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.

KeyWords: Healthcare fraud representation, healthcare fraud defense lawyer, Office of Inspector General (OIG) Medicare exclusion attorney, OIG investigation legal defense representation, OIG exclusion defense attorney, OIG exclusion defense lawyer, Medicare audit defense legal counsel, Office of Inspector General (OIG) Medicare exclusion defense counsel, Medicare audit defense attorney, Office of Inspector General (OIG) Medicare exclusion legal defense counsel, attorney legal representation for OIG notice of intent to exclude, Medicare exclusion hearing defense attorney, Medicare administrative law judge hearing legal representation, Medicare administrative law judge hearing defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid audit defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid audits, health care fraud defense attorney, legal representation for health care fraud, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), legal representation for CMS investigations, health care professional defense attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, legal representation for fraud investigations, reviews for The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, healthcare fraud representation, allegations of healthcare fraud, representation for CMS investigations, representation for healthcare investigations, representation for medical overbilling, False Claims attorney, FCA lawyer, FCA attorney, representation for submitting False Claims, representation for overbilling Medicare, medical overbilling, allegations of overbilling Medicaid, FCA defense lawyer, representation for overprescribing

“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.

2022-02-11T10:36:00-05:00February 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.

 

9th Circuit Says Former Federal Nurse Can Proceed With Medical Malpractice Suit Against VA Hospital

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 29, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a former federal employee can sue the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The suit alleges medical negligence that occurred during psychiatric treatment for a non-workplace-related injury.

As a result, the three-judge panel of the appeals court said that U.S. Navy veteran and VA nurse S.H.s’ lawsuit against a Seattle VA hospital can proceed. (Please note: we are not providing the nurse’s name out of respect for her privacy.)

In 2019, the district court dismissed S.H.’s federal tort lawsuit because the alleged malpractice occurred when doctors were treating an injury she said she sustained at her workplace. The district court reasoned that all existing or exacerbated injuries stemming from a federal workplace injury must be dealt with through the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA), even malpractice claims.

Click here to view the district court’s order for the motion to dismiss in full.


Background Details.

The plaintiff in the suit is a veteran of the U.S. Navy who suffered a mental breakdown at work in October 2011. She sought follow-up psychiatric care at a VA hospital, where she allegedly received negligent treatment. At the time the treatment was sought, she was an employee of the federal government. She claimed years of workplace bullying and harassment by her supervisor caused her mental breakdown. She sued in 2016.

The FTCA authorizes plaintiffs to sue the U.S. for “personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.” 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). Any individual employee of the government acting within the course and scope of her job duties is immune from liability; the United States is substituted for that person in the suit.

The Big Question: Does the FTCA Authorize Suit by a Plaintiff in This Set of Circumstances?

Two factors complicate the answer in this case. First, when the plaintiff sought treatment, she was an employee of the federal government, working as a registered nurse at the VA hospital. Second, she claimed that her mental breakdown, the event that prompted her to seek medical care, was caused by workplace bullying and harassment at the hands of her supervisor. Hence, this would qualify as a work-related injury.

These facts bring into play another federal statute: the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act. FECA establishes a workers’ compensation blueprint that covers most federal employees. It is similar to state workers’ compensation laws.

When an employee sustains an injury covered by FECA, the remedy is to seek compensation under the act; they may not sue for damages under any other provision of law, including the FTCA. Therefore, had the plaintiff sued the U.S. under the FTCA to recover damages for workplace bullying and harassment, the district court would have been required to dismiss the action as barred by FECA.

In this case, however, the plaintiff is not suing for the injuries caused by workplace bullying and harassment. Instead, she is seeking to recover damages for the alleged medical malpractice by the individual doctors treating her.

Based on these facts, the appellate court reversed the district court’s judgment against the plaintiff in her Federal Tort Claims Act action. It held that the district court erred in dismissing the action on the grounds that it was barred by the FECA.

To view the ninth circuit court’s opinion in full, click here.

Consult a Health Law Attorney Who Is Familiar with Army, Navy, and Air Force Health Care Professionals and Their Problems.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have represented federal physicians, nurses, dentists, and other health professionals in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, active duty and retired, as well as physicians, nurses, and other health professionals working for the Veterans Administration (VA) in the U.S. and around the world. They represent physicians and other health professionals with the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Public Health Service (PHS). Representation has included 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 toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Capriel, Jonathan. “9th Circ. Revives Psychiatric Med Mal Suit Against VA Hospital.” Law360. (September 29, 2021). Web.

Pazanowski, Mary Ann. “Former Federal Nurse Gets New Shot at Injury Suit Against US.” Bloomberg Law. (September 29, 2021). Web.

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

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

2021-10-06T16:25:21-04:00October 6th, 2021|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Settlement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

Webster, Katherine. “Court OKs $11.2M Overtime Settlement Between Humana, Nurses.” Top Class Actions. (September 30, 2021). Web.

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

Swirko, Cindy. “Former Florida professor indicted for fraudulently obtaining $1.75M federal grant.” The Gainesville Sun. (February 5, 2021). Web.

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

“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.

2021-03-10T11:48:36-05:00June 8th, 2021|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Are You Applying for a Nursing or Health Professional License? Read Our Helpful Tips First!

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Speed up the Application Process.

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

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

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

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

3. Identify any variation of names and nicknames.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.

If you are applying for a 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:

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

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

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

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

Go to Top