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Welcome to The Health Law Blog2018-12-27T22:35:45+00:00

ECFMG Affidavit to Complete? Attending a Caribbean Medical School? Being Investigated for Irregular behavior by the ECFMG or USMLE? You need Legal Advice! Your Residency Matching Might Now Be at Issue, as Well!

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

Have you recently unexpectedly received an affidavit from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG or the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat? Are you attending or have you graduated from a Caribbean medical School such as the University of Science, Art and Technology (USAT), Faculty of Medicine, in Montserrat, or the Atlantic University School of Medicine (AUSOM) in St. Lucia? Then you are probably, unknowingly, being investigated for misconduct, improprieties in your medical school attendance or other “irregular behavior.” You need to consult with a lawyer and specifically a lawyer who knows and understands the processes followed by the ECFMG and the USMLE.

Large Number of Legal Inquiries Being Received from Current Students and Graduates of USAT.

A year ago, our firm was receiving a large number of calls from students and graduates of the Atlantic University School of Medicine (AUSOM) concerning inquiries and letters they were receiving from the ECFMG and/or the USMLE. However, over the past several months, we have now received an even larger number of inquiries from students and alumni of the University of Arts, Technology and Sciences (USAT) Faculty of Medicine in Montserrat. We have now seen several different affidavits which the ECF image he has sent to students and graduates of USAT which request some very specific and detailed information about their course attendance and experience as students at USAT.

Each inquiry we have received from students and graduates of USAT has disclosed facts and circumstances that are slightly different from the other. From these we have been able to piece together a fairly comprehensive picture of what is probably going on. To summarize, it appears that you SAT is under investigation by the ECF image he for the various irregularities that our clients have disclosed have occurred in the past.

Affidavits from the ECFMG and the USMLE Should Be Taken Very Seriously. They Should Be Answered Truthfully and Must Be Returned Promptly.

The Handbook and Guidelines published by the ECFMG and the USMLE, require that any student or graduate who applies for their services must promptly respond to requests for information. This would include responding to the affidavits (which are really questionnaires to be completed under oath). Otherwise, the applicant can be charged by the ECFMG or the USMLE with “irregular behavior” in accordance with the Handbook and Guidelines that they previously agreed to follow when initially applying.

We hear from our callers, clients, and potential clients that they may have received instructions from their schools or from other sources that they do not have to do send these affidavits back in or respond to these requests for information. We do not believe that this is correct and vice. If confronted by having been sent such an inquiry or affidavit by the USEMLE or ECFMG, you should immediately contact competent, experienced, legal counsel to advise you on the exact issues and facts of the situation. You will only receive advice that takes your own personal interests into consideration from your own personal attorney; you are not likely to receive it from anyone else.

View Our Other Blogs on Our Experience with the USMLE, ECFMG, and NBME, and Hearings on “Irregular Behavior.”

Our law firm is had a great deal of experience representing students and graduates in disputes with and defending charges of “irregular behavior” against the USMLE, ECFMG and he NBME. To review a few of these please see:
What to Do If You Receive an Inquiry From the USMLE, ECFMG, or NBME
GOING TO TAKE THE USMLE STEP EXAMS? BEWARE OF ACTIONS THAT CAN BE CALLED “IRREGULAR BEHAVIOR”-PART 1, and
Accused of Irregular Behavior on the USMLE? Here’s What You Will Do Wrong.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education.

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.

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

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“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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Health Care Professionals: Fight Back Against Bad Online Reviews

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

Defamatory attacks against health care professionals have become increasingly prevalent as more and more review sites join the world wide web. This allows patients to post virtually anything they want – good or bad – about a physician or any professional. With more physicians becoming employees of hospital systems or large healthcare institutions, adverse surveys, reports or reviews can affect advancement, bonuses and basic income.

Online Review Websites.

Internet ratings on review sites like Vitals.com and Yelp.com can range from snide comments about the patient’s waiting time in the physician’s office to vicious attacks that can have a serious implications for a physician. In many cases, the review, comment, or rating may be a purposely untrue statement by a disgruntled patient, competitor or former employee. When the comment is posted, search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, AOL, or MSN may bring up the false statement every time someone searches for that doctor’s name. This can cost doctors both their reputation and their business, especially if they start losing patients because of bad reviews.

Many health professionals are now seeking legal strategies to combat alleged online libel and defamation in order to save their reputation and their practice. However, not all negative online comments or ratings meet the actual definition of “defamation.” Defamation generally is a factual statement that can be proven true or false. For example, if a patient writes that she had a procedure performed by a doctor, this is a statement of fact that can be confirmed or disproved. However, if someone writes about a doctor’s poor attitude during a visit, this statement is usually considered to be an opinion which cannot necessarily be proven true or false.

Additionally, online review sites usually have a set of clear guidelines when posting public reviews. For example, Google has a list of prohibited and restricted content in their terms of use. The most common prohibited and restricted content includes: spam or fake content, impersonation, illegal or sexually explicit content, dangerous and derogatory content and conflict of interest. Click here to view these examples in Google’s terms of use.

If you find any statements about you or your practice that may be considered defamatory or prohibited content, the following are some legal measures you may take to try to stop the inflammatory comments:

1. Identify person making comments.

Attempt to identify the person making the negative remarks. You may find it is a disgruntled former employee or a friend or relative of the patient who does not have any first-hand knowledge. See other tips below on how you might do this. Contact that person directly.

2. Check your office records.

Your own records should be checked. Your notes about office visits or procedures, your appointment schedule or your own billing records may help you identify the patient who wrote the review or comment. If you think you may know who wrote a comment, try to contact the patient directly to discuss his or her concerns and request that the comment be removed. Sometimes you will find that you never treated this person or that the patient has the wrong physician.

3. Consult with an attorney.

Before making any decisions about the contents of a comment, consult with an experienced attorney for guidance. An experienced attorney will be able to determine whether the internet posting is considered an opinion, spam or defamation.

4. Send a letter to the website, website host, owner and internet service provider.

Once the individual responsible for the post has been identified, doctors can contact the patient directly to ask that the post be removed. If the patient refuses, a doctor should request that his or her attorney send a letter warning the poster of potential legal action if the post is not removed from the website. If that doesn’t work, the physician should have his or her attorney send a letter demanding the comments be removed to the website, website host, owner and internet service provider.

5. Contact the website.

If you are unable to determine who may have written something online, or if the person refuses to take the comment down, try contacting the website that the review or comment is posted on. Many websites have policies against spam and defamatory statements. Contact the website to ask about its policy and get the comment removed. However, be very careful about signing up as a participant on the website and, especially, of agreeing to its terms of service (TOS) or terms of use (TOU). See below.

6. Avoid agreeing to the website’s terms.

Avoid the urge to join the website, subscribe to the website or otherwise agree to the website’s policies and procedures. You may be agreeing to a legally enforceable contract that waives your rights to sue for defamation or other course of action. Every website has Terms of Service (TOS) or Terms of Use (TOU), usually with a simple block to check to acknowledge you agree to all of its terms. Do not do this. You may be waiving all of your rights to legally challenge defamatory comments that are published.

7. File a lawsuit.

Filing a lawsuit should be a physician’s last resort in handling defamatory online comments. Legal proceedings can often take years to complete and can draw more negative attention to the physician. However, in many cases the only way for a physician to defend his or her reputation is in court.

Before you can file a lawsuit you must check state laws regarding statute of limitations in which to file defamation suits. If the negative comment falls outside this statute of limitations, you will not be able to sue. You will also need to review state defamation and false light laws to see what are considered appropriate claims. Remember it is difficult to sue someone for an opinion, and many online reviews can be considered and can’t be proven true or false. It is also usually best to sue the individual poster, not the website, as The Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects Internet service providers from liability for third-party comments.

8. Seek a subpoena.

If the website provides no assistance in removing the comment, you and your attorney can seek a subpoena ordering the Internet service provider to give identification data. Generally courts will grant a subpoena during a defamation investigation. Identification information could be an email address, name or location information of the poster.

9. Request a court order.

If all requests for a post to be removed are unsuccessful, doctors can request a court order or an injunction. A doctor must be able to show that the comments are probably false and are causing irreparable harm to their reputation or practice in order for a judge to demand the comments be removed. Usually you will be required to file a petition or complaint (lawsuit) first.

There are also alternative methods for protecting your reputation online. Be proactive and make sure you are putting out positive information about yourself and your practice through your website, social media sites, and blogs. This will help bury negative comments that appear on search-engine results, making it less likely that potential patients will see bad reviews.

Physicians should also distribute surveys to their patients, which provide an instant forum for patients to express their feelings about visits. Such tools as having your own internal office complaint/grievance procedure for patient complaints may help. If patients feel that they are able to provide immediate feedback to a physician, they may be less inclined to share their feelings online.

Remember to be persistent when you are trying to fight negative online reviews! Large corporations such as Google offer the ability to flag certain negative reviews but don’t always remove it. It pays to speak to a person on the phone so that you can explain the reasoning that the review needs to be removed. Don’t give up!

The following court documents pertain to cases involving defamation against physicians:
A copy of the Preliminary Injunction filed in Barry Eppley, MD, v. Lucille Iacovelli, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.
A copy of the Notice of Removal filed in Doctor John Doe, Doctor John Doe Incorporated and Jane Doe v. Google Inc., in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

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, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians in investigations and at Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine hearings. We represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, in 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.

KeyWords: representation of health care professionals, health law defense attorney, doctor attorney, nurse attorney, Department of Health defense attorneyDOH investigation representation, quality assurance representation, Medicare investigation lawyer, representation for Medicaidinvestigation, representation for health care professionals, license defense lawyer, licensure representation, representation for license defense, licensure defense attorney, protecting your professional license, The Health Law Firm, Florida health law attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys

“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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

OIG Exclusion: What You Need to Know if You’re on the List

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

Have you ever had disciplinary action against your license as a health care professional? Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a criminal offense? Have you ever been convicted of fraud or patient neglect? If so, then you may have also been terminated or excluded from the federal Medicare Program or your state Medicaid Program.

Many health professionals don’t understand the significant repercussions that an exclusion action by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) can have on their career and employment. Whether you are a physician, nurse, dentist, psychologist or other health professional, if you allow yourself to be excluded from the Medicare Program, devastating economic results may follow.

Check the List.

To check if you are on the federal government’s List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE), click here.

To see if you are on Florida’s list of individuals and entities who have been terminated from Florida’s Medicaid Program, click here.

Collateral Consequences to OIG Exclusion or Termination.

Termination or exclusion can have many collateral consequences about which most health care providers are not aware. These Include:

– Termination for cause from all state Medicaid Programs.

– Loss of state professional licenses in other states and jurisdictions.

– Loss of hospital, ambulatory surgical center (ASC), and nursing home clinical privileges.

– Removal from the provider panels of health insurers.

– Loss of ability to contract or work for any individual or entity that contracts with the Medicare Program in any capacity (officer agent, shareholder, director, employee or independent contractor, even for non-Medicare products and services such as office supplies, building and construction services, software and systems support, etc.), including physicians, medical groups, hospitals, healthcare systems, ambulatory surgical centers, skilled nursing facilities, health insurance companies, etc.

– Placement on the General Services Administration (GSA) Exclusions List (or “Debarred” List) from government contracting.

– Loss of ability to contract or work for any individual or entity that contracts with the federal government in any capacity (officer agent, shareholder, director, employee or independent contractor, even for such services as construction projects, janitorial contracts, computer equipment and software services, real estate brokers on federally underwritten housing loans, sales of motor vehicles, products and services to the government, etc.

To learn more on the consequences of being excluded, click here.

You’re on the List, Now What?

If you find yourself on a state’s excluded or terminated list or if you find yourself on the federal LEIE, all is not lost. There are ways to become reinstated.

The OIG exclusion list is a complicated regulatory program which requires experience and perseverance to navigate. It is highly recommended that you do not attempt to handle removal without qualified assistance. If your application is denied, even for hyper-technical reasons, you may be barred from reapplying for one full calendar year. Therefore, it is crucial that your application is complete and correct, and you are fully eligible for removal. To read a past blog about reinstatement after OIG removal, click here.

Contact Attorney Experienced in Defending Against Action to Exclude an Individual or Business from the Medicare Program and Assisting in Reinstatement Applications.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have experience in dealing with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and defending against action to exclude an individual or business entity from the Medicare Program, in administrative hearings on this type of action, in submitting applications requesting reinstatement to the Medicare Program after exclusion, and removal from the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE).

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.

KeyWords: Exclusion list, Office of Inspector General, OIG, OIG exclusion list, OIG reinstatement representation, representation for physicians, representation for physician reimbursement, licensure defense attorney, professional license representation, licensure defense representation, representation for health care professionals, investigations analyst, applying for reinstatement, Application for Reinstatement, Medicare Exclusion attorney, OIG Hearing, Request for Reinstatement, Removal from List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE), Application to OIG, Medicare Reinstatement representation, Medicaid Reinstatement representation, healthcare fraud lawyes, Medicare defense attorney, Medicaid defense lawyer, Florida defense attorney, Florida defense lawyer, The Health Law Firm reviews

“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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Dentists Smiling as $80 Million Settlement Reached in Dental Supply Price-Fixing Class Action Suit

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

On August 30, 2018, after two years of litigation, a group of dentists tentatively reached an $80 million settlement in a proposed class action accusing the country’s biggest dental supply companies of colluding to fix prices. The three dominant distributors, Henry Schein Inc., Patterson Cos. Inc. and Benco Dental Supply Co. Inc., allegedly artificially inflated prices on crowns, numbing agents, X-ray accessories and other products.

Artificially Inflating Prices.

In 2016, the three distributors were accused of artificially inflating prices on various dental supplies and equipment. Products at issue included supplies such as adhesives, implants, tooth brushes, pins and posts all the way to equipment such as imaging devices and dental chairs. Although there are hundreds of distributors and manufacturers of dental supplies and equipment, the defendants controlled approximately 80% of the market share. Click here to read my prior blog on this case and learn more.

The $80 million settlement comes roughly 30 months after the dentists first launched their lawsuits against the manufacturers. To learn more, click here to view the consolidated class action complaint  and the order in full.

Collusion?

In response to the suit, the three distributors accused the group of dentists of inaccurately portraying isolated actions as a nationwide conspiracy. However, a New York federal judge found reason to believe the distributors colluded to strong-arm lower cost rivals and boycott trade groups that worked with a newer distributor called SourceOne Dental Inc.

Despite reaching the settlement, the distributors deny any wrongdoing even though the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also filed an administrative complaint against them in February 2018. In the complaint, the FTC accused the nation’s three largest dental supply companies of conspiring to refuse to provide discounts to buying groups representing small dental practitioners in violation of antitrust laws. To view the FTC’s press release, click here. Click here to view the FTC’s complaint.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals.

The Health Law Firm has attorneys who practice in the area of antitrust law and trade regulation. We have defended a hospital in federal court against allegations of violations of the antitrust laws, we routinely provide advice and opinion letters on antitrust and trade regulation matters, we have represented plaintiffs in law suits alleging anticompetitive behavior and violations of state and federal antitrust laws, we have given opinions on and been involved in litigation concerning the Lanham Act and the Robinson-Patman Amendments, and we routinely undertake litigation concerning restrictive covenants.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide advice and representation concerning antitrust law, trade regulation, restraint of trade issues, and regarding deceptive and unfair trade practices. We routinely provide advice and analysis of proposed business ventures that include the foregoing. We have represented both plaintiffs and defendants in state court litigation and in federal court litigation in such matters.

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

Sources:

Overley, Jeff. “Dentists Get $80M From Supply Cos. To End Collusion Case.” Law360. (August 30, 2018). Web.

“Dentists Get $80M From Supply Cos. To End Collusion Case.” InfoTech Consulting. (September 5, 2018). 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.

KeyWords: dental class action suit, complex healthcare litigation attorneys, legal representation for antitrust violations, representation for antitrust investigations, complex medical litigation lawyer, representation for complex litigation, representation for healthcare business litigation matters, employment contract representation, representation for physician dentist employment contract, healthcare contract review attorney, restraint of trade legal representation, representation for Board of Dentistry matters, Board of Dentistry representation, dentist lawyer,  attorney for dentists, Board of Dental Examiners legal counsel, representation for Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigations, dental law defense lawyer, representation for dental law, representation for health care professionals, representation for dental clinics, health law defense lawyer, health defense attorney, legal representation for dentists, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm Attorneys, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, board of dentistry defense attorney, dental board defense legal counsel, representation for dentists, dentist defense lawyer

“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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

What to Do If You Receive an Inquiry From the USMLE, ECFMG, or NBME

By Achal A. Aggarwal, J.D., M.B.A., Attorney, The Health Law Firm

The National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) is an organization that sets certain standards for anyone seeking licensure in the U.S. It prepares and administers state recognized examinations for medical students and medical residents, to assure they meet certain requirements for clinical knowledge (CK) and ability to interact effectively with patient using the English language, the latter know as “clinical skills” (CK). The NBME’s mission is centered on the assessment of physicians. The NBME develops and manages the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) through the USMLE Secretariat.

The USMLE is a multi-part professional examination sponsored by the NBME and the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). In order to obtain a license to practice medicine or to participate in medical specialty residency programs in the U.S., one must take and successfully pass all four parts of the USMLE. Each part of the USMLE is referred to as a “step.”

Foreign medical graduates must register with and be screened by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), in order to take the USMLE step examinations and become licensed in the U.S. They must also pass all of the steps of the USMLE.

The USMLE is administered in four parts: USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK), USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS), and the USMLE Step 3.

When a medical student or medical resident is suspected of compromising the validity, integrity, or security of the examination process, the USMLE and the NBME will investigate. The investigation is to determine whether or not that student or resident obtained proprietary information or helped others to cheat on the USMLE.

The Consequences of Irregular Behavior Charges.

When the USMLE, NBME, or ECFMG has initially determined that a student, medical school graduate, resident or fellow, may have committed some act that may have violated the integrity of the examination, may have attempted to gain an unfair advantage over other test-takers, or may have violated the security of the test, then it will charge that student or resident with what is called “irregular behavior.” This term could probably be interchanged with the word “cheating” but is much broader than and may encompass far more than what you would normally think of as cheating.

A charge of irregular behavior can have many unforeseen adverse consequences. Not only can these be adverse actions taken by the NBME, USMLE, or ECFMG, they may extend even wider.
The NBME, USMLE, or ECFMG may, for example void test scores, prohibit you from taking a test exam for a number of years, ban you from ever taking the step exams again, or may simply mark your transcript of test scores with the finding of “Irregular Behavior” (think of a big red stamp on your transcript that says “Irregular Behavior” or “Cheated”). However, such a finding may also result in the student’s being expelled from their medical school, not receiving a medical degree, or prevented from applying in the match program.

However, before the medical student or resident is officially charged with committing irregular behavior, the USMLE, NBME, or ECFMG sends a letter informing the individual of the charge and giving the person ceratin rights. The letter also offers the student or resident an opportunity to defend the allegation and attend a hearing in front of a committee (usually called the “Committee for Individualized Review” or CIR) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What to Do If You Receive a Letter from the USMLE Accusing You of Irregular Behavior.

The letter will usually include certain information and analysis including: the number of times the student or resident took the particular Step examination previously, the percentage of actual test questions to which the student was exposed, how well other test-takers did on the same individual questions, the time spent on the questions, the actions the person allegedly committed which violated the organization’s guidelines, and other information that may be relevant regarding the alleged “Irregular Behavior.”

Details on the rights the individual has to retake the tests or to challenge the findings by requesting a hearing is also included. These are contained in a section of the letter or in a separate attachment called “Policies and Procedures.”

If requested in writing in a timely manner, the CIR will schedule a time to review the facts surrounding the allegations (a hearing) and to hear from the individual. The person may just submit an explanation in writing without requesting an in-person hearing, but we recommend strongly against this. The student or resident may request and attend a hearing before the committee, in person or with an attorney (which we strongly recommend), if he or she so desires. The hearing takes place in Philadelphia.

Evidence may be submitted by the student, including his or her own testimony. The student may have legal representation (an attorney) with him or her at the hearing. Hearings have resulted in students having their test scores validated and being allowed to progress with their professional careers unfettered. They have also resulted in bans from ever retaking the step exams (in the most egregious cases).

Important Factors to Consider for a Hearing Before the Committee for Individualized Review.

Attending a hearing before the CIR is not a process that should be taken lightly, not is it a procedure that you should attempt without experienced counsel. We do not recommend attending such a hearing without an attorney and plenty of advance preparation.

When deciding whether or not to hire an attorney to represent you in this matter, consider the cost and time you expended in preparing for and taking these examinations. In addition, consider the time you will lose from your medical education, residency, internship, or future career if your passing scores are not validated and your studies and career are delayed. It seems illogical not to retain the services of an attorney experienced with this type of matter and this type of hearing, given the high stakes at issue. Even if you have some knowledge of law, evidence, and civil procedure, it is difficult to represent yourself while also being your own witness. Those who are not experienced in such matters will make fundamental mistakes that will harm their case.

Procedural guidelines furnished by the committee need to be followed regarding how evidence is given to the committee and presented at the hearing. Preparation for the hearing would include meetings in advance, preparation of questions and answers and other matters to help ensure a proper presentation. One who is not familiar with such proceedings may overlook key issues and concentrate on issues that are not relevant to the committee’s determination. Any presentation of documents for consideration at the hearing must include excellent organization and a professional presentation. This must be done well in advance of the hearing. In certain cases, it may be necessary to hire an expert witness if the issues and facts require it; however, live witnesses, other than the individual charged, are not allowed at the hearing. It is important to note that the CIR will have its own attorney present at the hearing and there are several attorneys who may be on the committee itself.

Finally, anyone with a charge of irregular behavior should remember that the CIR is not comprised of individuals who are “on your side.” The CIR’s purpose is to ensure that the USMLE policies and procedures are strictly enforced and will enforce them if it does not find your case convincing. The best way to make your strongest argument is to hire someone who has experience with CIR hearings and has won cases in front of it.

Everyone needs someone on their side and we strongly encourage you to hire someone who knows the process associated with Irregular Behavior and the CIR and who will fight for your right to defend yourself.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education.

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.

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: Achal A. Aggarwal 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.

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“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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Florida’s Medical Marijuana Once Again Threatened by Unnecessary Legal Setbacks

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

The resignation of Florida’s medical marijuana chief on August 17, 2018, and a series of recent court losses, has once again threatened the state’s efforts for controlled legalization of marijuana.

On August 2, 2018, a Tallahassee judge struck down the licensing structure that the state Legislature and Department of Health (DOH) enacted for medical marijuana providers. In his order, Circuit Judge Charles Dodson said the state’s imposition of a cap on the number of medical marijuana treatment centers and its requirement for vertical integration from growing to dispensing “directly contradicts” a 2016 amendment to the Florida Constitution.

“Implementing” the Law or Impeding the Law?

In 2014, the Florida Legislature took the first step toward a sane approach to marijuana by legalizing a non-euphoric strain, known as Charlotte’s Web.

In November 2016, Amendment 2 to the Florida Constitution, legalizing medical marijuana, passed with 71 percent approval, its authorization for medical use. However, since that happened, state officials, state bureaucrats and the state legislature have done nothing but attempt to restrict and impede its use, ignoring the will of the people they are supposed to be serving.

The legislature passed an “implementing” law for the amendment in 2017, but the rule-making process and initial rollout has been slow and bogged down by complex litigation. To read more on the law, click here.

Attempts to artificially limit the number of growers, the number of dispensaries, and the forms that are legal to use, have all been used to impede implementation.

Such herculean efforts by state bureaucrats and legislatures, who are supposed to be carrying out the will of the citizens, is unconscionable. Even when the Florida Constitution itself requires them to preform certain duties, they just obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. Thank goodness for conscientious judges like Judge Dodson, who honor the law, follow the law, and will hopefully help enforce the law, regardless of the politics of those who chose to ignore and impede it.

This just shows that future constitutional amendments concerning the legalization of marijuana and marijuana products, and I am sure nothing less than additional constitutional amendments will be required, will need to state that they are self-implementing and no act of the state legislature or rule of any state agency is required carry it out. In fact, any such future constitutional amendment should specifically prohibit them from interfering with its implementation.

Ongoing Legal Battles.

With the recent rulings rejecting a smoking ban and saying a cancer patient can grow his own plants, experts fear that Judge Dodson’s August ruling will drastically alter the current landscape. Lawyers, who specialize in the field of marijuana law, say this ruling has the greatest potential impact of any decision to date. Additionally, banking and money issues, litigation and politics have continued to shake up the outcome.

Thanks for attorney John Morgan and other advocates who take up and challenge the attempts to fight the will of the people of Florida. During the next election, marijuana advocates should run advertisements specifically targeting those officials who enacted legislation or who attempted to enact agency rules placing obstacles to implementing the constitutional amendment.

What Outcome is Best for the State of Florida?

The state of Florida has the potential to become one of the nation’s largest markets for medical marijuana, likely worth billions of dollars. It has the third-largest population, which is growing and features a large number of elderly residents, lawyers noted. So, when it comes to medical marijuana, the question remains, “What is best for the state of Florida in the long run?”

To learn more on the status of Florida’s marijuana legalization, click here to read one of my prior blogs. Be sure to check our Marijuana Law Blog regularly for updates.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

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

Sources:

Hale, Nathan. “Fla. Medical Marijuana Measure May Boost Business For Firms.” Law360. (October 25, 2016). Web.

Hale, Nathan. “Setbacks Shake Up Fla.’s Medical Marijuana Rollout.” Law360. (August 17, 2018). 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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“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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Hey, Health Care Professionals…Why Can’t We Be Friends?!

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

Every year, our firm sponsors and attends various medical industry events. Needless to say, our law firm table is not the most popular hangout spot. If we had a penny for every time we have heard “Yikes, an attorney! I hope I never need you.” we could close our doors and all retire.

The feeling is akin to being the last kid picked for teams in gym class. So we ask ourselves: why are we attorneys shunned by health care professionals? Why won’t anyone make eye contact with us at meetings and events? Why is there a negative stigma attached to the phrase “law firm?”

We found the answer.

It’s Not Us. It’s You.

Before you take great offense to such a bold statement, hear me out. Society as a whole seems to have a misconceived notion that a law firm’s services are solely for reactive purposes. Meaning, you need defensive legal assistance. In these reactive situations, lawyers defend their clients to make the most out of an unfortunate situation. I frequently hear, “well nothing has gone wrong yet, so why do I need an attorney?” Here’s the secret: We can do much more than help you when something has gone wrong.

To reap the maximum potential from your profession, you should be utilizing “legal checkups” instead of burying your head in the sand. First, it’s more cost effective to hire a lawyer proactively BEFORE something goes wrong. When you are proactive about your legal needs, you have time to be selective in choosing the right lawyer for your needs. You can build a foundation before you invest in your legal needs. Typically, if you are in need of a lawyer to reactively defend you, you’re already knee-deep and you won’t be afforded the opportunity to find the best attorney.

Taking The Initiative Legal Business Advice.

The benefits of proactively obtaining an attorney are often overlooked. Having an attorney available at any time for legal protection and business advice may not always cross a health care professional’s mind. I find this to be ironic. Health care professionals recommend patients to eat healthy, exercise often, take daily vitamins, and schedule regular checkups. All these suggestions are proactive measures to ensure a stable life, full of longevity. Doesn’t it grind your gears when patients overlook your expert advice until something goes terribly wrong? We can both agree that preemptive measures are necessary in health and health care business.

I am not a medical expert, therefore, I would not attempt to perform a surgical procedure or offer a diagnosis. Legal services are the same. Most health care professionals cannot draft a contract themselves or set up a partnership office flawlessly without experienced legal expertise.

Proactive Legal Help We Often See Overlooked.

Whether it be our firm or not, health care professionals and businesses need a trusted health law attorney readily available to ask for help when additional legal knowledge, experience, or judgment is needed. The following list outlines health care business legal services that are proactive in nature.

– Obtain a contract review, of any agreement, before you sign the dotted line. It is crucial to
have a lawyer experienced in health law review convoluted documents that may bind you to
terms and conditions that you should not be liable for.

– Hire an attorney to negotiate your employment contracts to ensure that you are fairly
compensated for your work.

– A health law attorney adept in assisting with a business restructuring is invaluable. Whether
you are opening or closing a medical office, taking part in a merger, or launching or dissolving
a partnership, these transactions are complex. It is not in your best interest to attempt any
business maneuver without the input of a trusted health law attorney who is familiar with your
professional business goals.

– A compliance assessment is an important proactive measure for health providers and
businesses. With the increase of federal and state oversight, it is wise to have a thorough
review and analysis of your business protocols and procedures on a regular basis. An
experienced health law attorney can help you avoid critical administrative pitfalls. These
assessments verify compliance in areas such as: Medicare/Medicaid billing claims, patient
record keeping, HIPAA and HITECH procedures, etc.

You know what they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Hiring an attorney is NOT solely for the purpose of negative occurrences or damaging mistakes. As a health care professional, it is crucial to work with a trusted health lawyer to advise you in your business decisions. Don’t rely on the notion that you don’t need a lawyer until you are in trouble. Heeding our warning, you could save yourself a lot of time and money.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in Negotiating and Evaluating Physician and Health Professional’s Business Transactions.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, durable medical equipment suppliers (DME), medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider or facility.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, preparing contracts, helping employers and employees enforce contracts, advice on setting aside or voiding contracts, litigation of contracts (in state or federal court), business transactions, professional license defense, opinion letters, representation in investigations, fair hearing defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, litigation of restrictive covenant, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings.

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

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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“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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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