Steps to Take If You Receive an OIG Subpoena from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issues investigative subpoenas through the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). This agency investigates allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse against Medicare, Medicaid, and other federally funded healthcare programs. These subpoenas are very broad, usually requiring the production of thousands of pages of documents. Click here to see a sample of a subpoena duces tecum issued by the OIG.

Immediate Action to Take If the OIG Issues a Subpoena.

Immediately review the subpoena in detail to see what it requests and from whom. A subpoena may be issued to or served on the wrong person or organization. If so, have your attorney contact the issuer and attempt to resolve the matter. Document everything in writing. Whatever you do, do not ignore it.

A review of the requested documents will give you and your experienced healthcare attorney an idea of what type of case is being investigated by the OIG. That is one reason that it is important to immediately retain the services of a healthcare attorney experienced in responding to such subpoenas and dealing with the OIG’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Many Different Scenarios Can Lead to Investigations and Subpoenas.

If someone has filed a False Claims Act (FCA) complaint or lawsuit, also known as a whistleblower or qui tam suit, this may be why the OIG is investigating. Suspicion of violating Medicare and Medicaid participation rules, including the Conditions of Participation or the Conditions for Payment (Federal Regulations), can also lead to investigations and subpoenas. If you have committed violations of program requirements such that the government can seek Civil Monetary Penalties, this may give rise to such investigation. If you are suspected of Medicare fraud, including upcoding or billing for medically unnecessary supplies or services, this may lead to an investigation. A patient complaint about not receiving services or equipment billed to Medicare is a surefire way to investigate. Regardless, the matter is serious, so you should retain experienced health care counsel.

Follow These Helpful Steps to Ease the Process:

1. Immediately review the subpoena to ensure you know the expected delivery date of the requested documents. Be sure to respond in writing via a reliable courier or another method of tracking your sending of the documents and their receipt.

2. Immediately retain the services of an experienced healthcare attorney to start dealing with the OIG or the U.S. Attorney’s Office involved in the case.

3. Immediately start assembling the requested documents in the subpoena so they may be reviewed by your attorney before they are organized, labeled, numbered, and produced. This will take longer than you think.

4. Request an extension of time to respond, if needed, before the due date for the production of the documents. These are routinely given, especially for large document productions. Document the extension of time in writing.

5. Completely read the instructions given in the subpoena regarding how documents produced are to be organized, page-numbered, labeled, copied, and delivered. It is essential to produce them this way.

6. If documents are archived, in storage, require the reinstallation of old software to reproduce, or otherwise will take a long time to produce, you may request a “rolling production.” This is an agreement to produce the documents as you obtain them.

7. In reviewing the documents, attempt to determine precisely what the OIG and U.S. Attorney may be investigating. This will afford you time to begin preparation for your defense and will allow you to request a modification of what it is necessary to produce in many instances.

8. It is preferable for you not to personally communicate with OIG special agents, FBI agents, other investigators, or attorneys working for the OIG or U.S. Attorney’s Office. Anything you say to them, orally or in writing, can be used against you in the case. Also, any incorrect or false information you provide, orally or in writing, can result in a felony charge under 18 U.S.C. Sect. 1001. Have your attorney do all communication.

9. Remember, you do not have to produce any documents in your custody. Likewise, you do not have to create documents to produce.

10. Never alter, destroy, or create documents for which the subpoena is issued after you have received the subpoena. Consider all documents to be “frozen” in time. Also, immediately notify whoever is in charge of your document retention or document destruction program (if you have one) to ensure no further documents are destroyed or deleted.

11. If you do not have a document destruction program for obsolete documents as you read this, you need to create one (subject to number 10 immediately above). Make sure it addresses e-mails, electronically stored documents, and paper copies. Do not keep any documents for longer than you are required to keep them by law (including Federal Regulations).

12. Provide an explanation for any documents or categories of records that you should have but were destroyed by natural disasters, fires, etc. Include documentation (fire department, police report, insurance company appraisal, etc.) that shows this. Do not ever lie or exaggerate it.

For additional information, read one of our recent blogs on preparing for a healthcare audit request.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid and Medicare Audits.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes, and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits, and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or 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 the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620.

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

Completing an Application for a Nursing License? Here Are Some Helpful Tips!

author 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 nursing or health care professional license is not only challenging, but it’s also time-consuming. If you have a criminal conviction or unique circumstance which may negatively impact your ability to be granted a health care license, you must consult with an experienced attorney. Your career or future depends on your ability to positively present yourself to the board.

In instances where the applicant has a criminal history, substance abuse/alcohol problem, or discipline in another state, the board members are trying to discern from the testimony if he or she is safe to practice medicine.

Don’t Face State Licensing Boards On Your Own.

If you are applying for a nursing or health care license and have had prior adverse action taken against you in another state or during your academic training, you should contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in the process.

Some tips to ease the process include:

  1. After obtaining an experienced attorney, ask how to answer application questions when unclear.
  2. Submit follow-up documents in a timely manner.
  3. Make sure your address is correct and complete.
  4. Follow-up with sources sending the Board of Nursing documents.
  5. Provide answers to the questions asked, and no more.
  6. Submit corrections when it becomes apparent you need to modify an answer.

If you are in the process of applying for a nursing license or any other license in the medical field, you will want an experienced health law attorney to be on your side to guide you through the process. Let the attorneys at The Health Law Firm be there for you. Call the Health Law Firm today, visit our website, and click on Contact Us.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Representing Nurses and Handling Licensing Issues.

If you are applying for a nursing or health care license, have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action againstlawyer sitting with nurse in front of paperwork at desk your license, you must 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 nurses, physicians, dentists, 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.

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.

Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm is always looking for qualified attorneys interested in the practice of health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a member of The Florida Bar and are interested, forward a cover letter and your resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax to: (407) 331-3030.

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

Psychiatric Practice, Owner Agree to Pay $310,000 in FCA Settlement for Employing Doctor on OIG Exclusion List

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

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

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

Past Conviction Overlooked.

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

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

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

For more helpful information, click here.

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

Payment Prohibition & Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs).

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

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

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

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Defending Against Action to Exclude an Individual or Business from the Medicare Program and Assisting in Reinstatement Applications.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have experience in dealing with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and defending against action to exclude an individual or business entity from the Medicare Program, in administrative hearings on this type of action, in submitting applications requesting reinstatement to the Medicare Program after exclusion, and removal from the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE).

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

Sources:

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

Health Law Weekly. “Psychiatric Practice, Owner Pay $310K for Employing “Excluded” Individual.”American Health Law Association (AHLA). (February 25, 2022). Web.

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

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

2022-03-22T18:29:39-04:00May 6th, 2022|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

State Nursing Boards Delay Nursing Licenses Across the U.S. Even As COVID-19 Pandemic Continues

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

Staffing shortages at hospitals across the U.S. are worsening helped along by state boards and other licensing authorities taking months to process nursing licenses, a recent NPR survey claims. As a result, thousands of new nurses who want to help during the COVID-19 pandemic are reportedly getting sidelined by state bureaucratic red tape. Now, it’s resulted in a considerable backlog in nurses waiting for jobs.

State nursing boards are usually created and charged with safeguarding the public. But there are those who claim they have become an obstacle to ensuring public safety by preventing qualified nurses from getting into the workforce. A review of statistics from nursing boards shows that new applications are taking months to be reviewed and approved when basic vetting should take only weeks.

An Investigation Into Nursing Applications.

In 2021, National Public Radio (NPR) examined license applications and found that newly graduated nurses and those moving to new states often get sidelined by state bureaucracies for months, waiting for state approval to treat patients. This is occurring at a time of extreme nursing shortages and increased demand for nurses to work during a pandemic.

Of course, we may have those who want to challenge whether or not there is a pandemic still going on. But we feel that those nurses working in hospitals right now can tell us. We also believe that not enough time has passed since the last wave went over us to state that the pandemic has ended.

The Following are some key findings from NPR’s investigation:

1. How long is too long to wait for your license? Almost one (1) in ten (10) nurses issued new licenses last year waited six (6) months or longer, according to an analysis of licensing records from 32 states. More than a third of these 226,000 registered nurses and licensed practical nurses had to wait at least three (3) months. The processing time varies because each state has its own rules. Generally, state boards have to check a nurse’s education, run a criminal background check, and wait for new graduates to pass a national exam. This all does take time. However, some of the procedures, such as fingerprinting and background checks have speeded up tremendously over the past decade.

2. Applicants are stuck in license limbo. Some state nursing boards blame slow processing times on staff shortages, increased workloads, and remote work. California’s nursing board, for example, has just 47 people on staff handling tens of thousands of applications for licenses. That’s for a state with nearly a half-million RNs. To put it into more perspective, that works out to 10,000 nurses for each employee to assist.

3. When does the clock start? NPR’s investigation found that states often start the clock on processing times only after an application is marked complete. Some nurses NPR spoke with described scenarios where they spent weeks or longer arguing with the licensing authority that their applications were complete. In addition, many state boards don’t count that lost time when measuring how long it takes to process an application.

4. Some states aren’t part of any interstate agreement. Several large states have refused to join the Nurse Licensure Compact, which allows nurses to use licenses across state lines — sort of like a driver’s license lets you drive across state lines. One reason cited for this is that many nursing boards make most of their money, sometimes tens of millions of dollars, just from the licensing fees.

Overall, researchers found that one (1) in ten (10) nurses who received new licenses from nursing boards in 2021 waited six (6) months or longer. More than one-third of the nurses waited at least three (3) months. NPR reported: “[Nurses are] emotionally exhausted. They’re physically exhausted. We add to that the frustration of not being able to get your license,” Betsy Snook, BSN, RN, who is CEO of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, reportedly told NPR.

To learn some helpful tips if you are applying for your nursing license, click here to read my prior blog.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.

If you are applying for a nursing or health care 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 nurses, physicians, dentists, 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:

“Nurses are waiting 6 months or more for licenses despite hospitals’ need for nurses.” Georgia Public Broadcasting. (March 10, 2022). Web.

Fast, Austin. “Nurses are waiting months for licenses as hospital staffing shortages spread.” NPR. (March 11, 2022). Web.

Gooch, Kelly. “Nurse license wait times complicating staffing shortages.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (March 11, 2022). Web.

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

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

2022-04-11T17:37:52-04:00April 11th, 2022|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Fight Back in National Practitioner Data Bank Disputes and Appeal Adverse Reports

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

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

Adverse Reports Stay in the NPDB for Life.

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

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

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

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

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

What Happens If You Disagree With Your Report?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Health Law Firm attorneys routinely represent physicians, physician assistants (PAs), nurses, nurse practitioners (NPs), dentists, and other health professionals in dealing with reports being made to the NPDB, disputing NPDB reports and appealing NPDB reports, hospital clinical privileges hearings, medical staff fair hearings, medical staff peer reviews. Its attorneys include those who are board-certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

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

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

Florida Surgeon Gets 7 Years for Committing $28 Million in Health Care Fraud

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

On November 18, 2021, a Tallahassee surgeon was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for committing health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The scheme involved performing hundreds of medically unnecessary, invasive surgical procedures on his patients.

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

Compromising the Health and Safety of Patients For Illegal Profit.

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

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

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

The Consequences of the Surgeon’s Actions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

 

CMS Using Medicare Termination to Squash Doctors Involved in Overprescribing Opioids

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

In Truth, There May Be No Oversprescribing.

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

Consequences of a Medicare Privileges Termination.

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

Consequences include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Act Fast; Don’t Delay!

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

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

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

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

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

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2022-02-11T10:36:00-05:00February 11th, 2022|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|0 Comments

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

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

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

A Litigious History of Lawsuits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Takeaway From the Case.

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

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

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians in investigations and at Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine hearings. We represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, in patient complaints and in Department of Health investigations.

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

Sources:

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

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

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

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

Texas Hospital’s Vaccination Mandate For COVID-19 Upheld by Federal Court

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

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

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


The Court’s Ruling on Mandatory Vaccination Policies.

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

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

Texas Wrongful Termination Claim.

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

Violation of Public Policy.

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

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

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

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

Important Takeaway From This Court Decision.

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

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations. We do NOT represent plaintiffs in COVID-19 injury suits, however.

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

Sources:

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

Brown, Amanda, Goldstein, Mark. “In first-of-its-kind decision, federal court rules that mandatory workplace COVID-19 vaccine policies are lawful.” Employment Law Watch. (June 16, 2021). Web.

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

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

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