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Fake Doctor in Texas Accused of Injecting Patients with Silicone Instead of Botox

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

A South Texas woman was charged on October 31, 2013, for allegedly injecting people with silicone, that she claimed was Botox. The phony health professional, described in some media reports as an “unlicensed plastic surgeon,” has been charged with practicing medicine without a license. According to Reuters, the unlicensed health professional could also be facing charges of manslaughter if investigators confirm that a woman’s death was related to treatments received from the imposter.

Click here to read the entire article from Reuters.

If convicted, the fake health care professional could spend up to ten (10) years in prison and have to pay up to $10,000 in fines.

Investigators Looking for More Victims.

Investigators say this phony health professional would travel to different spas and massage parlors along the Texas-Mexico border offering her services and leaving advertisements. She allegedly made injections in patients’ lips, buttocks and legs. The advertisements seized by authorities touted collagen treatments for $250.

According to Fox News, investigators learned of the underground practice when a victim allegedly received a series of injections in her legs in August 2013. The victim has allegedly been hospitalized since October 9, 2013. Authorities also say they are investigating the death of a woman who may have been a victim of the treatments. So far around 30 victims have been identified, but investigators say there could be more, according to Fox News.

To read the Fox News story, click here.

Underground Injections Happen All Over the Country.

This is by no means the first report we’ve heard of phony health care professionals injecting people with toxic chemicals.

In February 2013, a South Florida man was arrested for allegedly injecting people with silicone in a West Palm Beach motel room. According to police, this fake physician injected his patients with buttocks-enhancing silicone injections. He would then allegedly seal up the skin wounds with Krazy Glue. To read more on this, click here to read my previous blog.

As far as we know, there is no relationship between the Florida fake doctor and the Texas fake doctor. However, they could have attended the same medical school.

Practicing Without a License Is a Crime.

Practicing medicine without a license is a crime. Additionally, so is helping someone practice medicine without a license. As a practitioner, you may be asked to supervise or join a practice. Remember that your license may be at stake with any wrongdoing by your subordinates. Before you join a practice or agree to supervise others, check first with the Department of Health (DOH) that the other providers are legitimate. You can verify a license for free on the DOH’s website.

Also, remember that a license to practice medicine in Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico or anywhere else, is just that: a license to practice in that country. It does not allow a person to practice medicine in the United States. A specific license from the State of Florida is required to practice in Florida, except for certain military and federal physicians. Always check a physician’s license.

More Stories on Fake Physicians and Other Phony and Fraudulent Professionals to Come.

In the near future on this blog we will include additional articles on fake doctors and health care professionals.

To see a blog on a fake dentist in Miami, click here. You can also read the story of a fake plastic surgeon in New York by clicking here.

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?

What do you think of all of these news stories of phony health care professionals? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Taylor, Jared. “Phony Plastic Surgeon Accused of Using Silicone for Botox.” Reuters. (October 31, 2013). From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/31/us-usa-crime-texas-idUSBRE99U1CT20131031

Associated Press. “South Texas Woman Charged for Allegedly Injecting Client; Authorities Seek More Victims.” Fox News. (October 31, 2013). From: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/10/31/south-texas-woman-charged-for-allegedly-injecting-clients-authorities-seek-more/

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

 

 

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

Florida Doctor Faces Administrative Hearing Over Allegations of Torturing Patient

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

A Lake Worth, Florida, doctor accused of “punishment therapy” that included the use of whips, blindfolds, handcuffs and other instruments of torture could have his license revoked by the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine. At the meeting on November 15, 2013, the Board rejected a settlement that the Florida Department of Health (DOH) had negotiated with the doctor’s attorney. The settlement option included a $10,000 fine and two (2) years of probation. The doctor was not arrested or charged with a crime, but admitted to having an unusual and sexual relationship with his patient.

By rejecting the proposed settlement, the Board indicated that it was not satisfied with the agreed upon discipline. Instead , the Board stated that it wanted a revocation of the physician’s license.

The Florida DOH filed an administrative complaint against the doctor in July 2013, alleging inappropriate sexual conduct with a patient.

Click here to read the complete administrative complaint made against the physician.

According to the doctor’s attorney, it appears the case will head to an administrative hearing.

Punishment Therapy Allegedly Used to Help Patient’s Depression.

According to the Sun Sentinel, the doctor’s relationship with his patient was first reported in 2011. The patient told investigators that the doctor allegedly used “punishment therapy” on her to help her remedy depression. She reportedly told detectives she did not like the “therapy” which would usually take place in the doctor’s office after normal business hours. The patient claims she was repeatedly choked, whipped and tied up in a closet, according to the Sun Sentinel. The patient also alleges she never paid money for these sessions, but the doctor would give her free samples of medication.

The doctor alleges that he and his patient had a consensual sexual relationship that began after she was no longer a patient. However, according to the Sun Sentinel, investigators found evidence that the doctor prescribed medicine to the patient while they were in engaging in the “torture therapy” sessions.

Click here to read the Sun Sentinel article.

What Florida Law Says About Sexual Relationships Between Health Care Providers and Patients.

Sexual misconduct in the practice of health care is considered to be a violation of the doctor-patient relationship. This violation is grounds for discipline. The Board takes it seriously and can impose discipline up to and including revocation.

Florida law bans doctors and other health care providers from turning their patients into sexual partners because it is considered an abuse of power. Also, patients are presumed to be incapable of giving consent to a relationship with a health care provider.

To watch a short video on why a patient cannot consent to a sexual relationship with a health care provider, click here.

Don’t Wait Too Late; Consult with an Experienced Health Law Attorney.

Do not wait until action has been taken against you to consult with an experienced attorney in these matters. Few cases are won on appeal. It is much easier to win your case when there is proper time to prepare and you have requested a formal hearing so that you may actually dispute the facts being alleged against you.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians in investigations and at Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine hearings. We represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, in patient complaints and in Department of Health investigations. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Do you think this physician should have his license revoked? Do you think the settlement agreement would have been a sufficient punishment? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Gentry, Carol. “Doctor Accused of Torturing Patient.” Health News Florida. (November 15, 2013). From: http://health.wusf.usf.edu/post/doctor-accused-torturing-patient

Department of Health v. David Simon, D.O. Case Number 2012-00680. Administrative Complaint. July 11, 2013. From: http://ww2.doh.state.fl.us/DocServiceMngr/displayDocument.aspx

Clarkson, Brett. “Doctor Used Whips, Choked Female Patient in ‘Punishment Therapy,’ Deputies Say.” Sun Sentinel. (November 20, 2013). From: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/palm-beach/fl-lake-worth-kinky-doctor-20131120,0,3297599.story

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.

Fake Surgeon in Florida Accused of Performing Liposuction Without a License

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

A Kissimmee, Florida, man was arrested on December 18, 2013, on charges that he has been allegedly performing liposuction without a medical license in a Central Florida clinic. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI) began investigating the phony surgeon about a year ago, after Florida Department of Health (DOH) received a complaint about the clinic in which the phony doctor worked. The clinic was called “Sculptural Orlando.”

Click here to read the article from the Orlando Sentinel.

Investigators Looking for More Victims.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, it is alleged the fake surgeon has been performing illegal liposuction surgeries for about a year and telling his patients he was a licensed medical doctor.

After further investigation, MBI agents discovered the clinic was licensed as a massage establishment and the fake surgeon did not hold a valid medical license in Florida. Several MBI agents visited the clinic undercover, posing as potential customers. The agents allege the fake surgeon performed evaluations on them and showed them before-and-after photos of his patients.

The DOH is still looking for victims or tips related to the fake surgeon and any unlicensed activity at the clinic.

Practicing Without a License Is a Crime.

This is by no means the first report we’ve heard of phony health care professionals operating on patients or injecting people with toxic chemicals. For some reason, Florida seems to get more than its fair share of these.

Practicing medicine without a license is a crime. Additionally, so is helping someone practice medicine without a license. As a licensed healthcare practitioner, you may be asked to supervise others or participate in a clinic or practice as a “medical director,” supervisor, or monitor. Remember that your license may be at stake with any wrongdoing by those subordinates under your supervision. Before you join a practice or agree to supervise others, check first with the DOH that the other providers have legitimate, active licenses. You can verify a license for free on the DOH’s website.

Also, remember that a license to practice medicine in Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico or anywhere else, is just that: a license to practice in that country. It does not allow a person to practice medicine in the United States or Florida. A license from the State of Florida is required to practice in Florida, except for certain military and government-employed physicians. Always check a physician’s license.

Additionally, a medical clinic that is not owned 100% by a licensed physician, podiatrist, chiropractor, physical therapist or nurse practitioner (or a few other specified medical professions) must have a separate Health Care Clinic License (HCCL) that is issued by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).

We have been consulted by many professionals who have found themselves caught working in illegal clinics. For example, a medical clinic cannot be owned by a deceased physician’s spouse who is not a licensed health professional, unless it has a HCCL. A clinic cannot be owned 50% by a CPA and 50% by a doctor, unless it has a separate HCCL. A dental clinic cannot be owned 20% by a non-dentist and 80% by a dentist; this is illegal and even a HCCL will not make it legal.

Always check out the credentials of a clinic, and its owners before you accept a job there or before you seek treatment there.

More Stories on Fake Physicians and Other Phony and Fraudulent Professionals to Come.

On this blog we will include additional articles on fake doctors and health care professionals, similar to those we have published in the past.

To see a blog on a fake dentist in Miami, click here. You can also read the story of a fake plastic surgeon in New York by clicking here. To read the story of a fake doctor in Texas accused of injecting patients with silicone instead of Botox, click here.

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 http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of all of these news stories of phony health care professionals? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “Man Accused of Performing Illegal Liposcutions.” Orlando Sentinel. (December 19, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-liposuction-without-license-arrest-20131219,0,7677863.story

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. http://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 or Nurse, Please, Please, Please: Talk to an Attorney Before You Talk to an Investigator

Despite mailing out hundreds of thousands of postcards and letters to physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and psychologists  throughout Florida, we continue to receive calls from new clients and from potential clients, after they have already spoken to and made critical harmful admissions against their own interests to investigators.  In Florida, you do not have any duty to cooperate with any investigator who is investigating you.  This extends to Department of Health (DOH) investigators (who are sometimes titled “Medical Quality Assurance Investigators” or “Medical Malpractice Investigators“), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agents, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, or criminal investigators of any type.

Let me state this as succinctly and clearly as possible.  If you are being investigated, you will not be better off making a statement.  You will not be better off explaining your side of the story.  The investigator is not your friend.  The investigator is not on your side.  All you are doing is falling for a trick and helping the government to make a case against you.

You have a right under the U.S. Constitution to not make any statement that may be used against you.  This is so important that in criminal cases government investigators are required to advise you of this by reciting to you your Miranda rights.

However, in cases where you might have your medical license revoked or have your nursing license revoked or have your DEA number revoked or lose your Medicare provider status or your Medicaid provider status, the investigator is not required to advise you of your rights.

In a criminal case, there may be ways to have your statement thrown out.  However, in a professional licensing case or other administrative case, it may be too late to avoid the damage.  You may be the best witness the government has and you may be the only witness the government needs to prove ths case against you.

In the case where you could receive a $100 criminal fine, the investigators are required to read you your constitutional Miranda rights and to be sure that you understand them before you make a statement.  However, in a case where you can lose your professional license, where you could lose your livelihood and ability to make a living, where you could lose everything you have worked so hard to obtain, they are not required to do this.  You must protect yourself.

Many health professionals, when confronted by an investigator, who will usually call at a very inconvenient time (to catch you by surprise) and will usually flash a badge (to intimidate you), will refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter and will fall for the bait to “tell their side of the story.”  This can be fatal to your defense and fatal to your license.

In the absence of a statement by the suspect (in this case, let’s assume this is YOU), the government may have a very difficult time of proving that you have committed any offense.  It may have other witnesses (who may not be around at the time of any hearing or trial).  It may have a lot of physical evidence or documents.  But it may be impossible for the government investigators to make any link between you and the evidence, unless you help the investigators do this.  You would be surprised at how many health professionals believe that they can just talk their way out of the situation;  in reality, they are just giving evidence that is used to make the case against them.

Any evidence at all, just admitting that you were there, admitting that the documents are yours, admitting that the patient was yours, admitting that you worked at the clinic, admitting that you wrote the prescription, admitting that the property is yours, admitting that you were on duty at the time, admitting that you have taken a drug, admitting that you signed the form, can be a crucial piece of evidence that could not otherwise be proven without your own testimony.

Remember, this is the investigators’ job and profession.  This is what they do full time, every day.  And they are very good at it.  They are 1,000 times better at getting you to admit the crucial elements of a disciplinary infraction than you are in “talking your way out of it.”  They will not be convinced by any excuses you make.  They do not have to be. They will not be the ones making the final decision against you.  Theirs is the job of putting together the case against you.  You will help them by talking to them, explaining why your decisions are correct, explaining why what you did is excusable, etc.  It will not work.  You will merely be giving them enough rope to hang you with.

Hint: If it is a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) special agent (investigator), you are probably under investigation for Medicaid fraud.

Hint: If it is an “auditor,” “surveyor” or “investigator” from an agency or company with “integrity” or “program integrity” in its name, they are probably investigating you for “lack of integrity,” i.e., false claims or fraud.

Hint: If it is a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent (investigator) they are probably investigating you to prosecute you or to revoke your DEA registration for drug or prescribing violations.

Hint: If it is an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) special agent (investigator), you are probably under investigation for Medicare fraud or Medicare false claims.

Hint: If it is a Department of Health Quality Assurance Investigator or Medical Malpractice Investigator, they are probably only investigating possible disciplinary action against your license that could result in large administrative fines or revocation of your license.

Do not believe for a second that you are smarter than the investigator.  Do not believe for a second that you will convince the investigator (or anyone else) that there is a legal or medical justification for what you did or what they allege.  If it were as simple as that, then why would there be an investigation and why would you be the one being investigated?

Additionally, do not believe for a second that you can lie your way out of it, either.  Remember, if the government cannot prove the basic offense that it is investigating against you, it may be able to prove that you have committed perjury or lied to an investigator.  In the case of a federal official or a federal investigation, merely making a false statement (oral or written) to an investigator is a criminal act.  This is what Martha Stewart and many others have served time for in federal prisons.

These investigators are lied to all the time.  They are usually better at detecting lies than a polygraph expert is.  Furthermore, in most cases, you will be the very last person to be interviewed.  Therefore, they will already know just about everything that can be used against you.  If your statement contradicts in any way what others have told them, they will know you are the one who is lying.  However, knowing something or suspecting something does not mean it will be something that can be proven in court or in an administrative hearing.

It is much better to make no statement at all.  Blame it on your attorney.  Tell the investigator that your attorney will kill you if you were to talk to the investigator without your attorney being there ahead of time.  “Speak to my attorney.”  “My attorney can help you, I can’t.”

All you have to do is state “I must talk to my lawyer before I say anything.”  “I will have my lawyer contact you.”  “I cannot say anything until I talk to my lawyer.”  “I want a lawyer.”

If you are not the one being investigated, then there is no good reason why the investigator would want you to make a statement before you consulted with your attorney.  What is the rush?

Then you must also avoid the old trick of the investigator telling you “If you don’t have anything to hide, why would you need a lawyer?”  Please don’t fall for this trick, either.  This is America.  Smart people and rich people spend a lot of money on attorneys and other professionals to represent them and advise them.  There is a good reason why they do this.

Far too often the health professional only calls us after he has given a statement.  This is usually too late to avoid much of the damage that will have been be caused.

Everything above applies to oral statements or written statements.  Do not make either.  Contact a lawyer as soon as possible, preferably before making any statement, no matter how simple, defensive, self-serving or innocuous you may think it to be.

Think of this as an intelligence test.  Are you smart enough to follow this guidance and avoid this type of mistake?

For more information about investigations and other legal matters, visit www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

California Doctor To Pay $562,500 Fine and Spend 5 Days in Jail for Balance Billing Patients Covered by Managed Care Plans

MLS Blog Label 2By Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A California doctor was fined $562,500 and ordered to spend five days in jail for illegally balance billing patients covered by health plans, according to a Los Angeles Times posted in December 2013. The doctor, Jeannette Martello, M.D., is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon practicing in the Los Angeles area. She was accused of balance billing patients covered by managed care health plans that were provided emergency treatment in several hospitals in Los Angeles. The doctor had very aggressive collection practices and allegedly sued her patients frequently to collect the fees not covered by the managed care health plans.

Click here to the entire Los Angeles Times article.

What is Balance Billing?

Balance billing is the practice of doctors charging the patient the difference between what the managed care plan pays and doctor’s regular charges. A physician who is in-network is usually prohibited from balance billing patients by the health plan’s contract with the physician. The problem of balance billing arises most often in the context of emergency services where the patient may go to an in-network hospital, but the specialist physician providing services to the patient may be out-of-network. Most states require the managed care plan to pay the out-of-network physician a “reasonable fee” for the services. The physicians and the managed care plans rarely agree on the “reasonable fee” for a particular service. This often results in litigation between the physician and the health plan. The situation also arises when a patient goes to an in-network hospital for surgery, but the anesthesiologist is not in-network.

Doctor Plans to Appeal.

According to the Los Angeles Times article, Dr. Martello plans to appeal the ruling. Dr. Martello and her attorney claim the prohibition on balance billing did not apply to her patients because the patients were in stable condition.

Court Previously Entered Injunction Prohibiting Illegal Billing.

In 2012, The Los Angeles Superior Court entered an injunction ordering Dr. Martello to cease all illegal billing practices, according to the Department of Managed Health Care. Dr. Martello continued the billing practices, which is why the judge ordered Dr. Martello to serve five days in jail. The judge also issued a permanent injunction prohibiting Dr. Martello from illegally billing patients in the future.

To read the press release from the Department of Managed Health Care, click here.

The Medical Board of California also placed Dr. Martello on probation for five years for her illegal billing practices in August 2013.

Balanced Billing Could be Considered a Matter of Contract Law.

It is usually sound legal advice that if a court orders you to do something or to stop doing something, comply with the court’s order. It is hard to imagine legal advice to the contrary, unless the parties desire to have a test case to challenge the law or challenge such rulings.

Balance billing in such cases is usually a matter of contract law. The provider agreement between the physician and the health plan is the contract at issue. This, then, would be a breach of contract action and not a criminal matter.

However, in certain instances, such as for Medicare or Medicaid patients, laws may prohibit balance billing. It is always best to check with your experienced health attorney first.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Doctors.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to doctors and other healthcare 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. The Health Law Firm also represents providers in billing disputes with third-party payers.

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

Comments?

Have you ever heard of balance billing patients? Do you think the doctor received a far punishment for her billing practices? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Terhune, Chad and Brown, Eryn. “Doctor Gets Jail Time, $562,500 Penalty in Improper-Billing Case” Los Angeles Times. (December 6, 2013). From: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/dec/06/business/la-fi-mo-doctor-balance-billing-case-20131205

Green, Marta. “Department of Managed Care Director Brent Barnhart Issues Statement on Preliminary Injunction Granted in People v. Martello.” Department of Managed Health Care. (June 13, 2012). From: http://www.dmhc.ca.gov/library/reports/news/pr061312.pdf

The Pathology Blawg. “Dr. Jeannette Martello Gets Five Years Medical Probation for Aggressive Balance Billing.” The Pathology Blawg. (August 20, 2013). From: http://pathologyblawg.com/medical-news/balance-billing/jeannette-martello-five-years-medical-probation-aggressive-balance-billing/

About the Authors: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 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.

Florida’s Strike Force Raids Pain Management Physicians

Florida is reported to have one of the worst prescription drug abuse problems in the country. Because of this issue, pain management physicians have been under increasing scrutiny and attack by federal and state agencies.  If you are a pain management physician or you work in a pain a management clinic, you need to be aware of the measures that state and federal agencies are taking against doctors who practice pain management and the owners of pain management clinics.

A news release sent out by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) this summer discusses “inspections” of physicians’ offices across the state, allegedly to ensure compliance with Florida’s new prescription drug law (House Bill 7095).  However, many of these may be more aptly termed as “raids.”  These raids, under the guise of being inspections, have resulted in a massive quantity of narcotics being seized from clinics and physicians’ offices by the Strike Force. It is claimed that no search warrants are necessary as the Strike Force states it is performing an “administrative inspection.” The pain management physicians targeted by these inspections are identified based on their purchasing, prescribing and dispensing levels.

Often these “inspections” will include Department of Health Investigators, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agents, local police and law enforcement agents, and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agents.

  •  Our primary concern and warning to the physician or owner is to not talk to any investigators or inspectors, but call your personal attorney immediately. Have the investigator or inspector talk to your attorney. All communications should be with and through your attorney.
  • If you are requested to “voluntarily” relinquish (give up) your DEA registration or your medical license or other professional license, do not do this.  It will not help you and it will make every aspect of your case more difficult to defend.
  • Do not make any statement (oral or written) or allow yourself to be interviewed.
  • Obtain the complete names, addresses, titles and agencies for each agent there.  Obtain their business cards (which they should have).
  • Do not volunteer up any documents, items or information.

To read more about inspections from the document released by the Florida Department of Health click here.

If your office has been “inspected” and you need legal representation, you may call and speak to one of our health attorneys at (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Some Providers Billing PIP Claims No Longer Exempt From Health Care Clinic Act

MS_smBy Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Some health care providers that were previously exempt from the requirements of the Health Care Clinic Act are now required to obtain a Health Care Clinic license in order to bill for care provided to their patients injured in car accidents.

The original purpose of the Health Care Clinic Act was to regulate health care entities that were not owned by licensed health care providers. Entities that were owned by licensed health care providers were exempt from the Health Care Clinic license requirements because those health care providers were already regulated by the Department of Health (DOH).

Effective January 1, 2013, the law changed so that every health care provider that bills personal injury protection (PIP) insurance carriers is now required to obtain a Health Care Clinic license unless the provider is exempt from that requirement under the PIP statute. The only health care providers that are still exempt under the PIP statute are medial doctors, osteopathic doctors, chiropractic doctors, and dentists. Physical therapists, nurse practitioners and doctors of podiatry must be licensed as Health Care Clinics in order to bill PIP insurance carriers. Acupuncture doctors and massage therapists are now completely prohibited from billing PIP insurance carriers.

Additional Requirements on Health Care Clinics.

The PIP statute also imposes additional requirements on Health Care Clinics before those clinics can bill PIP insurance carriers. In order to bill PIP, a Health Care Clinic must be:

A health care clinic licensed under Part X of Chapter 400, Florida Statutes, and is accredited by an accrediting organization whose standards incorporate comparable regulations required by this state, or

1. Has a medical director licensed under chapter 458, chapter 459, or chapter 460;
2. Has been continuously licensed for more than three years or is a publicly traded corporation that issues securities traded on an exchange registered with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission as a national securities exchange; and
3. Provides at least four of the following medical specialties:

a. General medicine
b. Radiography
c. Orthopedic medicine
d. Physical medicine
e. Physical therapy
f. Physical rehabilitation
g. Prescribing or dispensing outpatient prescription medication
h. Laboratory services.

Click here to read 627.736(1)(a)2e, Florida Statutes.

PIP Insurance Carriers Might Deny Claims.

The Florida PIP statute also provides that a physical therapist can provide follow-up care upon the referral by a physician, which conflicts with the new Health Care Clinic license requirements in other parts of the statute. Several PIP insurance carriers are denying provider claims and demanding refunds based upon their own interpretations of these changes. A health care provider that receives denials, or demands for refunds should immediately contact an attorney experienced in these matters.

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, denials and demands for repayment from insurance companies, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 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?

Were you aware for the changes to the Health Care Clinic Act? Were you previously exempt and now required to obtain a Health Care Clinic license? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case Law in Florida.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are many other cases which have held the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida Cardiologist Receives Emergency Suspension Order Linked to Stem Cell Treatments

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

A Florida cardiologist recently had his medical license emergently suspended by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) for allegedly performing stem cell treatments on a patient. According to the emergency suspension order (ESO), the DOH had previously warned the doctor to stop performing these treatments in 2011. Now, his license is at risk of being revoked. To view the ESO click here.

Doctor’s License Suspended by the DOH for Allegedly Performing Stem Cell Treatments.

The DOH ordered the emergency suspension of the cardiologist’s medical license in March 2012. He is being accused of violating an emergency restriction order (ERO) against using stem cell treatments in Florida. He is also being accused of causing the death of a patient.

We want to be perfectly clear that these are just allegations being made by the DOH at this point in time. All persons are presumed to be innocent until found guilty in a court of law (or, in DOH licensure cases, in an administrative final order).

Stem Cell Treatment Allegedly Contributed to Patient’s Death.

According to the ESO, the doctor performed a stem cell treatment on a patient who had both pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary fibrosis. Both of these conditions restrict blood flow to the heart. According to the ESO, the stem cell treatment included harvesting adipose tissue from the patient’s abdomen and concentrating stem cells from the tissue in a lab. The concentrated stem cells were then infused into the patient’s bloodstream to help treat the patient’s pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary fibrosis. Allegedly, the cardiologist’s patient suffered a cardiac arrest and died during the treatment.

Doctor Now Awaits Administrative Hearing.

An administrative hearing regarding the doctor’s license suspension is scheduled for June 2012.

To view the administrative complaint issued by the DOH, click here.

To see a diagram or flow chart of the procedures followed by the Florida Department of Health, click here.

For an explanation of the differences between a formal administrative hearing and an informal administrative hearing under the Florida Administrative Procedure Act, Chapter 120, Florida Statutes, click here.

For the Florida Administrative Procedure Act, Chapter 120, Florida Statutes, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Emergency Suspensions and DOH Actions.

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

Sources:

Fitzpatrick, David and Drew Griffin. “Florida Suspends Doctor Accused of Illegal Stem Cell Therapy.” CNN. (Mar. 8, 2012). From: http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/08/health/stem-cell-doctor-suspension/index.html

Miller, Reed. “Flouting Warning, Florida Stem-Cell Cardiologist has License Suspended.” theheart.org. (Mar. 8, 2012). From: http://www.theheart.org/article/1368039.do

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.  http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Have You Updated Your Address with the Department of Health?

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

A recent case involving the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) demonstrates how important it is for all professional licensees, including Department of Health (DOH) licensees, to immediately update their addresses with the licensing agency when there is change.

Appellant in Recent Case Filed an Appeal to Reverse Revokation of His  License Application.

In Griffis v. Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the appellant filed an appeal of the DBPR’s order revoking two of his licenses. The order also imposed a fine and ordered the appellant to pay restitution to a customer. The order was rendered on January 26, 2010. The appellant did not file his notice of appeal until October 15, 2010, over nine months later.

Court Dismissed Appeal As Untimely.

The First District Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal as untimely. The limitations period for the filing of a notice of appeal of an administrative action is jurisdictional. Because the notice of appeal was not filed within 30 days of rendition, the untimely filing precluded the court from exercising jurisdiction over the appeal. To view the opinion, click here.

Appellant Argued Late Filing Should Be Excused Because He Was Incarcerated.

The appellant argued that his late filing should be excused. According to the appellant, he did not learn of the final order until October 2010 because he was incarcerated at the time the order was issued. The Department did not send the order to the state correctional facility where the appellant was located, but rather to the address the appellant had on file with the Department.

Court Ruled Appellant’s Reason for Late Filing Was Unacceptable.

The First District Court of Appeal ruled that the appellant’s failure to timely file his notice of appeal could not be excused due to his incarceration. According to the court, as a licensee of the Department, the appellant had a statutory duty to keep the Department informed of his correct current mailing address. Having failed to do so, the appellant could not then complain that the Department failed to provide him with notice of entry of the order and of his time limit for appealing the order. Section 455.275(2), Florida Statutes, states:

Service by regular mail to a licensee’s last known address of record with the department constitutes adequate and sufficient notice to the licensee for any official communication to the licensee by the board or the department except where other service is required pursuant to s. 455.225.

Health Professionals Must Update Addresses With All Relevant Departments to Avoid Untimely Filing.

All health providers who maintain a license with the DOH and all other Florida agencies  must update their addresses with the agency when there is a change. If an incorrect address is on file, a health provider risks losing the right to timely respond to an investigation or file an appeal. 

A correct address is also important so as to be able to receive communications from the agency such as important regulatory changes, as well as notices of required filings, proposed actions, proposed fines, etc. In addition, failing to maintain a correct address with the DOH or other agencies could lead to an additional charge of failure to carry out a statutory duty. This also applies to Medicare providers, who can risk termination of their Medicare number or billing privileges if they do not update each of their addresses (e.g., mailing address, physical address of practice, payment address, etc.) on file with Medicare as soon as there is a change. For more information on this, please see our previous blog post.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Department of Health and Other Agency Administrative Actions.

If you have been notified of an investigation or an adverse action taken against your license by the DOH or other agency, it is imperative that you file all documents and appeals in a timely manner. An experienced health law attorney will be able to assist you in submitting all necessary materials by the deadline.

The Health Law Firm represents all health providers in legal matters involving the DOH, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing, Board of Pharmacy, Board of Dentistry, Medicare and Medicaid programs, and other administrative agencies.

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

Sources Include:

Griffis v. Department of Business and Professional Regulations. 69 So. 3d 958 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012)

Smallwood, Mary F. “Appeals.” Administrative Law Section Newsletter. (Apr. 2012).

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

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