Impaired Practitioner Programs: What To Do if You’ve Been Accused?

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

In an industry that revolves around helping others, physicians and other health professionals sometimes find that they are the ones being pushed toward a treatment program. Long hours, heavy workloads, and stress among health care professionals can sometimes lead to unsafe, unprofessional behavior and impairment allegations.

We routinely work with physicians, nurses, and other health professionals who are accused by employers, hospitals, competitors, or terminated employees of impairment due to drug or alcohol abuse, or mental impairment, of being a “disruptive physician” or of sexual boundary issues. However, not all physicians and health professionals who are referred to a health program are in actual need of rehabilitation services.

What is the Impaired Practitioners Program?

The Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) Impaired Practitioners Program (IPN), Section 456.067, Florida Statutes, is administered by the Intervention Project for Nurses or “IPN” (for nurses and nurse practitioners) and by the Professionals Resource Network or “PRN” (for physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and all other health professionals). IPN is responsible for all nurses and works with and through the Florida Board of Nursing. PRN works with and through the Florida Board of Medicine, Board of Dentistry, Board of Pharmacy, and other Department of Health Professional Boards.

You Are Instructed to Report Yourself to IPN or PRN; What Now?

These types of allegations discussed above made against a physician, nurse, or other health professional are extremely serious because they are usually treated by the DOH as “Priority 1” or “Fast Track” offenses. This means that the charges against the individual will usually be automatically considered for an Emergency Suspension Order (ESO) issued by the Florida Surgeon General at the request of the Department of Health. Unless a qualified, experienced health care attorney is able to immediately produce reliable documentation and evidence showing the health professional is not impaired, the Surgeon General will usually issue an ESO. Click here to read one of my prior blogs to learn more.

Even in cases where the individual may actually have committed an offense, there are a number of administrative and procedural measures that may be used to avoid a suspended license. For the innocent health professional, an experienced attorney familiar with such matters may be able to obtain additional drug testing, polygraph (lie detector) testing, medical examinations, scientific evidence, expert witnesses, evaluations by certified addictions professionals, character references, or other evidence which may help to show innocence and lack of impairment.

Call an Attorney Immediately, at the Beginning, and Prior to Making Any Decisions or Calls!

If you are accused of wrongdoing, especially accusations involving drug or alcohol abuse or impairment, even if you are threatened with being reported to the DOH or your professional board, then it may be much better to defend yourself and fight such charges instead of trying to “take the easy way out.” This is especially true if you are being falsely accused. There are many problems that you can avoid by having good legal advice before you make a stupid mistake. We are often consulted and retained by clients when, after they have made the mistake of talking to the wrong people about the wrong things, they are in a situation they could have avoided.

Our firm has extensive experience in representing physicians and other professionals accused of drug abuse, alcohol impairment, mental impairment, and sexual boundary issue, as well as in dealing with the IPN and the PRN, their advantages and disadvantages, their contracts, their policies, and procedures, and their requirements.

The bottom line is: if you are accused of drug impairment, alcohol impairment, drug diversion, sexual boundary issues, sexual misconduct, or of being mentally or physically impaired, immediately contact an attorney experienced with IPN and PRN and with the Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing, Board of Dentistry, Board of Pharmacy, and other professional boards. Don’t risk losing your livelihood by just taking the apparently easy way out without checking into it. There may be other options available for you, especially if you are innocent and not impaired.

To read one of my prior blogs about the recent changes to Florida’s Impaired Practitioners Program, click here.

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

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

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

Sources:

Masterson, Les. “Physician wellness, quality of care go hand-in-hand, analysis finds.” Healthworks Collective. (September 10, 2018). Web.

Maria Panagioti, Keith Geraghty, Judith Johnson. “Association Between Physician Burnout and Patient Safety, Professionalism, and Patient Satisfaction.” Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). (September 4, 2018). 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., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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

Finding a NSO Insurance Attorney to Defend You in a Complaint Against Your Nursing License

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

Many nurses, nurse practitioners, and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) carry professional malpractice insurance through the Nurses Service Organization (NSO) or one of the other similar insurance companies. This insurance is inexpensive and provides excellent coverage. What you may not realize, however, is that such insurance provides many added benefits, other than just coverage on nursing liability lawsuits. It will pay for legal defense expenses if there is a complaint filed against your nursing license. It will pay legal expenses for a lawyer to get involved and represent you if you receive a subpoena to testify or provide records. It will cover you if you have a HIPAA complaint or breach of medical privacy complaint filed against you.

Under such policies, the insurance company will pay the legal fees and other costs related to your defense. However, most of the time, you will still be required to locate and retain the appropriate attorney to represent you in the matter.

What to look for when retaining an attorney to defend you.

1. Your primary concern should be to find and retain an attorney who accepts the insurance that you have, whether it is NSO Insurance, CPH & Associates Insurance, Philadelphia Insurance, Trust Management Services, Firemans Fund, or another national company. This will ensure that you have an attorney who will give you the lower rates the insurance company had negotiated and will have a good working relationship established with your insurance company. If an attorney with our firm cannot represent you, we will certainly try to find an attorney who will.

2. Another primary qualification for any attorney you hire to represent you should be his or her experience in working with health professionals in the same field and on similar matters. If the attorney is not familiar with your area of health practice, it may be difficult for that attorney to get up to speed to represent you properly.

3. If you come across an attorney who states that she or he will help you make a statement to the investigator or assist you in the investigation, but does not appear with you in hearings, then this is the wrong attorney. You need an attorney who can represent you from start to finish.

4. Often you will come across an attorney who only wants you to accept a consent order, stipulation, or settlement agreement. Remember that these are all merely “plea bargains” and by signing this type of agreement, you will be pleading guilty to whatever offenses are charged. In most cases, you will probably be innocent of the charges and should request a formal administrative hearing in order to prove this.

5. You also want to retain the services of an attorney who has appeared before your professional board or professional licensing authority in investigations and hearings, especially formal and informal administrative hearings. The lack of familiarity with such investigations and boards can be costly to you.

6. You don’t necessarily need an attorney who is located in your city, county, or state. Almost all the work on the case will be done by telephone and e-mail. You usually have only one meeting or hearing with the investigator or its board and, depending on what type of hearing it is, it could be located in many different locations. Our attorneys will travel to those locations for meetings and hearings.

7. Beware of attorneys who hold themselves out in Internet advertising as health attorneys or professional license defense attorneys but are really some other type of attorney. We see this a lot from medical malpractice attorneys, criminal defense attorneys and attorneys who sue insurance companies. Be sure you get an attorney who concentrates his or her practice in defending nurses with nursing complaints, investigations, and hearings.

8. If you can’t find an attorney to meet your immediate needs through an Internet search, you may contact your insurance company or professional association and ask if they have a list of attorneys that can do the legal work you require. For example, you may reach Nurses Service Organization (NSO) at (800) 247-1500; you can reach CPH & Associates at (800) 875-1911 or (312) 987-9823; you can access a list of professional license defense attorneys who represent nurses online at: https://taana.org/referral/

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Board of Nursing investigations and complaints, DORA investigations and complaints, and Department of Health (DOH) investigations and complaints. We appear before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., not just in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 or (970) 416-7456 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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.

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

 

 

By |2021-02-17T16:09:02-05:00February 17th, 2021|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

University of Florida Rescinds Prospect For Racist Online Post

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

On June 8, 2020, the University of Florida (UF) reportedly announced via Twitter that it had rescinded its offer of acceptance to a prospective student. The offer was rescinded by the university because of an allegedly racist message posted by the student on social media. According to reports, UF spokesman Steve Orlando stated that the university received multiple e-mails complaining about the post. As a result of the investigation, the student is no longer a UF prospect, according to the announcement.

Social networks provide students, resident physicians, fellows, and clinical professors with opportunities for greater communication, information/experience sharing, collaborative learning, professional interactions, and outreach. However, they can also be dangerous if someone has unprofessional comments or content. Many applicants may not be aware that their social media presence may have an impact on their chances of acceptance, especially for medical students.

Although it is true that we all have a First Amendment right to freedom of speech, by getting up and making a speech that violates a school, institution, or program’s policies, you are asking for trouble. we have had cases of students and of residents getting into trouble for not only allegedly racist FaceBook and Twitter posts and re-posts, but also for “unprofessional” posts and re-posts. These include the use of profanity, racist comments, and “unprofessional” photographs. Those who are students or resident physicians typically are in an environment where there is heightened awareness of and heightened scrutiny regarding such matters. Although they must be provided with “due process of law” before they are terminated, this could be very expensive and result in unnecessary blemishes on a person’s record. If the individual making the comments, posts, or re-posts, hasn’t started yet, then they have far fewer rights and do not have any “interest” that is protectable under due process of law principles. So why take the risk?

How Social Media Can Impact Medical Students and Admissions.

On social media sites, healthcare professionals, including medical students, should always represent themselves in a manner that reflects values of professionalism, integrity, acceptance of diversity, and commitment to ethical behavior. Physicians must be aware that content posted may negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues. Basically, your actions online may also affect your medical career, especially for medical students.

In one recent situation, a medical student says the University of New Mexico gave him two options: change his Facebook post or get out. Click here to read more about it.

With the increase in popularity and usage of social media platforms, the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) published Guidelines for Medical Students and Physicians. Click here to read the guidelines in full.

To read about how our firm can assist medical students, residents, and graduates in a variety of legal matters, click here.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows, and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education.

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

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

Sources:

Keating, Jennifer. “Social Media Guidelines for Medical Students and Physicians.” American Medical Student Association (AMSA). (September 15, 2016). Web.

Nelson, Sarah. “Florida student who wrote racist social media post won’t join UF.” Palm Beach Post. (June 10, 2020). Web.

“How Medical School Applicants Should Manage Social Media.” U.S. News. (June 11, 2018). 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

“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.

Yale University to Pay $87,500 Settlement For Alleged Pay Discrimination

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

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

Alleged Pay Discrimination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for physicians, including residents, and fellows, as well as medical students. We also represent other health professionals, clinical professors, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, and other healthcare providers. We represent health facilities, medical groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, physicians, including those involved in clinical research, complaints, and investigations.

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

By |2020-12-21T15:29:05-05:00February 8th, 2021|Categories: In the News, Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Federal Judge Rules Florida Pediatric Group Must Face EEOC Suit for Nurses’ Retaliation Compliant

George F. Indest III with 30+ years of experience, is Board Certified in health lawBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 4, 2020, a Florida federal court judge ruled that a Tampa-based pediatric medical group cannot escape a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit, denying its attempts to dismiss the case. According to the federal agency, Pediatric Health Care Alliance unlawfully retaliated against a nurse after the nurse reported a doctor for sexual harassment. U.S. District Judge Thomas Barber denied the medical group’s motion to dismiss, saying it neglected to confront or defend against the nurse’s claim that the medical group demoted her as punishment.

The EEOC Complaint: Nurse Forced to Quit After Reporting Sexual Harassment.

On June 22, 2020, the EEOC filed an employment lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. According to the complaint, a female nurse at Pediatric Alliance reported that a doctor at the company inappropriately touched her on two different occasions. Notably, that doctor was also the Vice President (VP) of the company.

According to the suit, the nurse suffered almost immediate retaliation for filing the complaint against the VP. The EEOC alleges that Pediatric Alliance transferred her to a different location against her wishes, replaced her nursing duties with administrative ones, and docked her pay. As a direct consequence of the retaliation, the EEOC contends that the long-time employee was, in effect, forced to resign.

To read the EEOC’s press release on the lawsuit, click here.

To read the EEOC’s lawsuit, in this case, click here.

Retaliation for filing A Sexual Harassment Complaint is Unlawful, Even if it Later Turns Out the Complaint Wasn’t Valid: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Under federal law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), employees have a legal right to raise workplace discrimination or harassment complaints. If an employee exercises this right, their company or organization is strictly prohibited from retaliating against them for doing so. Employers cannot take adverse employment action against an employee in retaliation for making a formal or informal complaint of harassment.

Adverse action occurs when an employee is penalized or punished in some form. In this case, transferring the nurse to a less desirable location, reducing salary, and taking away job duties are all examples of adverse action.

Analysis of the Ruling.

In this case, the defendant’s medical group/employer tried to get the court to dismiss the lawsuit (complaint) based on the EEOC’s earlier determination that the nurse failed to sufficiently support charges of sexual harassment. If the employer had not retaliated against the nurse, in this case, would have then been over. But that didn’t happen. The complaint asserted a claim of retaliation in violation of Title VII, not sexual harassment.

The court also noted that the medical group did not argue that the EEOC’s retaliation allegation was insufficient. Accordingly, the judge denied the motion to dismiss filed by Pediatric Alliance, the employer.

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

Tips for Employers to Avoid EEOC Complaints.

1. The employer should adopt a “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination and harassment.

2. Make sure your officers, supervisors, and key employees are instructed on a regular basis about what situations are considered sexual harassment or discrimination.

3. Make sure your officers, supervisors, and key employees sign a statement each year, stating that they are aware of the company’s “zero tolerance” policy and what constitutes harassment and discrimination.

4. Establish a method by which employees can submit reports of harassment and discrimination without the perpetrator becoming aware of it. This should be part of the employer’s compliance program.

5. Be sure your company or group has a good directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance and excess liability insurance policy that covers sexual harassment and discrimination claims.

6. Include an indemnification clause in the contracts of officers, supervisors, and key employees, requiring them to indemnify the employer in any case where the employer is held liable for acts of sexual harassment or discrimination.

7. Be sure that an employee who files a complaint does not have adverse employment action taken against him or her, especially based solely upon the word of the person against whom the complaint was filed. Bring a human relations expert in as early as possible to consult on the case, as well as an employment law defense attorney.

8. Make sure that all employees, including officers, supervisors, and key personnel, receive training once a year on avoiding sexual harassment and discrimination and document it in their personnel/human resources file. Hiring an outside trainer can make this less burdensome and more enjoyable. Again, this should be part of the employer’s compliance plan.

 

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late, Talk to an Experienced Attorney Now.

Florida workers have a right to report sexual harassment or discrimination without facing retribution, but workers often file complaints that are not valid. The EEOC advances opportunities in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Find out how The Health Law Firm can help if you are an employer that finds itself in this legal situation.

Additionally, please read one of our recent blogs dealing with a similar EEOC lawsuit.

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

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely provide legal representation to nurses, physicians, medical groups, pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, and other health providers. We 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:

Shanes, Alexis. “Fla. Pediatric Group Can’t Dodge EEOC Retaliation Suit.” Law360. (November 4, 2020). Web.

“EEOC Sues Pediatric Health Care Alliance for Retaliation Over Harassment Complaints.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). (June 22, 2020). Web.

Bean, Mackenzie. “Florida practice retaliated against nurse for reporting harassment, EEOC says.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (November 9, 2020). Web.

 

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

KeyWords: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation defense, discrimination harassment complaint defense attorney, legal representation for physicians, medical group defense attorney, complex health care litigation attorney, complex civil litigation attorney, complex medical litigation lawyer, medical staff peer review defense attorney lawyer, federal administrative hearing defense attorney, hospital complaint investigation defense, peer review defense attorney, medical staff investigation defense lawyer, medical staff clinical privileges defense legal representation, hospital medical staff fair hearing defense attorney lawyer, hospital medical staff fair hearing defense legal counsel, legal representation for healthcare business litigation matters, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm Attorneys, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, representation for EEOC complaints, workplace retaliation defense lawyer, healthcare employment law defense lawyer, nurse attorney, legal representation for nurses, legal representation for complaints against nurses

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

 

 

New Comprehensive Privacy Legislation Announced: The SAFE DATA Act

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

On September 17, 2020, Republican members of the Senate Commerce Committee introduced sweeping federal privacy legislation. The proposed law is called the Setting an American Framework to Ensure Data Access, Transparency, and Accountability (SAFE DATA) Act. The Act is a combination of bills previously introduced in the Senate: the Consumer Data Protection Act, Filter Bubble Transparency Act, and the Deceptive Experiences to Online Users Reduction Act. It hasn’t passed, yet, so let’s wait and see.

HAH! You thought you had learned all of the acronyms and abbreviations because you know what HIPAA, HITECH, FERPA, USCDPA, and FOIA mean. Let’s see how long it takes you to remember what this one stands for.

Details of the New SAFE DATA Act.

This proposed legislation has three main components if passed into actual law. It:

1. Provides consumers with more choice and control over their data (allegedly),
2. Directs business to be more transparent and accountable (allegedly), and
3. Strengthens the FTC’s enforcement power (allegedly).

The Act would provide consumer rights, such as access, notice, deletion, opting-out, correction, and a right to data portability. It also prohibits covered entities from discriminating against consumers who utilize some of the proposed rights. It will prohibit organizations from denying goods or services to individuals because they have exercised any of their rights as set forth in the bill.

Implementation of the bill would be financed through a $100 million appropriation to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce its provisions. Therefore, the FTC would gain the authority to obtain injunctions and impose other sanctions for violations.

Incorporating Other Privacy Bill Provisions.

The SAFE DATA Act incorporates three main bill provisions into the proposal.

First, it includes the Filter Bubble Transparency Act (don’t ask). It requires a notice on public-facing websites that use algorithmic ranking systems

Second, it contains provisions from the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (“DETOUR”) bill (ouch!). This provision makes it unlawful for an online service with more than 100 million authenticated users to use a user interface to impair user autonomy.

Third, like the United States Consumer Data Privacy Act (CDPA), the proposal requires companies to obtain affirmative, express consent from the customer before processing or transferring individuals’ sensitive data.

According to Julie Brill, former Commissioner of the FTC, a comprehensive privacy law would also address consent and collection issues related to COVID-19 health data, while at the same time promoting racial equality and prohibiting data discrimination. Boy, that’s great; who knew this was likely to be accomplished in our lifetimes.

View the proposed Safe Data Act in full.

You may also read one of my prior blogs to learn more about HIPAA privacy rights violations and medical confidentiality.


Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Defending HIPAA Complaints and Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals, and other healthcare providers and institutions in investigating and defending alleged HIPAA complaints and violations and in preparing Corrective Action Plans (CAPs).

For more information about HIPAA violations, electronic health records or corrective action plans (CAPs) please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620.

Sources:

Cox, Ayeisha. “Lawmakers Introduce the SAFE DATA Act.” American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA). (October 2, 2020). Web.

Traylor. Christian. “Federal Data Privacy Legislation: Will it Help the US Remain Competitive in the Global Marketplace?” JD Supra. (September 29, 2020). Web.

Panakal, Dominic Dhil. “Senate Republicans Stitch Together Safe Data Ideas into New Bill.” The National Law Review. (September 24, 2020).

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 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

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

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

George Indest Headshot

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

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

Mishandling of the Coronavirus Outbreak.

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

The Investigation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

Dowling, Bryan. “Mass. Vet Home Leaders Charged Over Deadly Virus Outbreak.” Law360. (September 25, 2020). Web.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How a Phony Nurse Gained Employment.

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

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

Continuing Lies & Fraudulent Behavior.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists, and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Indest Headshot

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

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

Insurance Coverage for COVID-19 Related Losses.

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

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

Dismissal of the Law Suit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read my prior blog on this subject to learn more.

Recommendation for the Future.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

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

Sources:

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

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

Frankel, Todd. “Insurers knew the damage a viral pandemic could wreak on businesses. So they excluded coverage.” The Washington Post. (April 2, 2020). Web.

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

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

 

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