doctor shopping” by dishonest, drug-seeking patients. Inherent in these programs was the promise that they would not be used for the purpose of prosecuting or charging physicians or pharmacists, in criminal proceedings or administrative proceedings, based on their contents. Most of the state laws that authorized the creation of PDMPs specifically forbid their use in such cases. This was required in order to get physicians and state medical societies to buy off on them.

Yet here we are. We see this over and over. the Federal government and federal agencies obtaining copies of these reports from the state and using them as direct evidence against physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and pharmacies, despite the prohibition of the state statutes.

Moreover, not only does this subvert the purpose behind creating such databases, but then it runs afoul of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and similar provisions of most state constitutions. The doctor or pharmacist is required by law to report the prescriptions to the PDMP, but then the federal agency turns right around and uses it as evidence against the individual who reported it.

The feds take the position: “We do not care why you, the state, authorized it or what its purpose was supposed to be. If we want to take that information and use it for something else, something that was specifically prohibited by the state, then we will do it.”

Until state pharmacy associations and medical associations do something to tighten up the state legislation that created the PDMPs, this situation is not likely to change. The feds will continue to use the state PDMPs to prosecute and to take administrative actions to revoke the DEA registrations of physicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, and other health professionals.

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, pharmacies, physicians, and other health providers. We provide legal representation for nurses in Board of Nursing investigations and complaints, DORA investigations and complaints, and Department of Health (DOH) investigations and complaints. We defend in state and federal administrative hearings, investigations, and litigation. We also represent health professionals in formal and informal administrative hearings. We have a great deal of experience in defending against DEA actions. 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 (850) 439-1001 or (970) 416-7456 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Zegers, Kelly. “Colo. Must Give DEA Pharmacy Data With Patient Info.” Law360. (April 20, 2020). Web.

Ingold, John. “Why the DEA is suing Colorado’s pharmacy board as part of an opioid investigation.” The Colorado Sun. (November 11, 2019). Web.

Pazanowski, Mary Ann. “Colorado Pharmacy Board Must Give DEA Patient-Identifying Info.” Bloomberg Law. (April 22, 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.

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

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Insurer Faces Lawsuit For Failing to Pay Pandemic Business Claims

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

On April 14, 2020, several companies announced they are considering a class action lawsuit against Hiscox Insurance over its failure to pay business interruption claims relating to the coronavirus lockdown. Hiscox, sold policies before COVID-19 hit. The policies allegedly stated that they would cover claims related to businesses being forced to shut owing to a notifiable disease. Business owners have reportedly filed claims with Hiscox and other commercial insurance companies, only to be told that their policies don’t cover the losses related to the pandemic.

Pay Attention to the Policy Wording.

The company’s policy wording says business interruption claims can be made if a public authority makes the business premises unusable due to “an occurrence of any human infectious or human contagion disease.”

Hiscox claims the policy’s coverage would only be triggered by “certain specific events at, or local to, the premises.” The insurer said its policies were not designed to cover the extraordinary circumstances caused by the pandemic. In a statement, the company said, “We understand that these are incredibly difficult times for businesses affected by COVID-19. At Hiscox, we strive to pay claims that are covered by the policies fairly and quickly. However, general business interruption policies across the industry, including Hiscox’s, were not designed to cover these extraordinary circumstances. Like terrorism and flood, which have government-backed insurance schemes, pandemics like coronavirus are simply too large and too systemic for private insurers to cover,” it added.

Business Interruption Insurance.

Business interruption insurance usually provides protection against the closure of business because of damage to property. Multiple “non-damage” extensions can be added to standard policies, including those for denial of access because of communicable disease. A communicable disease extension or addendum will typically cover losses arising from closure resulting from an outbreak of a virus or bacteria on-site or nearby.

Many policies’ word also includes a defined list of diseases covered under the terms of the policy, which range from the SARS virus to smallpox. Others are less specific, offering coverage for any “notifiable disease” outbreak required by law to be reported to authorities. Additionally, sometimes communicable disease policy addendums contain exclusions, which state that an outbreak must have occurred on the business premises or within a defined vicinity.

The Problem With Policies?

The difficulty is that in the majority of cases, these policies cite “direct physical loss or damage” as a requirement to be triggered. Unfortunately, a quarantine, travel ban, shelter-in-place orders, or pandemic might make it impossible for a business to keep its doors open, but unfortunately may not constitute obvious “physical damage.” So, if the wording fits, as far as the insurance company is concerned, it’s not their problem!

Hiscox denied the claims made against them and responded that the clause was designed to cover losses “solely and directly” from restrictions imposed by a public authority. It would not apply in this case because losses would have still occurred even if businesses had not been closed, because of the government-imposed lockdown.

Legal Issues For Insurance Policies.

There are several important points to remember when dealing with insurance policies and claims made to an insurer.

First, insurance is governed by state law, so interpretations and policy coverage requirements may differ from state to state. Always check your state’s insurance laws and the cases that interpret them to see if the issue is governed by them.

Second, your insurance policy is a contract between you and the insurance company. Read the contract and see what it states. If it is vague or there is a doubt after you read it, you may have a good case. See the next step below.

Third, the insurance company wrote the policy. The insurance company had complete control over the wording of the policy. It was up to the insurance company to be definite and specific in what was covered or not covered. If there is doubt in the coverage that is provided in the policy, the courts will usually interpret this against the insurance company so as to provide coverage to the insured for the loss.

Fourth, when there is a problem with an insurance claim or a denied claim, immediately retain the services of one of the many attorneys who are experienced in suing insurance companies. These attorneys usually know what they are doing and will not charge you unless they obtain a recovery for you.

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 (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at https://bit.ly/2MJkvQi

Sources:

Croucher, Martin. “Insurers Face Legal Tests Over Rejected Pandemic Claims.” Law360. (April 17, 2020). Web.

Croucher, Martin. “Hiscox Could Face Class Action Over COVID-19 Response” Law360. (April 14, 2020). Web.

Cox, Josie. “Coronavirus has exposed Britain’s insurance industry as a shambles.” The Guardian. (March 18, 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. https://bit.ly/2MJkvQi  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: healthcare employment law representation, legal representation for physicians, doctor defense legal representation, legal representation for healthcare professionals, complex health care litigation attorney, complex civil litigation attorney, complex healthcare litigation lawyer, complex medical litigation lawyer, representation for complex medical litigation, representation for healthcare business litigation matters, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm Attorneys, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, legal representation for physicians and health care professionals

“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.

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Florida Pediatric Associates Files Suit For Alleged Non-Compliant EHR Program

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On March 16, 2020, a pediatrics group in Altamonte Springs, Florida, filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against a health care technology company called Greenway Health LLC (Greenway). Altamonte Pediatric Associates PA (Altamonte Pediatrics) says Greenway sold it an electronic health records (EHR) program that did not comply with federal standards and cost them a bundle in federal incentive payments.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

EHR Compliance.

According to the complaint, Greenway’s Intergy electronic health records software failed to comply with the federal government’s Meaningful Use program that sets nationwide standards for EHR. The errors allegedly cost the pediatrics group at least $68,000 in missed incentive payments from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Altamonte Pediatrics says that in the contract Greenway guaranteed that any systems would “remain compliant with federal regulations,” according to the complaint. Additionally, it claims that Greenway waited more than four months to respond to their communications about the $68,000 in lost incentive payments. When Altamonte Pediatrics they finally did get a response, Greenway allegedly only offered to pay less than half that amount.

Additional Troubles for Greenway.

The lawsuit with Altamonte Pediatrics is not the first time that Greenway has faced legal troubles for its EHR program. In 2019, it paid $57.25 million to resolve a False Claims Act suit alleging that they caused users to submit false claims to the government by misrepresenting the capabilities of its EHR product “Prime Suite.” The government also alleged that Greenway violated the Anti-Kickback Statute by paying money and incentives to its client providers to recommend Prime Suite to prospective new customers. You can read the United States Department of Justice’s press release on this case here for more information.

The DOJ said Greenway got a bogus certification by concealing aspects of its program that were not compliant and set it up so its clients could provide inaccurate data.

The Altamonte Pediatrics group claims the same thing happened to it after Medicaid denied $68,000 in incentive payments for eight of its doctors and nurses due to Intergy’s errors. After it’s FCA settlement in 2019, Greenway assured Altamonte Pediatrics and other customers that it would fix flaws in its EHR programs, according to the suit.

The pediatrics group is asking for actual damages, punitive damages, restitution, and attorney fees and expenses. Click here to read the class action complaint filed by Altamonte Pediatrics.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians and medical groups on EHR issues. It also represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections, and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board-certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Sources:

Bolado, Carolina. “Doctors Say Greenway E-Records Software Not Up To Snuff.” Law360. (March 16, 2020). Web.

Simpson, Dave. “Health Records Co. To Pay $57.2M Over FCA Allegations.” Law360. (February 6, 2019). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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

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