Are You Working at an Illegal Health Care Clinic?

Despite the passage of Florida’s Health Care Clinic Act over nine years ago, there are apparently still many health practices which are violating it. Unfortunately, the violation of the Health Care Clinic Act can have extremely serious repercussions, including conviction of a felony, loss of all fees collected, and disciplinary/licensure action against any physicians, nurses or other licensed health professionals working there.

Over the past three years we have seen the following scenarios or ones similar to these (changed factually to ensure anonymity):

Scenario 1: A physician licensed in Florida decides to sell her practice and retire. Three non-licensed business people decide to form a corporation to purchase and operate the practice. The corporation purchases the medical practice’s assets, including patient records. The corporation has not applied for or received a Health Care Clinic License.

Results: On the day of closing or the day the practice is transferred to the new corporation, the corporation is operating illegally, in violation of Florida law. Each day of operation is a separate felony.

Scenario 2: A physician practices medicine through a limited liability company (LLC) which the physician owns with his non-licensed wife. The physician dies and his wife remains sole owner of the practice, hiring a locum tenens physician to come in and treat patients.

Results: As of the date of death of the physician, the practice is operating illegally, in violation of Florida law. Each day of operations is a separate felony offense.

Scenario 3: A physician licensed in Florida operates a medical practice as a sole proprietorship. The physician desires to reward her practice manager, a non-licensed business person, by making him a partner in her practice. The practice continues to operate as before without a health care clinic license.

Results: The practice is operating illegally as of the day the practice manager is made a partner.

Scenario 4: Osteopathic physician (D.O.) has a medical practice which he owns and operates through a business corporation which does not need or have a health care clinic license. He decides to relocate to another state. He sells the shares of stock to a medical doctor who is licensed in Georgia, but is not licensed in Florida. The new physician owner hires a medical doctor licensed in Florida to deliver all medical services in the Florida practice.

Results: The corporation, its owner, and the physician employee are operating illegally as of the date the shares in the corporation are transferred. Each day of operation constitutes a new offense.

The consequences of such actions are severe. The act provides that violating it constitutes a felony of the third degree for each day of operation. Any physician or licensed health professional having knowledge of the unlicensed status of the practice or clinic and who does not immediately report it can be disciplined by his or her professional board. Any fees of any kind collected from any source, Medicare, Medicaid, insurers, or cash from patients, are considered illegal as a matter of law and are subject to recoupment or refund.

If you are a licensed physician, nurse, physician’s assistant or other health professional, be sure you know who the actual owners of the medical practice are. If any are not licensed in Florida, inquire as to the existence of a current, valid health care clinic license from the Agency for Health Care Administration. If any doubt or suspicion, consult with an experienced health care attorney.

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