Don’t Voluntarily Relinquish Your Medical License or DEA Registration Number, Here’s Why

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

I am often contacted by clients who are health professionals or own businesses in the health care industry who have been approached by government agents or investigators regarding possible complaints or charges. In many cases, the individuals involved do not think to consult with an attorney until many months later. This may be too late to save the business or professional practice involved. This holds for physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacies, pain management clinics, physician assistants, group homes, assisted living facilities (ALFs), and home health agencies.

“Voluntary” Relinquishment Treated the Same as a Revoked License.

We have seen a trend recently, especially here in Florida, of investigators immediately offering the person being investigated the option to voluntarily relinquish his or her professional license. This is offered as an option to being investigated, even in the event of very minor or frivolous complaints. The problem is that once an investigation has been opened, voluntary relinquishment of a license is treated as if it were revoked for disciplinary reasons. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to ever get a new license under the circumstances.

Furthermore, if the professional has other licenses or similar licenses in other states, this will be reported to the other states, and disciplinary action will probably be initiated against those other licenses.

We have heard horror stories of investigators, accompanied by police or sheriff’s deputies, or Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, making all sorts of threats against health professionals to intimidate them into giving up a DEA registration number or professional license, including medical licenses, nursing licenses, and pharmacy licenses.

In the case of such an incident occurring in Florida, the “voluntary” relinquishment must still be presented to the applicable professional Board and voted on at a scheduled meeting since it is considered disciplinary. It may be possible to withdraw the “voluntary” relinquishment before it is voted on, so all may not be lost.

Think Long and Hard About Relinquishing DEA Registration Number.

However, in the case of the DEA, a DEA registration number is considered gone as soon as the “voluntary” relinquishment paper is signed. This is one of the reasons it is crucial to talk with a knowledgeable health law attorney before making such a decision. The ones putting pressure on you to do this will do everything they can to persuade you not to talk to an attorney. But it is your right to do so. Don’t be rushed or intimidated into making a foolish decision you regret.

We have represented clients attempting to obtain a new DEA registration number or a new professional license years after their voluntary relinquishment. In most cases, it is a highly uphill battle and is often not successful.

Additional Consequences of Voluntary Relinquishment of a Professional License or DEA Registration Number.

The following are some of the additional consequences of voluntary relinquishment of a professional license or DEA number after notice of an investigation:

1. Disciplinary action will be commenced against any other professional licenses in the state.

2. Disciplinary action will be commenced against similar licenses in other states.

3. The matter will be reported to any national certification boards of which you are a member. They will most likely commence an action against you to revoke your national certification.

4. You will be placed on the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) List of Excluded Entities and Individuals (LEIE) and excluded from the federal Medicare Program.

5. You will be terminated from the state’s Medicaid Program if you are a Medicaid provider.

6. You will be terminated from the panels of any health insurers or managed care plans of which you are a provider member.

There are many other possible repercussions to such actions, so it is extremely important to be prepared for such an event. To prepare, you can:

1. Purchase professional licensing defense insurance coverage through Lloyd’s of London, Healthcare Provider’s Service Organization (HPSO), Nurses Service Organization (NSO), or one of the other reputable insurance companies that provide such coverage.

2. Have the names, telephone numbers, and other information on good, reputable criminal defense and health law attorneys. Make sure your practice manager has this information as well.

3. Call as soon as an investigator walks in. Don’t wait.

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.

 

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.


Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm.  The Health Law Firm is always looking for qualified attorneys interested in the practice of health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a member of The Florida Bar and are interested, forward a cover letter and your resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax to: (407) 331-3030.

“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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Are You the Target of a Medicaid Audit? Tips Health Professionals Should Be Following

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

The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), Office of Inspector General (OIG), and Bureau of Medicaid Program Integrity is the Florida agency responsible for routine Medicaid audits The agency ensures that the Medicaid program was billed correctly for services by health care professionals. Those receiving the greatest amounts of Medicaid payments are also the ones most likely to be audited.

These include pediatricians, Ob/Gyns, family practice physicians, and dentists. The Medicaid audit usually requests information in a questionnaire form. It also includes a request for copies of medical records (including X-rays and other diagnostic studies) for the patients selected for the audit.

If AHCA determines that Medicaid overpaid for services, it will use a complex mathematical extrapolation formula to determine the repayment amount. Additionally, fines and penalties can be added by the Medicaid program. However, you can eliminate or reduce the amount of any such repayment by actions taken both before and during the Medicaid audit.

Practical Tips for Your Practice.

There are ways to run the everyday practice that will help you if you are selected for a Medicaid audit.
1. Every patient record entry should be clearly dated and signed or initialed by the provider. Make sure this is always done.

2. When documenting the patient’s record, make sure that you document exactly what services were needed and completed to support what was billed to Medicaid.

3. Communicate with the person responsible for your billing so that the actual services provided are billed for. Do not bill in advance for anticipated services needed as indicated in the appointment calendar or on a treatment plan.

4. Keep the patient records organized and ready for copying, if necessary. Using only one-sided documents and securely fastening small forms (prescriptions, telephone memos, small sticky notes) onto 8-1/2″ by 11″ paper will help those still using paper charts. Scan all such documents into the patient record using an electronic health record (EHR).

5. Services provided by a physician not enrolled in the Medicaid program to a Medicaid patient may not be billed to or paid by the Medicaid program. Therefore, never allow any other physician associated with your practice who is not enrolled as a Medicaid provider to provide services to Medicaid patients. Do not allow a new physician coming into your practice to treat Medicaid patients until he or she actually has received his or her Medicaid provider number. The group may not bill for the services, nor may another physician bill for the services.

6. Ensure that all health care professionals’ licenses and permits are updated. Ensure that all X-rays, clinical lab, and diagnostic equipment are permitted and kept up to date. Ensure that any CLIA license or exemption certificate is correct and kept up to date. Services billed by unlicensed personnel or services provided by improperly-licensed facilities may not be paid by the Medicaid program.

7. Use only standard abbreviations in your medical records documentation, orders, and reports. While an abbreviation may seem familiar to you or your practice, the auditors may not recognize it if it is not a universally accepted abbreviation.

8. Make sure all records are timely made, accurate and legible. Safeguard them, and never let the original leave your office. Illegible records are treated as a non-record, and payment is wholly disallowed for an illegible note or order. A missing record, X-ray, or chart entry will result in a complete repayment being directed for those services.


The Medicaid Audit.

If you are on the receiving end of an audit, AHCA will send you a letter notifying you. AHCA will also supply you with a list of patients to be sampled. A standard sample will include a list of anywhere from 30 to 150 patient names, as a general rule, depending on the size of the practice. Regular audits routinely request 30 to 50 patients’ records. The audit letter will also include a questionnaire to be completed (Medicaid Provider Questionnaire) and a “Certification of Completeness of Records” form to complete and return with the copies of the patient records. (Please note: This will be used against you in the future if you attempt to add or supplement the copies of the records you provided.)

For more information, read a past blog that will let you know if you are the subject of an audit.

You must retain the services of an expert consultant or experienced health care attorney to correctly and accurately complete the questionnaire. The letter will also request that you provide copies of the patient records for the list of patients included with the letter. You will only be given a short time to provide these documents.

If you have been accused of Medicaid fraud and need to prepare for an audit, watch our informational video blog.

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 Healthcare 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 law 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.

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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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.

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.

New England Compounding Pharmacy Linked to Meningitis Outbreak Suspected of Violated License

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

The compounding pharmacy behind the meningitis outbreak was allegedly not following the requirements of its state license, according to the Massachusetts Department of Health (DOH) in a released statement on October 10, 2012.

To read the entire statement from the Massachusetts DOH, click here.

The New England Compounding Center (NECC) shipped more than 17,000 vials of a steroid to pain clinics in 23 states, including Florida. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now reporting 214 cases of meningitis and 15 deaths associated with the fungal infection. NECC has surrendered its license and has recalled all medications. To see a blog I previously wrote about the recall and compounding facility shutting down, click here.

Under Law NECC Was Only Suppose to Produce Medication for Patient-Specific Prescriptions.

The Massachusetts DOH representative said under state law the NECC was only supposed to produce medications for patient-specific prescriptions. It is believed the company violated state law governing those pharmacies.

Apparently the DOH has had issues with the NECC prior to the outbreak. According to the statement, in 2006 the NECC received a warning letter from the Massachusetts DOH. The letter stated the company was operating more like a drug manufacturing firm than a compounding pharmacy.

All Compounding Pharmacies Now Under the Microscope.

On October 10, 2012, the Board of Pharmacy sent out an alert to all compounding pharmacies in Massachusetts to reinforce the state rules. The Board also issued an order requiring that all compounding pharmacies in the state sign an affidavit attesting compliance with all laws and regulations. The Massachusetts DOH officials do not believe any other pharmacies are operating outside of the rules, but said the alert was a precautionary measure.

Click here to see the alert from the Board of Pharmacy.

Compounding Pharmacy in Florida Faced Fungal Outbreak.

Florida has seen its share of fungal outbreaks. 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.

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?

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

Sources:

Smith, Michael. “Meningitis: Pharmacy in Outbreak Violated License.” MedPage Today. (October 11, 2012). From: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Neurology/GeneralNeurology/35276?utm_source=breaking-news&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=breaking-news

Biondolillo, Madeleine Dr. “Statement of Dr. Madeleine Biondolillo Director of the Bureau for Health Care Safety and Quality.” Department of Public Health Massachusetts (October 10. 2012). From: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/quality/boards/pharmacy-necc-biondolillo-statement.doc

Associated Press. “CDC: US Meningitis Outbreak Growing, 14 Dead.” Florida Today. (October 11, 2012). From: http://www.floridatoday.com/viewart/20121011/HEALTH/121011041/CDC-US-meningitis-outbreak-growing-14-dead?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CLocal%20News

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.

VA Physicians and Health Professionals Should Fight Allegations of Substandard Care in Peer Review Matters

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

I have represented physicians, psychologists, nurse practitioners, nurses and other health professionals working in Veterans Administration (VA) medical centers and clinics throughout the United States.  My representation has included personnel and employment issues, disciplinary actions, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions and appeals.

If a complaint involving allegations of lack of clinical competence or skill is made, it is extremely important for the physician or nurse practitioner to retain the services of an experienced health lawyer to represent him or her immediately.  This is not the time to seek the cheapest attorney you can find.  You need skilled representation by an advocate who knows medical terminology, understands medical issues and procedures, knows physicians, and has experience with fair hearings.

You Have Rights.

VA Handbook 1100.19, Credentialing and Privileging, requires that the VA hospital afford you due process of law and fundamental fairness at every step of the process in any clinical privileges action.  This includes timely advance notice of the specific allegations made against you, the evidence that is to be used against you, legal representation, advance notice of witnesses and documents that may be introduced against you, the opportunity to prepare a defense to the allegations, the right to cross examine witnesses, the right to introduce evidence (documents and witnesses, including expert witnesses) in your defense, a neutral and unbiased hearing panel, and other such rights.  Attorneys who are not familiar with such hearings may be unaware of your rights or how to properly exercise and safeguard them.

How to Take Care of Your License.

Don’t seek legal advice from your colleagues, from your accountant or from an attorney who does not specialize in such matters. We don’t recommend shopping around for the cheapest attorney you can find.  Please do not hire a personal injury attorney, a civil litigation attorney, and employment law attorney or any other attorney without health law experience.  Your professional life, career and medical license are at stake.  You are in the fight of your life.  Treat it as such.

If you were diagnosed with a brain tumor, would you attempt to perform your own brain surgery?  Would you shop around to find the cheapest neurosurgeon to perform the surgery?  Or would you look for the best?  Yet, physicians routinely believe they can represent themselves in such matters.  In our experience, this simply is not the case.

Contact an Experienced Health Law Attorney Before You Do Anything.

Far too frequently we are contacted by physicians after the investigation has been completed, after the hearing has been held and after the physician’s clinical privileges have been revoked.  Except for an appeal on narrow grounds, little can be done.

If the VA revokes your clinical privileges, by regulation, this will be reported to the NPDB and to every state in which you have a license.  The NPDB report remains on your file for 50 years.  Any time in the future you apply for clinical privileges, for a medical license or for medical malpractice insurance, this report will come up and cause you serious problems.  It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain employment or to obtain clinical privileges in any hospital or institution with such a NPDB report on your file.  Additionally, any state in which you hold a license will also open an investigation against your medical license.

NPDB reports can be mitigated by filing an explanatory rebuttal (as is your right) or by filing a request for a Secretarial Review (appeal).  We can do this for you.  However, it is best to prevent a NPDB report from being filed to begin with.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Veterans Administration (VA) Physician Representation and Military Physician Representation.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have represented physicians, psychologists, nurse practitioners, nurse and other health professionals working in Veterans Administration medical centers and clinics throughout the United States.  Representation has included personnel and employment issues, disciplinary action, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions and appeals.

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

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

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

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

Optometrists and Ophthalmologists Not Seeing Eye to Eye Over Proposed Law Allowing Prescribing

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

This year Florida House Bill 239 and Florida Senate Bill 278 has been reignited in the Florida Legislature. This legislation is pitting optometrists and ophthalmologists against each other in what is being called the “eyeball wars,” according to the Fort Myers News-Press. These bills would expand the authority of optometrists to prescribe certain medications and treat some eye conditions. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are both trying to gain support for their respective viewpoints.

Click here to read the article from Fort Myers News-Press.

Florida House Bill 239 and Florida Senate Bill 278.

Most notably, the bills would expand the scope of practice for optometrists. Optometrists would have prescribing authority of oral medications. However, they would not have the ability to prescribe Schedule I and II narcotics. Optometrists would also be allowed to perform clinical laboratory studies.

Click here to read Florida House Bill 239, and click here to read Florida Senate Bill 278.

Supporters Believe This Law Would Reduce Health Care Costs and Increase Access to Eye Care.

The backers of expanding prescribing authority to optometrists say it will help reduce health care costs and make treatment more available to communities short on ophthalmologists. According to a statement by the Florida Optometric Association, expanding the ability for optometrists to prescribe oral medications saves money, increases access to eye care, and saves people from losing vision due to treatment delays. According to the Fort Myers News-Press, this authority has been granted to optometrists in 48 states.

Ophthalmologists Say Patients’ Safety is at Stake.

According to the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, allowing an expansion of prescribing authority is a dangerous move for patients. A letter from the American Academy of Ophthalmology states that the language in the legislature is vague, broad and misleading. It also states that the training ophthalmologists receive provides them with not only technical skills, but instills the judgment one needs to determine when (and when not) to prescribe specific medications. To read the entire letter, click here.

Other associations opposed to the bill include Florida Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, Florida Society of Rheumatology, Florida Society of Anesthesiologists, Hillsborough County Medical Association. Letters written by each of these societies can be read by clicking here.

Progression of the Bill. 

Florida House Bill 239 was passed by the House Health and Human Services Committee on March 7, 2013, and is now ready for the House Floor. On March 6, 2013, a Florida Senate panel voted 10-3 to approve Senate Bill 278. The bill has now been handed over to the Appropriation Committee.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Optometrists and Ophthalmologists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to optometrists, ophthalmologists 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?

What do you think of optometrists being able to prescribe oral medication? Are you for or against this legislature? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Gluck, Frank. “Not Seeing Eye to Eye: Optometrists, Ophthalmologists Differ on Bills.” Fort Myers News-Press. (March 7, 2013). From: http://www.news-press.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013303070027&nclick_check=1

Corcoran, Richard. Letter Opposing HB 239 and SB 278. American Academy of Ophthalmology. (February 4, 2013). From: http://www.mdeye.org/pdfs/AAOHB239OppositionLetter.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.

The Affordable Care Act Offers the Government New Tools to Fight Healthcare Fraud

By Catherine T. Hollis, J.D., The Health Law Firm

In 2013, the government reported recovery of a record-breaking $10.7 billion in healthcare fraud in the past three years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The HHS credits the Affordable Care Act’s tough stance on fraud for improving the efforts to fight Medicare fraud.

The increase in fraud recovery is attributed in part to the Act’s proactive approach to preventing fraud. The Act contains several initiatives that address Medicare fraud, resulting in increased fraud-fighting tools available to the government. The joint effort between the HHS, the DOJ and the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team has been a primary driving force in seeking out fraud and securing recoveries. The HHS and DOJ’s website highlights some of the Act’s “powerful steps” toward fighting fraud, waste and abuse. Click here to read more from www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

Tougher Punishment.

The Act increases federal sentencing guidelines for healthcare fraud by twenty percent (20%) to fifty percent (50%) for crimes that involve more than $1 million in losses. The Act also establishes penalties for obstructing a fraud investigation or an audit.

Stricter Screening for Enrollment and Revalidation.

According to the HHS, the new screening procedures include licensure checks and site visits for all providers and suppliers. In addition, the Act imposes higher scrutiny on providers and suppliers who may pose a higher risk of fraud or abuse. High risk providers and suppliers can be subject to unscheduled site visits and fingerprint-based criminal background checks.

The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has started to revalidate the enrollment of all 1.5 million existing Medicare providers and suppliers, using the new screening requirements set forth by the Act. Thousands of enrollments have already been deactivated or revoked as the result of this effort. There is a blog on our website about the devastating and far reaching effects of being excluded from the Medicare program. Click here to read that blog.

New Detection Technology.

CMS is using the Fraud Prevention System to screen all fee-for-service Medicare claims. This system uses advanced predictive technology, similar to that used by credit card companies, to analyze claims prior to payment. It also scans for suspicious billing patterns. Claims identified by the Fraud Prevention System as suspect are reviewed by CMS for possible fraud.

Increased Resources.

The Act provides an additional $350 million over ten years (2011 through 2020) through the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Account.

These steps represent a more proactive approach to Medicare fraud. The government is focusing on preventing fraud before it happens, rather than paying fraudulent claims and seeking reimbursement after the fact. The tools contained in the Act, as implemented by CMS and HHS, further the goal of the Act to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicare system. To read a summary of the anti-fraud provisions in the Affordable Care Act, click here.

Anti-Fraud Provisions At Work.

On May 14, 2013, the HHS and DOJ announced the arrest of 89 people, including doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, in eight cities. These people are allegedly charged in separate Medicare fraud schemes. According to the DOJ, the scans involve approximately $223 million in false billing. Click here to read a blog on these arrests. To read more blogs on Medicare and Medicaid fraud, visit our website.

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?

Do you think the Affordable Care Act will help cut down on healthcare fraud? Why or why not? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Sjoerdsma, Donald. “The Affordable Care Act Bolstered, Didn’t Drive Medicare Anti-Fraud Efforts.” The Medicare Newsgroup. (March 22, 2013). From: http://medicarenewsgroup.com/context/understanding-medicare-blog/understanding-medicare-blog/2013/03/22/the-affordable-care-act-bolstered-didn-t-drive-medicare-anti-fraud-efforts

“The Affordable Care Act and Fighting Fraud.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and U.S. Department of Justice. From: http://www.stopmedicarefraud.gov/aboutfraud/aca-fraud/index.html

 

Health Benefits ABCs. “Summary of Anti-Fraud Provisions in the Affordable Care Act.” U.S. Administration on Aging, Department of Health and Human Services. From: http://www.smpresource.org/Content/NavigationMenu/ConsumerProtection/HealthCareReform/Anti-Fraud_Provisions_in_Health_Care_Reform.docx

“New Tools to Fight Fraud, Strengthen Federal and Private Health Programs, and Protect Consumer and Taxpayer Dollars.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (March 15, 2011). From: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/03/fraud03152011a.html

About the Author: Catherine T. Hollis is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

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

Orlando Health’s Restructuring Efforts Might Mean Pay Cuts and Layoffs for Employees

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

Many employees at Orlando Health might be getting hit hard in the wallet with pay cuts schedule for later this year. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the eight-hospital health system notified its night-shift workers that their differential pay would be trimmed by several dollars an hour. For some employees that could be a twenty percent (20%) reduction in salary. The differential pay cuts are scheduled to take effect on September 8, 2013.

Meanwhile the hospital allegedly raised prices in the cafeteria, reduced the tuition reimbursement benefit, cut some workers hours and made a number of layoffs, according to the Orlando Sentinel. According to Orlando Health officials, this is all part of a restructuring effort that began in November 2012. The cutbacks will affect all eight hospitals and all departments.

Anyone who has eaten in the cafeteria at Orlando Regional knows what a bargain the food was. Now this will be the subject of reminiscence as when us old codgers fondly think back on 5 cent Coca Colas and 10 cent loaves of bread.

To read the Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

Night-Shift Workers Feel Under Paid and Under Appreciated.

Some Orlando Hospital employees spoke to the Orlando Sentinel about the pay cuts. According to the Orlando Sentinel, night-shift workers receive incentive pay on top of their base salary for their willingness to work night shifts. One worker interviewed explained the incentive pay is given to them because no one wants to work the overnight shift. Workers also get differential pay for weekend and holiday hours.

On top of the pay cuts, workers are seeing their hours drop, as well as layoffs around the hospital. In the November 2012, restructuring announcement, Orlando Health said 300 to 400 employees’ jobs were on the chopping block, according to WFTV. Some people were previously let go, while more layoffs will be coming. Hospital officials would not say how many people have been laid off so far.

To read more from WFTV, click here.

Orlando Health’s Statement.

Orlando Health reported an $8.1 million loss last quarter. That’s on top of losing money for the last four out of five quarters, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Hospital officials said the change in differential pay puts Orlando Health in line with the pay of other hospitals in the Southeast. On August 13, 2013, Orlando Health sent out an official statement, click here to read the full statement.

Petition to Block Pay Cuts Gaining Momentum.

A petition filed on August 9, 2013, on Change.org, is requesting the Orlando Health CEO block the pay cuts to the night shift workers. The petition was started by a registered nurse at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies and is quickly picking up steam. As of August 15, 2013, the petition had more than 2,700 signatures, although not all are local. To view the petition, click here.

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

The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Comments?

What do you think of the cutbacks at Orlando Health? Are these steps necessary? If you are an Orlando Health employee, how will these changes affect you? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Jameson, Marni. “Orlando Health Workers Concerned by Cutbacks in Hours and Pay.” Orlando Sentinel. (August 9, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/os-orlando-health-cutbacks-20130809,0,5234963.story?dssReturn

Hughes, Ryan. “Orlando Health Confirms Second Round of Layoffs.” WFTV. (August 2, 2013). From: http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/orlando-health-confirms-second-round-layoffs/nZCjC/

Lewis, Kena. Orlando Health Statement. Orlando Business Journal. (August 13, 2013). From: http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/blog/2013/08/orlando-health-pay-cuts-to-save-18m.html?page=all

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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