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Need Last Minute Deposition or Hearing Representation? Call The Health Law Firm

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

Our office often takes phone calls from pharmacies and pharmacists needing short-notice representation at a Board of Pharmacy hearing or at a deposition related to a health care matter.

In our experience, many other law firms refuse to represent clients at hearings unless the firm is given plenty of advance notice. We always prefer to have sufficient time to obtain documents, review files, interview witnesses, conduct research and prepare, in order to provide the best possible representation to our client. However, we realize that in certain cases, the alternative is that the client either gets legal representation on little or no advance notice or has to suffer the consequences of having no legal representation.

Administrative Proceedings Can be Complex.

In some cases, individuals may be fooled into believing that they can effectively represent themselves. They later find out that they have gotten in over their heads. Laypersons (meaning, in this case, nonlawyers) who are not aware 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 Pharmacy and the Department of Health (DOH) have enacted, may quickly be confused.

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 Be Damaging To Your Legal Defense.

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

What few know or think of in the heat of the moment is that you can ask at the informal hearing before the Board of Pharmacy 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 May Pay Legal Fees for Deposition Coverage.

If you are a pharmacist or pharmacy that has professional liability insurance, 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 lawsuit 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, Nurses Service Organization (NSO), 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. Click here to read our blog on this matter and learn more.

Consult With A Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Pharmacists and Pharmacies.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to pharmacists, pharmacies 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 physicians, physician assistants and other health professionals in investigations and at Board of Pharmacy 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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Florida Board of Pharmacy, Legal Defense for Pharmacists, Pharmacist, Pharmacy and tagged Administrative Law Judge, administrative procedure act, administrative proceeding, ALJ, Board of Pharmacy, Board of Pharmacy hearing, defense attorney, defense lawyer, Department of Health, deposition coverage, disciplinary charges, disciplinary complaint, FAC, final hearing, Florida Administrative Code, formal hearing, health law firm, health professional, hearing representation, Informal hearing, last-minute deposition coverage, legal representation, legal representation for pharmacist, legal representation for pharmacy, local deposition coverage, negligence lawsuit, noticed of a deposition, pharmacist, pharmacy, professional liability insurance, rights for an appeal, Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Evidence, short notice of representation of pharmacy, short notice representation of pharmacist, subpoena, The Health Law Firm

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Court Says Walmart’s Firing Violated Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Law

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

On March 22, 2019, the U.S. District Court in Arizona granted summary judgment on anti-discrimination claims in favor of the plaintiff former employee and against Walmart under Arizona’s medical marijuana statute. The plaintiff, a former employee of Walmart, had been terminated after allegedly testing positive for marijuana.

This case is significant because as more states are adopting medical marijuana laws, this represents the growing risks to employers who engage in adverse employment actions against medical marijuana users. Furthermore, since the decision was in federal court, it is even more significant. In this case, Arizona employers gained some much needed guidance for navigating Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA).

The court held that individuals with medical marijuana cards can sue their employers under the AMMA if action is taken against them merely because there is a positive drug test for the presence of marijuana. Also, employers cannot avoid liability by merely showing the employee tested positive because he or she had marijuana metabolites in their system.

The Case: Whitmire v. Wal-Mart, Inc.

In Whitmire v. Wal-Mart Inc., a former employee and qualified patient under the AMMA, injured her wrist while at work. Two days later, she notified human resources of pain and swelling in her injured wrist. At that time, her supervisor instructed her to seek medical treatment. Because she had used marijuana roughly twelve hours before her shift to help her sleep, the drug test was positive for marijuana.

As a result of that drug test alone, Wal-Mart terminated her employment. She then filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart, alleging that it had violated the AMMA by discriminating against her for her use of medical marijuana. The plaintiff argued that Walmart’s admitted policy of firing regardless of whether the employee possesses a medical marijuana card and regardless of the level detected constituted a complete disregard for the AMMA’s anti-discrimination provisions.

Violating Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA).

The court agreed with the plaintiff and ruled that, without having produced any evidence that the plaintiff “used, possessed or was impaired by marijuana,” Walmart had discriminated against her in violation of the AMMA. Furthermore, by suspending and then terminating her solely based on her positive drug screen and in the absence of expert testimony, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff on her AMMA discrimination claim.

It should be remembered, however, that in this case, Arizona has a provision in its medical marijuana law that prohibits discrimination against legitimate users. Every state may not have this. If your state does not have a similar provision in your state’s medical marijuana law, you should lobby for an amendment to include one.

To read the court’s order in this case, click here.

To read about a similar case of employment discrimination dealing with marijuana use, read one of my recent blogs here.

To read about marijuana workplace discrimination in other states such as Colorado, where recreational use is legal, click here to read one of our prior blogs on our Colorado Law Blog.

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:

Peabody, Daniel. “A New Ruling on the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act: Did Your Drug Testing Policy Just Go Up in Smoke?” JD Supra. (February 21, 2019). Web.

Mooreman, William; Samolis, Alicia. “Employer Liability For Medical Marijuana Bias Is Growing.” Law360. (March 22, 2019). Web.

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

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“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Ready or Not, It’s Irregular Behavior Season Once Again…

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 receives calls from panicked medical students and residents about a recent letter they have received, alleging irregular behavior on standardized medical examinations.

This letter may come from the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), or the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). No matter the organization, if you receive a letter alleging irregular behavior, it will typically say the following:

A bulletin or policy related to the exam stating that Irregular Behavior is not permitted.

The facts alleging irregular behavior in this case.

You have an opportunity to respond to the allegations, in person, with counsel.

Often there is a very short window of time to respond to such allegations. While this is important because it is urgent that you get your results test results, it also gives a limited time to prepare to defend yourself.

What is Irregular Behavior?

Although irregular behavior is not the same thing as cheating, it is often thought of as the same by medical school officials and residency program directors. A notice of irregular behavior may hold up and delay your entry into a residency program, your graduation from medical school, and your job opportunities. Your examination scores will be held up while the matter is reviewed by a USMLE Committee on irregular behavior or until a hearing can be held.

What Should You Do?

Once you receive an irregular behavior letter, begin to compile documents to defend yourself. Write out your version of events in order to recall what happened. Collect character reference letters from professors and administrators that attest to your integrity.

Place the personal appearance date listed in your letter on your calendar. It is of upmost importance that you attend in person, preferably with representation. Hearings are usually held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, so plan accordingly.

Why Hiring an Attorney Matters.

An attorney can provide the following services to someone accused of irregular behavior:
Review documents, videos, photographs, and all other information that pertains to your case.

Recommend other documents that you should obtain in your defense.

Prepare you for a personal appearance before the respective board or committee making the allegations, and will also make a personal appearance with you at hearing.

Prepare you to answer questions under pressure and on the day of your hearing.

The takeaway message is that retaining an attorney to represent you against irregular behavior allegations could be the difference between a clear record and a mark that will follow you for the rest of your career. Don’t risk jeopardizing your future as a healthcare practitioner. Consult with an attorney as soon as you receive notice of allegations against you regarding irregular behavior.

Consequences of an Irregular Behavior Finding.

If a finding of irregular behavior is made against you, then this usually means that your best score is voided, and you must retake it. The USMLE Committee may require you to wait a year or more to retake the examination. This can prevent you from obtaining or entering a residency program or it may delay you from graduating. Furthermore, the notation that you were found to have committed irregular behavior will be placed on your Step exam transcript. This will be reported out when your test scores are reported.

As indicated above, many medical decision makers view this as similar to cheating. It may disqualify you for many jobs or residency programs that you would otherwise be considered for. If you are accused of irregular behavior, immediately consult with an attorney who has actual experience in dealing with this matter. You can find more information about irregular behavior by clicking here to watch our informational video blog. Click here to read one of my prior blogs on USMLE.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys For Irregular Behavior or USMLE Issues Today.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to medical students, residents, interns and fellows in academic disputes, graduate medical education (GME) hearings, contract negotiations, license applications, board certification applications and hearings, credential hearings, and civil and administrative litigations.
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.

Keywords: National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), medical students, medical resident, irregular behavior, United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), Examination Committee for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), cheating, USMLE preparation course , USMLE hearings, USMLE appeals, defense attorney, defense lawyer, legal representation, medical student lawyer, medical student attorney, medical resident lawyer, medical resident attorney, medical intern lawyer, medical intern attorney, accused of irregular behavior, The Health Law Firm reviews

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

How to Respond to a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) Investigative Subpoena

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

The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) is a division of the Florida Office of Attorney General. It is in charge of investigating and prosecuting health care providers suspected of defrauding the state’s Medicaid program.  When the unit opens a case against a provider, the first step is usually the issuance of an investigative subpoena, requesting specific patient records.  The practice tips below were prepared to assist a health care provider in properly responding to such a subpoena and being prepared to defend oneself.

It is important to remember that the MFCU would not be involved unless criminal fraud was suspected. This is not a routine audit.

1. Speak with an attorney experienced in Medicaid fraud and abuse prior to responding to the government’s requests.

The MFCU does not issue a subpoena without reason.  It is essential that you immediately retain an attorney experienced in Medicaid fraud and abuse claims when served with such a subpoena.  If retained early, an experienced health attorney can review the requested records to determine what concerns the government may have and how best to defend against them.  An experienced attorney can also determine if the subpoena has been properly served and what documents will be most responsive to the government’s requests.  An investigation by the MFCU is a very serious matter that can lead to both the recoupment of Medicaid reimbursements and criminal charges. Administrative action, civil action or criminal charges or all three could result.

2. Do NOT believe the government investigator is on your side.

It is not uncommon for a government investigator to notify you that the subpoena you have been served with is a routine matter and that there is nothing to fear.  The investigator may also tell you that your practice is not the subject of the investigation and that retaining counsel is unnecessary.  A subpoena issued by the MFCU is always a very serious matter and should always be treated as such. Remember, the investigator’s job is to build a case against you and, in our experience, the investigator will use whatever tactics are at his/her disposal to do so.

Do not be lured into the temptation to “explain” or tell “your side of the story.” You will merely be helping the government to make a case against you, one which it might not have been able to prove otherwise.

3. Provide the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with the documents than have been requested and NOTHING more.

It is almost never advisable to provide the MFCU with more documents than requested in the subpoena.  Providing the government investigator with additional information beyond what was requested will only provide the government with more evidence to use against you at a later date.

4. DO NOT provide the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with your original records.

Unless required by the government, do not provide the MFCU with your original records. These investigations can often take years to reach a final resolution, and once the original records have been turned over it is very difficult to get them back. In most cases, if the government is provided with an organized paginated copy of the requested records, it will not require you to produce the originals.

5. Remember: the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has the right to request copies of only Medicaid patient records.

As a general rule, the MFCU has the right to subpoena and review the patient records for Medicaid patients only.  The records of a non-Medicaid patient may not be reviewed by the government without the patient’s prior written consent.

6. If proper and lawful, you must respond to the subpoena.

If the MFCU properly serves you with a lawful subpoena, you must produce the written records within the time prescribed. Extensions of time may be granted, but these need to be requested in advance and documented in writing. If the subpoena is not obeyed, the government will petition a court to compel compliance and you will likely have to pay the government’s attorney’s fees and costs associated with enforcing the investigative subpoena.

7. You and your employees are not required to talk with government investigators or explain the records unless individually subpoenaed.

Remember that a subpoena for records is just that, a subpoena for records. It is not a subpoena for testimonies or interviews.

After your records have been produced, it is important to remember that neither you nor your employees are required to speak with government investigators, absent a specific subpoena for this.  As noted above, it is rarely advisable to volunteer information to the MFCU, and in most cases, this information will be used to build a case against you.

8. Remain patient after complying with the subpoena.

Finally, it is important to remain patient after you have submitted your records to the government for review.  The MFCU investigates hundreds of cases each year, involving thousands of records. It is not uncommon for an investigation to go years without a final determination.  Legal representation is extremely important at this time. The communication between your counsel and the government can make the difference between a civil penalty and criminal charges.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling MFCU Investigations.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, medical groups, clinics, home health agencies, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), group facilities for the developmentally disabled, hospitals, and other health care providers in responding to a MFCU investigation. We also represent health providers in administrative hearings in such matters at both the federal and state levels. We have represented health providers in civil court litigation and in appeals on such matters, as well.

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

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

About the Authors: 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.

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

Phony Dentist Gets Busted for Child Abuse After Injuring Teen During Illegal Dental Procedures

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

A Miami man, his wife and their daughter have been charged with child abuse following two alleged dental procedures that left a 14-year-old girl permanently disfigured. According to a number of sources, the three were arrested on September 12, 2012, at their home-operated dental office.

Click here to see the man’s arrest affidavit from the Miami Police Department.

14-Year-Old Left in Pain and Disfigured After Procedures.

According to the Miami Herald, when the 14-year-old girl broke a front tooth, she and her mother went to the man, who claimed to be a dentist when he lived in Cuba. He offered to perform the dental work in the back room of his home office for $500. Instead of fixing the tooth, the article states the man filed all four of the girl’s front teeth down to the gums. He then allegedly fit her with a permanent bridge, which the mother described as an “iron bridge painted white with the form of teeth.”

The victim was allegedly left with swollen and blackened gums, according to the Miami Herald. She is now under the care of a licensed dentist at the University of Miami.

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

Fake Dentist and Family Face Child Abuse and Performing Dental Services Without a License.

The fake dentist and his wife, who apparently witnessed the procedures, face charges of child abuse, child negligence and performing dental services without a license. The couple’s daughter faces a charge of child negligence.

The license status of almost all health care professionals can easily be checked online. In Florida, license verification for all health care professionals can be checked on the Florida Department of Health (DOH) website. Hint: If they don’t have a license, they ain’t a legitimate health professional.

This case was investigated by the Miami Police Department, the DOH and a Miami-Dade County team that fights pharmaceutical crime. Detectives suspect more victims will soon come forward.

Is Miami a Hotbed for Phony Physicians?

We have seen many reports on phony doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners and others practicing in the Miami area over the past decade. Many of these operate surreptitiously and prey on immigrants and foreign nationals. Others operate blatantly and publicly advertise.

Plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures appear to be the most likely area to be “practiced” by the imposters. We have seen or heard reports of physicians performing surgery in hotel rooms. We have read reports of walk-in plastic surgery offices where animal sedatives were used to sedate the patient and plastic knee replacements were used as breast implants.

More Stories on Fake Physicians and Other Health Professionals to Come.

In the near future on this blog, we will include additional articles on fake doctors and health professionals, some old, some new.

To see a recent blog on a Florida teen impersonating a physician’s assistant (PA), click here. You can also read the story of a fake plastic surgeon in New York by clicking here.

Sound Off.

Have you heard of any stories about fake health care professionals? What do you think if this story? Leave your comments below.


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

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

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

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

Sources:

Sanchez, Melissa. “Little Havana Man Accused of Injuring Girl with Illegal Dental Work.” Miami Herald. (September 12, 2012). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/09/12/2999610/little-havana-man-accused-of-injuring.html

CBS Miami. “Girl Leaves Dental Dungeon With Mangled Teeth; 3 Charged With Child Abuse.” CBS Miami. (September 12, 2012). From: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2012/09/12/girl-leaves-dental-clinic-with-disfigured-teeth-3-charged-with-child-abuse/

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.

Boca Raton Compounding Pharmacy Shuts Its Doors After Receiving an Emergency Suspension Order

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

On October 26, 2012, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) issued an emergency suspension order (ESO) against a Boca Raton compounding pharmacy, according to a number of sources. The DOH in a press release called the conditions in the pharmacy so “deplorable” that nothing short of immediately shutting down the pharmacy would suffice.

Click here to read the press release from the DOH.

Rodent Feces, Dead Bugs and a Sink Full of Dirty Water all Found at Compounding Pharmacy.

On October 12, 2012, a state inspector arrived at the Boca Raton compounding pharmacy for an inspection. According to an article on Health News Florida, rodent feces, dead bugs and a sink full of dirty water were discovered. A film of powder covered surfaces in the drug-compounding area, where containers of drugs were open. Information on patients and prescriptions was missing, and drug labels were missing important information on the dose, lot number and prescribing physician.

Apparently the compounding pharmacy had been cited in past inspections for similar issues.

To read the Health News Florida article, click here.

All Compounding Pharmacies Are Now Under Pressure.

The compounding pharmacy can have a DOH hearing before final action is taken. The suspension is in effect until final disciplinary action, until the suspension is lifted or the case is appealed.

This inspection and ESO occurred in the wake of a nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to contaminated drugs made by a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts. I previously wrote a blog on the Massachusetts compounding pharmacy shutting down. To read more click here.

It’s believed because of the meningitis outbreak, all compounding pharmacies are under the microscope.

Another Florida Compounding Pharmacy in Trouble Due to Fungal Growth.

I previously blogged about the problems encountered by Franck’s pharmacy in Ocala, Florida. It has been accused of distributing eye medications that contained a fungal infection. Click here for the first blog and here for the second blog I wrote on this.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

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

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

Comments?

Do you think the Boca Raton compounding pharmacy was unfairly served with an ESO due to the meningitis outbreak? Or do you think it is better for the Florida DOH to be safe rather than sorry? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Gentry, Carol. “State Finds Pharmacy Conditions ‘Deplorable,’ Suspends License.” Health News Florida. (October 26, 2012). From: http://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/post/state-finds-pharmacy-conditions-deplorable-suspends-license

Florida Department of Health. “Department of Health Takes Action Against Florida Pharmacy.” DOH. (October 26, 2012). Press Release From: http://newsroom.doh.state.fl.us/wp-content/uploads/newsroom/2011/08/102612RejuviESO.pdf

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

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

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

Nationwide Telephone Scam: Phony DEA Agents Extorting Money from Victims

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is warning the public to be aware of a prescription drug scam. This telephone scheme is extorting money from people all over the country. On November 28, 2012, the DEA released a press release explaining the details of the scam.

Do Not Wire Money to Phony DEA Agents.

The scam starts with criminals posing as DEA agents calling victims by telephone. Frequently the victims will have recently purchased prescription drugs over the internet or by phone. The imposters tell the victims that purchasing the drugs in that manner is illegal, and that they must pay a fine. If the victims refuse to send money, the phony DEA agents threaten to arrest the victims or search their property. Some of the victims have also reported unauthorized use of their credit cards after purchasing the prescription drugs.

Click here to read more on this scam from a DEA press release.

The DEA wants to remind the public that no DEA agent will ever contact a person by telephone. They might show up at your house early in the morning or while you are eating dinner, however. Also, agents never request money or any other form of payment.

Purchasing Drugs Over the Internet or By Telephone May Be Illegal.

Many times it may be illegal to purchase controlled drugs by phone or over the internet. That’s why you should go to Canada to do it. There are direct flights from Orlando. However, some pharmacies that meet stringent requirements and are registered by the DEA are allowed to sell drugs over the internet or by phone. So don’t be fooled by this telephone scam.

Scammers Banking on Victims’ Ignorance and Fear.

The scammers are counting on the fact that if you have done this, you will get scared and believe their accusations. Many people have no idea whether such conduct is legal or illegal. These imposters are banking on your ignorance and fear of being arrested for a criminal act. They are also banking on the fact you won’t report this to the real police.

Where do they get this information? Chances are, they are just “cold-calling” people. There are bound to be a certain number of people they reach who have done this. However, if they seem to have your personal health information (or credit card number) report this to the police right away. Be sure to obtain a written police report. Also, you should file a HIPAA Privacy Complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to begin an investigation if you believe your personal health information has been stolen by or given to someone else to use.

Strict Regulations and Restrictions Might Cause People to Look for Other Opportunities to Get Prescription Drugs.

It is no surprise that the DEA, along with other law enforcement agencies, has stepped up its efforts to cut down on overprescribing. To see examples of what I am talking about read my past blogs: Walgreens fights the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) immediate suspension order and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) pulls controlled substance licenses from two Sanford, Florida, CVS pharmacies.

If the largest, legitimate pharmacy chains in the state and nation are not allowed to fill these prescriptions, where will chronic-pain patients turn? Are these actions driving our citizens into the hands of shady pharmacies that have fewer safeguards and less accountability, such as online pharmacies? Are these actions driving our citizens to seek out illegal drug dealers and turn to illegal drugs to cope with their legitimate medical problems? That is just one opinion. Tell us yours below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Comments?

Are the actions of the DEA driving our citizens into the hands of shady pharmacies that have fewer safeguards and less accountability, such as online pharmacies? Are these actions also driving our citizens to seek out illegal drug dealers and turn to illegal drugs to cope with their legitimate medical problems? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “DEA Warns of Prescription-Drug Scam.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 29,2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-dea-warns-scam-internet-20121128,0,5800536.story

Drug Enforcement Administration. “DEA Scam Alert – Extortion Scheme.” DEA. (November 28, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/dea/divisions/mia/2012/mia112812a.shtml

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.

Medicare Put the Hospice Industry Under the Microscope

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

It’s no surprise to anyone that Medicare is cracking down on hospices around the country. According to a report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), eighty-two percent (82%) of hospices’ claims did not meet Medicare coverage requirements. That is why Medicare is investigating the industry as a whole. Specific details on what Medicare is looking for can be found in the 2013 OIG Work Plan. Click here to read the 2013 OIG Work Plan.

So far, Medicare has kept true to its word. During the week of January 7, 2013, the federal government announced it is suing a Central Florida hospice for Medicare fraud, according to the Orlando Sentinel. (Click here to read the Orlando Sentinel article.) Also, one of the nation’s largest and most respected hospices located in San Diego, California, is in the middle of a federal audit, according to a Kaiser Health News article. (Click here to read the Kaiser Health News article.) These are just a few examples of what hospices around the country are dealing with.

Central Florida Hospice Dealing with Qui Tam or Whistleblower Case.

The federal qui tam (whistleblower) lawsuit against the Central Florida hospice was reportedly filed by the hospice’s former vice president of finance in September 2011. The Department of Justice (DOJ) joined the whistleblower lawsuit in September of 2012.

The federal lawsuit alleges the hospice CEO ordered employees to admit patients without properly determining whether they were terminally ill, as required by Medicare. Staff was also apparently told to find ways to “edit” patients’ medical files so that the billing appeared legitimate. To learn more on this case, click here to read a blog I wrote on the hospice when the government joined the lawsuit. Click here to read the entire whistleblower complaint.

San Diego Hospice Cuts More Than Just Patients After Medicare Audit.

In 2010, federal officials audited a large hospice located in San Diego, California. Medicare is still investigating the hospice’s 2009-2010 admissions. Since the audit, the hospice has had to drop around 400 patients, due to their ineligibility for hospice care. Cutting patients meant a decrease in profits, which subsequently meant the hospice had to let 260 employees go and close a 24-bed hospital, according to Kaiser Health News.

Hospices Under Scrutiny.

According to the Kaiser Health News article, the hospice industry is booming. In 2011, it’s estimated hospices served 1.65 million people in the U.S., which is about forty-five percent (45%) of all those who died that year. Medicare paid for the hospice benefits of eighty-four percent (84%) of those patients.

Medicare is concerned with the amount of people hospices admit. Hospices normally treat patients with fewer than six months to live. If a patient recovers, Medicare expects the patient to leave the program. Patients may stay in hospice care only if they are re-certified as still likely to die within six months by a physician. It’s thought that enrollment bonuses to employees and kickbacks to nursing homes that refer patients are big factors as to why hospices accept ineligible patients.

Medicare Trying to Keep Up with Fraud and Abuse in Hospice Industry.

Currently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is focused on safeguarding tax payers dollars from fraud. I have recently seen a number of audits initiated against health professionals who treat assisted living facility (ALF), hospice and skilled nursing facility (SNF) residents. Most often these are audits by the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC), because these facilities have been identified as fraught with fraud and abuse. I wrote a two-part blog this topic. Click here for part one and here for part two.

If you are being audited, click here to read some tips we recommend in responding to a Medicare audit.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid and Medicare Audits.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, nurses, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing 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.

What Do You Think?

What do you think about Medicare targeting hospices? Do you think it is necessary? Is the hospice business going to suffer because of these investigations? Please leave any thoughtful comment below.

Sources:

Santich, Kate. “Feds Sue Hospice of the Comforter for Medicare Fraud.” Orlando Sentinel. (January 14, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-feds-sue-hospice-of-the-comforter-20130114,0,7827264.story

U.S. ex rel. Stone v. Hospice of the Comforter, Inc., No. 6:11-cv-1498-ORL-22-AAB (M.D. Fla) United State District Court for the Middle District of Florida Orlando Division. (September 12, 2012), available at http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/US%20v%20Hospice%20of%20the%20Comforter.pdf

Dotinga, Randy. “Slowly Dying Patients, Am Audit and A Hospice’s Undoing.” Kaiser Health News. (January 16, 2013). From: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2013/January/16/san-diego-hospice.aspx

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

 

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

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

Zone 4 Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) for Medicare and Medicaid Programs is Health Integrity, LCC

2 Indest-2009-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Health Integrity, LCC, was named the Zone 4 Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) for the Medicare and Medicaid programs. As the ZPIC for Zone 4, Health Integrity has been performing benefit integrity activities aimed to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid data matching programs.

A ZPIC is a business entity that contracts with Medicare and Medicaid and works with state Medicaid agencies, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and law enforcement officials to identify improper billing and utilization patterns throughout Zone 4.

ZPIC Zone 4 includes Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

What is a ZPIC?

ZPICs are private companies contracted by the CMS, used to conduct audits for Medicare and Medicaid overpayments. ZPICS also detect, investigate and gather evidence of suspected fraud and abuse to be turned over to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for criminal or civil prosecution.. When you hear “ZPIC,” think “fraud.”

ZPIC audits are initiated by:

1. Whistleblower or qui tam lawsuits,
2. Probe audits,
3. Other audit agency findings,
4. Beneficiary/patient complaints,
5. Hotline complaints, or
6. Complaints and notices from other government programs.

How to Handle a ZPIC Audit.

When a physician, medical group or other health care provider receives a notice of an audit and site visit from a ZPIC, things happen fast with little opportunity to prepare. A ZPIC will routinely fax a letter to the practice shortly before the end of a business day the day before a site visit/audit to that practice. Auditors will request to inspect the premises, will photograph all rooms, equipment, furniture, and diplomas on walls. They will usually request copies of several patient records to review later. They will request copies of practice policies and procedures, treatment protocols, all staff licenses and certifications, drug formularies, medications prescribed, and medications used in the office. ZPIC auditors will inspect any medication/narcotic lockers or storage cabinets and will request drug/medication invoices and inventories. You will usually be contacted for follow-up information and documentation after the audit and will eventually be provided a report and, possibly, a demand for repayment of any detected overpayments.

For a checklist on what to do after you receive initial notification of a ZPIC audit, read our two-part blog. Click here for part one and click here for part two.

The Health Law Firm’s Success in a North Carolina Medicaid Action.

In October 2012, The Health Law Firm assisted a North Carolina Medicaid provider in reducing an overpayment demand made by the North Carolina Medicaid program by more than ninety-eight percent (98%). We were brought on to assist the provider in challenging an initial audit. We assembled and submitted documents to the auditor and assisted the client in presenting evidence at the hearing. The final result of the hearing reduced the Medicaid overpayment amount from $1.4 million to just $24,083. To read more on this successful Medicaid action, click here.

State Included in Zone 4.

ZPIC Zones are broken up by state. Health Integrity serves as the Zone 4 ZPIC. As indicated above Zone 4 includes Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

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


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

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

Comments?

Have you ever received notification of a ZPIC visit or audit? 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.

Strike Force Busts 89 People, Mostly Health Care Professionals, in Nationwide Crackdown on Medicare Fraud

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

In a nationwide takedown nearly 100 people, including doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, in eight cities were all allegedly charged in separate Medicare fraud schemes. These individual scams involved approximately $223 million in false billing, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Humans Services (DHHS). On May 14, 2013, more than 400 law enforcement officials with the Medicare Fraud Strike Force spread out between Miami, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, Houston, Chicago and Tampa to make the arrests of these 89 people, according to the DOJ.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Medicare Schemes Could Not Have Happened Without the Help of Health Professionals.

According to an article in Reuters, one out of every four defendants in this crackdown was some type of health professional. Authorities say most of these allegedly complex scams could not have happened without the participation of a doctor signing off on a bogus service, or a nurse filling out false paperwork.

Click here to read the entire article from Reuters.

Florida Health Professionals Involved.

According to the DOJ, in Miami, a total of 25 people, including two nurses and a paramedic, were allegedly part of numerous Medicare scams, totaling about $44 million in false claims. In one case involving a home health agency, defendants allegedly bribed Medicare beneficiaries for their Medicare information, which was used to bill for home health services that were never rendered or not medically necessary. The DOJ believes the lead defendant spent a majority of the money from the scam on luxury cars.

Phony Health Care Clinics Set Up.

In Tampa, nine individuals were charged in a variety of schemes, ranging from pharmacy fraud to health-care related money laundering. According to the DOJ, in one case four individuals allegedly established four health care clinics. The individuals allegedly used these clinics to steal more than $2.5 million from Medicare for surgical procedures that were never performed.

This Marks the Sixth Time the Medicare Fraud Strike Force Has Executed a Nationwide Crackdown.

This crackdown marks the sixth time the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has taken nationwide action against Medicare fraud. To date, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force is credited with making more than 1,500 arrests on charges related to $5 billion in allegedly false Medicare claims since 2007. According to the DOJ, it’s believed Medicare fraud costs the program between $60 billion and $90 billion each year.

Medicare operates under a pay-and-chase system, but according to the Washington Post, authorities are beginning to use new technology that flags suspicious claims before Medicare makes a payment. To read the entire Washington Post article, click here.

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

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

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

Comments?

What do you think of these nationwide crackdowns on Medicare fraud? Do you think they work as a deterrent for others committing health care fraud? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Medicare Strike Force Charges 89 Individuals for Approximately $223 Million in False Billing.” Department of Justice. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/May/13-crm-553.html

Kennedy, Kelli. “Doctors and Nurses Among Nearly 100 Charged in $223 Million Medicare Fraud Busts in 8 Cities.” Washington Post. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/health_care/doctors-nurses-among-nearly-100-charged-in-223-million-medicare-fraud-busts-in-8-cities/2013/05/14/fbb0de3a-bcbc-11e2-b537-ab47f0325f7c_story.html

Morgan, David. “U.S. Charges 89 People in $223 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Reuters. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/14/usa-healthcare-fraud-idUSL2N0DV3GZ20130514

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.

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