Tightened Restrictions Placed on Pain Management Clinics in Seminole County

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

Seminole County, Florida, is the latest county to adopt tightened regulations for pain management clinics. On November 13, 2012, County Commissioners unanimously voted to adopt the ordinance enacting Chapter 186 of the Seminole County Code to establish regulations regarding pain management clinics.

Click here to read the entire Seminole County Ordinance.

County Commissioners hope these new regulations will aid law enforcement in fighting illegal pill mill operations in Florida.

Officials Believe Restrictions Will Help Prevent Overprescribing.

The ordinance requires clinics to get a license, produce monthly reports on how many prescriptions are issued for controlled substances and report patient information, such as a patient’s address. This only applies to practices where doctors issue prescriptions for painkillers such as oxycodone to more than 20 patients a day. It does not pertain to hospitals and other major medical facilities.

Anyone violating the regulations can be charged with a misdemeanor and lose his or her business license.

Restrictions Have Doctors Upset.

The Orlando Sentinel interviewed a Boca Raton doctor who specializes in pain management. The doctor reportedly believes the regulations are helping to curb drug overdoses, but stated the regulations also limit legitimate board-certified medical specialists. He believes many Florida doctors are ready to move out of the Sunshine State and go to another state with fewer regulations.

To read the Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

Other Cities and Counties in Central Florida That Have Voted to Regulate Pain Management Clinics.

At the end of October 2012, Osceola County Commissioners voted to adopt a similar ordinance. I wrote previously wrote about that story, click here to read that blog.

In addition to Osceola County, Winter Park, Sanford, Oviedo and Maitland have opted to enact ordinances that regulate pain management clinics’ location and operation.

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, pain management doctors, 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?

As a healthcare professional, what do you think of this ordinance? Have you thought about leaving Florida due to the new regulations? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Comas, Martin. “Seminole Tightens Regulations for Pain Management Clinics.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 13, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/seminole/os-pain-management-clinics-seminole-20121112,0,7626282.story

Seminole County Government. “Ordinance Chapter 186.” Seminole County Government. (November 13, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/Pain%20Management%20Ordinance.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.

Top Medicare Prescribers Collect Speaking Fees from Drug Makers-Coincidence?

LOL Blog Label 2By Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A recent investigation by ProPublica found that certain doctors who prescribed certain drug brands the most, also have financial ties to the companies that manufacture those prescription drugs. Using Medicare payment data, ProPublica and National Public Radio (NPR) researched physicians who prescribed the most heavily promoted drugs of 2010 and 2011. It was discovered that many of the doctors allegedly had financial relationships with prescription drug manufacturers. ProPublica states that they initiated this investigation out of fear that pharmaceutical payments are influencing doctors to prescribe an expensive, brand name drug over a cheaper, generic version.

To read the ProPublica analysis released June 25, 2013, click here.

According to ProPublica, the company is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.

By The Numbers.

The ProPublica analysis looked at a number of drug companies. Until now, doctors’ prescribing practices have not been made public. Disclosure of these records is now mandated in the Affordable Care Act.

According to NPR, at least 17 of the 20 doctors who prescribed the blood pressure medicine Bystolic the most often collected money from the maker, Forest Laboratories. Forest paid those doctors speaking fees for promoting Bystolic at seminars to other doctors. These fees allegedly ranged from $1,250 to $85,750. Additionally, seven of the speakers allegedly received at least $1,000 for meals. Nine of the top 10 prescribers of Exelon, an Alzheimer’s drug, collected speakers’ fees from Novartis. Eight of the top 10 Nucynta prescribers were paid by the painkiller’s manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, for similar services, according to NPR.

Click here to read the entire NPR article.

Drug Makers Shell Out Millions in Fines for Using Illegal Kickbacks.

Federal whistleblower lawsuits against several pharmaceutical companies have alleged that these speaking payments are little more than “thinly veiled kickbacks,” which are illegal. According to NPR, three years ago Forest paid $313 million to the federal government to settle allegations about its marketing of drugs. The lawsuit alleged the company made cash payments disguised as consulting fees to doctors.

Novartis is currently fielding two different lawsuits filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The first lawsuit was filed on April 23, 2013, alleging the company gave illegal kickbacks to pharmacists. A second lawsuit was filed on April 26, 2013, alleging illegal kickbacks were paid by Novartis to health care providers. According to the DOJ, the government’s complaint seeks damages and civil penalties under the False Claims Act, and under the common law for paying kickbacks to doctors to induce them to prescribe Novartis products that were reimbursed by federal health care programs.  Click here to read a previous blog on these lawsuits.

Individual providers are also liable for accepting prohibited remunerations from drug companies. The use of these databases for mining prescribing/promoting practices is likely to lead to increased scrutiny on physicians.

What the Law Says About Using Kickbacks.

For years drug companies have paid doctors to speak about new drugs at educational conferences with other health care professionals. The practice is legal, but considered questionable.

Under the Anti-Kickback Statute, it’s a felony for health care professionals to accept bribes in exchange for recommending a drug or service covered by Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE or the Department of Veterans Affairs health care program.

Relationship Between Physicians and Pharmaceutical Companies Allegedly Does Not Influence Prescribing Practices.

In a survey, doctors said they are not influenced by relationships with pharmaceutical companies, according to a FiercePharma article. The doctors with a relationship to Forest state a number of reasons for prescribing Bystolic versus other blood pressure dugs. None of the reasons for prescribing Bystolic related to the money they received from Forest.

In the same FiercePharma article, drug makers said they do not choose speakers based on a doctor’s prescribing habits. Click here to read the FiercePharma article.

So is this all a coincidence?

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, pain management doctors, 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?

Is it a coincidence that top prescribers also collect from drug makers? As a health care professional, would you be influenced to prescribe one drug if you were getting paid by the drug maker? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Staton, Tracy. “Top-Prescribing Docs Collect Cash From Drugmakers.” FiercePharma. (June 25, 2013). From: http://www.fiercepharma.com/story/top-prescribing-docs-collect-cash-drugmakers/2013-06-25

Ornstein, Charles, Weber, Tracy and Lafleur, Jennifer. “Top Medicare Prescibers Rake In Speaking Fees From Drugmakers.” National Public Rado. (June 25, 2013). From: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/06/25/195232541/top-medicare-prescribers-rake-in-speaking-fees-from-drugmakers

Ornstein, Charles, Weber, Tracy and Lafleur, Jennifer. “Top Medicare Prescibers Rake In Speaking Fees From Drugmakers.” ProPublica. (June 25, 2013). From: http://www.propublica.org/article/top-medicare-prescribers-rake-in-speaking-fees-from-drugmakers

About the Authors: Lance O. Leider 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.

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.

“Doctor of Death” Trial Could Ignite Stricter Oversight in the Healthcare Industry

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

On paper, one Detroit-area oncologist appeared to be a wildly successful professional with impeccable medical credentials. According to his medical practice’s website, he went to medical school at Cornell Medical College, did an internal medicine residency at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, and then completed a medical oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a very well-respected facility. The oncologist ran a professional practice of seven locations with a total of 60 employees.

However, on September 24, 2014, his reputation and accolades faded when he pleaded guilty to intentionally and wrongfully diagnosing healthy patients with cancer. He also admitted to giving these patients chemotherapy solely for the purpose of making a profit.

For healthcare professionals, this act is an obvious violation of the oath they took to serve their patients and to do no harm. But, if this oncologist is found guilty, you can be assured that oncologists, physicians, dentists, and all other healthcare professionals will be under a microscope to help ensure that something this egregious and dishonest does not happen again.

Allegations Against the Oncologist.

The details of the allegations, obtained from various employee whistleblowers, range from the mundane to the horrific. In the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) complaint against the oncologist, there are dozens of examples of his wrongdoing described. The activities of which the doctor is accused include:

– Administration of unnecessary chemotherapy to patients in remission;
– Deliberate misdiagnosis of patients as having cancer to justify unnecessary cancer treatment;
– Administration of chemotherapy to end-of-life patients who would not benefit from the treatment;
– Deliberate misdiagnosis of patients without cancer to justify expensive testing;
– Fabrication of other diagnoses such as anemia and fatigue to justify unnecessary hematology treatments; and
– Distribution of controlled substances to patients without medical necessity.

There is also an issue of Medicare fraud. For the past six years, the doctor is accused of seeing a large number of patients per day. He would then bill every patient at the highest possible billing code, even though he allegedly only spent a few minutes with each patient. The amount of money related to the doctor’s Medicare fraud scheme is a staggering $35 million.

Click here to read the FBI’s complaint against the oncologist.

Charges.

The oncologist is facing a an abundance of legal issues. In all, the oncologist pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to 13 counts of healthcare fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay or receive kickbacks and two counts of money laundering. He will be sentenced in February 2015 and faces up to 175 years in prison.

Other Healthcare Providers Could Pay for Oncologist’s Greed.

If the oncologist is found guilty, the aftereffects will surely be felt throughout the industry. For example, healthcare providers will need to more closely watch their Medicare billing. Any reimbursement submitted to Medicare will be under tight scrutiny. Keep in mind that Medicare pays close attention to the percentage of patients billed at each level. If a physician bills for every patient at the highest level, it’s going to send up a huge red flag. If you or your practice is being audited, click here for some tips on responding to a Medicare audit.

On top of the extensive healthcare fraud charges, the oncologist allegedly misled, endangered, and injured his patients. He betrayed the trust and privilege given to him as a physician by society, all in the name of greed. According to an article in The Washington Post, more than one patient died under the care of the oncologist. These families are now left to figure out whether their loved ones actually had cancer and died of chemotherapy complications, or whether they died of an actual cancerous ailment.

It’s crucial to remember that cutting corners to make a profit as a healthcare professional leads to great ramifications. Once a healthcare professional’s license and reputation are questioned, it is not an industry one can easily get back into.

Comments?

In your opinion, what is the worst offense this oncologist allegedly committed? Explain. Please leave any thoughtful comments 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 accusations of disruptive behavior, 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.

Sources:

Sullivan, Gail. “‘Death Doctor’ Who Profited from Unnecessary Chemotherapy for Fake Cancers Could Resume Practice in 5 Years.” The Washington Post. (October 1, 2014). From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/10/01/death-doctor-who-profited-from-unnecessary-chemotherapy-for-fake-cancers-could-resume-practice-in-three-years/

“Prominent Michigan Cancer Doctor Pleads Guilty: ‘I Knew That It Was Medically Unnecessary’.” The Inquisitr. (September 24, 2014). From: http://www.inquisitr.com/1485160/prominent-michigan-cancer-doctor-pleads-guilty-i-knew-that-it-was-medically-unnecessary/

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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) Update

On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  This legislation made many reforms to the American health care system and with it came many changes that will affect both health care providers and consumers alike.  One such change brought about by this legislation was the elimination of the independent Health Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB), and its merger with the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).  This will not affect the purpose of the federal government’s clearing house for disciplinary and malpractice information, but will forever change how the information is disseminated.

 To understand the changes, one must first know the history of the NPDB.  The NPDB was established by Title IV of Public Law 99-660, of the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986.  Its purpose was to improve the quality of health care by encouraging State licensing boards, hospitals and other health care entities, and professional societies to identify and discipline those who engage in unprofessional behavior.  The NPDB has been expanded and revised a number of times, but its greatest expansion came on January 28, 2010, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule implementing Section 1921 of the Social Security Act. 

Prior to this the NPDB dealt only with licensure and malpractice reports of physicians, dentists, and health care entities. This new regulation expanded the information collected and disseminated through the NPDB to include reports on all licensure actions taken against all health care practitioners.

Like the NPDB, the HIPDB was created to improve the quality of healthcare in America.  The HIPDB was formed under the Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and  specifically focused on combating fraud and abuse in health insurance and health care delivery, and promoting quality care.  The HIPDB collected reports made by federal and state licensing agencies, federal and state prosecutors, and federal and state government agencies that had excluded a practitioner, provider or supplier from their health plan.

The NPDB and the HIPDB were created to provide a resource for state licensing boards, hospitals, and other health care entities to assist them in their investigations of the qualifications of the healthcare practitioners they sought to license or hire.  These two data banks served this purpose independently of each other until the passing of PPACA on March 23, 2010.

Section 6403 of PPACA requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to maintain a national health care fraud and abuse data collection program for reporting certain adverse actions taken against health care providers, suppliers, and practitioners, and to submit information on the actions to the NPDB.  Section 6403 further requires the Secretary to establish a process to terminate the HIPDB and ensure that the information formerly collected in the HIPDB is transferred to the NPDB.

What does this mean to you?  Specifically, the NPDB has now become one large, all encompassing central data bank for all reports made against all health care professionals, whether the report deals with fraud, abuse, licensure actions, or malpractice.  The HIPDB has been eliminated as an independent data bank and in its place the Secretary of Health and Human Services has implemented a process in which all fraud and abuse reports will be collected and transferred to the NPDB.  Additionally, all information that was previously held in the HIPDB has been transferred to the NPDB.

For more information about the National Practitioner Data Bank and how it might impact you and your practice, visit www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Nabs New York Doctor Allegedly on Drug Charges

00011_RT8By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A raid by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on November 27, 2012, at a New York home led to the arrest of an emergency room (ER) doctor, according to a number of sources. Once inside, agents allegedly found crack cocaine, crack pipes, needles and other drug paraphernalia belonging to the doctor. It’s reported by The Buffalo News that the raid came just as the alleged drug abuser was getting ready to smoke a crack cocaine pipe.

Click here to read the entire article from The Buffalo News.

DEA Agents Allegedly Wanted to Work Quickly on This Case.

According to a press release from the DEA, the doctor had been under investigation for weeks. Agents wanted to work quickly on this case since they knew the doctor worked at a number of hospitals in Niagara County, New York.

The press release states DEA agents stopped a vehicle driven by the doctor’s female companion and caught her in possession of crack cocaine. The woman told agents that she purchased the drugs for the ER doctor, and that they were going to use them that night. The DEA obtained a search warrant and raided the doctor’s house the same night.

To read the entire press release from the DEA, click here.

Charges Stemming from Possession. 

Bond for the doctor has been set at $5,000. Possessing crack cocaine carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $10,000 fine.

As in all media reports, please remember that all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents physicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, 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.

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.

Comments?

What do you think about this story? Is there an industry-wide problem with health providers abusing drugs? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Herbeck, Dan. “DEA Raid Ends with ER Doctor in Trouble Over Crack Cocaine.” The Buffalo News. (November 28, 2012). From: http://www.buffalonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20121128/CITYANDREGION/121129271/1003

Guggenmos, Emily. “ER Doctor Faces Crack Cocaine Charge.” WIVB. (November 29, 2012). From: http://www.wivb.com/dpp/news/crime/er-doctor-faces-crack-cocaine-charge

Drug Enforcement Administration. “Physician Charged with Possessing Crack Cocaine.” DEA New York City Division. (November 28, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/dea/divisions/nyc/2012/nyc112812a.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.

Fifty-Five Hospitals Around the Country to Pay the Government $34 Million Settlement for False Claims Allegations

10 Indest-2008-7By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Fifty-five (55) hospitals in twenty-one (21) states have agreed to pay the Department of Justice (DOJ) more than $34 million to settle allegations of Medicare fraud in a whistleblower case, according to the DOJ on July 2, 2013. The false claims allegations involve a back procedure called a kyphoplasty. The kyphoplasty can be performed safely and effectively as an outpatient procedure. However, it is alleged that hospitals were using more expensive, inpatient procedures to increase Medicare billings.

To read the press release from the DOJ, click here.

A kyphoplasty is used to treat spinal fractures usually caused by osteoporosis.

Fourteen (14) Florida Hospitals to Pay $11 Million to Government.

According to an article on Health News Florida, fourteen (14) Florida hospitals have agreed to pay around $11 million to settle the DOJ’s false claims charges.

One of the Florida hospitals was Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami, which will pay $1.84 million. A number of HCA hospitals in Florida were included in the settlement. These hospitals will pay $7.14 million collectively. Another group that settled was the hospitals in the Morton Plant Mease group, which is part of the Baycare Health System in Tampa Bay. This settlement was listed at $2.37 million.

To see all of the Florida hospitals allegedly involved, click here to read the Health News Florida article.

Whistleblower Lawsuit Filed by Two Former Employees.

According to the DOJ, all but four of the settling facilities were named as defendants in a whistleblower lawsuit brought under the False Claims Act. The lawsuits were filed by a former reimbursement manager for Kyphon and a former regional sales manager for Kyphon. The DOJ stated that Kyphon is the company that allegedly advised hospitals to do kyphoplasty procedures as inpatient instead of outpatient procedures. These two will receive a total of about $5.5 million from the settlements.

If you want to know more about whistleblower/qui tam lawsuits, click here to read the first part of a two-part blog, and click here for the second part.

Previous Settlements from Kyphoplasty Procedures.

A similar settlement was reached in 2012, when 14 hospitals agreed to pay a settlement of more than $12 million to the government for allegedly inflating their profits based on unnecessary hospital admissions, according to the Washington Post. Click here to read that article.

The DOJ stated that it has now reached settlements with more than 100 hospitals, for a total of about $75 million resolving allegations that the facilities fraudulently billed Medicare for kyphoplasty procedures.

The Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) is on Fire.

These settlements are a part of the government’s fight against health care fraud and another win for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT). HEAT’s mission is to focus its efforts on preventing and deterring fraud and to enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. It was created in 2009, by the Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) and the DOJ. To date, the DOJ’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009, are more than $14.7 billion. To learn more about HEAT, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

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 these settlements? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Fifty-Five Hospitals to Pay U.S. More Than $34 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations Related to Kyphoplasty.” Department of Justice. (July 2, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/July/13-civ-745.html

Associated Press. “Justice Department, 55 Hospitals Reach $34 Million Settlement Over Medicare Fraud Claims.” Washington Post. (July 2, 2013). From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/justice-department-55-hospitals-reach-34-million-settlement-over-medicare-fraud-claims/2013/07/02/3d3d2356-e34e-11e2-bffd-37a36ddab820_story.html

Health News Florida Staff. “14 FL Hospitals to Pay $11 Million.” Health News Florida. (July 2, 2013). From: http://health.wusf.usf.edu/post/14-fl-hospitals-pay-11-million

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.

CMS Extends Waivers under the ACO Shared Savings Program

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

On November 2, 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) promulgated the interim final rule on fraud and abuse waivers for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program. The interim rule can be found at 76 Fed. Reg. 67801. The waiver was granted pursuant to the agency’s authority under the Affordable Care Act, specifically, 42 U.S.C. § 1899(f).

You can read our prior blog postings on the ACO waiver programs here.

Normally, interim final rules are only permitted to remain in effect for a maximum of three years (see 69 Fed. Reg. 78422). CMS regulations require the agency to publish a final rule within three years of a proposed or interim final rule. As the interim final rule is set to expire on November 2, 2014, the agency took advantage of the procedure that allows it to extend the life of the rule for an additional year by publishing a notice explaining the reasons why the regular timeline was not met.

Explanation for the Extension.

CMS stated that it is in the process of preparing a final rule, and allowing the interim final rule to expire would create a great deal of legal uncertainty for ACOs currently participating in the Shared Savings Program. According to CMS, this uncertainty has the potential to disrupt ongoing ACO business, plans, and operations.

Ultimately, CMS has learned through the course of its operation of the Shared Savings Program that certain modifications to the program are necessary. Although these modifications are not yet defined completely, CMS nevertheless believed the prudent course of action was to maintain the status quo during the rule making process.

Check back with us for updates on the process and any further information as the final rule is developed.

Comments?

Have you considered joining an ACO? Why or why not? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced With Healthcare Business Practices.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physician groups and practices with issues involving establishing, licensing, selling, merging, and intergroup affiliation. If you are considering establishing an ACO or have been approached to become a participant in one, you can contact The Health Law Firm at (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 or you can visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: Lance O. Leider 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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Doctors and Nurse Practitioner Arrested in Prescription Drug Abuse Raid

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

A crackdown on prescription drug abuse by New York law enforcement has resulted in the arrests of 98 people. Two doctors and a nurse practitioner were among those charged.

A series of raids were carried out by Brooklyn federal prosecutors, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), district attorney’s offices, and local law enforcement agencies. The raids began June 5, 2012 and resulted in the arrests.

To view the DEA’s press release concerning the raid, click here.

Both Doctors Accused of Overprescribing.

One of the doctors is accused of conspiring to distribute oxycodone to patients that were not legitimate. Allegedly, the doctor surrendered his DEA registration. This terminated his authority to prescribe controlled substances such as oxycodone. However, he allegedly attempted to use other health care practitioners to continue to prescribe drugs, which the government contends is illegal.

Another doctor involved in the crackdown is charged with illegal distribution of oxycodone. During the execution of a federal search warrant at his offices on March 1, 2012, the doctor voluntarily surrendered his DEA registration. However, he allegedly continued to issue prescriptions to those whom he knew were not legitimate patients.

We continually warn against “voluntarily relinquishing” DEA registrations or medical licenses with any investigation pending as this is treated the same as a revocation in most cases. For an article we have written on this, click here.

Florida Has Experienced Similar Prescription Drug Abuse Crackdowns.

Starting around two years ago, Florida health providers involved in narcotics precribing became routine targets for law enforcement. This was part of a concerted effort by state and federal officials to crackdown on “pill mill” operations. Regulations increased. Lawmakers enacted severe penalties for doctors and other health professionals accused of over-prescribing. Most physicians were banned from dispensing drugs in their offices. The governor created a Florida drug “strike force” with a mission to eliminate any pain clinics that were found to be breaking the law. The Florida Surgeon General and the Board of Medicine made announcements about the “crackdown” on “over-prescribing.”

Since the implementation of the new pain management and prescribing laws, the Florida strike force has made thousands of arrests and seized millions of pills of narcotics. This has resulted in serious concerns by those in the pain management profession.

Law Enforcement will Continue to Pursue Physicians, Pharmacists, Nurses and Other Health Providers.

The recent raid in New York and ongoing actions in Florida demonstrate that law enforcement will continue to pursue health professionals who prescribe large amounts of narcotics.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Overprescribing Charges and DEA Cases.

The Health Law Firm 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.

Sources Include:

Allen, Jonathon. “Doctors Arrested in New York Prescription Drug Crackdown.” Reuters. (June 7, 2012). From http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/06/06/usa-crime-painkillers-idINL1E8H6E3J20120606

CBS News. “98 Arrested in NY Prescription Drug Sweep.” CBS News. (June 6, 2012). From http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57448268/dozens-arrested-in-ny-prescription-drug-bust/

McKenzie-Mulvey, Erin. “U.S. Attorney Lynch, District Attorneys, DEA, Other Law Enforcement Announce Prescription Drug Initiative.” Drug Enforcement Administration. (June 7, 2012). Press Release. From: http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/states/newsrel/2012/nyc060712a.html

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

22 New Synthetic Drugs Outlawed in Florida: Citizens Keep an Eye Out for Zombies

10 Indest-2008-7By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 11, 2012, Attorney General (AG) Pam Bondi filed an emergency rule outlawing 22 new synthetic drugs, commonly known as “bath salts,” “K2,” and “Spice.” This emergency rule modifies Section 893.03(1)(c), Florida Statutes, by expanding the list of synthetic drugs in Schedule I of controlled substances of the Florida Comprehensive Abuse Prevention and Control Act.

Click here to view a copy of the emergency rule.

I previously wrote a blog on House Bill 1175 in July 2012, which originally outlawed 90 forms of synthetic drugs. Click here to read that blog.

Authorities Having a Hard Time Staying on Top of These Drugs.

The new law puts restrictions on those who manufacture, sell or deliver synthetic substances including certain synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic stimulants. Many of the synthetic substances are also commonly known as synthetic marijuana, bath salts, K2, potpourri, and incense. According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel many of these drugs look like snacks for children. One of these drugs is even marketed as a “Scooby Snack,” another looks like cotton candy. To read the entire article from the Orlando Sentinel, click here.

Florida’s officials are continuously updating the list of outlawed synthetic substances because the chemical compounds in these substances are easy to change. The ease of converting these substances into illegal drugs helps drug makers, users and sellers avoid arrest and prosecution.

Click here to see the entire list of outlawed controlled substances.

Anyone with These Drugs Asked to Voluntarily Surrender Supply.

The emergency rule by the AG makes it a third-degree felony for an individual to sell, manufacture or deliver these synthetic drugs.

These drugs are widely available in smoke shops, truck stops, convenience stores and on the internet. In a press release the AG and local law enforcement reached out to people handling these drugs, asking them to voluntarily surrender the substances or face action from law enforcement.

To read the entire press release from the AG, click here.

AG Wants a Zombie-Free Holiday.

This emergency rule is evidence of Floridians’ fear of zombies and cannibal attacks allegedly linked to the misuse of the outlawed substances. Florida has been linked to both in the national news, thus scaring away many of our tourists who usually flood the state. For an update on the zombie apocalypse in Florida, click here. Of course, there are those detractor who contend that face-chewing and other alleged zombie behavior is just natural behavior for Floridians, regardless of the chemicals imbibed.

Since Florida seems to be the only state infected with these flesh-eaters, we are taking a poll. Should Florida be renamed “the Zombie State?” Let us hear from you.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

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 this new list of outlawed synthetic drugs? Do you think sellers will voluntarily surrender their products? Will this new list keep the zombies away? Tell us, do you think we should rename Florida the Zombie state? Click here to vote in a poll on our Facebook page.

Sources:

Meale, Jenn. “Attorney General Pam Bondi Outlaws Additional Synthetic Drugs.” Office of the Attorney General. (December 11, 2012). From: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/C2FED4E8849E737685257AD1006EED54

Haughney, K. “Bondi Files Emergency Rule to Outlaw Additional Synthetic Drugs.” Orlando Sentinel. (December 11, 2012). From: http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_politics/2012/12/bondi-files-emergency-rule-to-outlaw-additional-synthetic-drugs.html

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.
“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

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

Doctor Sentenced to Almost 27 Years in Prison for Pill Mill Charges

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

A doctor was sentenced to almost 27 years in prison on July 24, 2013, according to the Sun Sentinel. The former doctor, Sergio Rodriguez, had worked as a pediatrician at Children Plus Health Center near Palm Beach County, Florida. He was charged with operating a pill mill out of his office. He pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter, four counts of conspiracy to traffic oxycodone, one count of racketeering and one count of money laundering.

Click here to read the entire Sun Sentinel article.

Doctor Prescribed Pain Pills to Undercover Detectives.

Dr. Rodriguez is accused of illegally prescribing pain killers out of his office. He was initially arrested in 2008. Investigators claim the doctor did not have the proper training to prescribe the pain medications, but did so anyway. According to the Sun Sentinel, the doctor would prescribe oxycodone, methadone and xanax to patients, including undercover detectives, without an examination.

A Palm Beach, Florida, judge approved a plea agreement for Dr. Rodriguez. Under the agreement, the doctor reportedly admitted responsibility for the deaths of four people in early 2008. According to court documents, Dr. Rodriguez relinquished his license to practice medicine in the state of Florida in 2009.

Click here to read the administrative complaint against Dr. Rodriguez.

Civil Forfeiture of Property and Money: A New Weapon in the Government’s Arsenal Against Health Fraud and Pill Mills.

Dr. Rodriguez was also ordered to pay $200,000 in fines, and court costs. He will also be responsible for forfeiting $87,000, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Recently we have seen government prosecutors and agencies, including the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), the U.S. Attorney General’s (AG) Office, and local sheriff and police departments use the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act against health professionals and health facilities in health-related cases. A prompt, aggressive defense to these actions may often recover the property or funds seized and, more importantly, a good defense can be used to help resolve any pending criminal charges. To read more on the forfeiture of property and money, click here to read a previous blog.

Legal Tips for Physicians to Manage Pain Patients.

Doctors, pharmacists and all healthcare professionals who are involved in schemes relating to overprescribing or trafficking in narcotics may be targeted by many different agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA will often use undercover agents and informants to pose as patients, wired for audio recording. The DEA will often work with local law enforcement authorities and the Department of Health (DOH). Other investigations and arrests may be initiated by a statewide prosecutor’s office, which is under the AG. Still others have been initiated by the MFCU where Medicaid funds are used.

To avoid any legal actions altogether, we advise our physician clients to follow a simple list of suggestions in order to protect themselves from drug-seeking patients. Click here to see an article on our website with tips on how to help manage pain patients.

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, pain management doctors, 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?

What do you think of Dr. Rodriguez’s sentence? As a health care professional, how do you manage pain patients? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Freeman, Marc. “Former Doctor Sentenced to 27 Years for Overdose Deaths.” Sun Sentinel. (July 25, 2013). From: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2013-07-25/news/fl-doctor-overdose-deaths-plea-deal-20130725_1_sergio-rodriguez-former-doctor-children-plus-health-center

Muczyner, Michael. “Lake Worth Pediatrician Sentenced to Prison for Pill Mill Charges.” CBS 12 News. (July 25, 2013). From: http://cbs12.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_9076.shtml

Department of Health v. Sergio Rodriguez, M.D. Case Number 2008-20504. Final Order. January 7, 2011. From: http://ww2.doh.state.fl.us/DocServiceMngr/displayDocument.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.

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