In the News

The field of health care is frequently in the news with technology updates, privacy breaches, innovative procedures, malpractice claims, etc. Learn more about the happenings of health care providers (physicians, nurses, dentists, hospitals, nursing homes, pain management clinics, medical students, mental health counselors, etc.) in Florida and around the United States.

The DEA Attacks Legitimate Pharmaceutical Distributors, Starting with CVS Pharmacy and Cardinal Health

Earlier in February 2012, the DEA accused both CVS Pharmacy, one of the nation’s largest drug store chains, and Cardinal Health, one of the nation’s largest legitimate distributors of pharmaceuticals, of endangering the public by selling excessive amounts of oxycodone to four Florida pharmacies. For Cardinal Health, the charges came in an immediate suspension order served Feb. 3, 2012, when the DEA suspended Cardinal’s license to distribute controlled substances from its Lakeland, Florida location, which serves four states, according to USA Today. Lakeland is located between Orlando and Tampa.

Cardinal immediately challenged the suspension in federal court denying the charges. The DEA’s suspension was temporarily lifted and a hearing was scheduled in the federal district court in Washington, D.C. In preparation for the hearing, the DEA and Cardinal filed hundreds of pages of documents that provide a look into how prescription painkillers have infiltrated the black market. We are attempting to obtain copies of some of these so that we can share them with other interested attorneys and individuals.

As reported in various media sources, the investigation into Cardinal’s operation began after a Cardinal investigator became aware of a rumor that a local pharmacy was selling oxycodone by the pill for cash. This Florida pharmacy was reported to be one of Cardinal’s biggest customers.

Over the next two years, Cardinal employees allegedly visited the same pharmacy at least four more times. Each time, they noted the following suspicious signs: Customers paid cash, oxycodone was the top seller, and young people came into the pharmacy in groups to have their prescriptions filled. The pharmacy allegedly dispensed 462,776 oxycodone pills over a two month period — which is what the DEA states is approximately seven times what the average pharmacy dispenses in a year. Additionally the pharmacy allegedly asked Cardinal for more. Cardinal filled the order for more oxycodone but terminated the pharmacy as a customer.

By the time Cardinal cut the pharmacy off in October 2011, police had arrested at least three doctors who were associated with or had their patients’ prescriptions filled at the pharmacy.  Law enforcement officials charged them with trafficking in oxycodone, racketeering and over-prescribing narcotics.

Then, in early February 2012, the DEA reportedly suspended the DEA registrations (sometimes called “DEA numbers” or “DEA licenses”) of four of Cardinal’s largest Florida customers. These suspensions demonstrate the DEA’s strategy to combat the country’s prescription drug abuse problem at the highest levels, regardless of the size or reputation of the company. After years of attacking doctors who dispense drugs from pain clinics, DEA agents are now targeting the legitimate pharmaceutical distributers — the top of the legitimate drug supply chain.

The number of overdose deaths involving prescription pain medications allegedly now exceeds deaths from heroin and cocaine combined, which motivates state and federal agents to be more aggressive in fighting against misuse of drugs.

Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, the DEA regulates every link in the supply chain for controlled substances such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, including manufacturers, distributors, doctors and pharmacies. According to the DEA, approximately 1.4 million entities have DEA registrations to handle controlled pharmaceuticals. The law requires pharmaceutical distributors, like Cardinal Health, to have systems to detect suspicious orders, which must then be reported to the DEA.  Additionally, federal regulations require that any thefts, losses or shortages of controlled medications be reported to the DEA.

In court documents filed in response to Cardinal’s challenge, the DEA said Cardinal ignored “red flags” raised to detect suspicious orders. However, Cardinal argues that volume alone is not enough to determine whether a pharmacy is diverting the drugs, because it does not account for a pharmacy’s location, the age and health of the population, and the proximity to hospitals, nursing homes and cancer centers.

The DEA routinely cites the volumes of drugs a pharmacy fills or the numbers of tablets of a certain type of medication for which a doctor writes prescriptions.  This is also a factor the DEA uses in cases we have seen where it seeks to suspend or revoke the DEA registrations of physicians and pharmacies in administrative cases.  However, some judges have expressed a reluctance to admit such “bean counting” or naked numbers as being irrelevant, when not supported by testimony or evidence placing the numbers into context with other factors, such as the physician’s practice, patient mix, standards of treatment, severity of illness, etc.

In the federal court case now pending, Cardinal has stated in papers filed that it has a “robust” detection system and has cut off more than 330 pharmacies, including 140 pharmacies located in Florida, over the past four years that it decided posed an unreasonable risk of diversion.

In a news article posted late on February 29, 2012, the Associated Press advised that federal Judge Reggie Walton had ruled against Cardinal Health earlier in the day.  Apparently Cardinal Health had originally obtained a “stay” (sometimes referred to as a “temporary restraining order” or “temporary injunction”) against the DEA’s suspension order.  However, after a hearing held on February 29 in which Cardinal Health sought an injunction against the DEA’s enforcement of its suspension, Judge Walton announced a decision form the bench.  He reportedly refused to grant Cardinal Health an injunction against the DEA, apparently agreeing with the DEA’s position.

This battle between Cardinal Health and the DEA is an important one as it demonstrates the DEA continued efforts to attempt to exert more control over pain clinics, pain management physicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, and now, pharmaceutical distributors. If you believe that the DEA is investigating you, your facility, your company or if you want to learn more about the legal implications of pain management, visit our website to learn more.

Sources for this article included; the Orlando Sentinel, Boston Globe, Associated Press, USA Today and Florida Today.

Man Charged with Medicare Fraud in Ambulance Scheme

By Miles Indest

A Pennsylvania man has been charged in a 23-count indictment in relation to an alleged scheme to defraud Medicare by billing for fraudulent ambulance services. The charges were announced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on June 29, 2012.

Man Allegedly “Straw” Owner Used to Start Ambulance Company.

According to the indictment the man allegedly used a “straw” owner (someone who was not actually the owner) to fraudulently open Starcare Ambulance because he was otherwise ineligible to own the company. Between 2006 and 2011, the man allegedly billed Medicare for transporting kidney dialysis patients who did not medically need ambulance service. This indictment seeks forfeiture of over $5 million in cash as well as a GMC Hum-V (“Hummer”) vehicle.

Man Could Face Up To 10 Years in Prison for Each Count of Health Care Fraud.

If convicted of all charges, the defendant faces a statutory maximum sentence of ten years in prison on each of the health care fraud and conspiracy counts. He also faces five years in prison for aiding and abetting in false statements relating to health care fraud, a three year term of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

Ambulance Services Companies Are Target for Medicare Audits.

In recent years, and especially in 2012, ambulance services companies have become the target of Medicare audits and are frequently accused of billing Medicare for unnecessary services. Medicare and Medicaid audits can result in overpayment demands reaching into hundreds of thousands of dollars and assessment of fines. Ambulance services were included in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) work plan for fiscal year 2012 as an area that would be subject to scrutiny. Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) and Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) are launching audits of ambulance service providers and emergency medical transportation companies.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits.

Medicare fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG). Don’t wait until its too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today.

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

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

Sources Include:

“Pennsylvania Man Charged With $5.4 Million Medicare Fraud.” San Francisco Chronicle. (June 29, 2012). From: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Pa-man-charged-with-5-4-million-Medicare-fraud-3674333.php

Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Pennsylvania Man Charged with Fraud in Ambulance Scheme.” Department of Justice. Press Release. (June 29, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/June/12-crm-840.html

Consequences of Having Your Massage Therapy License Revoked (Or Relinquishing it after Notice of an Investigation)

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

Many massage therapists, when confronted with an investigation against their license, do not fight the charges, sometimes they decide it is cheaper and easier just to give up their license. Either choice is likely to be a mistake.

A charge can be filed causing an investigation to be opened against a massage therapist by many different sources and often without any supporting evidence. If challenged and defended by an attorney with knowledge and experience in such matters, these investigations may often be dismissed with no disciplinary action against the massage therapist’s license.

Massage Therapists Often Go on to Obtain Licenses in Other Health Specialties.

A massage therapist often has to spend tens of thousands of dollars on school tuition and sacrifice a year or more of their lives to meet the basic criteria for licensing. In many cases this is merely a stepping stone for a later degree and license in another healthcare specialty, such as physical therapy, nursing, acupuncture, or chiropractic medicine.

Your Greatest Assets are Your Professional and Personal Reputation.

One of the maxims that the Romans took as truth was: “A good reputation is more valuable than money,” (attributed to Publilius Syrus approximately 100 B.C.). Socrates wrote in approximately 400 B.C.: “Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of.”

However, despite the fact that you may have worked hard, sacrificed and paid a fortune for an education and training in massage therapy, many are willing to sacrifice their personal reputation rather than paying a few thousand dollars to fight unjust charges against them. What they do not realize is the permanent black mark that will be placed on their record and the long term, devastating consequences of any such action.

When Confronted with Charges Most Massage Therapists Do Not Defend Themselves.

It is my opinion, based on what I have seen at Florida Board of Massage Therapy meetings and reviewing Florida Board of Massage Therapy meeting minutes, very few massage therapists, when confronted with an investigation or charges, hire an attorney to defend them. This may be because they do not have the financial resources or because they underestimate the harm that will be caused to their personal or professional reputations.

Regardless, in my personal opinion and experience:

1. Few massage therapists return their election of rights (EOR) forms on time and therefore, a default is entered against them.

2. Few massage therapists return their election of rights (EOR) forms to state they are contesting the facts and desire a formal hearing to contest the charges against them.

3. Few massage therapists even bother to show up at informal hearings involving their licenses.

4. When they do, they show up at a hearing with a spouse or friend to represent them instead of an experienced attorney familiar with such matters (Q: If you needed brain surgery, would you have it performed by a spouse or friend instead of an experienced neurosurgeon?)

5. If they do retain an attorney to advise and represent them, they either go with the cheapest one they can find or go with one who has no experience at all before the Board of Massage Therapy. (Q: If you needed brain surgery, would you pay your family practice physician to perform it?)

Best Advice: Purchase Insurance with Professional License Defense Coverage.

Often physicians and others concerned about liability issues ask our advice on asset protection in case they are sued. We advise them that their best way of protecting their assets is to purchase good insurance that will pay for a legal defense that protects them against unjust law suit. The same principle applies to massage therapists; except that massage therapy insurance is much, much cheaper, and the major liability that a massage therapist will face is usually from a complaint against his or her license.

If you purchase massage therapy liability insurance, you must make sure that it covers defense expenses of a complaint filed against your license. Many such policies do not. Additionally, you should be sure that it provides at least $25,000 in coverage for such matters. This should be sufficient to provide adequate coverage in the event a fully contested formal hearing is required to defend you.

We have seen many policies and they are as different as night and day in this coverage. When purchasing a professional liability policy, always ask about such coverage. Get the coverage stated in writing. To date, the only company we have experienced which is providing such coverage for massage therapists, and at an incredibly low price, is Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO). Compare this with whatever you have now. If you know of others that provide this coverage, I would like to hear from you.

It has been my personal experience that a massage therapist will be 30 or 40 times more likely to need licensure defense coverage as ever to need defense against a civil lawsuit.

Additional Consequences of Discipline on Your Massage Therapy License.

There are many, many additional adverse consequences that you will experience if you receive discipline on (especially revocation of) your massage therapy license. First and foremost, this is on your record forever; it never comes off and cannot be expunged. Additionally, it will be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) and available anywhere you go in the future in any state, to any licensing board. There are many others. I will detail these in a future blog.

Voluntary Relinquishment after Investigation Has Started Treated as Revocation, the “Death Sentence.”

Many massage therapists believe that the easy and cheap way out if a complaint is filed and an investigation is opened is to resign their license. This is treated the same as a disciplinary revocation and is reported that way. You should never expect to work in health care again or to have a health professional license in any other health specialty or in any other state.

Burden of Proof Is on the State to Prove the Allegations Against You; You Don’t Have to Prove Anything.

If the state brings charges against your massage therapy license, the burden of proof is on the state, just as in a criminal investigation. You do not have to prove anything, and in most cases, you should never make any statement to an investigator or attorney representing the state department of health; these can only be used against you to prove the state’s case against you.

You can remain silent, not say anything and not produce any evidence, and the state may not have enough witnesses or evidence to ever prove a case against you.

Most massage therapists, their non-lawyer representatives and their inexperienced lawyer representatives make a very big mistake. They advise the massage therapist to be interviewed or to make a statement “explaining themselves.” There is no criminal defense attorney worth his or her salt that would ever advise a criminal defendant to do this. Why then must they take leave of their senses and advise a health professional to do this in a “quasi-criminal” or “quasi-penal” investigation? This is almost always very bad advice.

Then, request a formal hearing and contest the facts. Don’t admit to them!

Conclusion: Defend Your Reputation and Massage Therapy License.

In conclusion, take precautions and defend your professional livelihood, your professional reputation and your professional license.

This is Florida. We have hurricanes. If you have a house you own, you purchase insurance on it to protect yourself in the event of a hurricane.

Without your license, you will not have an income and you will not be able to even make house payments. Why wouldn’t you purchase professional insurance that would pay for a defense in the event of that worst case scenario, an investigation of your license. Why wouldn’t you defend yourself to the max if this happened? This will probably feel worse to you and have worse long-term implications to you financially than any hurricane.

Stay tuned to this blog for more.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with an Experienced Health Law Attorney Early.

Do not wait until action has been taken against you to consult with an experienced attorney in these matters. Few cases are won on appeal. It is much easier to win your case when there is proper time to prepare and you have requested a formal hearing so that you may actually dispute the facts being alleged against you.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing massage therapists in investigations and at Florida Board of Massage Therapy hearings. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in 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.

Industry Trend: Hospital Systems Merging and Acquiring Private Practices All Over the Country

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

There’s a structural shift that is sweeping the health care system – hospitals are acquiring private physician practices. It is happening all over the U.S., including right here in Central Florida. On December 31, 2012, Orlando Health – a nonprofit, multi-hospital system that owns Orlando Regional Medical Center and eight other hospitals – will allegedly merge with Physician Associates – Central Florida’s largest medical practice, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The alleged price tag on this sale is $50 million, with each of the group’s 95 physicians receiving about $500,000 a piece.

Critics Believe the Merger will Hurt Patients.

Orlando Health maintains the goal of the merger is to move toward a new payment model and reduce health care costs, but critics interviewed in the Orlando Sentinel article disagree.

The trend around the country is that after a merger patients will see a facility fee tacked onto a doctor’s fee, even if patients go to the same doctor’s office. Critics also believe providers will feel obligated, or will be required, to only refer patients to the hospital that employs them. Another fear is job loss, as hospitals take over office management.

To read the article from the Orlando Sentinel, click here.

An Investigation into Acquisitions.

In August 2012, the Wall Street Journal took a closer look at what happens after an acquisition of a private practice by a hospital system.

The article stated as physicians are absorbed into hospital systems, they can get paid for services at the hospital systems’ rates, which are typically higher than what insurers pay to independent doctors. Some services that physicians previously performed at their facilities may start to be billed as hospital outpatient procedures, this can double or triple the cost.

Medicare pays more for certain services if they are performed at hospital facilities. According to the Wall Street Journal, if a hospital system transforms a private clinic to become an outpatient facility or moves services onto a hospital site, the hospital’s Medicare reimbursement rates will increase.

To read the entire Wall Street Journal article, click here.

Physician Associates Writes Letter to Patients.

On November 15, 2012, the Physician Associates Chairman of the Board of Directors posted a letter to patients on the practice’s website. The letter assures patients nothing about the service they receive will change. The letter says the sale is about patients receiving the best possible care in a new, fast-paced health care environment. In response to the sale price, the chairman said a large component of the purchase price reflects the sale of all of the Physician Associates’ assets to Orlando Health, along with an agreement to provide future employment.

Click here to read the entire letter.

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

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings.

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 of the merger between Physician Associates and Orlando Health? Who do you think it will benefit more, the patients or the doctors? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Jameson, Marni. “$50M sale of Physician Associates Signals Major Shift in Orlando Health Care.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 13, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-11-13/news/os-physician-associates-orlando-health-20121109_1_orlando-health-health-care-physicians

Wilde Matthews, Anna. “Same Doctor Visit, Double the Cost.” Wall Street Journal. (August 27, 2012). From: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443713704577601113671007448.html

Walker, M.D., Erik. “Letter to Our Patients Regarding Potential Orlando Health Merger.” Physician Associates. (November 15, 2012). From: http://www.paof.com/news/2012/11/letter-our-patients-regarding-potential-orlando-health-merger

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.

 

Florida Man Sentenced to Prison for Role in Florida Hospital Data Theft

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

A Davenport, Florida, man was sentenced to four years in prison for paying off two Florida Hospital employees to illegally access patient records, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). A judge sentenced Sergie Kusyakov on April 10, 2013. He was charged with conspiracy and wrongful disclosure of individual identifiable health information.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Ex-Employees Sold Patient Information to a Co-Conspirator.

Mr. Kusyakov’s sentence stems from a privacy breach at Florida Hospital back in October 2011. The breach involved thousands of patient records that were illegally accessed between 2009 and 2011. Apparently Mr. Kusyakov was paying hospital employee Dale Munroe and his wife to illegally access thousands of records of patients treated at multiple Florida Hospital locations. Mr. Munroe was sentenced in January 2013. Click here to read a previous blog on that story.

Mr. Munroe was allegedly fired in July 2011, after it was learned he accessed the records of a doctor fatally shot in a parking garage. Investigators then found that Mr. Munroe had accessed more than 700,000 patient records, most of whom had been involved in vehicle accidents. Mr. Munroe then sold the records to Mr. Kusyakov, who was associated with two chiropractic clinics. The information was then used to solicit the patients for lawyers and chiropractors. After Mr. Munroe was fired, his wife began stealing patient information. She will be sentenced in July.

HIPAA Privacy Complaints Do Result in Action.

The act of accessing patient records is a direct violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Many individuals whose privacy is breached fail to realize how effective a HIPAA Privacy Complaint can be. These complaints, which can be filed online to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), a federal agency, are fully investigated. Stiff civil fines and even criminal prosecutions may result. In serious cases, the FBI investigates them.

Since the time period is short for filing these (180 days), the first step you should take, if your medical privacy is breached, is to file a HIPAA Privacy Complaint with the OCR. Also file a complaint with the hospital or health care provider and with the state agency that licenses the health care provider.

Contact Health Attorneys Experienced in the Confidentiality of Medical Records.

Our attorneys provide advice and legal opinions on confidentiality of medical records and medical information, including HIPAA Privacy Regulation, and are available to testify as expert witnesses on these issues.

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 of Mr. Kusyakov’s sentence? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Role in Florida Hospital Theft.” Orlando Sentinel. (April 11, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-florida-hospital-patient-data-theft-20130410,0,3261544.story

Department of Justice. “Davenport Man Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison of Theft of Patient Information.” Department of Justice. (April 10, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/flm/press/2013/apr/20130410_Kusyakov.html

About the Author: 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.

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.

CMS in the Hot Seat for Lax Oversight of Medicaid Managed Care Organizations

LLA Headshot smBy Lenis L. Archer, J.D., M.P.H., The Health Law Firm

For years, each state has kept an eye on its own Medicaid managed care plans, while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is required to monitor how well each individual state is doing. However, a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report claims CMS is sleeping on the job. The report, released on June 20, 2014, stresses the need for more federal oversight of these plans.

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Medicaid program is expected to expand significantly. Most of the new beneficiaries enrolled in managed care are covered almost entirely by federal funds. The need for federal oversight in this area is of growing importance to ensure accountability of taxpayers’ dollars.

To read the entire report from the GAO, click here.

Report Findings: MCOs Need to be Watched by the Feds.

The persistent theme of the GAO report is that CMS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have done little to control the integrity of managed care organizations (MCOs). Federal programs have delegated managed care supervision to each individual state, but fail to provide needed guidelines and resources. CMS has not updated its MCO program guidance since 2000.

The report found neither state nor federal programs are well positioned to identify improper payments made to MCOs. Further, these programs are unable to ensure that MCOs are taking appropriate actions to identify, prevent or discourage improper payments.

For example, the report looked at state program integrity (PI) units and Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCU) from seven states. These anti-fraud groups admitted to primarily focusing their efforts on Medicaid fee-for-service claims. Meanwhile, claims made to MCOs have flown under their radar.

GAO Recommendations.

The GAO recommends that CMS:

– Require states to conduct audits of payments to and by MCOs;

– Update its managed care guidance program integrity practices and effective handling of MCO recoveries; and

– Provide states with additional support in overseeing MCO program integrity.

The GAO also suggests that CMS increase its oversight, especially as states expand their Medicaid programs. The GAO report recommends CMS take a bigger role in holding states accountable to ensure adequate program integrity efforts in the Medicaid managed care program. If CMS does not step up to the plate, the report predicts a growing number of federal Medicaid dollars will become vulnerable to improper payments.

The Future of MCOs.

If this report is taken seriously, be assured that audits of MCOs will become more frequent and extensive. If CMS ramps up their efforts, claims could be reviewed in detail by Medicaid integrity contractors. Now is the time to verify you are in compliance and receiving proper payments; before CMS turns the magnifying glass on you or your facility .

Comments?

What do you think of the GAO’s assessment of MCOs? Do you think CMS needs to step up and provide more oversight? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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

Medicaid fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the state MFCU, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), the FBI, and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and other law enforcement agencies often participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned about possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today. Often Medicaid fraud criminal charges arise out of routine Medicaid audits, probe audits, or patient complaints.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions. To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Mullaney, Tim. “Federal Government Needs to Boost Medicaid Managed Care Oversight, GAO Says.” McKnight’s Long-Term Care & Assisted Living. (June 20, 2014). From: http://www.mcknights.com/federal-government-needs-to-boost-medicaid-managed-care-oversight-gao-says/article/356779/

Adamopoulos, Helen. “GAI Calls on CMS to Increase Medicaid Managed Care Oversight.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (June 20, 2014). From: http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/gao-calls-on-cms-to-increase-medicaid-managed-care-oversight.html

Bergal, Jenni. “Advocates Urge More Government Oversight of Medicaid Managed Care.” Kaiser Health News. (July 5, 2013). From: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/stories/2013/july/05/medicaid-managed-care-states-quality.aspx?referrer=search

About the Author: Lenis L. Archer is as 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.

“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.

 

Apopka Woman to Serve 18-Month Prison Sentence After $47K Medicaid Scam

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

IndestAn Apopka businesswoman was recently sentenced to 18 months in prison after she was found guilty of a Medicaid scam. According to the Florida Attorney General’s Office, Shanqual Marshall-Gunn was arrested in September on suspicion of submitting more than $47,000 in fraudulent Medicaid claims.

Company Provided Targeted Case Management Services (TCMs).

Marshall-Gunn owned Second Chances TCM, Inc. TCMs are intended to provide Medicaid recipients who have mental-health disorders with connections to resources in their community, and to assist them in leading a more normal life. Prosecutors said Marshall-Gunn gave employees and clients kickbacks when they submitted referrals to her company.

Three of her employees were also arrested in September 2014 for billing Medicaid for targeted case management services that were fraudulent or not authorized.

Marshall-Gunn Entered a No Contest Plea.

Media reported that court records show Marshall-Gunn entered a no contest (or “nolo contendere”) plea and was found guilty of Medicare fraud, a second-degree felony. Circuit Court Judge Jenifer Davis sentenced Marshall-Gunn on July 2. Davis also ordered Marshall-Gunn to serve five years of probation.

In addition, she cannot work for any Medicaid provider and must pay more than $47,000 in restitution.

The Investigation Was Conducted by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

The investigation was conducted by Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU). And it was prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.

Bondi’s MFCU investigates and prosecutes providers that intentionally defraud Florida’s Medicaid program. According to Bondi’s MFCU press release in this case: “From January 2011 to August 2014, Attorney General Bondi’s MFCU has obtained more than $460 million in settlements and judgments.”

To read the press release, click here.

To read more about the MFCU, click here.

Comments?

Have you ever been a victim or suspect of Medicaid fraud? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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

Medicaid fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the state MFCU, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), the FBI, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Often other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and other law enforcement agencies participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today. Often Medicaid fraud criminal charges arise out of routine Medicaid audits, probe audits, or patient complaints.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (ALFs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

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

Sources:

Attorney General’s Press Office. “Four Central Florida Residents Arrested for Medicaid Fraud.” (Sept. 5, 2014). WCTV. From: http://www.wctv.tv/home/headlines/Four-Central-Florida-Residents-Arrested-for-Medicaid-Fraud-274154191.html

Connolly, Kevin P. “Apopka woman sentenced to prison for 18 months after Medicaid scam.” Orlando Sentinel. Print.

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.

KeyWords: Medicaid, Medicaid fraud, defense attorney, Medicaid investigation, defense lawyer, defense counsel, Medicaid claims, fraudulent claims, home health care, criminal defense, health law criminal defense, health law criminal representation, criminal representation, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, MFCU, targeted case management provider, TCM, Florida’s Medicaid program, overbill Medicaid, Medicaid scam, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, Medicaid fraud defense lawyer, Medicare, Medicare fraud, Medicare Investigation, overbill Medicare, health care fraud, Florida Attorney General, The Health Law Firm

“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 © 1996-2015 The Health Law firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Pain Clinics Can Expect More Bullying From Law Enforcement

Florida pain clinics really began to feel the impact of becoming law enforcement’s newest target about one year ago. This was based in part on televison “magazine” shows and investigative reporters’ shows and articles publicizing many abuses by patients who were “doctor shopping” and physicians who were allegedly “over-prescribing.”

More regulations were enacted, and lawmakers approved severe penalties for doctors accused of over-prescribing, including prison sentences. Most physicians were banned from dispensing drugs in their offices, and the governor created a Florida drug “strike team” whose mission was to eliminate any pain clinics that were found to be suspicious. The Florida Surgeon General and the Board of Medicine made announcements about the “crackdown” on “over-prescribing.”

According to the Orlando Sentinel, since the implementation of the new pain management and prescribing laws, the Florida strike force has made thousands of arrests and seized millions of pills in an effort to curb alleged over-prescribing and prescription drug abuse.

Now, after a year of strict regulations and punishments for Florida’s pain management physicians, pain clinics, pharmacists and pharmacies, the state is continuing to attack the pain management profession. While the planned measures aren’t as harsh as those that began a year ago, such as installing prescription drop boxes at police stations, they continue to place a stigma on the practice of pain management – a medical subspecialty with the purpose of alleviating the pain of suffering patients.

In addition, patients with true medical need for prescription pain medications are finding it increasingly difficult to even locate a physician to treat them, given the stigma and the possibility of arrest and prosecution. Medical ethicists have commented on this problem, an issue that will become increasingly problematic for the foreseeable future.

If you work in the pain management industry (physician, pharmacist, pain clinic, pharmacy, etc.) and feel that your medical license, pharmacy license, or business is at risk or is under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or Florida Department of Health (DOH), please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com for more information about this.

Florida Lawmakers Greatly Reduce Risk of Zombie and Cannibal Attacks for First Time Ever!

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

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 1175 on March 23, 2012. This bill outlaws over 90 new forms of synthetic drugs. 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 view Florida HB 1175, click here.

Florida’s Synthetic Drug Legislation Imposes Restrictions on Synthetic Substances Including Bath Salts.

The new law puts 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, bath salts, K2, potpourri, and incense. For a full list of all Schedule I controlled substances, including all substances that were added with the signing of HB 1175, click here.

The large number of synthetic substances was 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.

Manufacturers and Retailers Face New Issues Because of Legislation.

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. It is likely that law enforcement will begin to target retailers and manufacturers of these substances in order to deter them from continued sales of otherwise legal products.

Banning Bath Salts Expected to Reduce Cannibalistic Encounters but to Increase Unhappy Spouses.

It is rumored that one prominent Florida lawmaker stated that by banning bath salts this should help to reduce the reported acts of cannibalism and zombie-like behavior in Florida. Florida, especially, has been linked to cannibal attacks and random acts of zombiism in the national news, thus scaring away many of the British and Japanese tourists who usually flood the state.

One lawmaker was heard to urge:

We need to decrease the unfair comparisons that have previously been made by such prominent personalities as Adam Carolla and Dr. Drew in their radio game called “Is it Florida or is it Germany?” This bill should do the trick.

The negative effects of the bath salts ban are overwhelming, however. One lady extremely upset over this (my wife) was heard to say:

This is unfair. What am I going to do with those 14 boxes I got for Christmas presents? Now I can’t regift them next year!

It is expected that the incidence of homicides of attorneys by their irritable, unrelaxed, unscented spouses will increase dramatically.

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.

Sources Include:

Meale, Jenn. “Attorney General Pam Bondi Attends Synthetic Drug Bill Signing.” Florida Office of the Attorney General. (June 26, 2012). From: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/94634A5254CD740E85257A29007754AE

Turner, Jim. “Rick Scott Signs Law to Expand Synthetic Drug Ban in Florida.” Sunshine State News. (May 23, 2012). From: http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/blog/rick-scott-signs-law-expand-synthetic-drug-ban-florida

Koebler, Jason. “Miami ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ Puts Bath Salts Ban in Congressional Spotlight.” U.S. News. (June 1, 2012). From: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/06/01/miami-zombie-apocalypse-puts-bath-salts-ban-in-congressional-spotlight

McCorquodale, Amanda. “New Florida Laws In Effect: Bath Salts Ban, Random Drug Testing, Dyeing Animals, And Ads In Parks.” Huffington Post. (July 3, 2012). From: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/02/new-florida-laws_n_1643512.html

“Miami law will ban “bath salts” zombie-drugs.” RT. (June 22, 2012). From:
http://rt.com/usa/news/miami-ban-bath-synthetic-421/print/

Wuckland, Charles. “Bath Salts Drug Federal Ban Now in the Process After Miami Zombie Attack.” Dateline News. (June 2, 2012). From: http://datelinenews.org/bath-salts-drug-federal-ban-now-in-the-process-after-miami-zombie-attack/99604

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.

Office of Inspector General (OIG) Scrutinizes Billing at South Florida Mental Health Clinics

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

On August 16, 2012, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on questionable billing by mental health centers. The report focuses on the nation’s mental health clinics that overbilled Medicare in 2010, some by tens of millions of dollars. The majority of these clinics were located in South Florida, Texas and Louisiana.

To see the full report from the OIG, click here.

Two Big Busts in Florida Mental Health Clinics for Medicare Fraud.

According to an article in the Miami Herald: “No area of the country cheats Medicare quite like South Florida.” To see this article from the Miami Herald, click here.

In the report, the OIG specifically named a bust of two Miami-area doctors, one Miami-area therapist and two others for their participation in a Medicare fraud scheme. The case involved the nation’s biggest mental health chain and more than $205 million in fraudulent billing. Executives of the company were sentence in June 2012, to anywhere from 50 years to 91 months.

We previously blogged about this news story. Click here to read that blog. To see a copy of the press release on this case from the Department of Justice (DOJ), click here.

The Miami Herald article outlines the case of another South Florida mental-health clinic. The clinic’s owner, his son, his daughter and five others were found guilty on August 31, 2012, of conspiring to cheat $57 million from the federal program for the elderly and disabled. The owner, his son, an operating officer and another manager were also convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud by collecting $11 million in Medicare payments for therapy services that were not needed or provided from 2007 to 2011.

Click here to see the full press release on this case from the DOJ.

OIG Scrutinizes Medicare for Lack of Regulations.

In the report, the Inspector General (IG) said these two instances of Medicare fraud are examples of the federal program’s “vulnerabilities.” The report scrutinizes the Medicare program for it’s lack of regulating about 200 mental health centers in 25 states that received an estimated $218.6 million in 2010.

Medicare Officials Admit Mental Health Services are Susceptible  to Fraud and Abuse.

In the Miami Herald article, Medicare officials responded to the OIG by acknowledging that mental health services have been vulnerable to fraud and abuse in the past, but said Medicare is currently taking steps to address these issues. These steps include adopting a computer program that will screen prospective clinic operators; it will perform criminal background checks and closely examine claims which are paid within 14 days.

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. 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.

Sources:

Weaver, Jay. “Feds Spotlight South Florida Mental Health Clinics for Medicare Fraud.” The Miami Herald. (August 28, 2012). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/08/28/2972637/feds-spotlight-south-floridas.html

Levinson, Daniel. “Questionable Billing By Community Mental Health Centers.” Office of Inspector General. (August 2012). From: /uploads/OIG on Medicare fraud in Mental Health Clinics.pdf

Department of Justice. “Eight Individuals and a Corporation Convicted at Trial in Florida in $50 Million Medicare Fraud.” United States Department of Justice. (August 24, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/August/12-crm-1048.html.

Valle, Alicia. “Doctors, Therapist and Recruiters from Miami-Area Mental Health Care Corporation Convicted for Participating in $205 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme” U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. (June 1, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/fls/PressReleases/120601-03.html

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.

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