Medicaid Fraud

Dental Clinic Owners Found Guilty of $1 Million Medicaid, Tax 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 February 21, 2019, a federal jury found the owners of several dental clinics in Missouri guilty of a $1 million scheme to defraud the government. The owners of All About Smiles LLC, were convicted of submitting false claims to Medicaid for dentures and other services and payroll tax fraud, according to prosecutors.

Submitting False Claims.

Prosecutors alleged that the couple that owned the practice ran several schemes through the dental clinics from 2010 to 2015, including conspiring to defraud Medicaid. A main part of the scheme was to provide dentures and other services to adults who didn’t qualify for Medicaid. They would then bill the Medicaid program anyway, receiving more than $720,000, according to the DOJ.

The pair also allegedly ran a similar scheme with orthodontic equipment, racking up an estimated 241 false claims, said prosecutors. All About Smiles was paid approximately $165,700 during the the duration of the scheme.

Payroll Problems.

In addition to the fraud, the owners allegedly failed to forward payroll taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) even though the money was withheld from employee paychecks. Instead, the married pair used the almost $195,000 to cover lavish personal expenses and make payments on a variety of vehicles, said the DOJ.

Not Smiling Anymore.

Jurors found the couple guilty on all charges detailed in a 40-count indictment accusing them of fraudulently operating three All About Smiles LLC dental clinics, said the DOJ. Additionally, their legal woes continued to stack up as each was also convicted on a count of theft of public money for collecting unemployment benefits while working.

The female owner faces up to 10 years in prison on every count besides the payroll tax conspiracy charge, which comes with a maximum penalty of five years. The husband owner could get up to a decade for obtaining unemployment benefits and five years for each additional charge, prosecutors said.

Click here to read the DOJ’s press release.

To read one of my prior blogs on a similar case about a dentist defrauding medicaid, click here.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent dentists, oral surgeons, and other health care providers in Medicaid audits, Medicare audits, insurance billing audits, ZPIC audits, RAC audits, administrative litigation and civil litigation 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 licensure complaints and investigations, DEA investigations, Medicare and Medicaid fraud investigations, audits, recovery actions and terminations 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:

“All About Smiles Owners Convicted of Fraud.” Ozark Independent. (February 21, 2019). Web.
Posses, Shayna. “Couple Found Guilty Of $1M Medicaid, Payroll Tax Scheme.” Law360. (February 21, 2019). 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., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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Physician Argues Definition of “Peer” at Formal Administrative Hearing

peer reviewFACTS: The Agency for Health Care Administration (“AHCA”) is responsible for administering Florida’s Medicaid program and conducting investigations and audits of paid claims to ascertain if Medicaid providers have been overpaid. With regard to investigations of physicians, section 409.9131, Florida Statutes, provides that AHCA must have a “peer” evaluate Medicaid claims before the initiation of formal proceedings by AHCA to recover overpayments. Section 409.9131(2)(c) defines a “peer” as “a Florida licensed physician who is, to the maximum extent possible, of the same specialty or subspecialty, licensed under the same chapter, and in active practice.” Section “109.9131(2)(a) deems a physician to be in “active practice” if he or she has “regularly provided medical care and treatment to patients within the past two years.”

Alfred Murciano, M.D., treats patients who are hospitalized in Level III neonatal intensive care units and pediatric intensive care units in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County hospitals. His practice is limited to pediatric infectious disease. He has been certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in two areas: General Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases. AHCA initiated a review of Medicaid claims submitted by Dr. Murciano between September 1, 2008, and August 31, 2010, and referred those claims to Richard Keith O’Hern, M.D., for peer review. Dr. O’Hern practiced medicine for 37 years, and was engaged in a private general pediatric practice until he retired in December of 2012. During the course of his career, he was certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in General Pediatrics, completed a one-year infectious disease fellowship at the The University of Florida, and treated approximately 16,000 babies with infectious disease issues. However, he was never board certified in pediatric infectious diseases, and at the time he reviewed Dr. Murciano’s Medicaid claims, Dr. O’Hern would have been ineligible for board certification in pediatric infectious diseases. In addition, Dr. O’Hern would have been unable to treat Dr. Murciano’s hospitalized patients in Level III NICUs and PICUs.

After Dr. O’Hern’s review, AHCA issued a Final Agency Audit Report alleging Dr Murciano had been overpaid by $l,051.992.99, and that he was required to reimburse AHCA for the overpayment. In addition, AHCA stated it was seeking to impose a fine of $210,398.60.

OUTCOME: Dr. Murciano argued at the formal administrative hearing that Dr O’Hern was not a “peer” as that term is defined in section 409.9131(20)(c). The ALJ agreed and issued a Recommended Order on May 22, 2014, recommending that AHCA’s case be dismissed because it failed to satisfy a condition precedent to initiating formal proceedings. While recognizing that AHCA is not required to retain a reviewing physician with the exact credentials as the physician under review, the ALJ concluded Dr. O’Hern was not of the same specialty as Dr. Murciano.

On July 31, 2014, AHCA rendered a Partial Final Order rejecting the ALJ’s conclusion that Dr. O’Hern was not a “peer.” In the course of ruling that it has substantive jurisdiction over such conclusions and that its interpretation of section 409.9131(2)(c), Florida Statutes, is entitled to deference, AHCA stated that it interprets the statute “to mean that the peer must practice in the same area as Respondent, hold the same professional license as Respondent, and be in active practice like Respondent.” AHCA concluded that “Dr. O’Hern is indeed a ‘peer’ of Respondent under the Agency’s interpretation of Section 409.9131(2)(c), Florida Statutes, because he too has a Florida medical license, is a pediatrician and had an active practice at the time he reviewed Respondent’s records. That Dr. O’Hern did not hold the same certification as Respondent, or have a professional practice identical to Respondent in no way means he is not a ‘peer’ of Respondent.” AHCA’s rejection of the ALJ’s conclusion of law regarding Dr. O’Hern’s “peer” status caused AHCA to remand the case back to the ALJ to make the factual findings on the claimed overpayments that were not made in the Recommended Order because of the ALJ’s conclusion that Dr. O’Hern did not qualify as a “peer.”

On August 18, 2014, the ALJ issued an Order respectfully declining AHCA’s remand. AHCA then filed a Petition for writ of Mandamus in the First District Court of Appeal, asking the court to direct the ALA to accept the remand and to enter findings of fact and conclusions of law with regard to each overpayment claim. The court assigned case number 1D14-3836 to AHCA’s Petition, and the case is pending.
Source:

AHCA v. Alfred Murciano, M.D., DOAH Case No. 13-0795MPI (Recommended Order May 22, 2014), AHCA Rendition No. 14-687-FOF-MDO (Partial Final Order July 31, 2014)
About the Author: The forgoing case summary was prepared by and appeared in the DOAH case notes of the Administrative Law Section newsletter, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Dec. 2014), a publication of the Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar.