New Jersey Appeals Court Says Plaintiffs Don’t Need Affidavit to Sue LPN in Medical Malpractice Cases

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

In a precedent-setting case, on November 9, 2022, for the first time, a New Jersey appeals court ruled that plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases do not need an affidavit of merit before filing a claim against a licensed practical nurse (LPN). In many states, Florida included, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) are included in coverage by the state’s medical malpractice pre-suit screening act. This requires a plaintiff to conduct a pre-suit screening and obtain an affidavit of expert opinion from a similar expert witness that states that the nurse has committed malpractice that harmed the patient. without such an affidavit, the suit is not permitted.

No distinction is usually made between the rights of a licensed practical nurse and a registered nurse. After all, they both are required to have licenses from the state.

In this case, the Superior Court of New Jersey,  Appellate Division, said that an LPN is not included in the “licensed person” definition under the state’s affidavit of merit statute. Additionally, the court’s opinion stated that an LPN could not use the lack of such an affidavit to dodge a medical malpractice suit. In this case, the malpractice suit was brought by a widower who says his wife died due to bad advice given by the LPN about how to treat his wife’s pain.

The Details of the Lawsuit.

The plaintiff claimed that the defendant (an LPN) responded to his complaints about his wife being in pain and unable to eat following her colon surgery by blaming the issue on “post-operative gas. “After ignoring numerous messages he left regarding her condition, the LPN allegedly told the husband (plaintiff) to give his wife, Pepto Bismol. The following day, his wife died, according to the lawsuit.

In July 2020, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim as his wife’s estate administrator. The lawsuit originally named as defendants the doctor, Virtua Surgical Group, and an unknown nurse. Following discovery in the case, the plaintiff dismissed the claims against the other defendants and named only the LPN as a defendant. According to the appellate opinion, he alleged that the defendant was negligent in providing medical advice and failing to consult with her doctor.

You can view the court’s opinion in full here on our website.

Is a Licensed Practical Nurse a “Licensed Person” Covered by the Statute?

In New Jersey professional negligence cases, plaintiffs must file an “affidavit of merit,” or AOM, signed by a licensed medical professional with training or credentials similar to those of the professional to be sued. This comes from a tort reform law passed by the state government in 1995. The statute was originally designed to provide a balance between reducing frivolous lawsuits and permitting injured plaintiffs recovery for meritorious claims. It is similar to requirements that exist in many states.

According to the appellate court’s opinion, a plaintiff claiming “malpractice or negligence by a licensed person” must file an “affidavit of an appropriate licensed person” who can attest that there is a “reasonable probability” that defendant’s conduct “fell outside acceptable professional or occupational standards or treatment practices.” This is required before an actual suit is allowed.

The defendant argued that since the nursing portion of the statute defines “the practice of nursing” for “a registered professional nurse,” the Legislature intended for licensed practical nurses to be included. However, the appeals court held that the tort reform package would not protect her from the lawsuit because she did not fall within the definition in the law. She was not a registered professional nurse. Instead, she was a different type of nurse.

In his written opinion for the court, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Robert J. Gilson considered whether a licensed practical nurse is a “licensed person” covered under the AOM statute. “The AOM statute expressly uses the term ‘a registered professional nurse.’ Yet, nowhere in that definition of a registered professional nurse is there a reference to a licensed practical nurse,” he added.

Gilson stated in the opinion that the New Jersey Legislature was aware that it had separately defined the two different types of nurses. Therefore, the statute did not apply to or protect the LPN, and the plaintiff was allowed to pursue claims without an AOM. Nevertheless, the court said, the plaintiff must still prove the defendant’s negligence to succeed.

Click here to view the opinion in full.

Click here to read one of our related blogs about legal issues LPNs often face.

The New Jersey Case is Probably Not a Precedent for Most States.

Usually, the test for whether or not malpractice or professional negligence has been committed for legal purposes is whether or not the individual is a member of a learned profession. This is usually indicated by the requirement of a professional license to practice that profession. Using this definition, both a licensed practical nurse and a licensed registered nurse are considered professionals, and their “professional negligence” is considered malpractice covered by medical (nursing) malpractice laws.

Moreover, the laws in some states, such as Florida, define which professionals are covered by their medical malpractice presuit screening act by listing the licensing laws to which the medical malpractice presuit screening act applies. Thus, in Florida, Section 766.202(4), Florida Statutes refer to those licensed by Chapter 464 (Part I), Florida Statutes. Both licensed practical nurses and registered nurses are licensed in accordance with that Chapter of Florida Statutes. Thus both are covered by the Florida Medical Malpractice Presuit Screening Act.

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

If you are applying for a nursing or healthcare license, have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against 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. If you have received a notice that a complaint has been filed against you or that you are under investigation by the department of health or your licensing board, we routinely provide legal representation in such matters; often, there may be insurance coverage that may pay for your legal defense.

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

Sources:

Karpan, Andrew. “No Affidavit Needed To Sue ‘Practical’ Nurses, NJ Court Says.” Law360. (November 9, 2022). Web.

Murphy, Colleen. “NJ Appeals Court: No Affidavit of Merit Needed for Negligence Claim Against Licensed Practical Nurse.” Law.com. (November 10, 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 Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Employment with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm is always seeking qualified attorneys, paralegals and legal staff interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified legal professional or secretary, who is interested, please forward your cover letter and resume to: [email protected] or fax them 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.

By |2024-03-14T09:59:12-04:00February 8, 2024|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |Comments Off on New Jersey Appeals Court Says Plaintiffs Don’t Need Affidavit to Sue LPN in Medical Malpractice Cases

Florida Nurse Wins Reversal by Appellate Court of Nursing Board’s Revocation of License; “Due Process Rights Violated” Says Court of Appeal

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

On September 22, 2022, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal reversed a final administrative order from the Board of Nursing, saying that the state agencies engaged in “a game of bait and switch” when revoking a Florida nurse’s license. As a result, the discipline imposed on the nurse, revocation of her nursing license, is reversed. The appeals court said that the Florida Board of Nursing violated the nurse’s due process rights by imposing a penalty for violating patient confidentiality when she was only charged with having her license suspended in another state.

Details About the Case.

In 2018, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) filed a complaint and an amended complaint against the nurse. According to the DOH, she violated section 464.018(1)(b) by having her license to practice nursing in another state suspended. However, the Florida state nursing board issued a final order permanently revoking her Florida license, a punishment that was not within the regulatory guidelines that the Board of Nursing had previously adopted for the offense with which she was charged.

Also, the nurse had originally requested a formal hearing. She was allegedly informed she was not entitled to a formal hearing and was not notified she should appear when the Board of Nursing held the informal hearing on her case.

The nurse claimed the actions by the Florida DOH and the Florida Board of Nursing deprived her of her right to due process of law according to the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. The appellate court agreed.

State Agencies Not Communicating?

According to the court opinion, the Board and the DOH engaged in a “bait and switch game.” The state’s DOH allegedly failed to notify her of all the alleged violations that later led to the permanent revocation of her nursing license. The opinion of the appellate court stated: “More egregious than this, there was no mention in the amended complaint of an alleged violation of section 464.018(1)(h), [of Florida Statutes,] pertaining to her allegedly unprofessional conduct. In essence, the Board punished Appellant [the nurse] for this uncharged violation.”

Moreover, the appellate court said that the DOH applied the wrong disciplinary guideline for the uncharged violation. The applicable guideline only authorized a fine of up to $500 and probation as the maximum penalty. See Rule 64B9-8.006(3)(f)3, Florida Administrative Code (2012).

Based on these findings, the three-judge appellate panel reversed the revocation order, remanding it for further proceedings. Read the entire Florida court opinion on our website.

Click here to read our blog to learn more about state and DOH investigations that could help save your professional license.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Board of Nursing Cases.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health investigations, before the Board of Nursing, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters, in formal and informal administrative hearings, and in appeals of Final Orders.

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:

Dunn, Allison. “State Agencies Engaged in ‘Game of Bait-and-Switch’ When Revoking Nursing License, Florida Appeals Court Rules.” Daily Business Review. (September 22, 2022). Web.

Pazanowski, Mary Ann. “Florida Nurse Gets New Hearing in License Revocation Dispute.” Bloomberg Law. (September 21, 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 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 health law practice. 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: [email protected] 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.

 

By |2024-03-14T09:59:13-04:00January 11, 2024|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |Comments Off on Florida Nurse Wins Reversal by Appellate Court of Nursing Board’s Revocation of License; “Due Process Rights Violated” Says Court of Appeal

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: [email protected] 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.

List of Florida Nursing Schools Issuing Phony Diplomas in Operation Nightingale Increases to 19

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

A recent announcement by the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission (NCQAC), now known as the Washington State Board of Nursing, has listed 19 Florida schools that it states are or were involved in the fraudulent scheme investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as “Operation Nightingale.”


What Are the Names of the 19 Phony Florida Nursing Schools?

The 19 schools that NCQAC states were involved in taking nursing students’ money and issuing fake transcripts are:

Carleen Health Institute
Carleen Home Health School II
Ideal Professional Institute, Inc.
Jay College of Health LLC
Med-Life Institute – West Palm Beach
Med-Life Institute of South Florida
Med-Life Institute School of Nursing
Palm Beach School of Nursing
Quisqueya Health Care Academy
Quisqueya School of Nursing
Sacred Heart International Institute Inc.
Siena College of Health
Siena College of Health II LLC
Siena Education Center LLC
Sigma College
Sigma Institute of Health Careers
Sunshine Academy
Techni-Pro Institute
The Enfimye Institute

Some of the “newer” names on the list are owned and operated by some of the same fraudsters involved in the original “Gang of Six.” For example, Jay College of Health, LLC, was owned or operated by the notorious Johanah Napolean, who has been indicted and has been forced to forfeit millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains to the federal government. In reality, we believe there are many more than this.

How Many Have Been Caught and Convicted to Date?

For a list of the individuals who have been involved in the scam and who have been convicted through September 28, 2023, click here.

How Many More Phony Florida Nursing Schools Are There?  Plenty!

We receive calls several times a week from nursing students who have attended “nursing schools” in Florida who state that heir tuition and fees have been taken and they have completed all courses and activities the school required to obtain a diploma but:

a.  The school will not give them their diploma or transcripts or
b.  The school is requiring them to pay more and take more courses than promised or
c.  The school will not approve them to take the NCLEX examination to get a license or
d.  The school and its owners have disappeared, and they can’t get a transcript to transfer.

Why Is All of This Fraud Occurring in Florida?

Why does all of this fraud seem to be occurring in Florida?  It probably is not all of the fraud, only most of the fraud.  We have also heard about phony nursing schools doing business in other states.  But the vast majority of it seems to be in Florida.

Could this be because Florida prides itself in sheltering criminals and con men?  Probably.

Is this because Florida regulatory agencies do not bother to monitor and regulate the schools they approve as they are supposed to.  Most definitely.

Is this because Florida allows the use of shell companies and corporations to routinely defraud people so that the owners can disappear with their money without any consequences?  You know it!

Why do you think the industries of Medicare fraud, Medicaid fraud, and healthcare fraud in general are doing so well here in Florida?

Why doesn’t Florida do something about it?  Because we would lose all of that stolen income that helps support the rich and powerful here, that’s why.

Florida’s history of cons, scams, and fraud goes way back to the real estate salespeople selling Florida swamp land to out-of-state yokels who then moved here only to find the property they purchased was underwater, literally.  And with Cuba only a boat ride away and many friendly Caribbean and South American countries only a direct plane flight away, suitcases full of cash can be spirited out of the country with little trouble.

Are you the victim of a phony nursing school not on the list?

Are you the victim of a phony nursing school not on the list?  Don’t call us; we can’t do anything about these criminals doing this.

Instead, you might consider calling the FBI and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), which is working hand-in-hand with the FBI and the various state nursing boards on these matters.  The NCSBN can get the word out quickly to the states involved.  Tell them you have been victimized by another school that should be part of “Operation Nightingale” and want to file a complaint.

The telephone number for the NCSBN is (312) 525-3600 or (888) 435-8242and ask for the Nursing Regulation Division, Nursing Education Section, or send an e-mail to [email protected] or send a written letter explaining the problem to:

National Council of State Boards of Nursing
Attn: Nurisng Regulation Division, Education Section
111 E. Wacker Drive, Suite 2900
Chicago, IL 60601.

The FBI’s main hotline for reporting possible criminal activity is (800) 225-5324, file a complaint or tip at https://tips.fbi.gov/home. Alternatively, and perhaps better, you can contact the Miami FBI Office, which is the one handling the Operation Nightingale investigation:

FBI Miami Dade Field Office
2030 S.W. 145th Avenue
Miramar, FL 33027
miami.fbi.gov
Phone: (754) 703-2000.

To see the Washington State NCQAC press release naming the 19 schools above, click here.

To see the original Department of Justice Press Release on Operation Nightingale, click here.

Click here to read one of our prior blogs on Operation Nightingale to learn even more.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Investigations Against Nurses and Nursing Students.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to nurses, nursing students, and ARNPs in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensure defense representation, investigation representation, Department of Health investigations, DOJ investigations, Board of Nursing investigations, formal and informal administrative hearings, emergency suspension orders, emergency restriction orders and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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.


Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm.
The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: [email protected] or fax them to (407) 331-3030. View a list of open positions here.

“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 © 2023 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2024-03-14T09:59:17-04:00November 13, 2023|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |Comments Off on List of Florida Nursing Schools Issuing Phony Diplomas in Operation Nightingale Increases to 19

HCA Healthcare Data Breach May Affect 11 Million Patients

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

On July 11, 2023, HCA Healthcare, which operates 180 hospitals in the U.S. and Britain, said a hacker may have stolen the personal data of about 11 million patients in a data breach. A press release warned patients that critical personal information had been compromised, including their full name, city, and when and where they last saw a healthcare provider.

What Happened to the Patient Data?

Data samples, including addresses, phone numbers, e-mails, and birth dates, were posted to DataBreaches.net (an online forum popular with cyber crooks) by a hacker trying to sell them. However, after publication, an HCA spokesperson told CNBC that the sample data set published was only a “marketing campaign” (or fake data) and was not an individual patient’s real medical assessment.

Who is Affected?

The hack affects patients in nearly two dozen states, including those from dozens of Florida and Texas facilities. The data also included information on scheduled appointments and the medical departments involved. The hacker also dumped a file online in what appeared to be a failed attempt to extort HCA. It included nearly one million records from the company’s San Antonio division.

Patient data breaches are not uncommon, but they can vary in scope and effect. HCA’s breach did not include critical medical records. The company said that the breached data originated at an external storage location exclusively used to automate the formatting of e-mail messages.

HCA Healthcare will offer credit monitoring and identity protection services for patients who have been impacted. But in the meantime, the company is encouraging everyone to look out for spam calls, texts, or e-mails, targeting them for fraud and scams.

For more information on this topic, read one of my prior blogs.

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all healthcare providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, social workers, assisted living facilities, and other healthcare providers. It includes resident physicians and fellows, medical students, medical school professors, and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians, nurses, and mental health professionals in investigations for alleged wrongdoing, patient complaints, and Department of Health investigations.

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

Sources:

Bajak, Frank. “HCA Healthcare says data breach may affect 11 million patients in 20 states.” Associated Press (AP). (July 11, 2023). https://apnews.com/article/data-breach-hca-healthcare-hack-identity-theft-507d8b8915dd934a5be4bd6fb853dfb1

Galarza, Monica. “HCA Healthcare data breach impacts millions of patients, dozens of Florida facilities. Here’s what to know.” CNBC. (July 11, 2023). https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/business/money-report/hca-healthcare-data-breach-impacts-millions-of-patients-dozens-of-florida-facilities-heres-what-to-know/3069139/#:~:text=HCA%20Healthcare%20released%20a%20statement,locations%20of%20the%20patients’%20appointments

Goswami, Rohan. “HCA Healthcare patient data stolen and for sale by hackers.” CNBC.
(July 10, 2023). https://www.cnbc.com/2023/07/10/hca-healthcare-patient-data-stolen-and-for-sale-by-hackers.html

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

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: [email protected] or fax them 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 © 2023 The Health Law

By |2024-03-14T09:59:18-04:00October 10, 2023|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |Comments Off on HCA Healthcare Data Breach May Affect 11 Million Patients

Facebook’s $725 Million Data-Privacy Settlement’s Impact on Healthcare

Author headshot standing in dark suit with red tie against a dark grey backgroundBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Hartley Brooks, Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm

Facebook agreed to the largest-ever data privacy settlement in December 2022. The $725 million settlement comes after nearly five years of litigation and contentious negotiations.

The class action lawsuit revolved around allegations that Facebook had been sharing user data with third parties without the users’ consent or knowledge. The case stemmed from the 2016 investigation into the Facebook election scandal.

In that scandal, Facebook was accused of selling user data to a political consulting firm that then used the data to successfully campaign on Facebook’s platform. Facebook did not accept any liability or admit to any wrongdoing in the class action settlement.

Facebook has also more recently been accused of harvesting personal medical data from non-Facebook sites. In June 2022, Facebook allegedly deployed a tracking technology called the “Meta Pixel” to hospitals and medical providers.

This “Meta Pixel” is an embedded code that allegedly sent a packet of information to Facebook whenever a patient scheduled an appointment online. This packet allegedly included IP addresses, names, reasons for visits, prescribed medication and dosage, allergic reactions, details about upcoming appointments, and even patient answers to questions on intake forms, such as sexual orientation.

The class action alleged that the “Meta Pixel” gathered information without first obtaining user consent, which could be a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Regulation. HIPAA and its implementing regulations, including the Privacy Regulation and the Security Regulation, prohibit healthcare providers from sharing patient information with third parties unless the patient explicitly consents in advance.

An experiment was conducted testing websites of America’s top 100 hospitals that reportedly found that 33 of these hospitals had the “Meta Pixel” installed as of June 15, 2022. It was even found in some password-protected patient portals, allowing access to more intimate patient healthcare information. The hospitals that were found with the tracking technology encoded in its website have since started removing them. Click here to read more about the experiment.

This type of data privacy breach is a massive concern in our increasingly technology-reliant world, especially in healthcare. Using such tracking technology can damage patients’ trust in their healthcare providers due to the move toward a more digitized cloud-based healthcare system. The Facebook settlement for the class consisting of all Facebook users from May 2007 to December 2022 is a step toward solidifying online privacy rights and that the invasion or patient privacy is injury enough to be redressed in federal court.

 

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all healthcare 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 Department of Health investigations.

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

Sources:

Atkins, Dorothy. “Facebook Users’ Attys Seek $95M in $725M Meta Privacy Deal.” Law360. (22 June 2023). https://www.law360.com/health/articles/1691831?nl_pk=0cbd4c0b-c6c8-416a-9e67-b4affa63b102&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=health&utm_content=2023-06-23&nlsidx=1&nlaidx=10
Feathers, Todd, Simon Fondrie-Teitler, Angie Waller, and Surya Mattu. “Facebook is Receiving Sensitive Medical Information from Hospital Websites.” The Markup. (20 May 2023). https://themarkup.org/pixel-hunt/2022/06/16/facebook-is-receiving-sensitive-medical-information-from-hospital-websites

McGee, Marianne Kolbasuk. “Lawsuit: Facebook is Collecting Patient Data of ‘Millions’.” Gov Info Security. (21 June 2022). Million Facebook User Data Privacy Class Action Settlement.” Open Class Actions. (25 August 2023). https://openclassactions.com/settlement_facebook_user_privacy.php

About the Authors: 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. Hartley Brooks is a law clerk with the health law firm. 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 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 health law practice. 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: [email protected] 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 © 2023 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

By |2024-03-14T09:59:19-04:00October 2, 2023|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |Comments Off on Facebook’s $725 Million Data-Privacy Settlement’s Impact on Healthcare

Nurses: You Must Insure Your Legal Protection

author headshot against a tan backgroundBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

I have news for you:  You need professional liability insurance!  But you only need the kind that includes professional liability insurance coverage, and in the amount of $25,000 or more.

Are you a traveling nurse?  Are you a nurse who works for a hospital or nursing home?  Are you a nurse who works in a doctor’s office?  Are you the nurse who is going to tell me:  “I think I have insurance coverage through my employer?”–WRONG!  Not professional license complaint defense insurance. You need to personally purchase your nursing professional liability insurance containing professional license defense coverage.   If you have yet to purchase this, you don’t have this.

The Insurance Coverage You Really Need.

Though many nurses pursue a career in nursing hoping that they will never face a complaint or disciplinary charges, any event not within a nurse’s control can lead to an investigation or administrative action. Nurses need to ensure they are covered with appropriate insurance if this ever occurs. In our opinion, based on decades of representing nurses, the primary reason that a nurse should purchase a professional liability insurance policy is to obtain coverage for the legal defense against complaints of licensing and disciplinary action commenced against a nurse.

License defense coverage pays the legal fees and costs associated with defending a nurse when an investigation is initiated that may result in action against her nursing license or disciplinary action against the nurse. Coverage is usually available when the nurse receives written notice that an investigation by a state agency has been initiated. It will also cover formal complaints against the nurse, informal hearings before the Board of Nursing, and formal administrative hearings before an administrative law judge. Such investigations, complaints, and administrative action may be opened based on events, including patient complaints, hotline calls, Code 15 reports, nursing home, and home health agency surveys, abuse investigations by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), newspaper articles, copies of lawsuits, and many other sources. It is far more likely that a nurse will be involved in one of these types of actions than being sued for nursing negligence.

You Want Insurance that Meets These Criteria.

Good professional liability policies, which provide coverage for licensure defense, will usually also compensate the nurse for her out-of-pocket expenses (travel, postage, etc.) that she incurs, as well as lost wages because of working time missed for hearings, depositions, etc. However, the maximum coverage available under such policies for licensure defense is usually limited to approximately $25,000. This amount will usually be sufficient to provide for most of the legal fees and costs involved in the defense of such a case.

Crucial to Check and Make Sure That Claims For Insurance Coverage Do Not Have to Be Linked to Malpractice Complaints.

Many professional liability insurance companies try to get off the hook on covering nurses on complaints against the nurse’s license, relying on provisions of the insurance policy that state that any coverage must be based on a claim of nursing malpractice.  AVOID THESE INSURERS AT ALL COSTS.  Most complaints against nurses’ licenses do not involve a claim made for nursing malpractice. To be sure, ask your insurer in writing ahead of time and get the answer in writing.  By the way, you never have this problem with Nurses Service Organization (NSO) Insurance or CPH & Associates Insurance.

Who Files the Most Complaints Against Nurse’s Licenses? Employers.

It has been our experience that most complaints against nurses’ licenses are made by their former employer and/or former recruiting company.  Think about it, is your employer going to pay for insurance that covers you and provides you a defense in the event that the employer files a complaint against your license. The answer is “NO” regardless of what you think.

You are on your own.  Buy your own insurance.  It is very cheap and it will be there when you need it.

Even if the nurse is still employed (unlikely in the vast majority of cases) many employers will not provide legal representation if the matter involves licensing or disciplinary action against the nurse.  This could force the nurse to fund all the fees and costs associated with her defense. However, some larger corporations with sound risk management programs will provide the nurses with legal representation, but this is a rare exception.

For Traveling Nurses and Agency Nurses, Your Own Personal Insurance is a Must.

Suppose you are an agency nurse, a home health agency nurse, a nursing home nurse, an independent duty nurse, or a large hospital chain does not employ you. In that case, you should consider nursing liability insurance mandatory. Complaints of negligence against nurses working in these positions are far more likely. This may be because of the high turnover of nurses in some healthcare facilities (such as nursing homes), or because the nurse is no longer employed at the facility when the investigation begins (for example, in the case of an agency nurse). Additionally, agency nurses may only work in a facility for a short period, making them less familiar with the facility’s policies and procedures and not a part of the permanent team of nurses who may have established relationships and are more likely to cover for each other.

As previously mentioned, several different proceedings may be covered by the licensure defense coverage provided in professional liability insurance.  Defense of accusations of HIPAA privacy breaches is the most used one, followed closely by deposition representation.

The Cost of Professional Liability Coverage is Minimal.

Nurses can purchase liability coverage rather inexpensively. For example, an excellent insurance policy providing coverage for nurses is available through the Nurses Service Organization (NSO) Insurance for less than $100 per year. CPH & Associates Insurance is also inexpensive and competitive.  Professional liability coverage provided by this type of insurance represents a bargain at these rates.

Focusing on Protecting the Nurse’s Individual Interests.

Perhaps most importantly, the nurse should have an attorney focusing only on her interests in defending her against any negligence or licensing complaint. A nurse with her own professional liability insurance coverage will be able to hire a separate, independent attorney, and often, the insurer will allow her to pick her attorney.


Important Considerations When Purchasing Liability Insurance Protection.

First and foremost is to be sure that a claim for defense of your professional license is covered by your insurance even when there is no separate claim or complaint for damages for malpractice or negligence.  Ask your broker or insurer to give you written acknowledgment of this, if your policy is unclear.

A close second is the amount of coverage for license defense that the insurer provides.  $25,000 is the absolute minimum and may not be enough.  Look for $35,000 or $50,000 coverage or buy two different policies from two different companies.

Third is how broad the coverage is and whether it also covers other types of administrative complaints and proceedings that might be brought against you such as discrimination complaints, HIPAA breach of privacy complaints, certification board complaints, and other similar proceedings.

Some professional liability insurers have a “broad form” of coverage which may provide legal defense for the nurse in almost any type of administrative action. This might include, for example, the defense of a discrimination complaint filed against the nurse with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and for Medicare and Medicaid complaints.

Other companies limit coverage to only actions that may result in disciplinary action against the nurse’s license. The nurse should always attempt to get the broadest coverage available for disciplinary defense and licensure defense coverage.

Additionally, the nurse should inquire whether she will be allowed to select her own attorney. Many insurance companies contract certain law firms to provide legal services on their cases for a reduced fee. The insurance company may require you to use one of its own hired attorneys or even one of its in-house attorneys, which it employs directly.

Given the limited number of attorneys with experience handling nursing law issues and malpractice cases, the nurse should attempt to obtain coverage through a company that allows her to choose her attorney.


In Our Opinion, License Defense Coverage Is the Most Important Reason to Purchase Insurance.

The most important reason to purchase professional liability insurance is the licensure defense coverage. A nurse does not want to risk losing her nursing license because she was unsuccessful at defending an investigation complaint against her license or did not have the resources to do so. Since there are far more complaints filed each year against nurses’ licenses than there are nursing malpractice lawsuits filed, it is far more likely that a working nurse will need legal defense of a licensure complaint investigation.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses and nurse practitioners in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing (BON) in licensing matters, in formal and informal administrative hearings, and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

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 Avenue, Suite 1000 Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: [email protected] or fax them 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 © 2023 George F. Indest III.  All rights reserved.

By |2024-03-14T09:59:21-04:00September 6, 2023|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |Comments Off on Nurses: You Must Insure Your Legal Protection

Harvard May Fight Liability Claims for Morgue Manager’s Sale of Cadaver Body Parts

Attorney and Author 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, and Hartley Brooks, Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm
On June 14, 2023, the previous Harvard morgue manager, his wife, and three others were indicted on charges of conspiracy and interstate transport of stolen goods in relation to their scheme of selling body parts from the Harvard medical school morgue.

 Following this indictment, two proposed class actions and a third claim have been filed against Harvard alleging it was negligent in its supervision of the morgue. To learn more, read my previous blog.

Similar Cases.

While grotesque, this is not the only case of its kind. In January 2023, a Colorado funeral home owner was sentenced to the maximum of 20 years in federal prison due to her defrauding relatives of the dead by dissecting and selling body parts from 560 corpses. Another example of this illegal misconduct is that of the mortuary worker in Arkansas who would send body parts to a man in Pennsylvania, this man (not a Florida man) was charged with abuse of a corpse, receiving stolen property, and dealing in proceeds of unlawful acts.

And how could we fail to mention the criminal conduct of a young Dr. Frankenstein, who sent his medical assistant Igor (pronounced Eye-gōre) to purloin the brain of Abbie Normal and used it for his own salacious purposes.

Harvard’s Options.

Lawyers involved in similar cases to those above predicted that Harvard may fight the liability charges and pursue a “rogue employee” defense. Harvard may claim that it is not responsible for the criminal actions of an employee acting out of the scope of their employment. It could also argue that it is not responsible for an employee’s action that was not reasonably foreseeable. Due to this, Harvard could file a motion to dismiss. In fact, I, myself, have “predicted” this.
To succeed, if it does not win a dismissal, Harvard will have to show that it took all reasonable steps to ensure that the bodies were being used only for their intended educational use. This is due to Massachusetts recognizing liability for negligence because of lax security. Examples of such reasonable steps could be a background check on a prospective morgue manager before employment, established policies and procedures forbidding such practices, a system of tracking the human remains, or having a direct supervisor for the morgue manager.

The Harvard case differs from other cases mentioned above due to the class actions being pursued against it. Since only some members of the class received the same injuries or damages, it would be hard to argue for a class so large. A legal question about the class’s rights also arises in this instance because the families agreed to transfer the remains as an anatomical gift to a third party (Harvard). Their right to a say in the disposition of the bodies may be limited or end at the point of the transfer. Though, the answer to this question may lay in the contract between Harvard and the families if it articulates a case for the release of the bodies. The contents of such a contract are unknown to the public at this time.

Harvard, show us the contract!

One alarming thought: could there be legal negligence on the part of the lawyers drafting the Harvard donation contract? I’ll be the judge of that one, I’m sure.

If Harvard does fight the liability claims, the plaintiffs could seek to add Harvard officials who oversaw the activities of the morgue, where the manager was said to be the only employee. These individuals may make similar arguments to those mentioned above. All this being said, there have been no updates or responses in the case of Harvard aside from its public statement condemning the manager’s actions as an abhorrent betrayal of trust.

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all healthcare providers and professionals. This includes scientists, pathologists, morgue directors (technically not usually licensed health professionals), clinical professors, medical researchers, clinical investigators, 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. Our representation includes the defense of complex medical litigation.  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 health litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent professionals accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in audits and investigations.

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

Sources: 

Associated Press. “Former Harvard Morgue Manager Stole Brains, Skin, and Other Body Partys to Sell Them, Indictment Say.” (14 June 2023). https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2023-06-14/harvard-medical-school-morgue-manager-4-others-indicted-in-theft-sale-of-human-remains
Shiffman, John. “Former Colorado Funeral Home Owner Sentenced to 20 yrs for Selling Body Parts.” Reutuers. (4 January 2023). https://www.reuters.com/world/us/former-colorado-funeral-home-owner-sentenced-20-yrs-selling-body-parts-2023-01-04/  

Sloop, Hope. “Mortuary worker in Arkansas is indicted for selling stolen body parts to tattoo-covered Pennsylvania man she met on Facebook for $11K.” Daily Mail. (30 April 2023). https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12031285/Ex-mortuary-worker-Arkansas-indicted-selling-11K-worth-body-parts-Facebook.html  


About the Authors:
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.

Hartley Brooks is a law clerk at The Health Law Firm. She is preparing to attend law school.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm.  The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to:  [email protected] or fax them 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 © 2023 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Attorney Says AHCA Must Put Medicaid Final Orders Online

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

Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) has come under fire for failing to make Medicaid final orders accessible to the public. On April 11, 2023, an attorney asked a Florida appeals court to revive her suit against AHCA, trying to force AHCA into compliance with state public records laws.

Attorney Nancy Wright says the AHCA orders fall under a state law that requires all proceedings determined by a state agency to be placed into a centralized electronic database accessible to the public. This would allow citizens and healthcare providers more accessible access to those decisions and transparency when understanding Medicaid policies and decisions made by AHCA.

Access to Medicaid Final Orders.

The plaintiff’s attorney argued before a three-judge panel of the court of appeal that she should not be required to pay hundreds of dollars to gain access to Medicaid final orders to prepare for clients’ Medicaid hearings when the law requires the agency to publish these. The attorney further argued that this fee was an unfair and unjustified barrier to justice and that she should be given free access to these orders to ensure that she could provide the best possible representation for her clients.

More Details of the Case.

The Florida Health Justice Project and the National Health Law Program filed the lawsuit against AHCA on behalf of Wright in December 2020 in the First District Court of Appeal of Florida.
“[Medicaid law’s] notorious complexity and rapid regulatory changes put even lawyers on edge,” she said in a statement at the time she filed her suit. “AHCA’s unwillingness to make their [sic] final orders accessible means that I am not able to fully advise my clients on how and why decisions on services are being made. For the many enrollees who are unrepresented, this lack of transparency makes a complicated system almost impossible to navigate.”

Click here to view the press release from The Florida Health Justice Project.

However, the trial court sided with AHCA and granted summary judgment to the agency.

The Appeal.

The Elder Law Section of the Florida Bar expressed their support for Wright and submitted an amicus brief on appeal. They highlighted that the Florida Department of Children and Families regulates Medicaid eligibility proceedings with the same law that provides authority to AHCA. Furthermore, the Department publishes its final orders in an electronic database, making them readily available to the public.

However, accessing these same orders on Medicaid coverage requires a public records request which can be costly and time-consuming. The Elder Law Section argued in its brief that this disparity is unfair as it burdens those attempting to gain access to said records. The brief further suggested that upholding the trial court’s summary judgment would only perpetuate this inequality of access to public records.

To learn more, read the complaint in full here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits, Investigations, and other Legal Proceedings

Physicians, therapists, counselors and other health professionals who accept Medicaid are routinely audited by the Medicaid Program to detect any overpayments or fraudulent claims. Medicaid fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the state Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA), Program Integrity Contractors (PICs), the FBI, and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Often other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and other law enforcement agencies may also participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health law attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today. Often Medicaid fraud criminal charges arise out of routine Medicaid audits, probe audits, or patient complaints.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, mental health counselors, therapists, home health care agencies, nursing homes, group 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 at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law; he is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in 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 health law practice. 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: [email protected] 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 © 2023 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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