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.

COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund Expected To Run Out of Money If Congress Doesn’t Act Soon

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

In 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created the “Provider Relief Fund” (PRF) to help support healthcare providers in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal program has served as a lifeline to frontline healthcare workers who’ve experienced revenue losses and increased demand for their services during the pandemic.

To date, it has allocated more than $178 billion in payments to over 410,000 providers across the United States. Click here to learn more.

COVID-19 Uninsured Relief Fund.

Let’s start with some good news: Under the COVID-19 relief funding, HHS created the “uninsured relief fund.” This program provides claims reimbursement to health care providers for testing, treating, diagnosis, and administering vaccines to uninsured individuals for COVID-19. It has paid out more than $17 billion throughout the pandemic. It has paid out more than $17 billion throughout the pandemic.

Of the $17 billion, HHS has distributed nearly $10 billion for testing, more than $6 billion reimbursed for treatment, and the remainder covered vaccinations. Read more on the statistics here.

Running Out of Money.

Now for the bad news: According to an HHS spokesperson, there’s only $7.6 billion left, and the money will run out in the coming months. Congress isn’t currently considering making more funding available, meaning providers and patients are likely to have soon to bear the costs themselves.

Therefore, many hospitals and healthcare organizations urge Congress to replenish the PRF. “One of the most helpful and patient-oriented uses of the PRF was to help those people who for whatever reasons are uninsured and suffer from COVID-19,” said Federation of American Hospitals CEO Chip Kahn. “It meant that no one should have any reluctance to go to the hospital if they have COVID but no insurance.”

Additionally, on February 9, 2022, the American Hospital Association released a statement urging readers to contact lawmakers to get Congress to provide another $25 billion for the PRF in the government funding package. Read the AHA’s action alert here.

As we approach nearly two years since HHS declared COVID-19 a national public health emergency, PRF has been a lifeline to hospitals, health systems, and medical professionals. It has been helping to keep doors open during the pandemic to continue providing essential care to patients and communities. However, if the program runs out of money and Congress doesn’t appropriate more, hospitals could be left footing the bill, which will hurt both providers and patients in the end.

Read one of my previous blogs on a similar case regarding a Florida Dentist’s COVID-19 Business Interruption Insurance Claim to learn even more.

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

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

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

Sources:

Hellmann, Jessie. “HHS running out of money to pay providers for treating uninsured COVID-19 patients.” Modern Healthcare. (February 8, 2022). Web.

HRSA. “Covid Uninsured Claim.” Health Resources & Services Administration. (February 2022). Web.

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

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Court Assesses $170 Million in Fines Against Two Texas Ophthalmologists For False Claims

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

On November 18, 2021, the Justice Department announced that two Texas ophthalmologists and their eye clinic must pay millions of dollars in penalties for fraudulently billing Medicare. The penalties were assessed in connection with their evaluation and treatment of glaucoma.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes assessed $170 million in penalties against the ophthalmologists and their eye clinic in Houston, Outreach Diagnostic Clinic.

A Former Employee Blew the Whistle.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the action resulted from a False Claims Act (FCA) or “qui tam” suit. The whistleblower was a former employee of the clinic. The suit alleged that between February 2006 and December 2011, the two ophthalmologists fraudulently billed the Medicare Program for single eye pressure measurement tests used to assess and treat glaucoma. In addition, the suit claimed that both physicians allegedly billed the federal health care program using an improper reimbursement code that provided a higher reimbursement than that authorized.

The clinic allegedly submitted 14,450 claims and received $807,450 in payments from Medicare during this time relating to the allegations of fraud.

Assessment of Damages and Penalties.

In March 2020, the government won a summary judgment against the Texas clinic. Read more here.

As a result, the judge assessed a treble damages penalty that amounted to $2,422,350. Additionally, Judge Hughes assessed a penalty of $11,803 for each false claim, which is the minimum penalty that could have been assessed under the current version of the statute. According to the press release issued by the DOJ, the court’s assessments resulted in a total of $170,553,350 in penalties.

Click here to read more.

To read about an ophthalmologist involved in a similar Medicare fraud scheme, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

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 licensed ophthalmologists and other healthcare providers in Medicare audits, integrity 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 Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620.

Sources:

Health Law Weekly. “Ophthalmologists Must Pay $170 Million in Penalties.” American Health Law Association. (December 3, 2021). Web.

“Court assesses $170 million in penalties against two Houston opthalmologists.” Houston Business and Energy Blog. (November 18, 2021). Web.

Paavola, Alia. “Judge orders 2 ophthalmologists to pay $170M for false claims violations.” Becker’s Hoptial Review. (November 19, 2021). Web.

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

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2022-01-24T17:58:35-05:00February 15th, 2022|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog, In the News|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Florida Surgeon Handed Seven Years in Prison for $28 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

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

On November 18, 2021, a Tallahassee surgeon was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for committing health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The scheme involved performing hundreds of medically unnecessary, invasive surgical procedures on his patients.

The defendant, a dual citizen of the United States and Ghana, pled guilty to all 58 counts against him in federal court on December 18, 2020. Jason R. Cody, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, announced the sentence. Read more about the sentencing here.

Compromising the Health and Safety of Patients For Illegal Profit.

For almost four years, beginning in 2016 until his arrest in February 2020, it is alleged that the surgeon solicited his victims by establishing relationships with churches, nursing homes, hospitals, and outreach organizations. The 58-count indictment alleges the surgeon defrauded Medicare and Medicaid by billing for dozens of procedures that he never performed. A detailed list shows each claim was for more than $21,000. Federal prosecutors said that the claims that were improperly billed reached $23 million.

A later motion filed by the government alleges that the doctor’s calendar showed that he performed 14 surgeries in one day.

In addition to performing unnecessary surgical procedures, the doctor was accused of victimizing others by falsifying their medical records to reflect surgical procedures that he did not perform. He created erroneous and misleading medical records that could cause doctors who treated the same patients in the future to commit errors in their treatment of the same patients.

The Consequences of the Surgeon’s Actions.

In addition to prison time, the sentence included forfeiture of the surgeon’s assets in the United States and overseas. The assets included luxury vehicles, jewelry, and homes located in Manhattan, Miami, and Houston. The court also ordered the payment of $28.4 million in restitution.

“Instead of caring for his patients, this defendant targeted vulnerable members of our community, subjected them to unnecessary surgical procedures, and falsified documents so he could line his pockets with millions of taxpayer dollars,” a law enforcement authority reportedly stated.

Click here to read the press release in full issued from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to learn more.

To read about a similar case involving another healthcare professional, click here to read my prior blog.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal defense representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in healthcare fraud investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare and Medicaid investigations, Office of Inspector General (OIG) actions, Department of Health (DOH) investigations, and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Sources:

Paavola, Amy. “Florida physician gets 7-year sentence for $29M fraud scheme.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (November 18, 2021). Web.

AHLA. “Florida Surgeon Draws Seven-Year Prison Term for $28 Million Health Care Fraud.” American Health Law Association. (December 3, 2021). Web.

Casey, Monica. “Florida Surgeon Draws Seven-Year Prison Term for $28 Million Health Care Fraud.” WCTV. (November 18, 2021). Web.

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

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Settlement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Judge Won’t Toss Lawsuit Filed By Family of Publix Employee Who Died of Coronavirus

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

On February 5, 2021, a judge in Florida refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the family of a Publix Super Markets deli worker who died after allegedly catching COVID-19 from a coworker. Judge Carlos Lopez announced that he would not dismiss the lawsuit filed by Gerardo Gutierrez’s family, who died on April 28, 2020, from complications caused by coronavirus. The suit was filed in the Florida Circuit Court for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Miami-Dade County, Florida, in November 2020.

Publix Accused of Failing Its Workers & the Miami Beach Community.

The suit alleged that on March 27 and 28, 2020, 70-year-old deli worker Gerardo “Gerry” Gutierrez worked at a Publix supermarket alongside a coworker who showed signs of COVID-19. Unfortunately, at that time, according to the complaint, Publix had made a decision to prohibit its employees from wearing masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

On April 2, Gutierrez was told by his supervisors to isolate at home; but by April 7, he tested positive for Covid-19, the complaint says. He died on April 28, 2020.

The family says in its complaint that Publix, a Florida-based grocery store chain, breached its duty to keep its employees safe. It knowingly failed to take proper precautions and prohibited its workers from wearing masks for fear it would “incite panic” among customers, claims the suit. The lawsuit echoes findings from an earlier Tampa Bay Times report that took the position that Publix lagged behind competitors in adopting employee and customer safety protections (such as employee PPE) during the early days of the pandemic.
Click here to learn more.

Additionally, the suit also references several Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) complaints, where employees repeatedly reported the grocer prohibited mask and glove use.

To view the family’s complaint, click here.

Publix Defends Itself.

In response to the lawsuit, Publix filed a motion to dismiss, calling the suit an attempt to circumvent the worker’s compensation process. Publix also argued that the claims in the case needed to be filed in the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. The worker’s compensation system in Florida requires that employees of a corporation must file workers compensation claims for injuries sustained on the job. Civil litigation is prohibited against the employer, with a number of exceptions. The judge in the civil case disagreed with Publix, ruling in favor of the estate of the worker.

According to the complaint, it wasn’t until March 2020, after the realization set in that the spread of COVID-19 presented a major national crisis for Publix to post a statement on its website. In the statement, Publix CEO Todd Jones said the company had remained in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and would “continue to focus on keeping [its] associates [employees] healthy—and [its] stores open and stocked—to serve and support all our communities.”

Click here to read the statement in full.

Despite the arguments, the family’s attorney Michael Levine said, “Publix has never taken any responsibility for its unthinkable decision to prohibit its employees from wearing masks as COVID-19 swept through Florida. Our case will make sure Publix is held accountable for its reckless decision. We look forward to uncovering the documents behind the mask prohibition and deposing its senior personnel.”

One problem that we see with this case is that many Publix employees work part-time. We had one working for our law firm, for example. By not allowing employees to wear proper PPE, and not requiring them to abide by other protective measures, the employer caused a far wider exposure of others, even many non-customers, and their families, to the COVID virus.

The case is Gutierrez v. Publix Super Markets Inc., case number 2020-025168-CA-01, and you can read the judge’s order in full here.

Read one of my prior blogs about OSHA previously handing out citations for COVID-19 PPE violations.

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

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

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

Sources:

Bolado, Carolina. “Fla. Judge Won’t Ax Suit Over Publix Worker’s COVID-19 Death.” Law360. (February 5, 2021). Web.

Toropin, Konstantin. “Family files suit over Publix employee’s death. It says company failed to protect him from Covid-19.” CNN. (November 23, 2020). Web.

DiNatale, Sara. “A Publix employee died from COVID-19. Now his family is suing over his death.” Tampa Bay Times. (November 23, 2020). Web.

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

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

Military Non-judicial Punishments or Article 15 Proceedings Are Not Criminal Convictions–Military Physicians, Dentists and Nurses Should Know This

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

Our firm represents many military and former military health professionals. We are often asked how a non-judicial punishment or Article 15 proceeding will be treated for license applications, clinical privileges applications, and background screenings.

Article 15 Non-judicial Punishment Is Not the Same as a Court-martial or a Criminal Proceeding.

Under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which is also codified in 10 U.S.C. § 815, a commanding officer may issue an administrative punishment to enlisted or officer personnel under her command. These are not considered criminal convictions for any purpose, hence their other name, “non-judicial punishment.” These are usually for minor offenses and may be considered similar to civilian non-criminal traffic offenses.

An Article 15 non-judicial proceeding is less judicial in nature than a summary court-martial. In addition, the permissible range of punishments resulting from an Article 15 proceeding is more restrictive. The less serious Article 15 non-judicial proceeding cannot amount to a criminal prosecution or proceeding. What is most important is that there is no right to “due process of law” in a NJP as there would be in a judicial proceeding.

The NJP does not have to be reported as a “conviction” or “charge” and it should not come up on any background checks. If it does, you will need to seek assistance to have it removed from your record or explain it in sufficient detail. Always consult an experienced health lawyer with knowledge of the military if you have any questions about how to respond to questions on an application.

Cases That Have Ruled That NJPs Are Noncriminal Proceedings.

In Middendorf v. Henry, 425 U.S. 25, 31-32, 96 S. Ct. 1281, 47 L. Ed. 2d 556 (1976), even the dissenting opinion (which would have held that a summary court-martial is a criminal proceeding), agreed that the less serious Article 15 non-judicial punishment is not a criminal conviction for the purposes of the Fifth or Sixth Amendment. 425 U.S. at 58 (Marshall, J., dissenting). The dissenters noted that an Article 15 non-judicial punishment can be speedily imposed by a commander and does not carry with it the stigma of a criminal conviction. 425 U.S. at 58-59.

Numerous federal cases have held that an Article 15 non-judicial proceeding is not a criminal prosecution. See e.g., United States v. Marshall, 45 M.J. 268, 271 (C.A.A.F. 1996); Varn v. United States, 13 Cl. Ct. 391, 396 (1987); Dumas v. United States, 223 Ct. Cl. 465, 620 F.2d 247, 253 (1980) (“Article 15 proceedings clearly are not criminal prosecutions within the meaning of the rights plaintiffs claim under [the Fifth and Sixth] Amendments”); Bowes v. United States, 227 Ct. Cl. 166, 645 F.2d 961 (1981); Cole v. States, 228 Ct. Cl. 890 (1981); Cochran v. United States, 1 Cl. Ct. 759, 764 (1983), aff’d, 732 F.2d 168 (1984); Cappella v. United States, 224 Ct. Cl. 162, 624 F.2d 976, 980 (1980).

Fewer Rights at a NJP Means Increased Authority to Commanders and, Therefore, Less Stigma Associated With the Discipline.

The legislative history accompanying 10 U.S.C. § 815 states that Article 15 non-judicial punishment is non-criminal in character. The legislative history explains the purpose of the 1962 amendments to Article 15:

“The purpose of the proposed legislation was to amend article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to give increased authority to designated commanders in the Armed Forces to impose non-judicial punishment. Such increased authority [enables] them to deal with minor disciplinary problems and offenses without resort to trial by court-martial.”

The Legislative History Supports this Interpretation.

“Under existing law, article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice provides a means whereby military commanders deal with minor infractions of discipline without resorting to criminal law processes. Under this article, commanding officers can impose specified limited punishments for minor offenses and infractions of discipline. This punishment is referred to as ‘non-judicial’ punishment. Since the punishment is non-judicial, it is not considered as a conviction of a crime and in this sense has no connection with the military court-martial system. . . . It has been acknowledged over a long period that military commanders should have the authority to impose non-judicial punishment as an essential part of their responsibilities to preserve discipline and maintain an effective armed force.”

The legislative history also emphasizes Congress’s intent to make Article 15 a non-criminal proceeding for the protection of service personnel:

“The Department of Defense has stated that problems adversely affecting morale and discipline have been created in the Armed Forces because of the inadequate powers of commanding officers to deal with minor behavioral infractions without resorting to the processes of the military court-martial system. . . . At the same time, the increased non-judicial authority should permit the services to reduce substantially the number of courts-martial for minor offenses, which result in stigmatizing and impairing the efficiency and morale of the person concerned.”

One court noted: “In light of the foregoing, it is clear that an Article 15 military proceeding for non-judicial punishment does not amount to a “criminal prosecution.” . . . Article 15’s legislative history demonstrates that Congress did not consider non-judicial punishment to be a conviction of a crime. Furthermore, federal courts have construed such proceedings to be non-criminal in nature. Accordingly, state prosecution . . . for the same offense is not barred by our double jeopardy statutory scheme.”
State v. Myers, 100 Haw. 132, 135-36, 58 P.3d 643, 646-47 (2002)

Other Courts Have Held Similarly.

Other Courts have quoted Myers with approval or have come to the same conclusion.

For example, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in United States v. Trogden, 476 F. Supp. 2d 564, 569 (E.D. Va. 2007), stated:

“‘Supreme Court, other federal court, and state court precedent support the finding that NJP is not criminal. The Supreme Court has expressly stated that “Article 15 punishment, conducted personally by an accused’s commanding officer, is an administrative method of dealing with the most minor offenses.’ Middendorf v. Henry, 425 U.S. 25, 31-32, 96 S. Ct. 1281, 47 L. Ed. 2d 556 (1976) (emphasis added); see United States v. Gammons, 51 M.J. 169, 177 (C.A.A.F. 1999) (confirming this Supreme Court precedent in stating that ‘[m]ost punishments that may be imposed in a NJP proceeding affect the noncriminal field of military personnel administration’). Lower courts have further held that NJP is a non-adversarial proceeding that is regarded as noncriminal in nature. Fairchild v. Lehman, 814 F.2d 1555, 1558 (Fed. Cir. 1987); see Wales v. United States, 14 Cl. Ct. 580, 587 (1988); Cochran, 1 Cl. Ct. at 764, 767; Dumas, 620 F.2d at 251; Gammons, 51 M.J. at 174; United States v. Marshall, 45 M.J. 268, 271 (C.A.A.F. 1996); Dobzynski v. Green, 16 M.J. 84, 85-86 (C.A.A.F. 1983); Myers, 100 Haw. at 135, 58 P.3d at 646. Accordingly, in light of Article 15’s text, implementing manual, legislative history, and evaluation in case law, this court finds that Congress did not intend for NJP to be considered as criminal punishment for double jeopardy purposes, and this congressional intent is ‘entitled to considerable deference.’ SEC v. Palmisano, 135 F.3d 860, 864 (2d Cir. 1998).”

“Neither party has argued that the non-judicial punishment proceedings at issue were criminal in nature. See State v. Myers, 100 Haw. 132, 58 P.3d 643, 646-47 (Haw. 2002) (‘Numerous federal cases have held that an Article 15 non-judicial proceeding is not a criminal prosecution.’). Quoted with approval in Sasen v. Mabus, Civil Action No. 16-cv-10416-ADB, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44436, at *33-34 (D. Mass. Mar. 27, 2017).

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appelas in United States v. Reveles, 660 F.3d 1138, 1141-42 (9th Cir. 2011), stated:

“The Armed Forces Court of Appeals has stated that ‘the title of the [NJP] legislation—”Commanding officer’s non-judicial punishment”—underscores the legislative intent to separate NJP from the judicial procedures of the military’s criminal law forum, the court-martial.’ United States v. Gammons, 51 M.J. 169, 177 (C.A.A.F. 1999). Similarly, the United States Court of Claims has held that ‘non-judicial punishment, unlike the general and special court-martial, is not a formal adversary criminal proceeding, but is regarded as non-criminal in nature.’ Wales v. United States, 14 Cl. Ct. 580, 587 (1988) (citing Fairchild v. Lehman, 814 F.2d 1555, 1558 (Fed. Cir. 1987)); see also Cochran v. United States, 1 Cl. Ct. 759, 764 (1983); Dumas v. United States, 620 F.2d 247, 251-52, 223 Ct. Cl. 465 (Ct. Cl. 1980); United States v. Trogden, 476 F. Supp. 2d 564, 568 (E.D. Va. 2007); State v. Myers, 100 Haw. 132, 58 P.3d 643, 646 (Haw. 2002); but see United States v. Volpe, 986 F. Supp. 122 (N.D.N.Y. 1997); Arriaga, 49 M.J. at 12; Ivie, 961 P.2d at 945.”

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have represented physicians, nurses, dentists, and other health professionals in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, active duty and retired, as well as physicians, nurses, and other health professionals working for the Veterans Administration (VA) in the U.S. and around the world. Representation has included disciplinary action, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions, and appeals.

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

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

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

New Policy Changes to USMLE Exams and How They Impact Medical Students, Graduates

Attorney Achal A. Aggarwal HeadshotBy Achal A. Aggarwal, J.D.

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (“USMLE”) is a three-step examination required to obtain a medical license. It is written and administered by the USMLE Secretariat of the National Board of Medical Examiners (“NBME”) and is sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards (“FSMB”) and the USMLE.

Medical students desiring to practice in the U.S. are under immense pressure to not only pass the exams but to excel at them. Specifically, the USMLE Step 1 Examination, the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (“CK”) Examination, and the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills (“CS”) Examination are the most significant deciding factors that residency programs use for selecting applicants to interview for residency positions. However, a lot is about to change.


Important Changes That Could Affect You.

On February 12, 2020, the FSMB and the NBME announced the following policy changes:

1. The Step 1 Exam will be changed to pass/fail grading;

2. The number of examination attempts for each exam will be reduced from six (6) to four (4); and

3. All examinees must pass the Step 1 Exam before taking the Step 2-CS Exam.


Changing the Step 1 Exam to Pass/Fail.

The USMLE has announced that it will change the Step 1 exam’s grading system from a three-digit score to a pass/fail grading system. This change will go into effect on January 1, 2022.  A statement published on the website states that changing to pass/fail could help reduce some of the current overemphasis on USMLE performance while also retaining the ability of medical licensing authorities to use the exam for its primary purpose of medical licensure eligibility. Click here to visit the USMLE website and read the statement.

It appears that USMLE, FSMB, NBME, and the American Medical Association (AMA) are attempting to alleviate the stress and pressure the Step 1 exam puts on medical students. However, this change may cause issues for residency programs that are trying to screen for which students they want to interview.

In the current system, the Step 1 score is a three-digit score that is graded on a bell-curve. The minimum passing score for each Step 1 exam is different and depends on the performance of the total universe of the students who take that particular examination.

The three-digit score helps residency programs assess which students were more likely to excel in their program and which students would not. By changing the exam to a pass/fail scoring system, residency programs will be forced to rely more heavily on the Step 2-CK scores, medical school performance, and overall curriculum vitae.


Greater Emphasis to Be Placed on Step 2-CK Exam.

Currently, the Step 2-CK exam is only the fourth-most deciding factor in how residency programs select applicants for interviews. Approximately 80% of residency program directors stated that it was an important factor, but not the most.

On the other hand, the Step 2-CS exam score is a less influential factor, with only 56% of residency program directors saying that it was essential to their decision. Students should anticipate that the Step 2-CK and Step 2-CS will become more important as program directors shift their attention to the scores of those exams.

For more information click here.

What remains to be seen is how these changes will impact international medical graduates (“IMG”), commonly referred to as “foreign medical graduates.” To distinguish themselves, IMGs often tried to get the highest possible USMLE score, as this was the most objective way for them to be compared to other U.S. medical school students.

Since each domestic and international medical school has its own unique clinical grading system, the USMLE Step 1 was one of the most objective ways to compare residency applicants. Now that Step 1 scoring has been eliminated, it might be harder for IMGs to make themselves attractive to competitive residency programs.

Reducing Overall Exam Attempts from Six to Four.

Additionally, the USMLE is changing the limit on the total number of times an examinee may take the same Step exam from six (6) attempts to four (4) attempts. This means that after the policy is implemented, it will be ineligible to take a Step exam if the examinee has made four (4) prior attempts on that Step exam, including incomplete attempts.

The policy is set to be implemented on July 1, 2021. Learn more about the policy here.

Examinees Must Pass Step 1 Before Taking Step 2-CS.

Although the USMLE has suspended the Step 2-CS exam administration at the present time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is set to implement a rule requiring all examinees to pass the Step 1 exam before qualifying to take the Step 2-CS exam.

Implementing such a rule would reduce the USMLE’s burden of administering the Step 2-CS exam multiple times since students will be required to qualify for the exam. Students can currently take the Step 1 exam, Step 2-CS exam, and Step 2-CK exam in any order they choose, depending on the requirements of their medical school. This new rule seeks to shift that burden by funneling students through the Step 1 exam.

The impact of such a change remains to be seen, however, we anticipate that this policy will reduce the testing burden on the USMLE while also maintaining the importance of the Step 1 exam despite changing its scoring to pass/fail.

It does represent a complete shake-up in how the system of testing has previously been administered.

Tips for the New Rules.

The following are suggestions we have concerning the new rules:

1. Take the Step 1 Exam as soon as you can, and begin preparing for the others.

2. Always treat every test administration extremely seriously, as though your future life and career depend on it; they do!

3. Take maximum advantage of commercial preparation courses and always try to take one of the recommended live ones before you take your examination.

4. Take off several weeks prior to the examination and find a hotel within walking distance of the test site where you will take the examination to study. Get rid of all distractions while studying for and immediately prior to taking the examination.

5. Never solicit actual test content or offer to share it with someone else.

For additional common-sense tips on preparing for and taking the USMLE Step exams, see another blog on this subject here.


Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education, and those being challenged by the National Board fo Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG)

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent interns, residents, fellows, and medical school students in disputes with their medical schools, supervisors, residency programs, and in dismissal hearings. We have experience representing such individuals and those in graduate medical education programs in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete integral parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), because of discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, and any other matters. We routinely help those who have disputes with the National Board fo Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), including on hearings and appeals concerning “Irregular Behavior,” “unprofessionalism,” and “Irregular Conduct.”

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

About the Author: Achal A. Aggarwal, M.B.A., J.D. practice health law with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office in the Orlando, Florida area.   1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.  Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com

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

Simple Rules for Keeping Your License and Avoiding Complaints for Counselors and Psychotherapists

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

I represent many mental health counselors, social workers, psychologists, and professional counselors, defending them on complaints being investigated against their professional licenses. Many complaints and investigations arise because the therapist has strayed over the line and crossed the therapist-client boundary. In reviewing these cases, I have drawn up a list of a few simple “bright line” rules that can help save you many hours of stress and mental anguish as well as thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and costs defending yourself

These “rules” may seem to be common sense, but there they are, anyway:

1. DO NOT ever meet the client at an outside social activity or attend a social event with the client. This includes “just dinner” or “just-drinks.”

2. DO NOT text the client. Texting is not secure and leads to casual and unprofessional thinking and conversation with the client. Many health care institutions prohibit their physicians and employees from texting with clients because of the HIPAA Security and Privacy Rules. You can use that as an excuse if you need one.

3. DO take a screenshot and print out the text when you violate the above rule. Place it in the client’s health record because you will probably be seeing it again, attached to a complaint.

4. DO send an e-mail or, better yet, a professional letter to the client, instead of texting the client. Print out a copy and place it in the client’s health record, because you will probably see it again.

5. DO NOT EVER make any suggestive or sexual remarks to the client in any communications, oral or written or text, or e-mail. In fact, DON’T even think about it. This includes off-color jokes and comments.

6. DO immediately terminate the relationship with the client, transferring care to a different therapist, if the client suggests anything of a sexual nature involving you.

7. DO NOT talk about other clients with the client.

8. DO NOT talk about your own personal life with the client. Especially DO NOT let the client have your personal home address or personal e-mail address.

9. DO NOT ever have sex with a client or former client. DO NOT even think of it. If you start to think of it, see Rule 6, above. Consider clients and former clients “off-limits” no matter how much you are tempted. If you are religious, just consider this as an attempt by Satan to seduce you. If it works, you are going to be in Hell, even before you die.

10. DO know what professional boundaries are and DO NOT cross them. This includes allowing a personal relationship to grow between you and the client, and includes selling anything to the client (e.g., Girl Scout cookies, tickets to a charitable event, Amway products, candy bars for your kids’ school band, etc.), agreeing to meet the client at any outside event, accepting gifts from the client, hiring the client to work for you, accepting “voluntary” services from the client (including volunteering to work in your office). If you need a friend that bad, terminate the therapist-client relationship and see Rule 6, above.

11. DO know that if you have even a suspicion that your therapist-client relationship is getting out of bounds, then it already is out of bounds. See Rule 6, above.

12. DO call a professional therapist colleague who is more senior to you and consult her or him about the “situation” if you think there may be a “situation.”

These may sound like “no-brainers” to you, but you would be surprised at how many complaints against licensed counselors and psychologists there are as a result of violating one or more of these “rules.”

(Note: These “rules” are just guidelines meant to help you keep out of trouble; these are not meant to be enforced against anyone, nor do they create or represent any “standard of care.”)

For additional information on how our firm can assist you in matters like this, click here to read one of our prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced Investigations of Mental Health Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers, and Family Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to mental health counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and family therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) investigations, board hearings, FBI investigations, and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

We also defend health professionals and health facilities in general litigation matters and business litigation matters.

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

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

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

 

 

2021-03-26T09:38:32-04:00March 26th, 2021|Categories: In the Know, In the News, Mental Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Three Charged For Roles in $109 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme, HIPAA Violations

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

In October 2020, Massachusetts federal prosecutors charged three people for their alleged roles in a multi-million dollar plot to defraud Medicare. Two individuals allegedly collected patient data and sold it to the purported mastermind, who used it to submit $109 million in false claims.

The two individuals who allegedly obtained the patient information were both located in Florida, wouldn’t ya know. They were each charged with one count of receiving more than $1.6 million kickbacks in connection with a federal health care program. Prosecutors charged the third individual with criminal violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Fraudulently Collecting & Using Patient Information.

According to court documents, both individuals in Florida owned marketing companies that enlisted foreign call centers to contact Medicare beneficiaries. Using a prepared script, they allegedly asked the patients they called if they would be interested in receiving durable medical equipment (DME) such as knee braces or compression sleeves “at little to no cost.”

The call centers would then collect information, including the patient’s name, address, insurance number, Medicare number, and doctor’s name and address, prosecutors said. The information was then sold to the third individual, who filed fraudulent Medicare claims for DME that were never prescribed and not medically necessary.

According to court records, the alleged co-conspirators used the same patients’ information repeatedly through a different shell company each time. More than 1,000 of the claims were made under the names of deceased beneficiaries. Click here to view the criminal information in this case.

Read the DOJ’s press release on this case for additional information.

Also, you can read one of my prior blogs on a similar case in Florida.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers and other health care providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits, MAC audits, and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also health care providers in qui tam or False Claims Act (whistleblower) litigation and in other complex medical litigation. They also represent DME suppliers, 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 programs, They represent health care providers in formal and informal administrative hearings, federal or state.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620.

Sources:

Sinay, Reenat. “Feds Charge 3 In Alleged $109M Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Law360. (October 2, 2020). Web.

Szaniszlo, Marie. “Three charged in multi-million dollar fraud scheme.” Sentinel Enterprise. (October 2, 2020). Web.

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

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

 

 

2021-02-24T11:01:27-05:00February 24th, 2021|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog, In the News|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Doctor, You Might Need A Home Medical Equipment Provider License, If . . .

By Michael L. Smith, J.D., R.R.T. Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Physicians frequently utilize electrostimulation or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units, and other medical equipment in the course of their practice. Most often the physician or the practice bills the patient or the patient’s insurance for the medical equipment. Unfortunately, some physicians do not know that a special Home Medical Equipment Provider (HMEP) license may be required in Florida in order to legally bill patients for TENS units, and other durable medical equipment that the physicians provide to their own patients. Violating the laws that require a license can place the physician and the practice in some serious legal trouble.

Requirements for Physicians.

Under Florida law, a special Home Medical Equipment Provider (HMEP) license is required before a physician may provide and bill a patient or the patient’s insurance company for TENS units and most other durable medical equipment. Physicians who provide and bill for medical equipment and supplies without the required license may be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. The same physicians may also be subjected to an administrative fine of $5,000 for each violation. Additionally, insurance companies routinely refused to pay for TENS units and other durable medical equipment that physicians have provided to their own patients because the physician has not obtained a Home Medical Equipment Provider license.

New Legislation.

The Florida Legislature recently passed an amendment to the Home Medical Equipment Provider license requirement that would allow allopathic, osteopathic, and chiropractic physicians to sell or rent electrostimulation medical equipment and supplies to their patients in the course of their practice without first obtaining the Home Medical Equipment Provider license. However, the amendment does not change the license requirements for other durable medical equipment that physicians sell or rent to their own patients in the course of their practices. The amendment became effective on July 1, 2020.

Any Florida physician providing TENS units or other durable medical equipment to their own patients and billing the patients or the patient’s insurer for those services should consult with an experienced health law attorney to ensure the services are provided legally.

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

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

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

About the Author: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He 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 Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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

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