In the Know

Health care law encompasses a wide range of issues. Learn more about regulations, legislation and general information involving health care providers and professionals (physicians, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, mental health counselors, rehab facilities, nursing homes, DME suppliers, medical students and interns, pain management clinics, hospital administrators, etc.) including information regarding the Department of Health, professional boards (Board of Nursing, Board of Pharmacy, Board of Dentistry, Board of Medicine, etc.), DEA, AHCA (Florida Agency for Health Care Administration) and Medicare and Medicaid.

Government Discovers Extensive Overbilling of Cancer Drug to Medicare

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm, and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

It’s no surprise that the government is aggressively pursuing Medicare fraud. Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG), made a surprising discovery. An audit uncovered that more than three-quarters (3/4) of all Medicare claims for the breast-cancer drug Herceptin were billed incorrectly, according to Modern Healthcare. This was found during an audit conducted on physicians and hospitals from around the country between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2010.

To read the entire Modern Healthcare article, click here.

Audit Results from Around the Country.

Three different audits were released to the public by the HHS OIG. All of these audits showed roughly the same information. Health care providers have been billing Medicare for full multiuse vials of the drug Herceptin, when patients actually only need a smaller portion. Medicare does not pay healthcare providers for any part of the drug that is discarded, because it can be preserved for up to 28 days and reused. The auditors suggest that payment from Medicare for an entire multiuse vial is likely to be incorrect. We saw a similar situation with the drug Avastin and Lucentis being used by ophthalmologists several years ago.

The results of the audits were released in January 2013. One audit found eighty-five percent (85%) of 1,073 Herceptin vials used in Ohio and Kentucky were billed incorrectly. In Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, the government auditors found that seventy-eight (78%) of 713 claims investigated were wrong. The overpayment amount was around $682,000, for these audits.

Florida’s District Found to Have Overcharged 78% of Bills.

According to the report, HHS auditors found overcharges in seventy-eight percent (78%) of bills for 1,330 vitals of Herceptin submitted to First Coast Service Options, Inc. This company serves as the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) for HHS District Nine, which primarily includes providers in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The overcharges for Herceptin were $1,325,409.

In the report, the government recommends that First Coast Service Options, Inc., do a number of things. The first is to recover the more than one million dollars in overpayments. It’s also recommended that First Coast Service Options, Inc., implement system edits that review multiuse vial drugs that are billed with units of service equivalent to the dosage of an entire vial. The government also suggests that these audit results be used as an educational tool for teaching correct billing practices to physicians and hospitals.

Click here to read the entire report on District Nine.

How to Respond to a Medicare Audit.

Remember, there is no such thing as a “routine” Medicare audit. The fact is that if you find yourself or your practice at the center of a Medicare audit, there is some item you have claimed as a Medicare provider or the amount of claims Medicare has paid in a certain category that has caused the audit. We’ve come up with a list of actions that we use and recommend you take when responding to a Medicare audit. Click here to view that list.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Investigations.

The best time to respond to and defeat an allegation of overpayment is at the very beginning. That is why it is essential that you obtain qualified counsel to help you through the process. The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.


For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

Why do you think hospitals and physicians incorrectly bill for Herceptin? Are audits like these necessary? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Carlson, Joe. “OIG Finds Widespread Herceptin Overcharges.” Modern Healthcare. (January 21, 2013). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20130121/NEWS/301219959/oig-finds-widespread-herceptin-overcharges

Jarmon, Glorida. “The Medicare Contractor’s Payments to Providers in Jurisdiction 9 for Full Vials of Herceptin were often Incorrect.” Office of Inspector General (January 2013). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/Herceptin%20FL%20Overcharges.pdf

About the Authors: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

More Medicare Audits Now Than Ever Before

6 Indest-2008-3George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in the Legal Specialty of Health Law

A Medicare audit, whether it is performed by a contractor of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), or by another organization, can be a daunting process. It is never “routine” and should never be taken lightly.

Because of the efforts to reduce expenditures on entitlement programs and the success that the government has had in recovering large sums of Medicare overpayments, we are seeing a tremendous increase in Medicare fraud initiatives, including but not limited to audits by Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs), audits by Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs), the use of investigative subpoenas to obtain records, and related activities.

Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE now routinely share audit results and information on repayments made by health providers. We had a client who conducted a self-audit and found an overpayment situation. The client made a voluntary disclosure and sent in a voluntary repayment of the amount it had overbilled Medicare. A few weeks later our client received an overpayment demand from the federal TRICARE program. The TRICARE demands were based on the same patients and the same claims for the co-pays and deductibles that had been paid back to Medicare.

Common Errors Found in Medicare Audits.

We often seem some common errors in Medicare audits. Most of the errors relate to improper or incomplete documentation. Such errors include:

1. Failure to obtain the physician’s signature on the order or plan.
2. Failure to have an order signed by a physician.
3. Tests, consults, prescriptions, therapy, or services ordered by a non-Medicare provider.                                                                                                                    4. Failure to document the start time and stop time of each (time-based) procedure.                                                                                                                                                  5. Failure to have complete, unique notes for each patient (use of “cloned” notes).                                                                                                                                                      6. Failure to demonstrate if a client is progressing toward improvement or goal. 7. Lack of medical necessity for procedures performed.                                                 8. Failure to have the care plan signed by the physician within 24 hours.

Locate and Review the Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs) for the Codes You Bill.

All Medicare providers should ensure that they are familiar with the local coverage determinations (LCDs) that are published by MACs for the CPT codes they routinely bill. These are available on the MAC website. Strict compliance with all such guidelines is required.

Make Sure to Obtain the Physician’s Signature Prior to Treatment.

Therapists and others providing services in response to a physician’s order or consult request must ensure that they obtain the proper physician’s signature before treating patients. Make this an ironclad rule in your practice or business. We have heard from some therapists that physicians often ignore their correspondence and documentation, or the physician sits on it for weeks at a time before signing it. If you refuse to touch the patient without the required doctor’s signature you cannot be faulted. The responsibility is on the physician who fails to sign a plan in a timely manner. If you are unable to do this, then just plan on providing the services for free. Guidance on documentation required for a therapist, as well as LCD, and therapy services required for Medicare can be found on the CMS website.

Checklist for Medicare Audits.

These are some of the actions we recommend you take and which we take in medicare blogrepresenting a physician or other health provider in responding to a Medicare audit.

1. All correspondence from Medicare, or the Medicare contractor, should be taken seriously. Avoid the temptation to consider the request from Medicare just another medical records request. Avoid the temptation to delegate this to an administrative employee.

2. Read the audit letter carefully and provide all the information requested. In addition to medical records, auditors often ask for invoices and purchase orders for the drugs and medical supplies dispensed to patients, for which Medicare reimbursed you.

3. Include a copy of the complete record and not just those from the dates of service requested in the audit letter. Include any diagnostic tests and other documents from the chart that support the services provided. Many practices document the medications and immunizations given to the patient in a separate part of the chart and not in the progress notes; all documents, the complete record, should be provided to the auditor. Remember that even other physicians’ records obtained as history, including reports, consultations and records from other physicians or hospitals, should also be included. Consent forms, medical history questionnaires, histories, physicals, other physicians’ orders, all may be a crucial part of the record. If the patient was referred to you by a hospital order, nursing home discharge order or another order, obtain these to provide to the auditor.

4. Make sure all the medical records are legible and legibly copied. If the record is not legible, have the illegible record transcribed and include the transcription along with the hand-written or illegible records. Make sure that any such transcriptions are clearly marked as a transcription with the current date it is actually transcribed. Label it accurately. Do not allow any room for there to be any confusion that the newly transcribed part was part of the original record.

5. If your practice involves taking or interpreting x-rays or other diagnostic studies, include these studies. They are part of the patient’s record. If the x-rays are digital, they can be submitted on a compact disc (CD).

For the complete checklist, click here.

Challenge Overpayment Demands from Medicare and Medicaid Audits.

Recently we have spoken with numerous physicians and other health care professionals who have been placed on prepayment review after failing to challenge Medicare audit results. The problem is that these providers, once placed on prepayment review, have their payments held up for many months and are often forced out of business. Sometimes it appears that this may actually be the goal of the auditing contractor or agency.

Comments?

Have you or your practice ever been audited? What was the process like? Did you retain legal counsel to help with the process? Was having legal assistance worth it? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent health care providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. We also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals, occupation therapists (OTs), physical therapists (PTs), speech therapists (STs), rehabilitation therapists (RTs) and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid program.

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

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

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1999-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Recent Changes to Florida’s Pain Management Laws

If you are a pain management physician, it is important for you to be aware of changes in the laws governing the practice of pain management. The following laws were updated this summer, so the Florida Department of Health (DOH) will be enforcing these changes, including new penalities for inappropriate prescribing and new regulations for prescribing controlled substances.

  1. Minimum penalties for inappropriate prescribing for licensed health professionals – six (6) month suspension and $10,000 fine per count.  “Inappropriate prescribing” is in new Section 456.44, Florida Statutes.
  2. Effective January 1, 2012, every physician prescribing controlled substances must designate himself or herself as a controlled substance prescribing practitioner on the physician’s profile maintained by the Florida Department of Health.
  3. Effective July 1, 2011, new required elements must be documented in medical records of each pain management patient and there are new Standards of Practice for pain management physicians.
  4. Effective July 1, 2011, each physician practicing in a pain management clinic must notify the Florida Board of Medicine within 10 days after beginning or ending practice at the pain management clinic.
  5. Effective July 1, 2011, each physician practicing in a pain management clinic is personally responsible for the clinic’s compliance with all operational requirements. 
  6. Effective July 1, 2011, each pain management clinic must report to the Department of Health:
      a.  the number of new and repeat patients;
      b.  the number of patients discharged due to drug abuse;
      c.  the number of patients discharged due to diversion; and
      d.  the number of patients who live outside Florida.
  7. Effective July 1, 2011, dispensing physicians are no longer authorized to dispense Schedule II and Schedule III controlled substances. 
  8. Dispensing physicians must return all Schedule II and Schedule III controlled substances to the distributors or dispose of them by July 10, 2011.
  9. The Florida Department of Health will identify dispensing practitioners who purchase more than an average of 2,000 doses of Schedule II or Schedule III controlled substances per month and decide which of these practitioners poses the greatest risk to the public health. (We expect that individuals will be targeted by criminal law enforcement authorities, including the DEA, based on these reports.)
  10. Three days after the effective date, the Department of Health and Law Enforcement will enter the businesses of all dispensing practitioners identified as posing the greatest threat to public health and ‘quarantine’ the practitioner’s inventory of Schedule II and Schedule III controlled substances.

If you are concerned about your pain management clinic, or if you are a pain management physician who has been subjected to raids or other investigations call us at (407) 331-6620 0r (850) 439-1001 or visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Franck’s Pharmacy Closes; Compounding Lab is Now Wells Pharmacy Network

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

July 31, 2012, marked the end of an era for Franck’s Pharmacy in Ocala, Florida, as the retail location closed its doors for good. According to an Ocala Star-Banner article, in July 2012, Franck’s Compounding Lab, which was one of the largest compounding labs in the country, was bought by Wells Pharmacy Network. The deal included Franck’s Lifestyles, which sells supplements and wellness products, but did not include the retail pharmacy location.

Click here to see the official press release from Wells Pharmacy Network.

Closed Pharmacy Comes After a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Finding of Fungal Growth in Pharmacy’s Clean Room.

In May of 2012, Franck’s Pharmacy Inc., issued a recall for its compounded prescriptions. The prescriptions impacted by this recall included all sterile human and veterinary compounded prescriptions distributed by Franck’s Pharmacy from November 21, 2011 to May 21, 2012. 

The recall was apparently prompted by an action by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA notified Franck’s Pharmacy that environmental sampling of the pharmacy’s clean room revealed the presence of microorganisms and fungal growth. Because of the FDA’s findings, Franck’s Pharmacy recalled its sterile compounds to prevent any possible risk of infection.

To see the FDA recall, click here.

Eye Infection Outbreak Linked to Franck’s Pharmacy Products.

Franck’s Pharmacy ceased sterile compounding in its Ocala lab after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning urging physicians not to use sterile products made by Franck’s Pharmacy. The warning was issued after the CDC traced a rare fungal eye infection back to the pharmacy. The infection impacted at least 30 patients who allegedly had undergone some type of eye procedure in which Franck’s Pharmacy products were used.

I previously blogged about this story, click here to read the entire post.

Franck’s Trouble in the Past.

According to the Ocala Star-Banner, the eye preparation case was the second time Franck’s faced claims of improper compounding. In 2009, Franck’s veterinary division allegedly improperly mixed a nutritional supplement for 21 polo horses that contained far more selenium than required. The horses all died.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Sources:

Medina, Carlos. “Franck’s Pharmacy Closes its Doors.” Ocala Star-Banner. (July 31, 2012). From: http://www.ocala.com/article/20120731/ARTICLES/120739961?p=3&tc=pg

Ulbricht, Christopher. “Wells Pharmacy Network Expands to Ocala, Florida.” Franck’s. (July 5, 2012.) From:  http://www.francks.com/

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

 
“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

South Florida Man Busted for Fraudulently Working as a Pharmacist

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

On July 24, 2012, a 49-year-old man from Ruskin in South Fla., pleaded guilty in federal court to fraudulently working as a Central Florida pharmacist from 2000 to 2009, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a press release.


Man Allegedly Gave the Wrong Prescription to At Least One Customer.

Prosecutors said this man worked at pharmacies throughout Central Florida, including CVS pharmacy and Walgreens. According to the Orlando Sentinel, while working at one of the pharmacies, he gave a customer the incorrect medication, causing that person to suffer a severe reaction and stroke.


How He Obtained a License. 

Allegedly, the man fraudulently obtained a pharmacist license in September of 2000 from the State Department of Health (DOH) by using the name, date of birth, Social Security number and pharmacy education information of a licensed pharmacist.

The fake pharmacist was able to renew the license and was allegedly receiving paychecks from pharmacies through the mail.

How the Fake Pharmacists Got Caught.

Local authorities began investigating the South Florida man after a legitimate pharmacist in Arizona reported that his identity had been stolen.

The legitimate pharmacist first learned in 2007 that someone was using his identity in Florida when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) contacted him about undeclared earnings. He had never worked in Florida and learned someone was posing as him and working as a pharmacist under his name, according to the court records.

To see the full press release on this case, click here.

Fake Pharmacist Facing a Number of Charges and Possibly Time in Prison.

The fraudulent pharmacist pled guilty to mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering in Orlando. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison for the mail fraud charge, 10 years for the money laundering charge, and a minimum of two years for any other sentence for the aggravated identity theft charge, the Justice release said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigated the case with assistance from the Florida Department of Health’s Division of Medical Quality Assurance.

Click here to see our experience representing pharmacists and pharmacies.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Representing Pharmacists and Pharmacies.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to pharmacists and pharmacies in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Sources:

FBI.gov. “Pharmacist Impersonator Charged with Mail Fraud, Identity Theft, and Money Laundering.” FBI, Tampa Division. (July 24, 2012). From Press Release: http://www.fbi.gov/tampa/press-releases/2012/pharmacist-impersonator-pleads-guilty-to-mail-fraud-identity-theft-and-money-laundering

TBO.com. “Ruskin Man Admits Identity Theft in Fake Pharmacist Case.” Tampa Bay Online. (July, 24, 2012). From: http://www2.tbo.com/news/health-4-you/2012/jul/24/ruskin-man-admits-identity-theft-in-fake-pharmacis-ar-440248/

Pavuk, Amy. “Feds: Man Stole Pharmacist’s Identity, Worked at Pharmacies Across Metro Orlando.” Orlando Sentinel. (July 24, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-07-24/news/os-pharmacist-stolen-identity-20120724_1_pharmacies-illinois-court-federal-court

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

Avoiding the ‘Disruptive Physician’ Label

Physicians are often unfairly labeled as “disruptive physicians” by hospitals, health care institutions, employers or economic competitors of theirs in a health care setting.  This label can be assigned to the most skilled, compassionate and innocent physician.  Unless immediate action is taken by the physician to counter this false labeling, it may result in extremely serious repercussions, loss of income and tremendous expense.

There has been a concerted effort among hospitals to identify and take action against “disruptive physicians.”  This has been encouraged by the Joint Commission.  Often a complaint will be made to the state licensing board or regulatory authority and investigated as an alleged violation of the medical practice act or as other grounds for discipline.  Far too often a physician will be intimidated into reporting himself or herself to a treatment and monitoring program for impaired physicians in order to avoid an investigation or complaint.  Most often, this is the wrong move to make.

We have seen, first-hand, attempts being made to label a physician as a “disruptive physician” because he or she refused to allow unnecessary and expensive invasive procedures to be performed on his/her patients by another physician in a hospital setting.  We have seen attempts made to label a doctor as a “disruptive physician” because he refused to provide a drug seeking addict (who was hospitalized after a gunfight with police) with additional narcotics.  We have seen attempts made by an economic competitor of a physician, who had been able to obtain election as president of the medical staff, to label a physician as a “disruptive physician” in order to drive her off of the hospital staff, thereby eliminating her competition with him.  We have seen competing medical groups form an alliance with administrators at a for-profit hospital, to label a physician competitor as a “disruptive physician” and enlist the aid of nursing staff to document every alleged transgression of the physician.  We have experienced instances where hospital nursing staff was instructed to scrutinize every act of a surgeon on the staff and to write up every perceived action of this doctor that might possibly be considered to be inappropriate any respect (even “rudeness”).  We have represented surgeons labeled as “disruptive physicians” because they cancelled an elective surgery after the scheduled surgery on their patient was delayed three hours because hospital staff did not come in on time and other surgeries started late.

Often physicians reacting to protect their patients from other physicians, or who may attempt to correct incompetent nursing staff, are labeled as “disruptive” because of their comments or actions.  Physicians who are somewhat demanding or who are perfectionists (as many, naturally, are), are often unfairly labeled as “disruptive.”  We have seen the most highly skilled subspecialists, whose only major concern is their patients care and safety, branded as a “disruptive physician” by hospital staff.  Almost all of the alleged “disruptive physicians” we have represented or been consulted by have been neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons or trauma surgeons.  We have also seen the label applied to physicians most often in smaller, more rural hospitals and communities where the nursing staff may be less than totally competent.

It is extremely important that a physician be sensitive to the possibility of being labeled a “disruptive physician” and the possible consequences this can bring.  It may result in the initiation of peer review proceedings to terminate clinical privileges and medical staff membership.  It may result in a complaint to the state licensing board against the physician.  We have handled a number of cases where complaints were made (even “anonymous” complaints”) to the state impaired physician program, resulting in a long, expensive battle with psychiatric experts and psychologists, in order to refute the allegations.

It is necessary that any allegation made that insinuates that the physician is a “disruptive physician” be immediately, but objectively, countered.  A neutral, factual rebuttal is often all that is required.  However, sometimes an economic competitor, or an unfriendly hospital administrator, will attempt to push the matter to extremes in an attempt to get rid of the physician, to make his or her job easier.  It may be advisable to obtain the services of an experienced healthcare attorney in fashioning a responsive or even formulating a strategy for a long-term defense in such situations.

In some cases, it may be advisable to have the client evaluated by an appropriately experienced psychologist or psychiatrist or other mental health professional ahead of time, in order to have expert evidence immediately available that the physician does not have a personality disorder or other impairment.  This may be used to head off any complaint to or from the state licensing board or impaired physician program.

In Florida, especially, we have seen an increase in referrals to the state impaired physician program for allegedly “disruptive physicians” where a cottage industry seems to have arisen in making such diagnoses and preparing treatment and monitoring plans for them.  We have been involved in at least one case where a prominent, successful surgeon was forced to undergo testing, evaluation, and psychoanalysis, by a major hospital (while he was excluded from practicing there), over a course of approximately two years, with the threat of disciplinary action by his state licensing board if he refused to “cooperate.”  Finally, after spending tens of thousands of dollars on the recommended psychiatric and psychological evaluations, and after spending tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees, it was decided he had no such problems, he was not a “disruptive physician” and there was no probable cause for any disciplinary action against him.

In some cases, it may even be necessary for the physician to take the extreme measure of suing the hospitals and the individuals who are behind such action.  We have been required to do this on behalf of clients in a number of different cases.  Often, this is the only way to get the truth of the matter out, especially when it related to economic competitors of the physician who may be in control of the hospital’s medical staff.

We expect to see even more of this type of accusation being made against physicians in the future as a result of recent publicity encouraging the reporting of and action against “disruptive physicians.”

On July 9, 2008, the Joint Commission published the following alert to health care organizations:

Sentinel Event Alert;  Issue 40, July 9, 2008
Behaviors That Undermine a Culture of Safety

Intimidating and disruptive behaviors can foster medical errors, contribute to poor patient satisfaction and to preventable adverse outcomes, increase the cost of care, and cause qualified clinicians, administrators and managers to seek new positions in more professional environments.  Safety and quality of patient care is dependent on teamwork, communication, and a collaborative work environment. To assure quality and to promote a culture of safety, health care organizations must address the problem of behaviors that threaten the performance of the health care team.
 
For the entire text and greater detail on detection, analysis, and prevention, as provided to health care organizations by the JCAHO, you may refer to:
http://www.jointcommission.org/SentinelEvents/SentinelEventAlert/sea_40.htm

We believe that, as a result of the foregoing, we will see a much greater attempt on the part of hospitals to identify and discipline physicians on hospital staffs as “disruptive physicians” through hospital peer review procedures, and through reports to state licensing boards and the organizations that were established to monitor physicians with substance abuse problems (such as the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) in Florida).

Any correspondence, warning, letter or counseling a physician receives that mentions the word “disruptive” or makes such an insinuation, should be taken very seriously by the physician.  It should be responded to immediately, with facts, in an objective and dispassionate manner without attempting to “blame” anyone else.  We would also encourage you to immediately seek the counsel of a board certified health law attorney experienced in handling such matters.

For more information about this and other legal matters concerning healthcare providers, visit www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Internal Revenue Service Decides Electronic Health Record Incentive Payments are Taxable

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has taken the position that electronic health record (EHR) incentive payments are taxable. Previously it was not specified how EHR incentive payments were to be treated or reported to the IRS. On January 14, 2013, the IRS issued guidance on this issue in a memorandum from the Office of Chief Counsel. This memorandum lists tax issues facing those who have received or who will receive EHR incentive payments. It also states the IRS’s position on those issues.

IRS Considered Three Different Issues and Gave its Stance on Each Issue.

In its memorandum, the Office of Chief Counsel considered the following three issues:

1. Whether recipients must include in gross income electronic health record
incentive payments paid by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
(CMS) pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

2. Whether CMS has a reporting requirement with regard to payments made under the EHR Incentive Program.

3. Whether the reporting requirement is altered if the payment is assigned to a third party.

The Summary of the Office of Chief Counsel’s Position on Each of the Issues.

1. The recipients must include the incentive payments in gross income unless they receive the payments as a conduit or an agent of another and are thus unable to keep the payments.

2. CMS has a reporting requirement under section 6041 of the Internal Revenue Code with respect to the eligible providers.

3. In the event of an assignment by the eligible providers to a third party, CMS would be obligated to report a payment to the eligible provider, even if the payment is assigned to a third party. The eligible provider would then likely bear a reporting obligation with respect to the assignment to a third party. CMS would not have a reporting obligation with respect to the third-party assignee unless CMS exercised managerial oversight with respect to, or had a significant economic interest in, the assignment.

Click here to read the entire memorandum.

Health Care Professionals Be Aware.

According to the IRS, taxpayers cannot avoid tax by turning over income to someone else. For example, a doctor earns an EHR incentive payment and turns it over to his/her practice. That doctor may still have to include the EHR payment on his/her personal tax return. The IRS allows an exception. If the doctor received the payment as an agent of the group practice, the doctor does not have to report it on his/her personal tax return.

Health care professionals and providers who have or will receive EHR incentive payments should plan to deal with the tax consequences of those incentives.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

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

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

Comments?

As a health care professional, do you think electronic health record (EHR) incentive payments should be taxable? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Goldberg, Alan. “Healthcare Reimbursement List.” American Health Lawyers Association. (April 26, 2013).

Montemurro, Michael. “Electronic Health Records Incentive Payments, POSTS-145204-12.” Internal Revenue Service. (January 14, 2013). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/1307005.pdf

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

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges Florida Adventist Hospitals Overbilled Millions of Dollars

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

A whistleblower lawsuit based on information from a former Florida Hospital Orlando billing employee and a former staff physician alleges that seven of Adventist’s Florida hospitals overbilled the federal government between 1995 and 2009, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in false or padded medical claims, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel and other sources.

To read the entire False Claims Act complaint filed, click here.

Hospital Allegedly Used Improper Coding to Overbill Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare.

The suit claims that seven Adventist Florida hospitals allegedly used improper coding to overbill Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare. In addition, the lawsuit alleges the hospitals also overbilled for a drug used in MRI scans and billed for computer analyses that were never performed.

The article states that the plaintiffs are a bill-coding and compliance officer, and a radiologist that were either employed or affiliated with Florida Hospital Orlando between 1995 and 2009. They allege the discrepancies occurred during those years. The lawsuit was filed in July 2010, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Hospitals that allegedly partook in the overbilling include: Florida Hospital Orlando, Florida Hospital Altamonte, Florida Hospital East Orlando, Florida Hospital Apopka, Florida Hospital Celebration Health, Florida Hospital Kissimmee and Winter Park Memorial Hospital.

The U. S. district court judge has set the trial in this case for December 2013.

Click here to read the Orlando Sentinel article.

Steep Fines if Found Liable. 

If the health system is found liable for the false claims it would be responsible for repaying the excess money received, for paying civil penalties of $5,500 to $11,000 per false claim, and damages.

Under the False Claims Act, Whistleblowers Encouraged to Speak Up.

Whistleblowers stand to gain substantial amounts, sometimes as much as thirty percent (30%), of the award under the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. Sect. 3730). Such awards, often reaching into millions of dollars, encourage employees to come forward and report fraud.

You can learn more on the False Claims Act on the Department of Justice (DOJ) website.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Medicaid and Medicare Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

In addition to our other experience in Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare cases, attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblowers cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To learn more on our experience with Medicaid and Medicare quit tam or whistleblower cases, visit our website.

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

Sources:

Jameson, Marni. “Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges Florida Hospital Filled Millions in False Claims.” Orlando Sentinel. (August 8, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-08-08/health/os-whistleblower-lawsuit-florida-hospital-20120808_1_adventist-health-suit-claims-celebration-health/2

Gamble, Molly. “Whistleblower Suit Alleges Florida Adventist Hospitals Overbilled Tens of Millions.” Becker’s Hospitals Review. (August 9, 2012). From: http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/legal-regulatory-issues/whistleblower-suit-alleges-florida-adventist-hospitals-overbilled-tens-of-millions.html

Flagler Live and Kaiser Health News. “Florida Hospital Flagler Spared Sister Hospitals’ Fraud Lawsuit and Medicare Penalties.” Flagler Live. (August 13, 2012). From: http://flaglerlive.com/42723/adventist-lawsuit-medicare/

Amanda Dittman and Charlotte Elenberger, M.D. v. Adventist Health Systems/Sunbelt, Inc. No. 6:10-cv-01062-JA-GJK (July 15, 2010), available at: http://flaglerlive.com/wp-content/uploads/whistleblower-lawsuit-adventist.pdf

Justice.Gov. “The False Claims Act.” Department of Justice. From: http://www.justice.gov/civil/docs_forms/C-FRAUDS_FCA_Primer.pdf

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

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

New Popular Drug Called “Smiles” Outlawed in Florida – Zombie Attacks Still a Threat!

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

In previous blogs we’ve mentioned that Florida Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 1175 on March 23, 2012. This bill outlawed more than 90 new forms of synthetic drugs and included bath salts, among others. It modifies Section 893.03(1)(c), Florida Statutes, by expanding the list of banned hallucinogenic substances in Schedule I of the Florida Comprehensive Abuse Prevention and Control Act. To see Florida HB 1175, click here. To see the entire list of banned substances, click here.

As you are no doubt aware, this was due, in part, to the recent outbreak of zombie attacks in the state of Florida. To see my prior blog on this, click here.

A new drug is popping up on the market with the name 2C-I or “smiles.” This drug is on the list of banned hallucinogenic substances, but has been linked to a number of deaths across the country.

Click here to learn more on the dangers of taking smiles.

Actor Thought to Have Taken Smiles Prior to Death.

According to CBS News, Johnny Lewis, an actor on the TV show “Sons of Anarchy,” is believed to have taken smiles before allegedly killing his landlady and falling to his death. Detectives believe the actor also had mental health issues.

To see the CBS News story, click here.

Florida’s Synthetic Drug Legislation Imposes Restrictions on Synthetic Substances.
The law that was passed in Florida put in place restrictions to prevent abuse of synthetic substances including certain synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic stimulants. Many of the synthetic substances are also commonly known as synthetic marijuana, smiles, bath salts, K2, potpourri, and incense.

The large quantities of synthetic substances are included in HB 1175 because the chemical compounds in these substances are easy to change. The ease of converting these substances into illegal drugs helps illegal drug makers, users and sellers to avoid arrest and prosecution. For example, one synthetic substance might be illegal under the Florida Comprehensive Abuse Prevention and Control Act, but a minor change in the molecular makeup might make the substance legal. Florida residents who desired to become zombies could just take one of these synthetic substances (don’t ask how). They no longer have to go to Haiti or watch “Weekend at Bernie’s” three times in a row.

Banning Synthetic Drugs Was An Attempt To Reduce Cannibalistic Attacks.

Who can forget the story of the Miami cannibal believed to have been on bath salts?

To refresh your memory, click here to see the story from CNN. Warning this does include actual video of the attack.

It was rumored that one prominent Florida lawmaker stated that banning bath salts, smiles and other synthetic drugs should help to reduce the reported acts of cannibalism and zombie-like behavior in Florida.

Manufacturers and Retailers, Watch Your Back.

The passing of HB 1175 could mean more issues for manufacturers and retailers of any products utilizing synthetic substances such as bath salts, herbal incense, or potpourri. If you manufacture or sell any product that is composed of synthetic substances you should regularly test your products to ensure that you are in full compliance with the new law.

On October 2, 2012, a Port Orange, Florida, store owner was charged with drug possession with intent to sell. Officials accused him of selling synthetic drugs, including marijuana and bath salts.

To see the Orlando Sentinel story on this arrest, click here.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

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

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

Comments?

What do you think about the ban on synthetic drugs? Do you think it is working or not working? Please submit any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Jaslow, Ryan. “‘Smiles’ Druge Implicated in Actor’s Death: What Are They?” CBS News. (September 28, 2012). From: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57522571/smiles-drug-implicated-in-actors-death-what-are-they/

Weiss, Piper. “2C-I or ‘Smiles’: The New Killer Drug Every Parent Should Know About.” Yahoo. (September 20, 2012). From: http://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/2c-smiles-killer-drug-every-parent-know-234200299.html

Hernandez, Arelis. “Store Owner Accused of Selling Synthetic Drugs, Bath Salts.” Orlando Sentinel. (October 2, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-bath-salts-arrest-20121002,0,7437907.story

CNN. “Security Video Shows Entire Miami ‘Zombie’ Attack.” CNN. (May 30, 2012). From: http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/30/security-video-shows-entire-miami-zombie-attack/

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

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Central Florida Has Been Invaded By Zombies – No Twinkies Means No Food Source

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

You are already aware of Floridians’ fear of zombies, as shown by recent legislation against bath salts. Despite this, there continue to be reports of rampant zombie outbreaks across the Sunshine State. The zombie apocalypse has hit Central Florida, hard. As a citizen of Florida, you know you are not safe; not from zombies, not from British tourists, not from inability to count (notes in an election) and not from the state legislature. To make matters worse, Twinkies, the only food known to mankind that can survive a post-apocalyptic zombie outbreak (reference: Zombieland 2009) or a nuclear holocaust (reference: Family Guy, second season, third episode Dec. 26, 1999), may soon be out of production. Everyone knows Twinkies have a shelf life of 246 years.

Since Florida seems to be the only state infected with this flesh-eating disease, we are taking a poll. Should we be renamed “the Zombie State?”

A Run With the Living Dead in Clermont.

For those of your reading this blog from another state, you’re in luck. There is actual video footage of how bad the zombie outbreak has gotten in Florida. In Clermont, thousands of cardio-enthusiasts showed up to run a 5K course filled with numerous obstacles that forced participants to crawl in the sticky mud to avoid being pricked by barbed wire above and walking along an unstable beam of wood. Unfortunately, the runners were bombarded along the way by the living dead looking for a quick bite to eat. The participants had to protect their brains while running for their lives. Only the fastest survived.

To see video of attack, click here.

Zombies Take Over the University of Central Florida (UCF).

If you are in Florida and were hoping to take shelter on the campus of the University of Central Florida (UCF), you’re too late. From now until December 2, 2012, the campus will be crawling with zombies who have taken to the stage in a production called “Zombie Town: A Documentary Play.”

We’ve heard it’s not bad. Click here to read a review of the performance.

No Twinkies = No Hope.

By now you’ve heard Hostess, the maker of Twinkies, may be on its way to a complete shutdown. As you know, these delicious treats are the only food that can survive a zombie outbreak. If Hostess closes its doors, we are doomed for sure. Thank goodness Hostess and its striking union members are renegotiating. If Hostess does shut down, it’s rumored a Boca Raton, Florida, company will purchase the brand. We can only hope.

To read the latest on the Hostess debacle, click here.

Given the increasing number of zombie attacks in Florida, the price of Twinkies could soar into the hundreds of dollars each in Florida. Doomsday enthusiasts and disenchanted stock market investors are allegedly pouring funds into warehouse loads of Twinkies.

Is the Ban on Synthetic Drugs in Florida Working?

If you remember, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 1175 on March 23, 2012. This bill outlawed more than 90 new forms of synthetic drugs. It modified Section 893.03(1)(c), Florida Statutes, by expanding the list of banned hallucinogenic substances in Schedule I of the Florida Comprehensive Abuse Prevention and Control Act. To view Florida HB 1175, click here. To read more on the ban, click here.

HB 1175 was in response to the first known zombie attack in Miami. This cannibalistic attack was allegedly because the one man was high on bath salts. It was rumored that one prominent Florida lawmaker stated that banning bath salts, smiles and other synthetic drugs should help to reduce the reported acts of cannibalism and zombie-like behavior in Florida.

And he was wrong, the walking dead are alive, sort of, and well in Florida.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

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

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

Comments?

What do you think about all the zombies around town? What are you doing to survive? Are you stocking up on Twinkies now? Tell us, do you think we should rename Florida the Zombie state? Vote in a poll on our Facebook page.

Sources:

Armstrong, Cassie. “Zombies Invade Clermont in 5K Challenge.” Florida 360. (November 17, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/multimedia/os-fla360-zombies-invade-clermont-in-5k-challenge,0,110644.story

Palm, Matthew. “Theater review: ‘Zombie Town: A Documentary Play’ from Theatre UCF.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 18, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/community/ucf/os-zombie-town-review-ucf-20121116,0,4007008.story

Hsu, Tiffany. “Hostess, Union to Give Talks Another Chance.” Orlando Sentinel. (Novemeber 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/la-fi-mo-twinkies-hostess-union-mediation-20121119,0,4220893.story

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

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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