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In Florida You Have Fifth Amendment Rights in a Department of Health Investigation of Your License

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

If you are contacted by a Florida Department of Health investigator, did you know that you are not required to make a statement or give any information that can be used against you?  If you are being investigated you have a right to refuse to speak with an investigator pursuant to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the equivalent rights given by the Florida Constitution, Article 1, Section 9.  However, because the Miranda decision does not apply to administrative proceedings, including licensure investigations, the DOH investigator does not have to inform you of this.

In some states other than Florida, the state’s law is such that a nurse, physician, dentist or other licensed health care professional is required to “cooperate” with the investigation, even though he or she may be punished or lose their license as a result.  THIS IS NOT THE CASE IN FLORIDA.

Florida Licensing Investigations Are Considered to Be “Penal” or “Quasi-criminal” in Nature.

Florida licensing investigations are considered to be “penal” or “quasi-criminal” in nature.  In Florida, a professional’s license is considered to be a property right.  So you also have the constitutional right not to be deprived of it without due process of law.  Due Process of law is guaranteed not only by the Florida and U.S. constitutional provisions cited above, but also by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. ConstitutionDue process of law includes the right to be represented by an attorney in any proceedings that might be initiated that may result in your losing your license.

In Florida, a long history of legal cases has resulted in the common law rule that administrative proceedings that may result in loss of a license must afford all of the protections that a criminal defendant would have in a criminal case.

Case Law in Florida.

In a 2004 case involving the Florida Department of Health, the Florida First District Court of Appeal stated:

Initially, it should not be forgotten that because professional disciplinary statutes are penal in nature, they must be strictly construed with any ambiguity interpreted in favor of the licensee. See Ocampo v. Dep’t of Health, 806 So. 2d 633, 634 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002);  Elmariah v. Dep’t of Prof. Reg., Board of Med., 574 So. 2d 164 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990).

Cone v. Dep’t of Health, 886 So. 2d 1007, 1011 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004).

The Florida Supreme Court confirmed that a licensee could assert a Fifth Amendment right in administrative proceedings in the 1973 case of State ex rel. Vining v. Florida Real Estate Commission, 281 So.2d 487 (1973).

In Vining a real estate broker was charged by the Florida Real Estate Commission of violating the Real Estate License Law.  Id. at 488.  The broker filed a sworn answer, as he was required to do under Florida Statute Section 475.30(1).  Id.  The broker later argued that the Florida statute violated his right against self-incrimination as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 9 of the Florida Constitution.  Id.

The Florida Supreme Court agreed, holding that “the right to remain silent applies not only to the traditional criminal case, but also to proceedings ‘penal’ in nature in that they tend to degrade the individual’s professional standing, professional reputation or livelihood.”  Id. at 491 (citing Spevack v. Klein, 385 U.S. 511, 87 S.Ct. 625, 17 L.Ed.2d 574 (1967);  Stockham v. Stockham, 168 So. 2d 320 (Fla. 1964)).  More recently, courts have reaffirmed that Vining remains good law in Florida.  See Best Pool & Spa Service Co., Inc. v. Romanik, 622 So. 2d 65, 66 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993);  Scott v. Department of Professional Regulation, 603 So. 2d 519, 520 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992).

In Best Pool & Spa Service Co., Inc. v. Romanik, 622 So. 2d 65, 66 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993), for example, the Court of Appeal reiterated the ability of a defendant to claim the Fifth Amendment privilege in an administrative proceeding.  Best Pool involved a pool owner filing actions for negligence and breach of contract against a pool maintenance contractor and its president.  The circuit court required the president to answer questions at his deposition about his certifying to the county, in an application for license, that the contractor had liability insurance.  The Court of Appeal ruled that the president was allowed to assert his Fifth Amendment privilege with regard to questions on this issue.  The court stated in Best Pool: “requiring Kassover, the president, to answer these questions does violate his right against self incrimination, which applies not only to criminal matters but also administrative proceedings such as licensing.  Id. at 66.

There are many other cases which have held the same.

You Must Be Extremely Cautious When Dealing with a DOH Investigator or Any Investigator.

If you receive notice that a DOH disciplinary investigation has been opened against you, you may not even realize it or understand how serious the consequences may be.  The notice comes in the form of a simple letter or, more often nowadays, a phone call, followed by a letter.  The letter will be on Florida Department of Health letterhead and will, in most cases,  be signed by a person whose job title is “Medical Malpractice Investigator,” “Quality Assurance Investigator” or some other title that might throw you off.

If you think you are giving information to be used in connection with a true quality assurance matter, such as would be confidential and privileged in a hospital or health institution, think again.  This is an investigation that could result in your having to pay thousands of dollars in fines, thousands of dollars in investigative costs and suspension or loss of your license.  Worse yet are the other consequences that having discipline on your professional license will bring, including difficulty in obtaining employment, reports being made to national data banks, etc.  Please see some of the other articles we have on our blog and on our website about all of the unforeseen consequences of discipline on your license.

Have You Been Told the Investigation Is Not Aimed at You?  Watch Out!

Even if the investigator attempts to ensure you that the investigation is not aimed at you, watch out!  It may not be aimed at you today, but it may be aimed at you tomorrow.  Additionally, even if the particular investigation that you are being questioned about is not directed against you, there may be another investigation that has been opened against you.  Your statement can and will be sued against you in that other investigation.

I was told by a DOH investigator one time that my clients (who were a director of nursing (DON), assistant director of nursing (ADON), an administrator and a medical director) were not being investigated, but that another health professional was.  My clients cooperated and gave statements for use in the investigation of the other person.  A short time later, additional investigations were opened against all of them, too.  Fortunately we eventually had all of the charges against all of them dismissed.  But I have not trusted investigators since then.

Don’t Wait Until it is Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Representing Health Professionals Now.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm routinely represent nurses, ARNPs, CRNAs, physicians, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists, mental health counselors, social workers, massage therapists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacists, pharmacies, home health agencies, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other healthcare providers in licensing investigations, regulatory matters, in board actions and in administrative hearings.  Call now at (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 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.

Disclaimer: Please note that this article represents our opinions based on our many years of practice and experience in this area of health law. You may have a different opinion; you are welcome to it. This one is mine.  This article is for informational purposes only; it is not legal advice.

More Than 7,000 Patients of Oklahoma Dentist Are Being Asked to Get Tested for HIV and Hepatitis

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

The unsanitary practices of an Oklahoma dentist may have exposed more than 7,000 patients to HIV and hepatitis, according to a number of media sources and the Oklahoma Department of Health (DOH). Currently officials with the Oklahoma DOH are contacting all of the dentist’s patients since 2007, and urging them to get tested for blood-borne diseases. Since the news broke on March 28, 2013, the dentist has voluntarily closed his two offices and surrendered his dental license for 30 days.

Click here to read a copy of the letter from Oklahoma DOH warning the dentist’s patients to get tested.

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 Accused of Being a “Menace to the Public” in Complaint.

According to the complaint filed with the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, the dentist is allegedly facing 17 allegations from The Board due to the violations against his practice.

Alleged charges against the dentist include:

1.  A patient testing positive for HIV and hepatitis C;

2.  The dental practice being unsafe, unsanitary and lacking of sterilization checks;

3.  Committing gross negligence related to decisions related to the dental health care of patients;

4.  Practicing dentistry without the proper display of licenses and certifications;

5.  Violation of provisions of the State Dental Practice Act by failing to keep a suitable record of dangerous drugs;

6.  Unlawful practices in authorizing dental assistants to practice dentistry; and

7.  Having open vials of medications and unsanitary dental materials in an unclean environment.

Click here to read the complaint.

Dentist Admitted to Not Handling Sterilization and Drugs Procedures.

According to the complaint, a device in the dentist’s office used to sterilize dental instruments wasn’t working properly. An inspector also found two separate sets of instruments. Each set was cleaned differently, one set of instruments was for patients known to have infectious diseases, and one set was for those not believed to have such diseases. Oklahoma DOH officials said the proper approach is for all instruments to be handled as if they contain viruses and infectious diseases.

According to an article in The New York Times, the dentist allegedly told officials during one inspection of his office that his staff handled all sterilization and drug procedures. Click here to read the entire article from The New York Times.

Dentist Faces Hearing at State Board of Dentistry.

According to the Oklahoma DOH, the dentist has been a state-licensed dentist since 1974, and an oral surgeon since 1977. He faces the possibility of having his license revoked, after a hearing on April 19, 2013, at the state Board of Dentistry in Oklahoma. This investigation is ongoing.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health 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 http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of this dentist’s story? Are you curious as to how the practice got so bad? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Oklahoma Board of Dentistry State of Oklahoma v. Wayne Scott Harrington, D.M.D. Case Number 13-005. Statement of Complaint. (March 28, 2013). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/OK%20Dentist%20Complaint.pdf

Ball, Brandi. “Tulsa County Dentist May Have Exposed 7,000 Patients to HIV, Hepatitis.” News on 6. (March 28, 2013). From: http://www.newson6.com/story/21820518/tulsa-county-dentist-may-have-exposed-patients-to-hiv-hepatitis

Oklahoma State Department of Health. “Tulsa Health Department, Oklahoma State Department of Health and Oklahoma Board of Dentistry Investigate Tulsa Dentist.” (March 28, 2013). From: http://bit.ly/ZwRhRT

Fernandez, Manny. “Tests Start for Patients of Dentist in Inquiry.” The New York Times. (March 29, 2013). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/30/health/dental-patients-in-oklahoma-warned-of-disease-risk.html

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.

Florida Board of Dentistry Warns About Responding to or Consulting with Individuals Over Internet About Dental Issues

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

At the Florida Board of Dentistry meeting held on November 15, 2013, one of the committee chairs discussed an issue that has arisen nationally that is causing dentists legal problems. The issue arises when individuals contact a dentist over the internet seeking “information” on a dental condition or problem, and possible treatment or procedures that can resolve these issues.

The concern is that the dentist may actually be diagnosing a dental condition or problem the individual has. The bigger concern arises if the individual contacting the dentist is in a different state from the one in which the dentist is licensed. Then the dentist is actually practicing dentistry in the state in which the individual is located.

In this blog I will discuss some of the issues a dentist can encounter when diagnosing a condition or problem over the internet. I will also talk about ways a dentist can reduce his or her risk.

Issues Dentists Can Face When Diagnosing a Condition Over the Web.

Diagnosing a non-patient over the internet can cause a myriad of different problems for the dentist involved, including these situations:

1. By diagnosing in a state in which the dentist is not licensed, he or she is engaging in the unlicensed practice of dentistry in that state. This can lead to criminal charges in that state and disciplinary actions in the state where the dentist is licensed.

2. Cases have arisen where incorrect diagnoses have been rendered because the individual failed to provide complete information, and the dentist failed to physically examine the individual or follow other procedures normally followed.

3. There have been instances where such individuals have filed complaints or claims against dentists for providing them information upon which they relied.

4. In most cases, a dentist’s professional liability (dental malpractice) insurance will not cover professional negligence in another state.

 

Recommendations to Reduce Risk.

I recommend that dentists take the following steps to help reduce risk if involved in providing information to non-patients over the internet or in the media (radio, television, newspaper, etc.):

1. Make sure that you have proper warnings and disclaimers that are included in every such e-mail communication or listserv communication you make.

A. Include the state in which the dentist is licensed/practicing and explain that the communication is not considered to be diagnosing, prescribing, treating or practicing any profession in any other state or jurisdiction.

B. Include a disclaimer or statement in every e-mail listserv or other communication with non-patients that you are providing general information for educational purposes only, and the individual must seek and follow the advice of a dentist in his or her geographic area to make any diagnoses.

C. Include that the person receiving the information cannot rely on it for treatment purposes since an actual physical examination must take place before any reliable information/recommendations can be made in any individual’s case.

2. Inquire with your professional liability insurer or agent to ask about “broad form coverage” and attempt to obtain coverage that includes educational activities, marketing activities and other similar activities. Make sure the “broad form coverage” also covers these activities in different states.

3. Make sure your professional liability insurance provides coverage for legal expenses involved in defending against administrative complaints and investigations initiated by any state or federal agency that could result in disciplinary action against you or your license. You probably need at least $25,000 in coverage for this. However, $50,000 or $75,000 in coverage for such matters is preferred. Buy this coverage separately if necessary. Lloyd’s of London provides such coverage separately.

4. Find out where the individual contacting you resides or is communicating from. Require complete information, including complete name, address and telephone numbers.

5. Be extremely reluctant to criticize care, services, procedures, materials or appliances used or prescribed by other dentists.

 

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing 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, Board of Dentistry 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?

Have you ever been asked to consult with a patient over the internet? Did you know all of these issues could up? 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.

Dangerous Dentistry: What One Connecticut Dentist Did That Got His License Suspended

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

Connecticut officials have suspended the license of an Enfield, Connecticut, dentist after a patient apparently died in the dentist’s chair on February 17, 2014. In a single visit the dentist allegedly attempted to extract 20 teeth from a 64-year-old woman who had prior health issues on record. One of the dental assistants reportedly begged for the procedure to be cut short after the patient began gurgling and lost consciousness. CPR was performed on the unresponsive patient before she was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

According to WGGB ABC40, the dentist faces a hearing before the Connecticut State Dental Board on June 18, 2014.

To read the article from WGGB ABC40, click here.

A Repeat Offender.

The state of Connecticut alleges that in addition to the botched extraction, the dentist also failed to properly respond when the patient’s oxygen levels dramatically dropped. According to New York Daily News, state records show a four-count petition claiming that the dentist “deviated from the standard of care in that he did not timely and/or properly respond to (the patient’s)… respiratory distress and/or cardiopulmonary distress.” The patient’s official cause of death is yet to be formally determined.

The dentist’s license, issued by the state of Connecticut in 2003, was suspended April 21, 2014, pending the hearing. This is not the first legal run-in for the dentist. According to New York Daily News, in December 2014 the dentist was performing a procedure when his patient began to “aspirate the throat pack” and was rushed to a nearby hospital. The patient in this case spent six days in the hospital with heart and lung damage.

The dentist was also sued for malpractice by a former employee in 2009. Shoddy dental work was cited as the claim. The ruling ended in an out-of-court settlement. To read more from the New York Daily News article, click here.

Take ESOs Seriously.

An emergency suspension order (ESO) can be issued when a healthcare professional is posing a threat to the public. In this case, the dentist had a lengthy past of legal issues that would inevitably draw attention to his practice as a hazard. It is important to note that when a practitioner exhibits a pattern of reckless behavior numerous times, an ESO commonly follows thereafter. When an ESO is issued, a practitioner must immediately cease all practice until the suspension is lifted. Even an alleged case of malpractice can deem a healthcare practitioner an ESO. Receiving an ESO is a very serious matter. Many healthcare practitioners tend to overlook the severity of this action. You need to consistently practice proper ethics and install a system of checks and balances within your office to ensure the protection of your practice and license.

As a professional, you should take any and all necessary precautions to protect your license and reputation. Proactively avoid any irregular behaviors or fraudulent actions that could put your license at risk. If you find yourself in a situation where you are served an ESO it is vital that you immediately hire a professional and experienced healthcare attorney to represent you. If it’s a matter of not being able to afford the expenses in hiring an attorney, look at it this way: your livelihood is on the line, you can’t afford NOT to.

Anytime you suspect a claim or a complaint may be filed against you, immediately hire an attorney experienced in such matters.

Comments?

Emergency suspension orders are a common concern for healthcare professionals and their careers. What types of regulations, guidelines or practices do you mandate in your office in order to avoid a potential crisis such as an ESO? Do you have any personal experiences in dealing with ESOs? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Emergency Suspension Orders and Other Licensure Actions.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling licensure and disciplinary cases, including emergency suspension orders, administrative complaints, investigations, administrative hearings, investigations, licensing issues, settlements and more. If you are currently facing adverse action by the DOH contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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

Sources:

“Conn. Suspends Enfield Dentist’s License After Patient Death.” WGGB ABC40. (May 19, 2014). From: http://www.wggb.com/2014/05/19/conn-suspends-enfield-denists-license-after-patient-death/

Goldstein, Sasha. “Connecticut Dentist Suspended After Patient Dies While Having 20 Teeth Pulled in One Visit.” New York Daily News. (May 27, 2014). From: http://on.flatoday.com/1vBJZAd

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.

 

 

Dentists: Tightened Controls on Prescribing to Medicare Part D Patients Could Affect Your Practice

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

Starting June 1, 2015, Medicare Part D will no longer reimburse patients or pharmacies for prescriptions unless the dentist opts in and enrolls in Medicare, or opts out and enters into a private contract with the patient. This measure is part of a rule finalized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The purpose of the rule is to assist CMS in cracking down on doctors, dentists and other health care providers that are improperly prescribing drugs to Medicare patients.

Medicare Part D plans provide supplemental optional coverage for prescription medication used in dentistry, are administered by private health plans and are paid for by way of premiums. As a dentist, if you have patients with Medicare Part D, you need to choose whether to enroll as a Medicare provider or to opt out. Click here to read the final rule from CMS.

Specifics of the New Rule.

Dentists have until June 2015 to either enroll in Medicare or formally opt out. When a dentist enrolls, the government verifies his or her professional license and credentials, and checks his or her criminal history. In addition, the final rule expands rewards and incentive programs focusing on participation in activities that promote improved health, efficient use of health-care resources and preventing injuries and illness.

One new stipulation is that the federal government has the authority to expel physicians from Medicare if found to be prescribing drugs in an abusive manner or in violation of Medicare rules. In addition, CMS will be able to terminate a dentist’s Medicare enrollment if his or her Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) certification has been revoked, or if the state licensing board has stripped his or her authority to prescribe drugs.

To read more on how abusive prescribing patterns will be determined, click here.

Enrolling Versus Opting Out.

If you enroll in Medicare Part D as a treating provider, then you are going to be subject to increased oversight and regulations, including:

– Fraud investigations;
– The minimum patient record retention increases from four to five years;
– You must be careful when denying services to Medicare recipients;
– You can’t charge Medicare for missed appointments; and
– You may have a percentage of your Medicare reimbursement withheld beginning next year if you don’t have electronic health records (EHRs).

On the other hand, if you opt out of part of Medicare, then you opt out of other parts as well, which may lead to a loss in revenue and disgruntled patients.

Examine Your Practice and Make Your Own Decision.

Your decision to enroll in or opt out of Medicare should be determined by the types of patients you treat and the services you provide. If your practice consists of patients under the age of 65, you may be unaffected by this rule. However, if you practice in an area with an older population, Medicare coverage is more likely to be part of your practice. The important point is to understand how it may or may not affect your practice’s bottom line. If you need some guidance or have questions, call an attorney experienced in representing dentists.

Comments?

Will this final rule affect you? If so, how? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Consult With An Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Dentists.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to dentists, dental hygienists and other health professionals being deposed in criminal cases, negligence cases, civil cases or disciplinary cases involving other health professionals.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing dentists and dental hygienists and other health professionals in investigations and at Board of Dentistry 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.

 

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 © 1999-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Dentists File Lawsuits Against Supply Distributors Alleging Violations of Antitrust Statues

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

Several dentists have joined together to file suits against leading dental supply distributors in New York and Texas federal courts alleging the companies jointly conspired to keep prices artificially inflated. Five lawsuits have been filed since Wednesday, January 20, 2016, against Patterson Cos. Inc. (Patterson), Henry Schein Inc. (Henry Schein) and Benco Dental Supply Co. (Benco). These companies are alleged to have control over 80 percent of the distribution channel for dental supplies. Among other allegations, lawsuits allege that the established dental supply distributors schemed to intimidate and squelch newer distributors that offer better (lower) prices in order to maintain exclusive control over the market.

Law360 reported that the suits seem to be partially triggered by a recent settlement reached with Benco announced by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, on April 10, 2015. The settlement cost Benco a good amount totaling $300,000, in order to avoid further participation in anticompetitive activities and instituted an antitrust training program for the company.

To read the Plaintiff’s Original Petition filed by the state of Texas against Benco, click here.

To read the full Agreed Final Judgement and Stipulated Injuction Between the State of Texas and Benco Dental Supply, click here.

To read the press release issued by the Texas Attorney General’s office, click here.

Alleged Antitrust Violations and Intimidation Tactics.

The lawsuits alleged that the three dominant distributor companies retained a firm grip on their dominance in the market by engaging in the intimidation of state dental associations. These associations were purportedly threatened by Patterson, Henry Shein and Benco in order to keep their prevalent supremacy in the supply of dental products. The associations were told that if they were to endorse startup distributors they would risk trade-show boycotts. Furthermore, the three established companies threatened to withhold their business if such manufacturers engaged in business with beginning distributors.

As stated by one class action suit filed by Dr. Keith Schwartz, D.M.D., P.A., in Texas federal court on Sunday, January 24, 2016, “At all relevant times Defendants possessed market power–the ability to profitably raise prices significantly above competitive levels while not losing sales […] Defendants abused their dominant collective market power by privately communicating and reaching an agreement to engage in an anticompetitive scheme to foreclose and impair competition, maintain and enhance market power, and artificially inflate prices of dental supplies above competitive levels.” The complaint further stated, “If new, low-cost distributors had not been unlawfully prevented from partnering with state dental associations and/or dental supplies manufacturers, they would have emerged as significant competitors.”

To read the complaint in the Texas federal suit, click here.

The complaints contain similar allegations, and all seek restitution on behalf of dentists suffering damages due to the alleged overcharging for supplies from the three monopolostic distributors since January 2012. More than 135,000 dental practices in the United States are said to be affected by the distributors’ alleged Sherman Act Violations. To read more about the Sherman Act from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), click here. The complaints reported that investigations into one or more of the three distributors have already been initiated by the FTC.

State Regulatory Boards Have Recently Been in Hot Water Over Antitrust Laws As Well.

The North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners recently went up against the FTC in a Supreme Court case decided on February 25, 2015. The Supreme Court justices were charged with determining whether professional regulatory boards should be exempt from federal antitrust laws and thus be allowed to eliminate low-cost competitors. Justice Kennedy concluded that immunity was not available because the Board was controlled by “active market participants” and their decision to block services was not “actively supervised” by the state.

To read my prior blog on this case, click here.

To read the full decision by the Supreme Court, click here.

Comments?

Are you currently being investigated by the FTC for possible antitrust violations?

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

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care 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.

Sources:

Class Action Complaint 11:39 & 45, Jan. 24, 2016.

Overly, Jeff. “Dentists Pull Together to Sue Supply Distributors.” Law360. Portfolio Media Inc.: 25 Jan. 2016. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.

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, Sherman Act, antitrust violations defense attorney, Supreme Court antitrust decision, North Carolina dental regulatory board, Board of Dentistry, dentist lawyer, dental distributor companies, dental supplies, Board of Dental Examiners, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), federal atitrust lawyer, administrative law judge (ALJ), American Medical Association, suppression of competition, state board of medicine, state board of dentistry, American Dental Association, Federation of State Medical Boards, North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC, federal antitrust laws, health defense attorney, health defense lawyer, legal representation for dentists, health law firm, The Health Law Firm

The Health Law Firm will soon be transitioning all blogs to the website. Please visit www.TheHealthLawFirm.com to continue reading and be sure to check back regularly.

“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 © 1996-2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Connecticut Dentist Gets Drilled in Huge Medicaid Fraud Case

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

A dentist and owner of a number of clinics in Connecticut is feeling the pain of justice. According to a number of news sources, Gary Anusavice will spend the next eight (8) years in prison for targeting poor patients, performing unnecessary dental procedures and collecting $21 million in fraudulent Medicaid claims. He was sentenced on October 9, 2013.

To read an article on the dentist’s sentencing from The Hartford Courant, click here.

Dentist Must Forfeit Luxury Items.

On top of prison time, the dentist will have to pay $3.3 million in restitution and $1.9 million to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a result of his Medicaid fraud scheme, according to The Hartford Courant. He was also ordered to forfeit his mansion, a 2008 Mercedes-Benz, a yacht and more than $91,000 in cash that was found in his home.

According to news reports, this is far from the first time he has been accused of defrauding the Medicaid program.

Dentist Previously Barred from Practicing in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According to an article in the Connecticut Post, the dentist had previous run-ins with authorities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island involving health care fraud. Both states allegedly stripped him of his dental licenses. He was also allegedly barred from participating in Medicaid in those states.

Since the dentist could no longer practice in those states, in 2008, he opened three dental groups in Connecticut, according to the Connecticut Post. In these new practices, it’s alleged he hired other dentists and offered them commissions for performing expensive procedures, paid patient recruiters to solicit poor neighborhoods, and provided shuttle services for patients. In two years, his Connecticut clinics received $21 million in Medicaid payments, according to the Connecticut Post.

Click here to read the Connecticut Post article.

In June 2013, the dentist pleaded guilty to health care fraud and tax evasion.

Being Barred from the Medicare and Medicaid Program Can have Devastating Effects.

Few health care practitioners really understand the significance of being excluded from the Medicare or Medicaid programs. Exclusion usually occurs as a direct result of disciplinary action being taken by the state board of medicine, board of nursing, board of dentistry, board of pharmacy or other health care licensing entity. To read more on the effects of exclusion from the Medicare or Medicaid programs, click here.

Take Fraud Charges Seriously.

If you are accused of Medicare or Medicaid fraud, realize that you are in the fight of your life. Your liberty, life and profession are at stake. You need to sell everything you own, borrow everything you can and hire the absolute best criminal defense attorney available who has experience in defending such cases to represent you.

If you win and are acquitted, at least you still have a professional license and can start over. However, if you lose, you will most probably be in prison for years. You will lose your license. You will be excluded from Medicare. You will be a convicted felon. You will have nothing and will have no way of starting over successfully.

Do not delude yourself. This is extremely serious. Be prepared to give up whatever you have if you can avoid a conviction.

Often Fraud Claims Can Give Rise to Large Rewards Paid to Whistleblowers.

Practically every state now has statues which allow a monetary recovery to be a person bringing a claim on behalf of the state for false Medicaid payments. These are modeled after the federal False Claims Act, used to reward whistleblowers or qui tam relators for recovers in Medicaid fraud cases.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits, Investigations and other Legal Proceedings.

Medicaid fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the state MFCU, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), the FBI, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Often other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and other law enforcement agencies participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today. Often Medicaid fraud criminal charges arise out of routine Medicaid audits, probe audits, or patient complaints.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

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

Comments?

Why was it so simple for the dentist to move to another state and continue to defraud Medicaid after being previously reprimanded for the same crime? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Mahony, Edmund. “Dentist in Massive Medicaid Fraud Case Sentenced to 8 Years.” The Hartford Courant. (October 9, 2013). From: http://www.courant.com/health/connecticut/hc-medicaid-fraud-1010-20131009,0,1388813.story

Mayko, Michael. “Fraudulent Dentel-Group Owner Sentenced.” Connecticut Post. (October 9, 2013). From: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Fraudulent-dental-group-owner-sentenced-4883112.php
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.

Florida Board of Dentistry Warns About Responding to or Consulting with Individuals Over Internet About Dental Issues

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

At the Florida Board of Dentistry meeting held on November 15, 2013, one of the committee chairs discussed an issue that has arisen nationally that is causing dentists legal problems. The issue arises when individuals contact a dentist over the internet seeking “information” on a dental condition or problem, and possible actions or procedures that can resolve these issues.

The concern with this is that the dentist may actually be diagnosing a dental condition or problem the individual has. The bigger concern is that if the individual contacting the dentist for information is in a different state from the one in which the dentist is licensed. Then the dentist is actually practicing dentistry in the state in which the individual is located.

In this blog I will discuss some of the issues a dentist can encounter when diagnosing a condition or problem over the internet. I will also talk about ways a dentist can reduce his or her risk.

Issues Dentists Can Face When Diagnosing a Condition Over the Web.

This can cause a myriad of different problems for the dentist involved in these situations:

1.  By diagnosing in a state in which the dentist is not licensed, he or she is engaging in the unlicensed practice of dentistry in that state. This can lead to criminal charges in that state and disciplinary actions in the state where the dentist is licensed.

2.  Cases have arisen where incorrect diagnoses have been rendered because the individual failed to provide complete information and the dentist failed to physically examine the individual or follow other procedures normally followed.

3.  There have been instances where such individuals have filed complaints or claims against dentists for providing them information upon which they relied.

4.  In most cases, a dentist’s professional liability (dental malpractice) insurance will not cover professional negligence in another state.

Recommendations to Reduce Risk.

I recommend that dentists take the following steps to help reduce risk if involved in providing information to non-patients over the internet or in the media (radio, television, newspaper, etc.):

1.  Make sure that you have proper warnings and disclaimers that are included in every such e-mail communication or listserv communication you make. Include:

A.  Include the state in which the dentist is licensed/practicing and state that the communication is not considered to be diagnosing, prescribing, treating or practicing any profession in any other state or jurisdiction.

B.  Include a disclaimer or statement in every e-mail listserv or other communication with non-patients that you are providing general information for educational purposes only and the individual must see and follow the advice of a dentist in his or her geographic area to make any diagnoses.

C.  Include that the person receiving the information cannot rely on it for treatment purposes since an actual physical examination must take place before any reliable information/recommendations can be made in any individual’s case.

2.  Inquire with your professional liability insurer or agent to ask about “broad form coverage” and attempt to obtain coverage that includes educational activities, marketing activities and other similar activities. Make sure the broad form coverage also covers these activities in different states.

3.  Make sure your professional liability insurance provides coverage for legal expenses involved in defending against administrative complaints and investigations initiated by any state or federal agency that could result in disciplinary action against you or your license. You probably need at least $25,000 in coverage for this. However, $50,000 or $75,000 in coverage for such matters is preferred. Buy this coverage separately if necessary. Lloyd’s of London provides such coverage separately.

4.  Find out where the individual contacting you resides or is communicating from. Require complete information, including complete name, address and telephone numbers.

5.  Be extremely reluctant to criticize care, services, procedures, materials or appliances used or prescribed by other dentists.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing 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, Board of Dentistry 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?

Have you ever been asked to consult with a patient over the internet? Did you know all of these issues could up? 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.

Dentists: Call The Health Law Firm Attorneys From Representation in Short-Notice Depositions and Hearings

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

Our attorneys often receive calls from dentists and other health professionals regarding the possibility of representing them on short notice at a Board of Dentistry hearing, or at a deposition related to a health care matter.

We Take Last Minute Cases.

Some law firms may refuse to represent a client at a hearing unless given advance notice. In a perfect world, we would prefer to have a sufficient amount of time to prepare for a case in order to provide our clients with the best representation. However, we know the alternative is that the client either gets legal representation with little advance notice or has to go without having legal representation and suffer the consequences.

We may have to refuse a case as well. For instance, if we believe the case is too complex for us to represent you effectively or that any legal representation would be completely futile. This situation does not happen often.

Trust an Experienced Health Law Attorney in Administrative Proceedings.

We’ve heard of some dentists trying to represent themselves. Laypersons, meaning nonlawyer, unaware of such complex matters as the Administrative Procedure Act, the Rules of Civil Procedure, the Rules of Evidence, the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) Rules which the Board of Dentistry and the Department of Health (DOH) have enacted may quickly be overwhelmed. Often the individual may only figure this out days or weeks before the final hearing.

The inexperienced individual, or even the inexperienced attorney, in these matters can fall into a number of procedural traps that damage an effective defense. This can be advising the individual to talk to the DOH investigator, filing an unnecessary answer to an Administrative Complaint, forgetting or not knowing that the client’s right to be free of self-incrimination applies in this type of case and many, many others.

Procedural Mistakes Can Hurt Your Defense.

Simply having an experienced attorney representing you at a hearing or Board of Dentistry meeting will help you to avoid mistakes that damage your case and assist in preserving your rights for an appeal. In some cases, it may even be possible to obtain a change in forum to obtain a better result. For example, many laypersons do not know that if you elect an informal hearing before the Board of Dentistry, you have waived your right to prove you are innocent by contesting the facts alleged against you.

What few people know is that you can ask at the informal hearing before the Board of Dentistry to contest the facts, to prove you are not guilty of the charges, and to have the hearing converted to a formal hearing. A formal hearing will be in front of a neutral Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and you have a great many more procedural rights than you have at an informal hearing. However, we still recommend that you have an experienced health lawyer represent you at a formal hearing.

Professional Liability Insurance Might Even Pay for Your Legal Fees.

If you are a dentist who has a professional liability insurance policy, especially one with the larger national companies, these often provide legal coverage for depositions. This is primarily because the outcome of the deposition may include having you named as a defendant in a professional liability or negligence law suit or having disciplinary charges filed against you.

One of the first things you should do if you receive a subpoena or a notice of a deposition is to contact your professional liability insurance carrier and see if it will pay for an attorney to represent you. For example, Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO), CPH & Associates, Dentists Advantage and many other malpractice insurance companies provide excellent deposition coverage.

The second thing you should do is to call an experienced attorney and schedule a consultation. Even if you cannot afford to retain the services of the attorney for the actual deposition, a consultation may assist you in properly preparing.

Consult With An Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Dentists.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to dentists, dental hygienists and other health professionals being deposed in criminal cases, negligence cases, civil cases or disciplinary cases involving other health professionals.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing dentists and dental hygienists and other health professionals in investigations and at Board of Dentistry hearings. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Have you ever had an informal or formal hearing before the Board of Dentistry? What was the experience like? 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.

Florida Board of Dentistry Proposes Change to Minimum Record Keeping Requirements for Dentists

By Christopher E. Brown, J.D., The Health Law Firm

On August 22, 2014, the Florida Board of Dentistry will meet to discuss implementing new requirements for record keeping. We believe that these changes are due to the Board’s concern over potential ambiguity with the current regulations, and due to the recent difficulty it had in disciplining Florida dentists for record keeping violations.

Read on for an outline of the proposed new requirements. Be sure to check this blog regularly. We will have a firm representative at this meeting and will post any updates.

Current Florida Rule.

Rule 64B5-17.002, Florida Administrative Code, provides the minimum record keeping requirements placed on Florida’s dentists. Currently, the rule requires a dentist to record the following information:

(a) Appropriate medical history;
(b) Results of clinical examination and tests conducted, including the identification, or lack thereof, of any oral pathology or diseases;
(c) Any radiographs used for the diagnosis or treatment of the patient;
(d) Treatment plan proposed by the dentist; and
(e) Treatment rendered to the patient.

Outline of Proposed New Requirements.

The proposed rule change will amend the Rule 64B5-17.002, Florida Administrative Code, as follows:

(a) Appropriate medical history, including any current or previous medical conditions, surgeries, hospitalizations, medications, and legible blood pressure readings (when taken). The updating and review of the medical history must also be documented.
(b) Results of clinical examinations and tests conducted, including the identification, or lack thereof, of any oral pathology or diseases.
(c) Any radiographs to include Cone Beam Computer Tomography (CBCT), and the results used for the diagnosis or treatment of the patient.
(d) Treatment plan and treatment options proposed by the dentist.
(e) Treatment rendered to the patient, including but not limited to the following, when applicable to the treatment performed:

(i) Type, amount, and mode of delivery (i.e., Mandibular block, Infiltration, etc.) of local anesthesia used;
(ii) Type and shade of restorative material used;
(iii) Preoperative and/or postoperative medications prescribed;
(iv) Medications delivered, administered, or provided to the patient during treatment or for use following treatment;
(v) Radiographs taken;
(vi) Impression material and type of impression taken (i.e., maxillary, mandibular, interocclusal, digital, etc.);
(vii) Medicaments, medications, sutures, irrigants, or bases applied to teeth or   periodontal tissues;
(viii) Names or initials of all staff involved with clinical care of the patient;
(ix) Use of dental barrier or rubber dam;
(x) Tooth or arch treated identified by name, number or letter;
(xi) Working length, canals treated, identify untreated canals and reason left untreated,  master apical file size, and obturation materials used during endodontic procedures; and
(xii) Unusual or unexpected events or reactions during or after the procedure including, but not limited to separation, breakage, retention, swallowing or aspiration, of any  instrument or portion thereof.

In addition to the above changes, the Board is also seeking a number of other amendments to the rule, including additional requirements for record alterations and duties of dentists of record.

The complete proposed rule change can be found at: http://bit.ly/1vr4Cxw

Comments?

Did you know about these proposed changes? If imposed, how will the changes affect you? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Consult With An Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Dentists.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to dentists, dental hygienists and other health professionals being deposed in criminal cases, negligence cases, civil cases or disciplinary cases involving other health professionals.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing dentists and dental hygienists and other health professionals in investigations and at Board of Dentistry hearings. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: Christopher E. Brown, J.D., 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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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