The Health Law Firm Blog

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Terrible Things That Can Happen after Discipline on Your Professional License or Resignation of a License after Notice of Investigation

Patricia's Photos 013By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Do you have a medical, pharmacy or nursing license in several different states?  Do you have a license in more than one health profession?  Have you been notified that an investigation has been opened against you?  Are you thinking about resigning your professional license or voluntarily relinquishing such a license?  Then you must be aware of the following.

First, you should never voluntarily relinquish or resign your license after you know that an investigation has been opened or that disciplinary action has been taken against you.  Such a resignation is considered to be a “disciplinary relinquishment” and is treated the same as if your license had been revoked on disciplinary grounds.

Second, this will be reported out to other states, agencies, to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), to any certifying bodies for certifications you have and to other reporting agencies (such as the National Council of State Board of Nursing, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy or the American Board of Internal Medicine).  Other states and other professional boards will most likely initiate disciplinary action based upon the first one.

Protect Your License from These Adverse Actions.

The following is a list of some of the adverse actions that you can expect to be taken against you after discipline on your license or after you resign your professional license after receiving notice of investigation:

1.  A mandatory report to the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB) which remains there for 50 years. Note: The Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank or HIPDB recently merged into the NPDB.

2.  Must be reported to and included in the Department of Health (DOH) profile that is available to the public online (for those having one), and remains for at least ten years.

3.  Any other states or jurisdictions in which the nurse has a license will also initiate an investigation and possible disciplinary action against him or her in that jurisdiction.  (Note:  I have had two clients who had licenses in seven other states and all, even ones that were inactive or not renewed years ago, initiated action).

4.  The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will take action to exclude the provider from the Medicare Program.  If this occurs (and most of these offenses require mandatory exclusion) the provider will be placed on the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) maintained by the HHS OIG.

a.  If this happens, you are prohibited by law from working in any position in any capacity for any individual or business, including hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, physicians, medical groups, insurance companies, etc., that contract with or bill Medicare or Medicaid.  This means, for example, you are prohibited from working as a janitor in a nursing home that accepts Medicare or Medicaid, even as an independent contractor.

b.  If this happens, you are also automatically “debarred” or prohibited from participating in any capacity in any federal contracting, and you are placed on the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) debarment list.  This means you are prohibited by law from working in any capacity for any government contractor or anyone who takes government funding.  This applies, for example, to prevent you from being a real estate agent involved in selling property financed by a government backed loan, prohibited from working for an electrical company that bids on contracts for government housing projects, working as a school teacher in a public school, etc.

c.  If this happens, your state Medicaid Program is required to terminate you “for cause” from the state Medicaid Program.  In many states, this is also grounds for revocation of your license.

5.  Any profile or reporting system maintained by a national organization or federation (e.g., NURSYS profile maintained by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, American Medical Association physician profile, or the Federation of State Board of Physical Therapy profile) will include the adverse action in it, generally available to the public.

6.  If you are a nurse practitioner or other professional with clinical privileges at a hospital, nursing home, HMO or clinic, action will be taken to revoke or suspend the clinical privileges and staff membership if you have such. This may be in a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, skilled nursing facility, staff model HMO or clinic.  This will usually be for physicians, physician assistants (PAs), advance registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), nurse midwives or certified nurse anesthetists (CNAs), podiatrists, clinical psychologist or clinical pharmacists.

7.  Third party payors (health insurance companies, HMOs, etc.) will terminate the professional’s contract or panel membership with that organization.

8.  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will act to revoke the  professional’s DEA registration if he or she has one.

9.  Many employers will not hire you or will terminate your employment if they discover your license has been disciplined in another state.

What Should You Do?

–  Don’t take the easy way out by immediately relinquishing your license if you are notified you are under investigation.

–  Don’t hide your head in the sand by thinking the case will just go away on its own.

–  Don’t take the easy way out.  If you are innocent of the charges, request a formal hearing and contest the charges; defend yourself.

–  Do not request an informal hearing or a settlement agreement in which you admit the facts alleged against you are all true.  If you do this, you are “pleading guilty.”

–  Do immediately seek the advice of an attorney who has experience in such professional licensing matters and administrative hearings.  They are out there, but you may have to search for one.  Do this as soon as you get notice of any investigation and especially before you have talked to or made any statement (including a written one) to any investigator.

–  Do purchase professional liability insurance that includes legal defense coverage for any professional license investigation against you, whether it is related to a malpractice claim or not.  This insurance is cheap and will provide needed legal assistance at the time when you may be out of a job and not have money to hire an attorney.  Beware of the insurance policy that only covers professional license defense if it is related to a malpractice claim.

Professional Liability Insurance.

We strongly encourage all licensed health professionals and facilities to purchase their own, independent insurance coverage.  Make sure it covers professional license defense under all circumstances.  Make sure you have enough coverage to actually get you through a hearing. $25,000 coverage for just professional licensure defense is the absolute minimum you should purchase;  $50,000 may be adequate but $75,000 or $100,000 may be what you really need in such a situation.  For a few dollars more (and I do mean only a few) you can usually purchase the higher limits.

Also, I will repeat, make sure it covers your legal defense in an administrative disciplinary proceeding against your license, even if there is no malpractice claim filed against you or likely to be filed against you.

We also recommend that you purchase coverage through an insurance company that allows you to select your own attorney and does not make you use one that the insurance company picks for you.

Companies we have encountered in the past who provide an inexpensive top quality insurance product for professional license defense costs include:  CPH & Associates Insurance, Nurses Service Organization (NSO) Insurance, Healthcare Providers Organization (HPSO) Insurance and Lloyd’s of London Insurance.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacies, dentists, mental health counselors, massage therapists and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 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.

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.

You Must Challenge Overpayment Demands from Medicare and Medicaid Audits

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

We have recently received numerous communications from health care professionals, including physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, mental health counselors, durable medical equipment (DME) providers, assisted living facilities (ALFs), group homes, and psychologists, who have been placed on prepayment review after failing to challenge Medicare or Medicaid audit results. The problem is that these providers, once placed on prepayment review, have their payments held up for many months and are often forced out of business. Sometimes it appears that this may actually be the goal of the auditing contractor or agency.

What Happens on Prepayment Review.

Failing to challenge, follow-up on, and appeal any adverse audit determinations can be very detrimental. An error rate in excess of fifteen percent (15%) will usually result in the provider being placed on prepayment review. While on prepayment review, the provider will be required to submit the documentation for medical records by mail to support each claim submitted and have that claim and its supporting medical records’ documentation audited, prior to any claims being paid. Often the auditing agency will come back to the provider again and again to demand additional information and documentation on claims instead of immediately processing them. This can hold up processing of the claim for months. Often the resulting termination of income flow will force the provider out of business. This saves the government lots of money, because the provider has then provided services to Medicare or Medicaid recipients for many months without ever getting paid for it.

These are some of the reasons why we recommend that physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, podiatrists, optometrists, psychologists, mental health counselors, respiratory therapists, and others always hire the Board Certified Health Law Attorney experienced in audits from the very beginning.

A Real-Life Example of the Trouble Caused by a Medicare Audit.

In one case we know of, a therapist was audited by Medicare. The audit by the Medicare administrative contractor (MAC) requested only 30 records. The therapist provided copies of the records he thought the auditors wanted. He did not number the pages or keep an exact copy of what he provided. The MAC came back and denied one percent (1%) of the claims audited. However, since the amount demanded back by the MAC was only a few thousand dollars, the therapist never hired an attorney and never challenged the results. Instead of retaining legal counsel and appealing the results, the therapist paid the entire amount, thinking that was the easy way out.

Unfortunately, because of the high error rate, the MAC immediately placed the therapist on prepayment review of all claims, assuming the prior audit had disclosed fraud or intentional false coding. Every claim the provider submitted from that point on had to be submitted on paper with supporting medical records sent in by mail. The MAC refused to make a decision on any of the claims, instead, holding them and requesting additional documentation and information from time to time. The therapist currently has most of his claims tied up in prepayment review, some for as long as five months with no decision. No decision means no review or appeal rights.

The therapist conveyed to me that he recently contacted the auditor to attempt to obtain decisions on some of his claims so that he could at least begin the appeal process if the claims are denied. He advised me that the auditor at the MAC expressed surprise that he was still in business.

Challenge Improperly Denied or Reduced Claims.

These situations are very unfair and unjust, especially to smaller health care providers. The reduced cash flow even for a month or two may be enough to drive some small providers out of business. Larger health care providers have vast resources sufficient to handle such audit situations on a routine basis. They may have similar problems but are better equipped and have more resources to promptly handle it. Rather than immediately pay whatever amount is demanded on an audit and waive any appeal/review rights, the provider should review each claim denied or reduced and challenge the ones that have been improperly denied or reduced. Otherwise you may wind up with a high error rate which will cause you to be placed into prepayment review. Once placed in prepayment review, it is difficult to get out of it. Often it takes six months or longer.

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Audit Cycle.

Another reason to challenge overpayment demands as a result of an audit is because the audit contractors will keep you on an audit cycle for a number of future audits if they are successful in obtaining any sort of significant recovery from you on the initial audit. This is similar to what happens if your tax return is audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recovers a significant payment from you because you did not have the documentation to support your deductions, you can expect to be audited for at least the next two years.

The value of competent legal representation at the beginning of an audit cannot be overestimated. It is usually long after the audit is over, and the time to appeal the audit agency’s findings has passed, that the health care provider realizes he should have retained an audit consultation.

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 healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

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

Comments?

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

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.

Will Florida Board of Medicine Follow Board of Pharmacy’s Lead and Recommend PRN Evaluations for Applicants Before Application is Considered?

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

At the February 12, 2014, Florida Board of Pharmacy meeting, some board members expressed frustration with the fact that applicants for licensure with prior mental health or substance abuse related issues had not been evaluated by the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) prior to the consideration of their applications by the Board.  The applications were scheduled for consideration, but applicants were told to come back after they had PRN evaluations.  This recommendation by the Board of Pharmacy could have potentially serious consequences for applicants.

So far, the Board of Pharmacy is the only Board we are aware of to make such a recommendation. We are waiting to see if the Board of Medicine or other professional boards follows suit.

No Statutory Requirement to Get Preemptive PRN Evaluation.

The Board of Pharmacy’s recommendation that any applicants with “positive health history responses” seek out a PRN evaluation prior to submitting the application is not a course of action we would recommend for nurses, doctors, pharmacists or any healthcare provider.  There is no statutory requirement that an applicant with past or present drug or alcohol issues be evaluated by PRN prior to submitting an application to any professional board.

Issues with Submitting to Preemptive PRN Evaluation.

Submitting to a PRN evaluation places the applicant at the mercy of the organization and its appointed evaluator.  If an applicant is deemed by PRN to require monitoring there is likely no way that a license of any kind will ever be issued without the blessing of PRN.

Typically PRN monitoring contracts last for five years.  They require, among many other things: daily check-ins for drug and alcohol screens; frequent mental or substance abuse evaluations; weekly support meetings; possible restrictions on practice type and location; psychiatric following; total abstinence from all non-approved medications; total abstinence from alcohol; and notification of present and future employment.

In a word, PRN contracts are onerous.

Submitting to a PRN evaluation before your application is considered by the Board may serve to effectively waive your right to individual consideration of your application.  If PRN says you need to be monitored, there is likely no way that the Board of Medicine will grant you a license that is not conditional on your participation in the program.

Your license will likely be listed as “Active/Obligations” instead of “Clear/Active.”  This means that any member of the public, coworker, employer, insurer, etc., can look you up and see that you are under some kind of practice restriction.  While the exact conditions of your obligation may not be publicly available, you can bet that questions will come.

The Alternative to a Preemptive PRN Evaluation.

Because no Board has the right to force you to have a PRN evaluation prior to considering your application, there are several things that you can do to avoid the program.  The Board of Medicine is required to review every application on its own merits.  This means that you can supplement your application with recommendations and evaluations from your own physicians.

The Board of Medicine often considers the recommendations of treating physicians and counselors as evidence that an applicant is safe to practice. What this means is that you can obtain your own evaluation outside of the PRN program.  Such an evaluation would not have the potential of locking you into a monitoring contract before you have even applied.

A health care professional’s career rides entirely on his or her license to practice. It is not advisable that you face the Board of Medicine without at least consulting with a health law attorney.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Physicians and Other Health Care Providers Before the Board of Medicine.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced in dealing with the Board of Medicine, PRN, and license applications.  Our attorneys can help you get your application and supporting documentation together and present it to the Board in the most effective way possible.

Our firm has extensive experience in representing physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other professionals accused of drug abuse, alcohol impairment, mental impairment and sexual boundary issue, as well as in dealing with the Professionals Resource Network (PRN), its advantages and disadvantages, its contracts, its personnel, and its policies and procedures.

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

Comments?

What do you think about the recommendation made by the Board of Pharmacy to get a preemptive PRN evaluation? Do you think any other board will make the same recommendation? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Most Physicians Not Using the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

By Danielle M. Murray, J.D.

The Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is apparently collecting dust as physicians are choosing not to use it. The Tampa Bay Times reported on October 5, 2012, that as few as one in twelve doctors have ever used the database. That is about eight percent (8%) of all physicians. Approximately fourteen percent (14%) of physicians are registered for the database.

Click here to read the entire story from the Tampa Bay Times.

Physicians Don’t Want to Use the Database.

Physicians interviewed for the article said the problem is that database use is not mandatory. Physicians are not required to review the database prior to accepting a new patient, or prior to giving out a prescription.  Some physicians said they would ask the pharmacy or check the local arrest records if they had a suspicion that the patient was abusing drugs or “doctor shopping.”

One potential reason that physicians may not check the database is simply that they don’t want to know.  If they know a patient is abusing prescription drugs, then that patient has to be sent away, and that is a loss of business. Another reason could be some doctors may not know the database exists, and other doctors may simply be too busy to bother.

In Some States the Database Is Mandatory.

The prescription drug database in Kentucky had a similar usage problem until the state made it mandatory for physicians to check the database.  A mandatory law in Ohio resulted in shock when physicians saw the reality of the large number of prescription drug abusers in their practices.

For the foreseeable future, using the database will not be mandatory for physicians. However, physicians should consider using the database, or otherwise remaining vigilant to avoid being labeled an overprescriber.

For legal tips for working with pain patients, click here.

Does the Database a Make it Easier to Prosecute?

From my perspective, I have seen the database in Florida used mostly as a tool for prosecution of pain management physicians and pharmacists. Even in cases where the pharmacist has been the one to notify the authorities of suspected forged prescriptions and where the pharmacist has cooperated in prosecuting the criminals, I have seen this database cited as evidence against him or her. I do not believe this is what the legislation intended.

Contact an Attorney Experienced in Department of Health (DOH) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Investigations.

As a health care professional, you may one day be charged with overprescribing narcotics or even criminally charged in the death of a patient due to their drug habits. If you are contacted by the Department of Health (DOH) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), do not sign anything or make any statements to anyone. Call an experienced health law attorney to learn about your rights in such a case.

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

Comments?

As a physician, do you use the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program? Why or why not? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Source:

Cox, John Woodrow, “Florida Drug Database Intended to Save Lives is Barely Used by Doctors.” Tampa Bay Times. October 7, 2012. http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/florida-drug-database-intended-to-save-lives-is-barely-used-by-doctors/1255062

About the Author: Danielle M. Murray 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., 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 Dentist Hit with an Emergency Suspension Order for Allegedly Inhaling Nitrous Oxide

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

A Debary, Florida, dentist has been served with an emergency suspension order (ESO) by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) for allegedly inhaling nitrous oxide or laughing gas in front of patients. The administrative complaint filed against the dentist on November 2, 2012, by the Florida DOH stated a department-approved evaluator deemed the dentist unfit to practice dentistry and was recommended to undergo residential treatment.

Click here to read the full administrative complaint against the dentist.

We want to point out that these are just allegations made against the dentist at this point in time and have not been proven by the state.

Dentist Allegedly Ordered to Rehabilitation.

In June 2012, the Florida DOH ordered the dentist to be treated for alcohol and inhalant dependence. However, while in rehabilitation, she allegedly failed drug tests for alcohol, opiates and hydrocodone. She was then later reportedly caught inhaling laughing gas again.

The dentist allegedly refused another treatment plan by writing on it that she was going to drink champagne on holidays and special occasions.

ESO Means Health Professional Cannot Practice While License is Suspended.

On November 27, 2012, WFTV in Orlando reported a woman that looked to be the suspended dentist drove up to the Debary office and posted a handwritten sign on the front door that read, “Office is open.”

To see the story from WFTV, click here.

The Florida DOH states that when a licensee is served with an ESO that person may not practice in Florida while his or her license is suspended. Click here to see the status of the dentist’s license from the DOH.

Formal vs Informal Hearings.

The dentist may elect to have a formal hearing contesting the facts with the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). She also may waive this right and not dispute the facts and have an informal hearing before the Board of Dentistry.  The Board will then make a final decision concerning the dentist’s license and her future working in dentistry. Be sure to check this blog for updates.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health (DOH) Investigations of Dentists.

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

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

Comments?

What do you think of this dentist’s story? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Walsh, Michael. “Dentist Gassing Up on Nitrous Oxide No Laughing Matter.” New York Daily News. (November 27, 2012). From: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/dentist-gassing-nitrous-oxide-laughing-matter-article-1.1209081?print

Barber, Tim. “Dentist Accused of Using Laughing Gas on Self While Working on Patients.” WFTV. (November 27, 2012). From: http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/dentist-accused-using-laughing-gas-while-operating/nTGJd/

Department of Health v. Sharon Ann Day-Osteen, D.D.S. Case Number 2012-13461. Administrative Complaint to the Board of Dentistry. (November 2, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/doh%20v%20Day-Osteen.pdf

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

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

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

Adventist Health System Settles Whistleblower Lawsuit

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 18, 2013, Adventist Health System/Sunbelt Inc., the parent company of Orlando-based Florida Hospital, settled a whistleblower lawsuit, according to court documents. The whistleblower lawsuit, filed in 2010, stated that seven Adventist hospitals in Florida overbilled the federal government between 1995 and 2009, allegedly resulting in tens of millions of dollars in false claims, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel and other sources.

Click here to read the Order of Dismissal.

Previous reports from the Orlando Sentinel stated that the lawsuit could have damages of more than $100 million, but the details of the settlement are not yet available.

Alleged Details in the Case Against Adventist Health System.

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

The plaintiffs are a bill-coding and compliance officer, and a radiologist that were either employed or affiliated with Florida Hospital Orlando between 1995 and 2009. They allege the discrepancies occurred during those years.

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

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

This case was scheduled to go to trial in December 2013.

Click here to read more on this case from my previous blog.

Most Qui Tam Claims Filed by Employees.

From our review of qui tam cases that have been unsealed by the government, it appears most of these are filed by physicians, nurses or hospital staff employees who have some knowledge of false billing or inappropriate coding taking place. Normally the government will want to see some actual documentation of the claims submitted by the hospital or other institution. Usually physicians, nurses or staff employees have access to such documentation. Whistleblowers are urged to come forward as soon as possible. In many circumstances, documentation that shows the fraud “disappears” or cannot be located once it is known that a company is under investigation.

To learn more on whistleblower/qui tam cases, read our two-part blog. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

Comments?

Individuals working in the health care industry often become aware of questionable activities. Often they are even asked to participate in it. In many cases the activity may amount to fraud on the government. Has this ever happened to you? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Aboraya, Abraham. “Adventist Health Whistleblower Lawsuit Settled.” Orlando Business Journal. (December 19, 2013). From: http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/blog/2013/12/adventist-health-whistleblower-lawsuit.html

United States of America and State of Florida ex rel., Amanda Dittman and charlotte Elenberger, M.D. vs Adventist Health System/Sunbelt, Inc. Case No. 6:10-cv-1062-Orl-28GJK. Order of Dismissal. (December 18, 2013). From: http://assets.bizjournals.com/orlando/pdf/document.pdf

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

Amanda Dittman and Charlotte Elenberger, M.D. v. Adventist Health Systems/Sunbelt, Inc. No. 6:10-cv-01062-JA-GJK. False Claims Act Complaint. (July 15, 2010). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/whistleblower-lawsuit-adventist.pdf

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

 

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

Cheating, Irregular Behavior and Other Maladies Plaguing Future Physicians: A Two-Part Series

The road to becoming a physician is paved with many unique challenges. The uphill battle begins with rigorous undergraduate course work, followed by the MCAT and medical school applications. Upon acceptance into medical school, you are faced with the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) and its STEP 1 and STEP 2 exams. At any of these stages, a student can be accused of numerous faults including cheating, misrepresentation, falsification of information, unfair advantages and the many faces of “irregular behavior.”

On Wednesday, the challenges of a pre-med student were discussed. Today’s post focuses on the challenges imposed on a student after entering medical school.

So you made it to medical school. Congratulations! After years of slaving away in biology and chemistry labs, it is finally time to get your hands on medical textbooks. Like your work as a pre-med student, medical school courses will be rigorous and challenging, calling on every neuron you possess to fire efficiently. You will be tested, in more ways than one, and ditch the MCAT for a new acronym – USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination).

The USMLE is a three-step exam required for medical licensure in the United States, sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners® (NBME®). Most students start with Step 1 at the end of their second year of med school and take Step 2, which includes a Clinical Knowledge component (“Step 2 CK”) and a separate Clinical Skills component (“Step 2 CS”), sometime in their fourth year. Step 3 is usually taken during the first or second year of postgraduate training.

Because the USMLE is the barrier between you and your medical licensure, it is an extremely important component of your medical education. Many students prepare with a prep course or study group, but even the most knowledgeable student can encounter issues with the exams.

One such issue is being accused of “irregular behavior” during an exam. This broad label includes anything from cheating to disruptions during testing. In the event that your test is invalidated due to irregular behavior you will want to correct the situation immediately, or you may be prohibited from taking future exams (meaning you won’t be able to obtain your license).

If you are accused of irregular behavior or if you feel that you were faced with inadequate testing conditions, resolving the issue may be as simple as requesting a rescoring of the exam. Sometimes, because of problems at a test site or because of technical problems, retesting is an option.

However, more serious cases may result in a lawsuit initiated by the NBME and FSMB. In one such case, the NBME and the FSMB filed federal suit requesting an injunction and other relief against Optima University (a USMLE test prep course provider) for alleged copyright infringement. The federal complaint claimed that Optima exposed the students who attended review courses to exam questions that were improperly obtained by using examinees who recorded the tests questions. It is believed that Optima may have also paid students in Eastern European Countries to take the examinations for the purpose of copying or obtaining the questions.

Some students involved in this case were foreign medical graduates who were told that Optima would provide housing and test preparation so that they could take the USMLE. Students ended up sleeping in the New Jersey office building that hosted Optima and were also sent to Tennessee. Once in Tennessee, students were required to assist in the construction of another Optima facility. These students – who came to the United States with promises of fulfilling their American dreams to become physicians – were digging ditches for drain pipes.

Having no knowledge that were being fed actual test questions, these students took the USMLE and were flagged for irregular behavior. Although the students were permitted to retake the exam, the situation left the students with a negative reputation with the NBME. Read more about the case here.

After years of schooling, don’t allow allegations of cheating to prevent you from reaping the benefits of your hard work. For more information visit www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or read this article concerning USMLE and ECFMG challenges and representaion.

More Than 20 Arrest Warrants Issued by Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Connection to Pill Mill Investigation

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

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office issued 25 arrest warrants in connection to an ongoing pill mill investigation involving a medical clinic in Winter Haven, Florida. On September 19, 2012, the sheriff’s office announced that ten suspects in the case have been arrested, and 15 suspects with arrest warrants remain at large.

Click here to see the press release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities Used the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to find Suspects.

Last year the state launched the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which requires doctors and pharmacists who dispense controlled substances to report the information to a statewide database.

According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the database was used to round up those associated with the Winter Haven medical clinic.

In an article in the News Chief, deputies said 13 of the suspects were allegedly acting as “smurfs” (people hired by a drug ring to take fake prescriptions to be filled, then turning the pills over to the ring). Another 12 people were accused of “doctor shopping,” which is the practice of going to multiple doctors to get many prescriptions for narcotics.

To read the entire article from the News Chief, click here.

This case was investigated by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLF), the Florida Department of Health (DOH) and the Attorney General’s (AG) Office.

“These people are giving the smurfs a bad name,” Papa Smurf stated. “We should be happy that law enforcement is doing a good job rounding up the read ‘bad guys,’”added Brainy Smurf.
Legal Tips for Physicians to Manage Pain Patients.

Doctors, pharmacists and all healthcare professionals who are involved in schemes relating to overprescribing or trafficking in narcotics may be targeted by many different agencies.

We have represented physicians who have been the subjects of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations. The DEA will often use undercover agents and informants to pose as patients, wired for audio recording. The DEA will often work with local law enforcement authorities and the Department of Health (DOH).

Other investigations and arrests may be initiated by a statewide prosecutor’s office, which is under the Attorney General (AG). Still others have been initiated by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) where Medicaid funds are used.

Click here to see an article on our website with tips for to help manage pain patients.

Give us your thoughts on this story below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Providers in DOH Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses, and other health care providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies.

If you are aware of an investigation of you or your practice, or if you have been contacted by the DEA or DOH, contact an experienced health law attorney immediately.

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

Parody, Clifford. “25 Warrants Issued in Ongoing Pill Mill Case.” News Chief. (September 20, 2012). From: http://www.newschief.com/article/20120920/NEWS/209205012

Pavuk, Amy. “25 Arrest Warrants Issued in Pill-Mill Probe.” Orlando Sentinel. (September 19, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-09-19/news/os-polk-pill-mill-arrests-20120919_1_pill-mill-probe-arrest-warrants-fraudulent-prescriptions

Eleazer, Carrie. “25 Arrest Warrants Issued in Connection to On-Going Pill Mill Investigation.” Polk County Sheriff’s Office. (September 19, 2012). From: http://www.polksheriff.org/NewsRoom/News%20Releases/Pages/09-19-2012.aspx
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.

University of Miami Employee Allegedly Caught Red Handed Stealing More Than $14 Million in Cancer Drugs

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

For three years, hundreds of life-saving cancer drugs disappeared from the shelves of the University of Miami’s (UM) Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. A pharmacy technician at the center was arrested in connection to the thefts in May of 2011, and is accused of stealing more than $14 million in cancer drugs, according to the Miami Herald. The pharmacy tech faces four counts of grand theft, two counts of trafficking in contraband prescription drugs and one count of dealing in stolen property.

To read the entire article from the Miami Herald, click here.

Pharmacy had No System in Place to Keep Track of Supplies.

According to the Miami Herald, UM’s chief financial officer and a board member admitted that there were no controls at the cancer pharmacy to keep track of supplies. The pharmacy technician was apparently able to walk to refrigerators in the pharmacy and slip packages of Neulasta, a drug used by cancer patients, into his lab coat. Each box of Neulasta runs about $2,600 per dose. It’s obviously worth more than its weight in gold.

The fact that the pharmacy was missing hundred of syringes of drugs did not even get noticed until May 2011 when a pharmacy buyer at UM noticed something was off when she reviewed a new computer program that tracked drugs. The system showed hundreds of syringes full of Neulasta were missing from inventory. Since the new software was not reliable, the pharmacy buyer decided to hand-count the syringes. This was the first time anyone at the pharmacy noticed that drugs were missing.

Pharmacy Technician Used Lab Coat to Smuggle Drugs Out of the Pharmacy.

On June 1, 2011, hidden video surveillance cameras were installed in the pharmacy to view the refrigerators. On two separate occasions the cameras allegedly caught the pharmacy technician pocketing several boxes of Neulasta.

To see the security camera footage, click here.

The second time the pharmacy technician was allegedly captured on video, he was confronted and forced to hand over his lab coat containing the cancer drugs. He immediately confessed to selling the drugs and allowed investigators to search his home. There investigators found 163 doses of Neulasta and other cancer-fighting drugs. All together the drugs found had a value of more than $700,000, according to the Miami Herald.

It is currently unknown whether he will ever get his lab coat back. He may have to exchange it for a striped one or an orange jump suit.

Security and Controls Now Up To Par.

As soon as the theft was confirmed, security and inventory controls of pharmaceuticals at Sylvester were reviewed and strengthened, according to the Miami Herald. A follow up audit found that the pharmacy’s inventory controls are now sufficient.

The pharmacy is seeking reimbursement for losses from the employee and the pharmacy’s insurance.

Recent Article on Employee Embezzlement.

George F. Indest, another health attorney with our firm, recently wrote several articles on prevention of employee embezzlement. Although the articles are written for smaller health care providers than universities, many of the general principles contained in these would apply to larger employers, as well.

To see the Medical Economics article, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

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

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

Comments?

What do you think of this story? What do you think of the fact that it took the university so long to find out the inventory was missing? Have you heard of people stealing drugs from pharmacies before? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Dorschner, John. “How Did $14 Million in Drugs Vanish from a UM Pharmacy?” Miami Herald. (August 6, 2012). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/08/06/2936916/how-did-14-million-in-drugs-vanish.html

Creamer, Alyssa. “University of Miami Employee, Manuel Pacheco, Allegedly Looted Pharmacy For Over $14 Million In Cancer Drugs.” Huffington Post. (August 9, 2012). From: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/09/um-employee-steals-14-million-cancer-drugs_n_1760155.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

About the Author: Michael L. Smith, J.D., R.R.T., 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., 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.

Multiple States Move to Enact New Laws Related to Controlled Substances

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

In reports from both coasts, three states have recently made moves to tighten monitoring and prescribing of controlled substances. Legislators in California, Pennsylvania and Kentucky are contemplating new actions. Health professionals should take note, these prescription drug monitoring programs can, and will be, used as a prosecution tool.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs by State.

According to the Los Angeles Times, California is looking to utilize its prescription drug monitoring program CURES to find physicians who are a little too loose with the prescription pad. Lawmakers are contemplating mining the data compiled by CURES to find physicians who are overprescribing and take action against them. Click here to read the entire Los Angeles Times article.

The Pennsylvania house recently forwarded a bill from committee to the floor for a final vote. The bill would establish a monitoring program like those in California, Florida and Kentucky. This monitoring program would be used to combat abuse and doctor shopping by identifying patients that have already received an adequate supply of medications.

Kentucky, already the home of some tough prescription drug laws, is looking to fine tune its regulatory scheme. According to The Courier-Journal, the new bill would clarify existing regulations by providing medical exemptions for patients that would otherwise be wrapped up in the enforcement provisions. To learn more on the proposed changes to Kentucky’s prescription drug laws, click here.

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide from Prescription Drug Monitoring.

Lawmakers in all three states cited laws and regulations from other states as inspiration for the moves to consider new laws to monitor prescriptions of controlled substances. What this means is that whatever state you may be in, you should be aware that lawmakers are looking around the country at what works and are implementing similar programs and laws in their governments.

Are Databases Just a Tool for Prosecution?

Enforcement of drug laws and prescribing regulations has been ever increasing in recent years. The implementation of these databases and corresponding regulations are going to provide more tools for law enforcement and state medical boards to crack down on physicians. In order to avoid trouble it is crucial that you take time to review your state’s prescribing and record keeping laws with an experienced health care attorney.

From experience, we have seen the database in Florida used mostly as a tool for prosecution of pain management physicians and pharmacists. Even in cases where the pharmacist has been the one to notify the authorities of suspected forged prescriptions and where the pharmacist has cooperated in prosecuting the criminals, I have seen this database cited as evidence against him or her. I do not believe this is what the legislation intended. Physicians and pharmacists should consider using whatever database is implemented in their respective states, or otherwise remaining vigilant to avoid being labeled an overprescriber.

To read legal tips to manage pain patients, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Comments?

Does the state where you are located have a prescription drug monitoring program? Is it similar to any of programs we mentioned in this blog? What do you think of these programs? Are they necessary? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Girion, Lisa and Glover, Scott. “Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris Urges Funding for Prescription Tracking.” Los Angeles Times. (March 3, 2013). From: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2013/03/attorney-general-kamala-harris-funding-prescription-database-.html

Wynn, Mike. “Kentucky Legislature Overhauls Prescription Drug Law.” The Courier-Journal. (March 4, 2013). From: http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013303040093&nclick_check=1

Associated Press. “Lawmakers Mull Prescription Drug Monitoring.” Associated Press. (March 4, 2013). From: http://meadvilletribune.com/local/x986702017/Lawmakers-mull-prescription-drug-monitoring

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.

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