By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
Despite the passage of Florida’s Health Care Clinic Act over nine years ago, there are still many health practices which are violating it. Unfortunately, the violation of the Health Care Clinic Act can have serious repercussions, including conviction of a felony, loss of all fees collected, and disciplinary/licensure action against any nurses or other licensed health professionals working there.
Over the past three years we have seen the following scenarios or ones similar to these (changed factually to ensure anonymity):
Scenario 1: A health care practitioner licensed in Florida decides to sell her practice and retire. Three non-licensed business people decide to form a corporation to purchase and operate the practice. The corporation purchases the medical practice’s assets, including patient records. The corporation has not applied for or received a health care clinic license.
Results: On the day of closing or the day the practice is transferred to the new corporation, the corporation is operating illegally, in violation of Florida law. Each day of operation is a separate felony.
Scenario 2: A health care professional practices medicine through a limited liability company (LLC) which the he owns with his non-licensed wife. The health care professional dies and his wife remains sole owner of the practice, hiring a locum tenens physician to come in and treat patients.
Results: As of the date of death of the health care professional, the practice is operating illegally, in violation of Florida law. Each day of operations is a separate felony offense.
Scenario 3: A health care professional licensed in Florida operates a medical practice as a sole proprietorship. The health care professional desires to reward her practice manager, a non-licensed business person, by making him a partner in her practice. The practice continues to operate as before without a health care clinic license.
Results: The practice is operating illegally as of the day the practice manager is made a partner.
Scenario 4: A health care professional has a medical practice which he owns and operates through a business corporation which does not need or have a health care clinic license. He decides to relocate to another state. He sells the shares of stock to a medical doctor who is licensed in Georgia, but is not licensed in Florida. The new physician owner hires a medical doctor licensed in Florida to deliver all medical services in the Florida practice.
Results: The corporation, its owner, and the physician employee are operating illegally as of the date the shares in the corporation are transferred. Each day of operation constitutes a new offense.
The consequences of such actions are severe. The act provides that violating it constitutes a felony of the third degree for each day of operation. Any licensed health professional having knowledge of the unlicensed status of the practice or clinic and who does not immediately report it can be disciplined by his or her professional board. Any fees of any kind collected from any source, Medicare, Medicaid, insurers, or cash from patients, are considered illegal as a matter of law and are subject to recoupment or refund.
If you are a nurse or other licensed health professional, be sure you know who the actual owners of the medical practice are. If any are not licensed in Florida, inquire as to the existence of a current, valid health care clinic license from the Agency for Health Care Administration. If any doubt or suspicion, consult with an experienced health care attorney.
Don’t Wait Too Late; Consult with an Experienced Health Law Attorney At the Onset of Any Issue
Do not wait until action has been taken against you to consult with an experienced attorney in these matters. It is much easier to win your case when there is proper time to prepare.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in representing nurses, nurse practitioners, and CRNAs in investigations, IPN matters and at Board of Nursing hearings. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.