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Telemedicine and Telehealth Authorized by Law in Florida in 2019

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
Among the major events in health law in 2019, Florida passed a comprehensive act approving telemedicine and telehealth.

Telehealth in Florida, Who and What Are Included and Excluded.

Florida’s Telehealth Act became effective on July 1, 2019. It is codified in Section 456.47, Florida Statutes (2019). It authorizes the provision of healthcare services via telecommunication methods. However, it excludes audio-only telephone calls, email, and facsimile transmissions.

Authorized healthcare services under the Florida telehealth law include, but are not limited to, assessment, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, and monitoring of a patient; transfer of medical data; patient and professional health-related education; public health services; and health administration.

The term does not include audio-only telephone calls, e-mail messages, or facsimile transmissions, still prohibiting much of the “Internet” practice of medicine.

The law defines a “telehealth provider” as one who is licensed under Sections 456.47(1) or 456.47(4), Florida Statutes (2019), or Section 456.47(4), Florida Statutes. These include physicians, psychologists, nurses, nurse practitioners, dentists, chiropractors, psychologists, mental health counselors, and social workers, among others.

What Standard of Care Applies?

It must be remembered that under general rules of law, the law of the state where the patient is located, is the law that applies to any situation concerning malpractice or other medical issues. The standard of care for a telehealth provider remains the same as for in-person healthcare providers in the state of Florida under the new law. The new law also specifies that an authorized telehealth provider must practice only within their scope of practice.

Under the new act, a telehealth provider is not required to research a patient’s medical history or perform a medical examination, after a patient evaluation and diagnosis, before providing telehealth services. However, a telehealth provider may not prescribe controlled substances, with certain exceptions indicated in Section 456.47(2)(c), Florida Statutes (2019).

Additionally, a non-physician healthcare provider may practice via telehealth without violating Section 458.327(1)(a), Florida Statutes (2019), or Section 459.013(1)(a), Florida Statutes (2019), as long as that person is acting within the scope of their practice.

Record-keeping Requirements for Telehealth.

Telehealth providers are required to keep medical records of telehealth services they provide the same as required for in-person healthcare services.

Important Provisions Applying to Out-of-State Telehealth Providers.

The Florida law allows out-of-state healthcare practitioners, not licensed in Florida, to provide telehealth services to patients in Florida if the practitioner meets certain registration requirements by the relevant board or department. This seems to be a recognition of the fact that there are many states now that allow telehealth services to be provided to patients within their states by those not licensed by that state.

To legally provide telehealth services to a patient located in Florida, the health professional must:

1. Complete an application prescribed by the appropriate Florida board or the Florida Department of Health.

2. Be licensed in another jurisdiction, with that license being substantially similar to the applicable Florida license.

3. Not have been subject to disciplinary action related to their professional license in the immediate five-year period before application.

4. Designate a registered agent for service of process (note: this is usually a law firm or professional registered agent service).

5. Demonstrate possession of professional liability (malpractice) insurance or financial responsibility, as otherwise provided by Florida law.

An out-of-state licensed telehealth provider must also publish a link on their website to the relevant board’s or department’s website that contains the telehealth provider’s information. This information must include name, occupation, education, out-of-state license number, specialty, board certification, disciplinary actions, medical malpractice coverage, and the name and address of the registered agent to be served with process.

An applicant may not register if he or she is under pending disciplinary action. This would include any sort of investigation by a regulatory authority such as the Florida Department of Health (DOH) or the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA).

An out-of-state telehealth provider may not set up an office inside Florida, nor provide in-person healthcare services in Florida, under this statute.

The relevant Florida professional board or Department of Health may take disciplinary action against an out-of-state telehealth registrant for various infractions. Penalties may include suspension or revocation of registration, issuance of a reprimand, or a letter of concern.

Exemptions to Telehealth Provider Registration Requirements.

There are two exemptions to the out-of-state telehealth practitioner registration requirement. Telehealth services may be rendered by an unregistered, licensed out-of-state practitioner:

1. In response to an emergency medical condition whereby the absence of immediate medical attention could result in death or serious bodily harm to the patient, or fetus of a pregnant woman.

2. In consultation with a Florida licensed practitioner who has ultimate decision-making authority over the matter.

To learn more about telehealth in Florida, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Consult Florida Health Lawyer to Assist in Filing an Application, Act as Registered Agent or If You Receive Notice of an Investigation.

The state of Florida has some of the most laws and regulations applying to health professionals, health facilities and healthcare providers. If you are confronted with any need for any legal services related to any of the issues discussed in this blog, contact The Health Law Firm right away.

We provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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

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The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999, and is also a registered service mark.
Copyright © 2019/2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved

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

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

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

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

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

By The Numbers.

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

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

Click here to read the entire NPR article.

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

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

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

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

What the Law Says About Using Kickbacks.

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

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

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

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

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

So is this all a coincidence?

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

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

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The American Academy of Family Physicians Releases Third List for Choosing Wisely Campaign

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

On September 24, 2013, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) released its third list of commonly prescribed tests and procedures that may not be necessary. This list is part of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation’s Choosing Wisely campaign.

The Choosing Wisely Campaign was initiated to give patients a catalog of procedures, tests and treatments that have been overused, misused or have been identified as ineffective. Since its launch in April 2012, more than fifty (50) medical specialty societies have created lists of procedures, tests and drug treatments that deserve to be questioned before a physician orders them or patients accept them.

The purpose is to help patients become more discriminating about what care they receive. Physicians and health care providers also need to use this information to review the latest research and use that information to help avoid any litigation.

I’ve previously written about the Choosing Wisely campaign. Click here for part one and here for part two.

AAFP’s Updated List of Commonly Prescribed Tests and Procedures That May Not be Necessary.

1. Do not prescribe antibiotics for otitis media in children aged 2-12 years with non-severe symptoms where the observation option is reasonable.

2. Do not perform voiding cystourethrogram routinely in first febrile urinary tract infection in children aged 2-24 months.

3. Do not routinely screen for prostate cancer using a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test or digital rectal exam. Evidence suggests that PSA-based screening leads to an overdiagnosis of prostate tumors.

4. Do not screen adolescents for scoliosis. Potential harms include unnecessary follow-up visits resulting from false-positive test results.

5. Do not require a pelvic exam or other physical exam to prescribe oral contraceptive medications. Hormonal contraceptives are safe, effective, and well tolerated by most women.

Click here to read the AAFP’s previous recommendations.

Health Care Providers and Professionals’ Responsibility to Patients.

A doctor should have the knowledge, skill, training, and confidence to know when such tests and procedures are not warranted. Also, a health care professional or provider should not be swayed by increasing his/her personal bottom line. Specifically, physicians that work in a fee-for-service setting that rewards doctors for performing more procedures are at risk for ordering unnecessary tests or procedures. If a physician persists in ordering these tests solely for the means of increasing profits, he or she should be penalized. If not, the physician should be able to justify them.

Laws Protect Patients from Unnecessary Testing.

This situation may have the side effect of promoting additional litigation against doctors, healthcare clinics and hospitals that provide the unnecessary tests and procedures. Many states have laws that prohibit unnecessary tests and procedures and sanction those who provide them. For instance, Section 766.111, Florida Statutes, provides a private cause of action by a patient against a health provider who orders or furnishes such “unnecessary” diagnostic tests, but unlike other tort and medical malpractice statutes, it allows the prevailing party in such a case to recover attorney’s fees and costs. This law may by itself promote litigation in the face of the lists of tests produced by the specialty groups in the Choosing Wisely campaign.

Look for More Whistleblower/Qui Tam Cases.

As this list continues to grow, I believe that we will see more qui tam/whistleblower and false claims cases.

Qui tam cases have been brought under the federal False Claims Act for the recovery of Medicare payments from hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, diagnostic testing facilities, clinical laboratories, radiology facilities and many other types of healthcare providers. These cases allege that a false claim was submitted to the government. If the test or procedure was unnecessary, then it seems almost axiomatic that a claim for it is false. The plaintiff bringing such cases receives a percentage of the recovery, which often amounts to millions of dollars in successful cases.

Most states now have similar false claims act or qui tam laws providing similar causes of action and recoveries to individual plaintiffs in the case of state Medicaid payments as well.

Because medical necessity is a requirement for practically every Medicare and Medicaid service, as well as most services paid by private health insurers, the lists provided by the specialty may very well be exhibit one in future lawsuits.

We’ve recently written about a couple of whistleblower/qui tam cases stemming from unnecessary procedures. To read a blog on a group of Florida radiation oncology service providers accused of performing unnecessary and improperly supervised procedures, click here. To read a blog on Winter Park Urology’s settlement over allegations stemming from radiation therapy used to treat cancer patients, click here.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the 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?

As a health care professional or provider what do you think of the Choosing Wisely campaign? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Hand, Larry. “AAFP Releases Third Choosing Wisely List.” Medscape. (September 25, 2013). From: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/811638

Carman, Diane. “Useless, Costly Medical Procedures Targeted by Choosing Wisely Campaign.” Health Policy Solutions. (October 15, 2013). From: http://www.healthpolicysolutions.org/2013/10/15/useless-costly-medical-procedures-targeted-by-choosing-wisely-campaign/

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.

Miami Medical Clinic Owner Pleads Guilty to $20 Million in Medicare Fraud

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The owner of a Miami-based medical clinic pleaded guilty on January 8, 2014, for her involvement in several health care fraud schemes that allegedly cost the Medicare program around $20 million. The schemes allegedly involved fraudulent billing for home health care services and therapy prescriptions to patients that may not have required them, according to the Associated Press. The owner operated Merfi Corp., a medical clinic that employed physicians, physician assistants and other medical professionals authorized to dispense prescriptions for home health care services.

Click here to read the Associated Press article.

The medical clinic owner faces up to 10 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced in March 2014.

Medicare Fraud Scheme Involved Kickbacks and Brides.

According to an article on Home Health Care News, through Merfi, the owner and her co-conspirators were allegedly given kickbacks and brides for providing fraudulent home health and therapy prescriptions and other medical documentation to owners and operators of other home health agencies and patient recruiters. The fraudulent documents were then used to bill Medicare.

To read the entire article from Home Health Care News, click here.

Case Investigated by Medicare Fraud Strike Task Force.

This case was investigated by the Medicare Fraud Strike Task Force. This task force has charged more than 1,700 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 billion since the agency’s inception in March 2007. To learn more about the Medicare Fraud Strike Force’s anti-fraud efforts, click here to read a previous blog.

What You Need to Know about Medicare and Medicaid Audits.

I previously wrote a two-part blog on the increased number of Medicare and Medicaid audits being initiated against health professionals who treat home health care, assisted living facility (ALF) and skilled nursing facility (SNF) residents. This area of medical practice has been identified as one fraught with fraud and abuse. To learn more on the areas being targeted and how to respond to different types of audits click here for the first blog, and click here for the second.

Physicians, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants Must Check Out Their Employers.

I have previously written blogs warning licensed health practitioners about illegal health care clinics. Often the individuals involved in fraudulent acts will use an unlicensed health clinic as a vehicle to process false claims. Licensed health professionals should jealously protect their Medicare and Medicaid provider numbers and make sure that they do not allow their name or numbers to be used in false billing activities. Check out any company or corporation that employs you to be sure it is properly licensed, as necessary. To read a previous blog I wrote on unlicensed health clinics, click here.

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

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

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

Comments?

Do you think similar schemes are fairly common? Do you think we will see more news stories like this with the increased anti-fraud efforts of the Medicare Fraud Strike Task Force? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Associated Press. “South Florida Woman Guilty in $20M Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Miami Herald. (January 8, 2014.) From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/08/3858269/fla-woman-guilty-in-20m-medicare.html

Oliva, Jason. “Miami Clinic Owner Pleads Guilty to $20 Million Home Health Fraud.” Home Health Care News. (January 8, 2013). From: http://bit.ly/1h87Xv4

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.

Posing as Physician Assistant Lands Kissimmee Teen Behind Bars for One Year

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

The Kissimmee, Florida, teen found guilty in August 2012 for impersonating a physician assistant (P.A.) faced up to 20 years in prison for two counts of impersonation and two counts of practicing without a license. On November 14, 2012, the teen was sentenced to one year in jail by an Osceola County judge.

The phony P.A. was given credit for his 264 days already served in jail, so he will only have to spend the remaining 101 days behind bars. The judge ordered the teen to receive mental health counseling, and he will also serve eight years of supervised probation, according to WESH news in Orlando.

You can click here to watch video of the sentencing from WESH news. Click here to see the Osceola County Court records from this case.

Teen Acting Like a P.A. Had Access to Patients.

In August 2011, the teen tricked emergency room doctors, nurses and patients at Osceola Regional Medical Center into thinking he was a P.A. He even allegedly administered CPR to a patient. The charade ended before anyone was hurt.

Click here to read a blog I previously wrote on what else the teen did while impersonating a P.A.

Psychologist Testified on Behalf of Teen.

During the sentencing a psychologist testified on the teen’s behalf, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The article stated that the psychologist believes the teen lost sight of the consequences of his actions as his desire to be someone else took over.

The judge warned the teen that his probation prohibits him from owning or wearing medical apparel. The teen is also not allowed to visit any hospitals. According to the Orlando Sentinel, violating any of these terms will land him in prison.

Click here to read the article from the Orlando Sentinel.

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 the sentence? Do you think it was the hospital’s fault the teen gained access to patients? Please leave any thoughtful comment below.

Sources:

WESH-TV. “Matthew Scheidt Sentenced for Impersonating Hospital Employee” WESH-TV. (November 14, 2012). From: http://www.wesh.com/news/central-florida/Matthew-Scheidt-sentenced-for-impersonating-hospital-employee/-/11788162/17399014/-/154bbs1z/-/index.html

Pierson Curtis, Henry. “Matthew Scheidt: Teen Impostor Gets Year in Jail for Physician-Assistant Charade.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 14, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-matthew-scheidt-impostor-sentencing-20121114,0,6656845.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.

Industry Trend: Hospital Systems Merging and Acquiring Private Practices All Over the Country

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

There’s a structural shift that is sweeping the health care system – hospitals are acquiring private physician practices. It is happening all over the U.S., including right here in Central Florida. On December 31, 2012, Orlando Health – a nonprofit, multi-hospital system that owns Orlando Regional Medical Center and eight other hospitals – will allegedly merge with Physician Associates – Central Florida’s largest medical practice, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The alleged price tag on this sale is $50 million, with each of the group’s 95 physicians receiving about $500,000 a piece.

Critics Believe the Merger will Hurt Patients.

Orlando Health maintains the goal of the merger is to move toward a new payment model and reduce health care costs, but critics interviewed in the Orlando Sentinel article disagree.

The trend around the country is that after a merger patients will see a facility fee tacked onto a doctor’s fee, even if patients go to the same doctor’s office. Critics also believe providers will feel obligated, or will be required, to only refer patients to the hospital that employs them. Another fear is job loss, as hospitals take over office management.

To read the article from the Orlando Sentinel, click here.

An Investigation into Acquisitions.

In August 2012, the Wall Street Journal took a closer look at what happens after an acquisition of a private practice by a hospital system.

The article stated as physicians are absorbed into hospital systems, they can get paid for services at the hospital systems’ rates, which are typically higher than what insurers pay to independent doctors. Some services that physicians previously performed at their facilities may start to be billed as hospital outpatient procedures, this can double or triple the cost.

Medicare pays more for certain services if they are performed at hospital facilities. According to the Wall Street Journal, if a hospital system transforms a private clinic to become an outpatient facility or moves services onto a hospital site, the hospital’s Medicare reimbursement rates will increase.

To read the entire Wall Street Journal article, click here.

Physician Associates Writes Letter to Patients.

On November 15, 2012, the Physician Associates Chairman of the Board of Directors posted a letter to patients on the practice’s website. The letter assures patients nothing about the service they receive will change. The letter says the sale is about patients receiving the best possible care in a new, fast-paced health care environment. In response to the sale price, the chairman said a large component of the purchase price reflects the sale of all of the Physician Associates’ assets to Orlando Health, along with an agreement to provide future employment.

Click here to read the entire letter.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Business Transactions and Contracts.
At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings.

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

Comments?

What do you think of the merger between Physician Associates and Orlando Health? Who do you think it will benefit more, the patients or the doctors? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Jameson, Marni. “$50M sale of Physician Associates Signals Major Shift in Orlando Health Care.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 13, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-11-13/news/os-physician-associates-orlando-health-20121109_1_orlando-health-health-care-physicians

Wilde Matthews, Anna. “Same Doctor Visit, Double the Cost.” Wall Street Journal. (August 27, 2012). From: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443713704577601113671007448.html

Walker, M.D., Erik. “Letter to Our Patients Regarding Potential Orlando Health Merger.” Physician Associates. (November 15, 2012). From: http://www.paof.com/news/2012/11/letter-our-patients-regarding-potential-orlando-health-merger

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.

 

South Florida Pharmacy Owner Pleads Guilty to $23 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

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

A co-owner and operator of three Miami-area pharmacies pleaded guilty on December 6, 2012, for his part in a $23 million health care fraud scheme. The pharmacy owner allegedly admitted in the Florida Southern Federal District Court to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay illegal health care kickbacks, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release.

Click here to read the entire press release from the DOJ.

Pharmacy Owner Used Kickbacks and Referrals to Allegedly Scam Medicare and Medicaid.

According to court documents, the pharmacy owner allegedly admitted to paying illegal kickbacks to an unnamed number of co-conspirators in return for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiary information. That information was then used to submit fraudulent claims. A majority of the beneficiaries referred to the owner’s pharmacies reportedly resided at assisted living facilities (ALFs) in Miami.

The court documents state that the pharmacy owner also allegedly paid kickbacks to physicians in exchange for prescription referrals which were also billed to Medicare.

Unused and Partially Used Medicine Part of Scheme.

As part of the scheme, the pharmacy owner allegedly instructed drivers working for his pharmacies to pick up unused medications from ALFs around Miami. The medications were then allegedly placed back into pill bottles. Unused and partially used medications were billed back to Medicare and Medicaid, according to court documents.

Click here to read the court documents on this case.

The pharmacy owner and his co-conspirators allegedly submitted more than $23 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Florida Medicaid programs.

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

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

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

Comments?

What do you think of this case? Is the Miami area just a hotbed for Medicare and Medicaid schemes? Please leave any thoughtful comment below.

Sources:

United States of America v. Jose Carlos Morales. Case Number 12-23374, Preliminary Injunction and Supporting Memorandum of Law. (September 14, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/USA%20v%20Morales.pdf

Department of Justice. “Pharmacy Owner Pleads Guilty in Miami for Role in $23 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice . (December 6, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/December/12-crm-1461.html

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

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

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

Hospitals Allegedly Enforcing Questionable Practices to Increase Bottom Line

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Doctors and hospitals around the country seem to be butting heads. In the past month, an article in The New York Times and a segment on the television “magazine” show 60 Minutes shed light on some questionable practices being enforced by hospitals on physicians working for them.

I previously wrote a blog on this structural shift in the practice of medicine. Click here to read that blog.

The effects of this trend are examined in these two news stories. Doctors and former employees from a number of hospitals around the country were interviewed and all seem to be dealing with the same issues. The biggest concerns addressed were: pressure to order unnecessary tests, admitting patients to fill hospital quotas and drive hospital profits, and the feeling of being controlled by hospital executives and administrators instead of practicing effective medicine.

Doctors Allegedly Pressured to Fill Emergency Room Beds to Increase Profits.

On December 2, 2012, 60 Minutes aired an investigative segment on one of the largest for-profit hospital chains in the country. Former employees and physicians alleged this hospital system thrived by buying urban-area hospitals and turning them into profit centers by filing empty beds from emergency rooms. A former emergency medicine doctor stated that the hospital in which he worked required an admission rate of twenty percent (20%) for patients seen in the ER and fifty percent (50%) for patients who were 65 years old and older (most of whom are Medicare patients) seen in the ER.

A former hospital system employee interviewed by 60 Minutes claimed he was in charge of auditing the hospital chain in question. He stated that he was convinced that doctors were under an extraordinary amount of pressure to fill hospital beds. He stated that he personally audited hospitals in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma, and concluded there were hundreds of thousands of dollars submitted to Medicare and Medicaid for hospital stays that did not meet standards for reimbursement, including medical necessity.

Doctors interviewed for The New York Times article had similar stories. They stated in interviews that hospital administrators created quotas for how many patients should be admitted, because more admissions allegedly meant more money. Doctors who met or exceeded quotas were rewarded with increased compensation, while doctors who did not felt in danger of losing their jobs.

Click here to read the entire New York times article.

Consequences of Ordering Unnecessary Tests.

The New York Times article looked at a number of lawsuits filed by former employees who allege the hospitals they worked for compensated doctors for ordering more tests than necessary.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently settled with a hospital group in Joplin, Missouri. According to the DOJ press release, the hospital system had to pay more than $9.3 million for rewarding doctors partly based on how many tests they ordered. This is in direct violation of the Stark Law and the False Claims Act.

Click here to read the entire press release from the DOJ.

I recently wrote an article for Medical Economics on the legal ramifications of ordering unnecessary tests. To read that article, click here.

If you want to know more on the Stark Law, click here.

Doctors Feel Controlled By Hospital Executives.

Doctors also stated they felt controlled by hospital executives. This was due, in part, to a corporate wide computer software system that was customized to automatically order an extensive battery of tests, some unnecessary, as soon as a patient walked into the hospital. It’s also stated that the software would prompt a physician to reconsider when he or she decided to send an emergency room patient home.

Most doctors interviewed were upset that the program also generated reports that evaluated each doctor’s performance and productivity.

To watch the segment from 60 Minutes, click here.

Hospitals Say They are Embracing the New Model of Health Care.

The hospital system in question by 60 Minutes maintains that these allegations are not correct. The executive vice president said that as a whole admission rates haven’t changed in four years and are near or below industry averages. The hospital systems believe that by consolidating they are embracing the new model of health care and state patient care comes first.

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

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings.

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

Comments?

Do you think there are constant battles between doctors and hospitals? As a health professional, have you experienced the pressure to admit patients, order unnecessary tests or refer a patient inside your network? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Creswell, Julie and Abelson, Reed. “A Hospital War Reflects a Bind of Doctors in the U.S.” The New York Times. (November 30, 2012). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/business/a-hospital-war-reflects-a-tightening-bind-for-doctors-nationwide.html?pagewanted=all

Kroft, Steve. “Hospitals: The Cost of Admission.” 60 Minutes. (December 2, 2012). From: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50136261n

Department of Justice. “Missouri Hospital System Agrees to Pay $9.3 Million to Resolve False Claims Act and Stark Law Violations.” DOJ. (November 5, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/printf/PrintOut3.jsp

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.

How Safe Is Your Hospital?

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

It’s been a long time since most of us have seen a report card, but hospitals all over the nation received their safety grades on November 28, 2012. Leapfrog, a national group that advocates for safer health care, determined the grades. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Florida hospitals ranked well. Overall, 39 percent (39%) of the 156 hospitals graded received A’s, earning the Sunshine State a tenth place ranking in the nation.

Click here to read the entire article from the Orlando Sentinel.

How Florida Hospitals Did.

Here is a list of the grades received by Florida hospitals:

A’s: 61 (This includes Orlando Regional Medical Center, Dr. P. Phillips Hospital,

Orlando Regional South Seminole Hospital and Health Central.)

B’s: 38 (This includes Florida Hospital campuses in Orlando, Altamonte, Apopka, Celebration, east Orlando, Kissimmee and Winter Park.)

C’s: 49

D’s: 8

F’s: 0

To see the number of hospitals receiving each grade for patient safety by state, click here.

Grades Were Calculated by Safety Measures in Hospitals.

According to the Kaiser Health News article, Leapfrog calculated the grades based on 26 different measures of safety. The company used publicly-available data, including the number of blood line infections, falls in the hospital, bedsores and the consistency that hospitals follow recommended methods of care.

Physicians Believe Rating System is Pointless.

This grading system has physicians reportedly complaining. In the Kaiser Health News article doctors interviewed said that the grades are redundant and offer no benefit to hospitals since Medicare calculates and publishes most hospital-related issues.

Click here to read the Kaiser Health News article.

Leapfrog defends the ratings, saying the report cards provide a more transparent health care system for patients.

How to Fight Poor Online Reviews.

The Leapfrog grading system is just one of the many ways the performance of physicians, hospitals, nurses, dentists and all health providers is put on the chopping block. Other internet review websites like Vitals.com and Yelp.com allow patients to post virtually anything they want – good or bad. If you’ve personally received an unfavorable review that was possibly planted by a disgruntled patient, competitor or former employee you need to fight it. When the comment is posted, search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, AOL, or MSN may bring up the false statement every time someone searches for that health provider’s name. To learn legal strategies for health providers to fight bad online reviews, click here.

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

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings.

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

Comments?

As a health professional, do you think this grading system is redundant? Do you believe there is any merit to the grades hospitals received? Do you think patients benefit from the published grades? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Jameson, Marni. “Did Your Hospital Make the Grade? Group Rates Quality of Care, More.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 28, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-leapfrog-hospital-grades-20121127,0,5928170.story

Rau, Jordan. “Hospitals Get New Grades on Safety.” Kaiser Health News. (November 28, 2012). From: http://capsules.kaiserhealthnews.org/index.php/2012/11/hospitals-get-new-grades-on-safety/

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 Pharmacy Owner Accused of Medicare Fraud

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

A family that owns a number of South Florida pharmacies is allegedly under investigation for Medicare fraud, according to a number of sources. On January 17, 2013, federal authorities raided one pharmacy location in Naples, Florida. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents removed boxes of documents and computers from the pharmacy, according to Naples News. The pharmacy owner and his mother are allegedly being investigated by the U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Click here to read the entire Naples News article.

Pharmacy Owner and Mother Allegedly Submitted False Claims to Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare.

According to NBC2, a South Florida television station, the pharmacy owner and his mother were both allegedly part of a scheme that defrauded Medicare. The family allegedly submitted claims to Medicare Part D after beneficiaries had died. This information came from a letter sent to Medicare Part D providers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on October 17, 2012. The letter was obtained by NBC2. The scheme allegedly also involved submitting false claims to Medicaid and Tricare.

Click here to watch the NBC2 news story.

Investigation is Ongoing.

The pharmacy that was raided is part of a chain of stores owned by the same family. So far, only the pharmacy located on Rattlesnake-Hammock Road in Naples is being investigated. That location is reportedly still closed, but the other pharmacy locations are open.

Neither the DEA nor the OIG of the HHS has released a press release on this investigation.

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

Pharmacies Are Being Raided and Shutdown  All Over the State.

If  you have watched the news at all lately or have been reading our blog, you can tell there have been an increased number of raids on pharmacies, arrests of pharmacists and emergency suspension orders issued from the Department of Health (DOH).

Recently, the DEA served a Walgreens distribution center in Florida with an immediate suspension order (click here to read more on this story), and pulled the controlled substance licenses from two Central Florida CVS Pharmacies (to learn more, click here).

In my personal opinion, the recent raids and investigations at pharmacies are especially hard on the independent operators. If the large retail giants can’t survive, the small independent pharmacies stand little chance.

Talk with an Experienced Health Law Attorney About Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare 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.

What Do You Think?

As a pharmacy owner, pharmacy employee or health care facility owner, what do you think of the increased effort to find fraud? Do you think all facilities, not just pharmacies, are under the microscope? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Freeman, Liz. “Sunshine Pharmacy in East Naples Remains Close, Day After Federal Raid.” Naples News. (January 19, 2013). From: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2013/jan/19/sunshine-pharmacy-east-remains-closed-raid-federal/

Ritter, Rick. “Naples Pharmacy Busted for Medicare Fraud.” NBC2. (January 20, 2013). From: http://www.nbc-2.com/story/20627104/detectives-investigating-medicare-fraud-at-naples-pharmacy

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

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

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

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