Court Assesses $170 Million in Fines Against Two Texas Ophthalmologists For False Claims

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

On November 18, 2021, the Justice Department announced that two Texas ophthalmologists and their eye clinic must pay millions of dollars in penalties for fraudulently billing Medicare. The penalties were assessed in connection with their evaluation and treatment of glaucoma.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes assessed $170 million in penalties against the ophthalmologists and their eye clinic in Houston, Outreach Diagnostic Clinic.

A Former Employee Blew the Whistle.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the action resulted from a False Claims Act (FCA) or “qui tam” suit. The whistleblower was a former employee of the clinic. The suit alleged that between February 2006 and December 2011, the two ophthalmologists fraudulently billed the Medicare Program for single eye pressure measurement tests used to assess and treat glaucoma. In addition, the suit claimed that both physicians allegedly billed the federal health care program using an improper reimbursement code that provided a higher reimbursement than that authorized.

The clinic allegedly submitted 14,450 claims and received $807,450 in payments from Medicare during this time relating to the allegations of fraud.

Assessment of Damages and Penalties.

In March 2020, the government won a summary judgment against the Texas clinic. Read more here.

As a result, the judge assessed a treble damages penalty that amounted to $2,422,350. Additionally, Judge Hughes assessed a penalty of $11,803 for each false claim, which is the minimum penalty that could have been assessed under the current version of the statute. According to the press release issued by the DOJ, the court’s assessments resulted in a total of $170,553,350 in penalties.

Click here to read more.

To read about an ophthalmologist involved in a similar Medicare fraud scheme, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

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

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

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620.

Sources:

Health Law Weekly. “Ophthalmologists Must Pay $170 Million in Penalties.” American Health Law Association. (December 3, 2021). Web.

“Court assesses $170 million in penalties against two Houston opthalmologists.” Houston Business and Energy Blog. (November 18, 2021). Web.

Paavola, Alia. “Judge orders 2 ophthalmologists to pay $170M for false claims violations.” Becker’s Hoptial Review. (November 19, 2021). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2022-01-24T17:58:35-05:00February 15th, 2022|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog, In the News|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Manager of Dental Office Sentenced to Prison for Defrauding Medicaid Out of More Than $813,000

George Indest Headshot

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

On October 1, 2021, a former dental office manager was sentenced to 12 months in prison for her role in a Medicaid fraud scheme. Mahsa Azimirad, was the office manager for Universal Smiles, a D.C.-based dental practice, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Washington, D.C.

She was indicted in January 2019, along with the dentist who ran the practice. The dentist pleaded guilty in May 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and reportedly admitted that she received over $813,000 through false billings.

The Fraudulent Billing Scheme.

Both the office manager and the dentist were alleged to have participated in a scheme to defraud the D.C. Medicaid Program through their operation of the dental practice. The dentist was a Medicaid provider. As part of the scheme, it is alleged that both of them proceeded to bill Medicaid for thousands of provisional crowns, a significant number of which were allegedly not actually provided to the patients. From August 2012 through February 2014, D.C. Medicaid reportedly paid Universal Smiles approximately $5.4 million in Medicaid reimbursement. Of that amount, it is alleged that the office manager received approximately $813,184.

As part of the sentence, she has been ordered to pay back the full amount she received and will be on three years of supervised release following the completion of her prison term.

Click here to read the press release by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and learn more.

To read about a similar case that also deals with a healthcare professional, click here to read my prior blog.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits and Investigations of Dentists and Healthcare Professionals.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists, dental hygienists, physicians, medical groups, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, physical therapists, behavior analysts, pharmacists, psychologists, mental health counselors, health care facilities, and other health providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits, fraud charges, and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Martin, Colleen. “Rockville Woman Defrauded Medicaid At Dental Office: US Attorney.” Patch. (October 4, 2021). Web.

Bethesda Beat Staff Reporter. “Rockville woman to serve prison term over D.C. Medicaid fraud.” Bethesda Magazine. (October 4, 2021). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620. Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

2021-11-03T00:47:39-04:00December 1st, 2021|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Manager of Dental Office Sentenced to One Year Prison Term for Defrauding Medicaid Out of More Than $813,000

George Indest Headshot

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

On October 1, 2021, a former dental office manager was sentenced to 12 months in prison for her role in a Medicaid fraud scheme. Mahsa Azimirad, was the office manager for Universal Smiles, a D.C.-based dental practice, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Washington, D.C.

She was indicted in January 2019, along with the dentist who ran the practice. The dentist pleaded guilty in May 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and reportedly admitted that she received over $813,000 through false billings.

The Fraudulent Billing Scheme.

Both the office manager and the dentist were alleged to have participated in a scheme to defraud the D.C. Medicaid Program through their operation of the dental practice. The dentist was a Medicaid provider. As part of the scheme, it is alleged that both of them proceeded to bill Medicaid for thousands of provisional crowns, a significant number of which were allegedly not actually provided to the patients. From August 2012 through February 2014, D.C. Medicaid reportedly paid Universal Smiles approximately $5.4 million in Medicaid reimbursement. Of that amount, it is alleged that the office manager received approximately $813,184.

As part of the sentence, she has been ordered to pay back the full amount she received and will be on three years of supervised release following the completion of her prison term.

Click here to read the press release by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and learn more.

To read about a similar case that also deals with a healthcare professional, click here to read my prior blog.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits and Investigations of Dentists and Healthcare Professionals.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists, dental hygienists, physicians, medical groups, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, physical therapists, behavior analysts, pharmacists, psychologists, mental health counselors, health care facilities, and other health providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits, fraud charges, and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Martin, Colleen. “Rockville Woman Defrauded Medicaid At Dental Office: US Attorney.” Patch. (October 4, 2021). Web.

Bethesda Beat Staff Reporter. “Rockville woman to serve prison term over D.C. Medicaid fraud.” Bethesda Magazine. (October 4, 2021). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620. Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

2021-11-03T00:44:57-04:00November 17th, 2021|Categories: Mental Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Dental Office Manager Sentenced to 12 Months in Prison for Defrauding Medicaid Out of More Than $813,000

Attorney Carole C. Schriefer Headshot

By Carole C. Schriefer, J.D.

On October 1, 2021, a former dental office manager was sentenced to 12 months in prison for her role in a Medicaid fraud scheme. Mahsa Azimirad, was the office manager for Universal Smiles, a D.C.-based dental practice, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Washington, D.C.

She was indicted in January 2019, along with the dentist who ran the practice. The dentist pleaded guilty in May 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and reportedly admitted that she received over $813,000 through false billings.


The Fraudulent Billing Scheme.

Both the office manager and the dentist were alleged to have participated in a scheme to defraud the D.C. Medicaid Program through their operation of the dental practice. The dentist was a Medicaid provider. As part of the scheme, it is alleged that both of them proceeded to bill Medicaid for thousands of provisional crowns, a significant number of which were allegedly not actually provided to the patients. From August 2012 through February 2014, D.C. Medicaid reportedly paid Universal Smiles approximately $5.4 million in Medicaid reimbursement. Of that amount, it is alleged that the office manager received approximately $813,184.

As part of the sentence, she has been ordered to pay back the full amount she received and will be on three years of supervised release following the completion of her prison term.

Click here to read the press release by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and learn more.

To read about a similar case that also deals with a healthcare professional, click here to read my prior blog.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits and Investigations of Dentists and Healthcare Professionals.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists, dental hygienists, physicians, medical groups, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, physical therapists, behavior analysts, pharmacists, psychologists, mental health counselors, health care facilities, and other health providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits, fraud charges, and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Sources:

Martin, Colleen. “Rockville Woman Defrauded Medicaid At Dental Office: US Attorney.” Patch. (October 4, 2021). Web.

Bethesda Beat Staff Reporter. “Rockville woman to serve prison term over D.C. Medicaid fraud.” Bethesda Magazine. (October 4, 2021). Web.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and former registered nurse. She practices with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

2021-11-03T00:41:32-04:00November 3rd, 2021|Categories: Dental Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Dental Office Manager Sentenced to One Year in Prison for Defrauding Medicaid Out of More Than $813,000

George Indest Headshot

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

On October 1, 2021, a former dental office manager was sentenced to 12 months in prison for her role in a Medicaid fraud scheme. Mahsa Azimirad, was the office manager for Universal Smiles, a D.C.-based dental practice, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Washington, D.C.

She was indicted in January 2019, along with the dentist who ran the practice. The dentist pleaded guilty in May 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and reportedly admitted that she received over $813,000 through false billings.

The Fraudulent Billing Scheme.

Both the office manager and the dentist were alleged to have participated in a scheme to defraud the D.C. Medicaid Program through their operation of the dental practice. The dentist was a Medicaid provider. As part of the scheme, it is alleged that both of them proceeded to bill Medicaid for thousands of provisional crowns, a significant number of which were allegedly not actually provided to the patients. From August 2012 through February 2014, D.C. Medicaid reportedly paid Universal Smiles approximately $5.4 million in Medicaid reimbursement. Of that amount, it is alleged that the office manager received approximately $813,184.

As part of the sentence, she has been ordered to pay back the full amount she received and will be on three years of supervised release following the completion of her prison term.

Click here to read the press release by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and learn more.

To read about a similar case that also deals with a healthcare professional, click here to read my prior blog.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits and Investigations of Dentists and Healthcare Professionals.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists, dental hygienists, physicians, medical groups, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, physical therapists, behavior analysts, pharmacists, psychologists, mental health counselors, health care facilities, and other health providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits, fraud charges, and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Martin, Colleen. “Rockville Woman Defrauded Medicaid At Dental Office: US Attorney.” Patch. (October 4, 2021). Web.

Bethesda Beat Staff Reporter. “Rockville woman to serve prison term over D.C. Medicaid fraud.” Bethesda Magazine. (October 4, 2021). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620. Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

2021-10-06T16:35:56-04:00October 6th, 2021|Categories: Dental Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Physician Gets 40 Years For Illegally Prescribing More Than Half a Million Opioid Doses

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On October 2, 2019, a Virginia doctor received a 40-year prison sentence for illegally prescribing more than half a million opioid pills over 19 months. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia handed down the sentence to Joel Smithers, who was reported to have operated a “pill mill” out of Virginia, according to authorities. In addition to prison time, he was given an $86,000 fine and will serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison time, according to court documents.

The sentence is lighter than it could have been. He was facing up to life in prison and a fine of more than $200 million, according to officials at the U.S. Justice Department. Click here to view the court’s sentencing document in full.

Alleged Pill Mill.

In May 2019, Smithers was convicted by a jury on more than 859 federal drug charges, including one count of possessing with the intent to distribute controlled substances and one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawfully distributing controlled substances. Additionally, he was also convicted on hundreds of counts of unlawfully distributing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose or beyond the bounds of medical practice.

When he opened his Virginia practice in 2015, Justice Department officials said he prescribed controlled substances to “every patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances being distributed.” Authorities say that he allegedly ran an operation that was less a medical practice and more an interstate drug distribution network.

Smithers was able to rake in over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments before the search warrant was executed at his office on March 7, 2017. Click here to read the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia.

To learn about a similar case involving two Florida doctors, click here.

The Problems I See.

I tell you that I take issue with many of the cases of this sort. I do not know enough about the actual facts of this physician’s case, but I can comment generally based on other similar cases I have had in the past. The government, both state and federal, has come down like a hammer on individual physicians and pharmacists in its over-zealous campaign to crack down on opioids. Many physicians and pharmacists, just trying to do a good job and legitimately treat their patients, are being caught up and persecuted. Chronic pain patients, many of whom are disabled veterans or people injured on the job, are unable to find physicians to treat them anymore or, if they can, any pharmacists willing to fill their prescriptions.

All sorts of under-handed techniques are used to try to make a case against conscientious health professionals who are merely trying to do their jobs. These do include the tactic seen in the case we are reporting on, which I call “bean counting.” The government comes in and, instead of proving how many allegedly illegal prescriptions were written or how many patients the physician gave the prescriptions to, breaks these out into the number of pills. This greatly exaggerates the case and these large numbers alone make it look like the doctor (or pharmacist) is doing something wrong or extremely way out of the norm.

For example, if a patient was receiving a low dose of a pain killer, say 10 mg Oxycodone every 4 to 6 hours, prescribed for four times a day, the ordinary monthly prescription for this medication alone (and such patients rarely receive one type of medication alone) this equates to 120 pills per month. If 10 mg pills are not available and/or the prescription is filled with 5 mg pills, instead, this is 240 pills a month. A years’ worth is 1,440 pills or 2,880 pills for just one patient. If the physician has 50 similar patients, this is 72,000 pills or 144,000 pills a year that the physician is writing and a pharmacy or pharmacies are filling.

This does not seem extreme or unusual to me, at all, and these amounts are on the low side. Yet just as government agencies love to inflate the “street value” or contraband drugs they seize, they love to break down the number of opioids a physician writes so it seems to a layperson to be extraordinarily large. Furthermore, a pain management physician or any other kind of physician cannot survive with just 50 patients a month. It is far more likely for a physician to have a thousand (1,000) or more patients a month. I call this type of numerical exaggeration “bean counting.” But it has put a number of physicians and pharmacists in jail.

Judges should not allow such exaggerated numbers to be introduced into evidence in the absence of further information that places them in context. It is unfairly prejudicial to the defendant to do so.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cases, board of medicine cases and board of pharmacy cases regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Booker, Brakkton. “Doctor Gets 40 Years For Illegally Prescribing More Than Half A Million Opioid Doses.” NPR. (October 2, 2019). Web.

“Virginia doctor could get life in prison today for prescribing 500,000 opioid pills.” RTV6. (October 2, 2019). Web.

Almasy, Steve. “Virginia doctor who illegally prescribed 500,000 opioid pills sentenced to 40 years in prison.” CNN. (October 2, 2019). Web.

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

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2019-12-05T20:03:05-05:00December 26th, 2019|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Mental Health Professionals: You Must Challenge Overpayment Demands from Medicare and Medicaid Audits

Headshot of The Health Law Firm's attorney George F. Indest IIIBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
We have gotten calls from many mental health professionals who have been placed on prepayment review after failing to challenge Medicare or Medicaid audit results. Once placed on prepayment review, the payments are held up for many months. Some providers are even forced out of business as a result.

Failing to challenge, follow-up on, and appeal any adverse audit results can be very detrimental. An error rate above 15% will usually result in the provider being placed on prepayment review.

What Happens During Prepayment Review.

While on prepayment review, the provider will be required to submit documentation for medical records by mail to support each claim submitted. Additionally, they must have those claims and supporting documentation audited, before any claims are paid. Often, the auditing agency will come back to the provider repeatedly to demand additional information and documentation on claims instead of immediately processing them. This can hold up the processing of the claim for months. Often, the resulting termination of income flow will force the provider out of business. This saves the government lots of money because the provider has then provided services to Medicare or Medicaid recipients for many months without getting paid for it.

These are some of the reasons why we recommend that healthcare providers always hire a Board Certified Health Law Attorney experienced in Medicare and Medicaid audits from the very beginning.

A Real-Life Example of the Trouble Caused by a Medicare Audit.

In one case we are familiar with, a therapist was audited by Medicare. The audit by the Medicare administrative contractor (MAC) requested only 30 records. The therapist provided copies of the records he thought the auditors wanted. He did not number the pages or keep an exact copy of what he provided. The MAC came back and denied 1% of the claims audited.

However, since the amount demanded back by the MAC was only a few thousand dollars, the therapist never hired an attorney and never challenged the results. Instead of retaining legal counsel and appealing the results, the therapist paid the entire amount, thinking that was the easy way out.

Unfortunately, because of the high error rate, the MAC immediately placed the therapist on a prepayment review of all claims, assuming the prior audit had disclosed fraud or intentional false coding. All claims the provider submitted from that point on had to be submitted on paper with supporting medical records sent in by mail. The MAC refused to decide on any of the claims, instead, holding them and requesting additional documentation and information from time to time. As a result, the therapist has most of his claims tied up in prepayment review, some for as long as five months with no-decision.

The therapist conveyed to me that he contacted the auditor to attempt to obtain decisions on some of his claims so that he could at least begin the appeal process if the claims are denied. He advised me that the auditor at the MAC expressed surprise that he was still in business.

Challenge Improperly Denied or Reduced Claims.

These situations are very unfair and unjust, especially to smaller healthcare providers. The reduced cash flow even for a month or two may be enough to drive some small providers out of business. Larger healthcare providers have vast resources sufficient to handle such audit situations on a routine basis. They may have similar problems but are better equipped and have more resources to promptly handle it. Rather than immediately pay whatever amount is demanded on an audit and waive any appeal/review rights, the provider should review each claim denied or reduced and challenge the ones that have been improperly denied or reduced. Otherwise, you may wind up with a high error rate which will cause you to be placed into prepayment review. Once placed in the prepayment review, it is difficult to get out of it. Often, it takes six months or longer.

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Audit Cycle.

The audit contractors will keep you on an audit cycle for many future audits if they are successful in obtaining any sort of recovery from you on the initial audit. This is similar to what happens if your tax return is audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If they recover a significant payment from you because you did not have the documentation to support your deductions, you can expect to be audited for at least the next two years.

The value of competent legal representation at the beginning of an audit cannot be overestimated. It is usually long after the audit is over, and the time to appeal the audit agency’s findings has passed, that the health care provider realizes he should have retained an audit consultation.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs about Medicare audits and challenging an OIG exclusion.

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

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

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

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

KeyWords: Healthcare fraud representation, healthcare fraud defense lawyer, Office of Inspector General (OIG) Medicare exclusion attorney, OIG investigation legal defense representation, OIG exclusion defense attorney, OIG exclusion defense lawyer, Medicare audit defense legal counsel, Office of Inspector General (OIG) Medicare exclusion defense counsel, Medicare audit defense attorney, Office of Inspector General (OIG) Medicare exclusion legal defense counsel, attorney legal representation for OIG notice of intent to exclude, Medicare exclusion hearing defense attorney, Medicare administrative law judge hearing legal representation, Medicare administrative law judge hearing defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid audit defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid audits, health care fraud defense attorney, legal representation for health care fraud, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), legal representation for CMS investigations, health care professional defense attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, legal representation for fraud investigations, reviews for The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, healthcare fraud representation, allegations of healthcare fraud, representation for CMS investigations, representation for healthcare investigations, representation for medical overbilling, False Claims attorney, FCA lawyer, FCA attorney, representation for submitting False Claims, representation for overbilling Medicare, medical overbilling, allegations of overbilling Medicaid, FCA defense lawyer

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2019-12-05T23:32:46-05:00December 5th, 2019|Categories: Mental Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Florida Compounding Pharmacy Reaches $21 Million Settlement to End FCA Kickback Suit

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On September 19, 2019, a Florida compounding pharmacy reached a $21.4 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Southern District of Florida to resolve claims they orchestrated a $70 million kickback scheme. Diabetic Care Rx LLC, which does business as Patient Care America, and private equity firm Riordan Lewis & Haden Inc. agreed to pay to bring the False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit to a close.

According to the DOJ, the Florida pharmacy, two executives and the private equity firm schemed to recruit beneficiaries of Tricare for medically unnecessary prescriptions such as expensive pain creams.

Details of the Case.

The DOJ claimed PCA used marketers to help recruit beneficiaries of Tricare. They allegedly paid kickbacks to solicit medically unnecessary prescriptions for expensive compounded drugs that were filled by the pharmacy and then charged to Tricare.

As a result, the pharmacy allegedly billed Tricare about $68 million for compounded drugs over eight months in 2014 and 2015.
For more information, click here to read the press release issued by the DOJ.

The lawsuit resolved by the settlement was originally filed under the whistleblower (or “qui tam”) provisions of the False Claims Act by two former employees of PCA. To learn more about whistleblower or qui tam cases, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections, and audits. The Firm also represents both plaintiffs (whistle blowers or relators) and defendants in False Claims Act (whistleblower or qui tam) cases. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Sources:

Stawiki, Steve. “Pharmacy, PE Fund Ink $21M Deal To End FCA Kickback Suit.” Law360. (September 20, 2019). Web.

Bolado, Carolina. “Pharmacy, PE Fund Near Deal To End Feds’ FCA Kickback Suit.” Law360. (July 1, 2019). Web.

“Compounding Pharmacy, Two of Its Executives, and Private Equity Firm Agree to Pay $21.36 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations.” Florida Record. (September 24, 2019). Web.

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

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Dentists: Challenge Overpayment Demands from Medicare, Medicaid Audits!

Attorney Indest headshotDuring our years of experience, we have gotten many calls from dentists who have been placed on prepayment review after failing to challenge the results of Medicare and Medicaid audits. Once placed on prepayment review, the payments are held up for many months. Some providers are even forced out of business as a result.

Failing to challenge, follow-up on, and appeal any adverse results of Medicare and Medicaid audits can be very detrimental. An error rate above 15% will usually result in the provider being placed on prepayment review.


What Happens During Prepayment Review.

While on prepayment review, the dentist or provider will be required to submit documentation for medical records by mail to support each claim submitted. Additionally, they must have those claims and supporting documentation audited, before any claims are paid. Often, the auditing agency will come back repeatedly to demand additional information and documentation on claims instead of immediately processing them. This can hold up the processing of the claim for months. Often, the resulting termination of income flow will force the dentist or other healthcare providers out of business. This saves the government lots of money because the provider has then provided services to Medicare or Medicaid recipients for many months without getting paid for it.

These are some of the reasons why we recommend that dentists and all healthcare providers always hire a Board Certified Health Law Attorney experienced in Medicare and Medicaid audits from the very beginning.

Here’s an Example of the Trouble Caused by a Medicare Audit.

In one case we are familiar with, a therapist was audited by Medicare. The audit by the Medicare administrative contractor (MAC) requested only 30 records. The therapist provided copies of the records he thought the auditors wanted. He did not number the pages or keep an exact copy of what he provided. The MAC came back and denied 1% of the claims audited.

However, since the amount demanded back by the MAC was only a few thousand dollars, the therapist never hired an attorney and never challenged the results. Instead of retaining legal counsel and appealing the results, the therapist paid the entire amount, thinking that was the easy way out.

Unfortunately, because of the high error rate, the MAC immediately placed the therapist on a prepayment review of all claims, assuming the prior audit had disclosed fraud or intentional false coding. All claims the provider submitted from that point on had to be submitted on paper with supporting medical records sent in by mail. The MAC refused to decide on any of the claims, instead, holding them and requesting additional documentation and information from time to time. As a result, the therapist has most of his claims tied up in prepayment review, some for as long as five months with no-decision.

The therapist conveyed to me that he contacted the auditor to attempt to obtain decisions on some of his claims so that he could at least begin the appeal process if the claims are denied. He advised me that the auditor at the MAC expressed surprise that he was still in business.

You Must Challenge All Improperly Denied or Reduced Claims.

These situations are very unfair and unjust, especially to smaller healthcare providers. The reduced cash flow even for a month or two may be enough to drive some small providers out of business. Larger healthcare providers have vast resources sufficient to handle such audit situations on a routine basis. They may have similar problems but are better equipped and have more resources to promptly handle it. Rather than immediately pay whatever amount is demanded on an audit and waive any appeal/review rights, the provider should review each claim denied or reduced and challenge the ones that have been improperly denied or reduced. Otherwise, you may wind up with a high error rate which will cause you to be placed into prepayment review. Once placed in the prepayment review, it is difficult to get out of it. Often, it takes six months or longer.

Don’t Let Yourself Get Caught Up in the Never-Ending Audit Cycle.

The audit contractors will keep you on an audit cycle for many future audits if they are successful in obtaining any sort of recovery from you on the initial audit. This is similar to what happens if your tax return is audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If they recover a significant payment from you because you did not have the documentation to support your deductions, you can expect to be audited for at least the next two years.

The value of competent legal representation at the beginning of an audit cannot be overestimated. It is usually long after the audit is over, and the time to appeal the audit agency’s findings has passed, that the health care provider realizes he should have retained an audit consultation.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs about Medicare audits and challenging an OIG exclusion.

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

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

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

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

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2019-11-12T17:55:46-05:00November 6th, 2019|Categories: Dental Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Physician Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison For Illegally Prescribing Opioid Pills

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

On October 2, 2019, a Virginia doctor received a 40-year prison sentence for illegally prescribing more than half a million opioid pills over 19 months. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia handed down the sentence to Joel Smithers, who was reported to have operated a “pill mill” out of Virginia, according to authorities. In addition to prison time, he was given an $86,000 fine and will serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison time, according to court documents.

The sentence is lighter than it could have been. He was facing up to life in prison and a fine of more than $200 million, according to officials at the U.S. Justice Department. Click here to view the court’s sentencing document in full.

Alleged Interstate Pill Mill.

In May 2019, Smithers was convicted by a jury on more than 859 federal drug charges, including one count of possessing with the intent to distribute controlled substances and one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawfully distributing controlled substances. Additionally, he was also convicted on hundreds of counts of unlawfully distributing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose or beyond the bounds of medical practice.

When he opened his Virginia practice in 2015, Justice Department officials said he prescribed controlled substances to “every patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances being distributed.” Authorities say that he allegedly ran an operation that was less a medical practice and more an interstate drug distribution network.

Smithers was able to rake in over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments before the search warrant was executed at his office on March 7, 2017. Click here to read the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia.

To learn about a similar case involving two Florida doctors, click here.

The Problems I See.

I tell you that I take issue with many of the cases of this sort. I do not know enough about the actual facts of this physician’s case, but I can comment generally based on other similar cases I have had in the past. The government, both state and federal, has come down like a hammer on individual physicians and pharmacists in its over-zealous campaign to crack down on opioids. Many physicians and pharmacists, just trying to do a good job and legitimately treat their patients, are being caught up and persecuted. Chronic pain patients, many of whom are disabled veterans or people injured on the job, are unable to find physicians to treat them anymore or, if they can, any pharmacists willing to fill their prescriptions.

All sorts of under-handed techniques are used to try to make a case against conscientious health professionals who are merely trying to do their jobs. These do include the tactic seen in the case we are reporting on, which I call “bean counting.” The government comes in and, instead of proving how many allegedly illegal prescriptions were written or how many patients the physician gave the prescriptions to, breaks these out into the number of pills. This greatly exaggerates the case and these large numbers alone make it look like the doctor (or pharmacist) is doing something wrong or extremely way out of the norm.

For example, if a patient was receiving a low dose of a pain killer, say 10 mg Oxycodone every 4 to 6 hours, prescribed for four times a day, the ordinary monthly prescription for this medication alone (and such patients rarely receive one type of medication alone) this equates to 120 pills per month. If 10 mg pills are not available and/or the prescription is filled with 5 mg pills, instead, this is 240 pills a month. A years’ worth is 1,440 pills or 2,880 pills for just one patient. If the physician has 50 similar patients, this is 72,000 pills or 144,000 pills a year that the physician is writing and a pharmacy or pharmacies are filling.

This does not seem extreme or unusual to me, at all, and these amounts are on the low side. Yet just as government agencies love to inflate the “street value” or contraband drugs they seize, they love to break down the number of opioids a physician writes so it seems to a layperson to be extraordinarily large. Furthermore, a pain management physician or any other kind of physician cannot survive with just 50 patients a month. It is far more likely for a physician to have a thousand (1,000) or more patients a month. I call this type of numerical exaggeration “bean counting.” But it has put a number of physicians and pharmacists in jail.

Judges should not allow such exaggerated numbers to be introduced into evidence in the absence of further information that places them in context. It is unfairly prejudicial to the defendant to do so.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cases, board of medicine cases and board of pharmacy cases regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Booker, Brakkton. “Doctor Gets 40 Years For Illegally Prescribing More Than Half A Million Opioid Doses.” NPR. (October 2, 2019). Web.

“Virginia doctor could get life in prison today for prescribing 500,000 opioid pills.” RTV6. (October 2, 2019). Web.

Almasy, Steve. “Virginia doctor who illegally prescribed 500,000 opioid pills sentenced to 40 years in prison.” CNN. (October 2, 2019). Web.

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

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2019-11-06T20:33:34-05:00November 6th, 2019|Categories: Pharmacy Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |1 Comment
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