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Health Care Professionals Need to be Compliant with Anti-Fraud Laws

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

The federal government has several tools available to help combat Medicare fraud. Among those are the Stark Act, Anti-Kickback laws and Civil Monetary Penalty Laws. Each of these typically focuses on a particular type of behavior that is prone to abuse by health care providers.

The Stark laws exist to combat the problems that can arise from physician self-referrals. Self-referrals are cases in which a physician orders a test or service and refers the patient to a provider in which the referring physician has a financial interest. This second provider will then bill Medicare for the service, essentially allowing the referring physician to cash in twice.

The concern is that if physicians are permitted to benefit from referring to an entity, they will be prone to order tests and services that are not medically necessary. I previously wrote an article on the legal ramifications of unnecessary tests, which was published in Medical Economics. Click here to read that article.

Obligations for Compliance.

Stark compliance is a two-way street. Not only is the physician prohibited from referring to an entity in which he has a non-exempt financial interest, the provider receiving the referral is prohibited from accepting it.

Medicare conditions payment of a claim upon the certification by the claimant that it is in compliance with the Stark law. What this means is that there is an obligation on the recipient of a referral to make sure that it is proper.

In the complicated world of healthcare business entities, it is incumbent upon the management of a supplier of Designated Health Services (DHS) to know who all of its owners, investors, and stakeholders are so that it can remain in compliance and avoid any charges of impropriety.

Exceptions to Stark Law.

Like many other regulatory frameworks, the Stark law have exceptions. The law provides a number of exceptions to the rules which allow otherwise impermissible referral arrangements to pass muster.

Because the exceptions are numerous and often subject to change, it is highly recommended that any new business arrangement, or substantial change to an existing one, is reviewed by a health law attorney experienced in the area of Stark law.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Stark Compliance.

If you are involved in referring or providing DHS it is crucial that your arrangements are reviewed for compliance with Stark and other anti-fraud laws.

Violations of these laws can carry severe financial and criminal penalties. One of the best ways to avoid these sanctions is to have your current or potential arrangement reviewed by an attorney who is experienced in these matters.

The Health Law Firm routinely advises healthcare providers on Stark compliance issues for practitioners and providers of all types of DHS. We can advise you on the legality of a particular arrangement and can assist with remedying any perceived compliance issues.

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., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Medicare representation, Medicare fraud representation, Medicare fraud defense lawyer, Medicare audit representation, Medicare fraud prevention, Stark Law attorney, Stark Law representation, Anti-Kickback representation, AKS defense lawyer, representation for healthcare fraud, health care fraud compliance, representation for health care professionals, health law defense attorney, health care fraud lawyer, Florida defense attorney, Florida defense lawyer, heath law attorney, health law lawyer, representation for health care professionals, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, Florida health law defense attorney, protecting your professional license

“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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

The Importance of Complying with the Stark Law and Other Anti-Fraud Laws

By Lance O. Leider, J.D.

The federal government has several tools in its toolbox to combat Medicare fraud.  Among those are the Stark Act, Anti-Kickback laws, and Civil Monetary Penalty Laws.  Each of these typically focuses on a particular type of behavior that is prone to abuse by healthcare providers.

The following focuses on the Stark law and what is prohibited by it.  Primarily, the Stark laws exist to combat the problems that can arise from physician self-referrals.  Self-referrals are cases in which a physician orders a test or service and refers the patient to a provider in which the referring physician has a financial interest.  This second provider will then bill Medicare for the service, essentially allowing the referring physician to cash in twice.

The concern is that if physicians are permitted to benefit from referring to an entity that they have a financial interest in, they will be prone to order tests and services that are not medically necessary. Our President and Managing Partner George F. Indest recently wrote an article on the legal ramifications of unnecessary tests, which was published in Medical Economics. Click here to read that article.

Know the History Behind the Stark Law.

There are essentially two Stark laws.  The first one is often referred to as “Stark I” and dealt primarily with physician referrals for clinical laboratory testing.  This law was in effect from January 1, 1992, to December 31, 1994.

The second Stark law, known as “Stark II,” took effect on January 1, 1995.  This law greatly expanded the types of prohibited referrals.  Instead of focusing on clinical laboratory testing, Stark II expanded the prohibition to “designated health services.”

A List of the Designated Health Services (DHS).

According to the Stark laws, designated health services (DHS) refers to the following services:

(i) clinical laboratory services;

(ii) physical, occupational, and speech-language pathology services;

(iii) radiology and certain other imaging services;

(iv) radiation therapy services and supplies;

(v) durable medical equipment and supplies;

(vi) parenteral and enteral nutrition and supplies;

(vii) prosthetics, orthotics, and prosthetic devices and supplies;

(viii) home health services;

(ix) outpatient prescription drugs; and

(x) inpatient and outpatient hospital services.

To see the complete statutory definition, click here.

It should also be noted that the regulation states that it only applies to DHS that are payable in whole or in part by Medicare.  While there are no Stark prohibitions on self-referral for non-Medicare reimbursed services, many states have their own laws that prohibit these referrals.

Stark Compliance.

Stark II compliance is a two-way street. Not only is the physician prohibited from referring to an entity in which he has a non-exempt financial interest, the provider receiving the referral is prohibited from accepting it.

Medicare conditions payment of a claim upon the certification by the claimant that it is in compliance with the Stark law.  What this means is that there is an obligation on the recipient of a referral to make sure that it is proper.

In the complicated world of healthcare business entities, it is incumbent upon the management of a supplier of DHS to know who all of its owners, investors, and stakeholders are so that it can remain in compliance and avoid any charges of impropriety.

Exceptions to the Rules.

Like many other regulatory frameworks, the Stark law have exceptions.  The law provides a number of exceptions to the rules which allow otherwise impermissible referral arrangements to pass muster.

Because the exceptions are numerous and often subject to change, it is highly recommended that any new  business arrangement, or substantial change to an existing one, is reviewed by a health law attorney experienced in the area of Stark law.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Stark Compliance.

If you are involved in referring or providing DHS it is crucial that your arrangements are reviewed for compliance with Stark and other anti-fraud laws.

Violations of these laws can carry severe financial and criminal penalties.  One of the best ways to avoid these sanctions is to have your current or potential arrangement reviewed by an attorney who is experienced in these matters.

The Health Law Firm routinely advises healthcare providers on Stark compliance issues for practitioners and providers of all types of DHS.  We can advise you on the legality of a particular arrangement and can assist with remedying any perceived compliance issues.

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

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

Orlando Health’s Restructuring Efforts Might Mean Pay Cuts and Layoffs for Employees

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

Many employees at Orlando Health might be getting hit hard in the wallet with pay cuts schedule for later this year. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the eight-hospital health system notified its night-shift workers that their differential pay would be trimmed by several dollars an hour. For some employees that could be a twenty percent (20%) reduction in salary. The differential pay cuts are scheduled to take effect on September 8, 2013.

Meanwhile the hospital allegedly raised prices in the cafeteria, reduced the tuition reimbursement benefit, cut some workers hours and made a number of layoffs, according to the Orlando Sentinel. According to Orlando Health officials, this is all part of a restructuring effort that began in November 2012. The cutbacks will affect all eight hospitals and all departments.

Anyone who has eaten in the cafeteria at Orlando Regional knows what a bargain the food was. Now this will be the subject of reminiscence as when us old codgers fondly think back on 5 cent Coca Colas and 10 cent loaves of bread.

To read the Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

Night-Shift Workers Feel Under Paid and Under Appreciated.

Some Orlando Hospital employees spoke to the Orlando Sentinel about the pay cuts. According to the Orlando Sentinel, night-shift workers receive incentive pay on top of their base salary for their willingness to work night shifts. One worker interviewed explained the incentive pay is given to them because no one wants to work the overnight shift. Workers also get differential pay for weekend and holiday hours.

On top of the pay cuts, workers are seeing their hours drop, as well as layoffs around the hospital. In the November 2012, restructuring announcement, Orlando Health said 300 to 400 employees’ jobs were on the chopping block, according to WFTV. Some people were previously let go, while more layoffs will be coming. Hospital officials would not say how many people have been laid off so far.

To read more from WFTV, click here.

Orlando Health’s Statement.

Orlando Health reported an $8.1 million loss last quarter. That’s on top of losing money for the last four out of five quarters, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Hospital officials said the change in differential pay puts Orlando Health in line with the pay of other hospitals in the Southeast. On August 13, 2013, Orlando Health sent out an official statement, click here to read the full statement.

Petition to Block Pay Cuts Gaining Momentum.

A petition filed on August 9, 2013, on Change.org, is requesting the Orlando Health CEO block the pay cuts to the night shift workers. The petition was started by a registered nurse at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies and is quickly picking up steam. As of August 15, 2013, the petition had more than 2,700 signatures, although not all are local. To view the petition, click here.

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

The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Comments?

What do you think of the cutbacks at Orlando Health? Are these steps necessary? If you are an Orlando Health employee, how will these changes affect you? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Jameson, Marni. “Orlando Health Workers Concerned by Cutbacks in Hours and Pay.” Orlando Sentinel. (August 9, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/os-orlando-health-cutbacks-20130809,0,5234963.story?dssReturn

Hughes, Ryan. “Orlando Health Confirms Second Round of Layoffs.” WFTV. (August 2, 2013). From: http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/orlando-health-confirms-second-round-layoffs/nZCjC/

Lewis, Kena. Orlando Health Statement. Orlando Business Journal. (August 13, 2013). From: http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/blog/2013/08/orlando-health-pay-cuts-to-save-18m.html?page=all

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.

Tuomey Healthcare System Ordered to Pay a Reduced $238 Million in Damages for Allegedly Violating Stark Law and False Claims Act

LOL Blog Label 2Lance 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

On September 30, 2013, a federal judge ordered Tuomey Healthcare System in Sumter, South Carolina, to pay $238 million in penalties and fines. The hospital system is accused of paying doctors to refer Medicare patients for treatments at the hospital, according to a number of media sources. The judge granted the government’s request to impose Stark law penalties and False Claims Act fines. The lawsuit against Tuomey was initially filed in 2005, by a whistle-blowing physician.

This corrected fine actually lowers the amount originally ordered by the federal judge, reducing it by $39 million. The original judgement was for approximately $277 million. The reduction in the damages was an acknowledgment that there was an error in the calculation of damages by the judge in the case, who awarded more than the government asked for.

Click here to read the entire ruling from the federal judge.

After the judge announced the fines, Tuomey began preparing to file an appeal, according to an article on Modern Healthcare. It is alleged that the hospital may be looking to settle.

Judge Ordered Hospital System to Pay Fines for Violating Stark Law and False Claims Act.

In a 2005 federal whistleblower or qui tam lawsuit, a Tuomey physician stated that a series of 19 deal contracts with specialty physicians in the area violated the federal ban on compensating doctors based on the volume and value of patient business they refer, according to Modern Healthcare. This is considered to be a financial conflict, illegal under federal laws.

The hospital has twice lost its case in U.S. District Court. A 2010, jury came to a $45 million split verdict that was overturned on appeal. In May 2013, a second jury found the hospital responsible for more violations than in the first trial, deciding that the hospital violated the Stark law and the False Claims Act.

It’s alleged that between 2005 and 2009, Tuomey collected $39 million in fraudulent Medicare claims.

To read the Modern Healthcare article, click here.

Open to Settlement.

According to WLTX, the CBS affiliate in Sumter, South Carolina, Tuomey is filing a notice of appeal. It is expected the hospital system is open to settle. According to a former attorney with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Inspector General’s Office (OIG), it will be up to the government if they will settle. The former attorney also stated that with most of the civil litigation division on furlough it might take some time.

Complying with Stark and Other Anti-Fraud Laws.

The federal government has several tools in its toolbox to combat Medicare fraud. Among those are the Stark Act, Anti-Kickback laws, and Civil Monetary Penalty Laws. Each of these typically focuses on a particular type of behavior that is prone to abuse by health care providers.

Primarily, the Stark laws exist to combat the problems that can arise from physician self-referrals. Self-referrals are cases in which a physician orders a test or service and refers the patient to a provider in which the referring physician has a financial interest. This second provider will then bill Medicare for the service, essentially allowing the referring physician to cash in twice. Click here to read our previous blog on compliance with the Stark law.

Paying Kickbacks or Providing Things of Value in Exchange for Patient Referral Now Recognized as Basis for False Claims Act Cases.

U.S. v. Tuomey is just one of several different cases that has recently been decided that allows qui tam or whistleblower recoveries based on providing kickbacks for patient referrals. “Kickbacks” can include any thing or service of value. It can include, for example, tickets to ball games, free meals, sets of surgical scrubs, gift cards, appliances and free medical supplies. A “referral” can include an actual referral of a patient, a consultation to another physician, an order for x-rays, labs or other diagnostic testing, a prescription for medication, medical equipment or other supplies or services, an order for home health or nursing home services or other medical services.

It is the giving of something of value in exchange for the referral that violates the Stark Act and, many times, state laws. The theory is that this unnecessarily increases the amount of medical services that the government pays for without there being any actual medical need for them.

Now, under the decision in Tuomey and other cases, the claims for medical services (and equipment) that were submitted when the services (and equipment) were based on kickbacks, are considered to be false claims. Whistleblowers (qui tam plaintiffs or “relators”) can now file False Claims Act suits based on these theories and share in the government’s recovery. For example, and by way of demonstration only, if the person who filed the qui tam case in Tuomey received only 20% of the amount awarded to the government, that individual would receive approximately $47.6 million as their share. This is still big money to some of us.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Stark Compliance.

If you are involved in referring or providing DHS it is crucial that your arrangements are reviewed for compliance with Stark and other anti-fraud laws.

Violations of these laws can carry severe financial and criminal penalties. One of the best ways to avoid these sanctions is to have your current or potential arrangement reviewed by an attorney who is experienced in these matters.

The Health Law Firm routinely advises healthcare providers on Stark compliance issues for practitioners and providers of all types of DHS. We can advise you on the legality of a particular arrangement and can assist with remedying any perceived compliance issues.

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

Comments?

What do you think of this ruling? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Calson, Joe. “Out-of-Court Settlement for Tuomey may be in te Works Following Ruling Against the System.” Modern Healthcare. (October 1, 2013). From: http://bit.ly/15Lj2uF

United State of America ex rel Michael L. Drakeford, M.D. vs. Tuomey d/b/a Tuomey Healthcare System, Inc. Case Number 3:05-cv-02858-MBS. Federal Judge Order and Opinion. September 30, 2013. From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/Toumey%20Case.pdf

Santaella, Tony. “Tuomey Healthcare Ordered to Pay $276 Million.” WLTX. (October 1, 2013). From: http://www.wltx.com/news/story.aspx?storyid=251321

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.

Federal Health Officials Propose Medicare Paying Doctors to Discuss End-of-Life Issues

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

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new plan for doctors to discuss end-of-life issues with their patients. The plan is part of the CMS annual Medicare physician payment rule. This comes six years after the original controversy when President Obama first announced his health care legislation.

Doctors Will Be Paid for Discussing Treatment Options with Elderly Patients.

In what can only be described as welcomed and needed relief, the rule would reimburse doctors for discussing living wills and end-of-life medical treatment options with older patients. The medical discussions include long-term treatment options, like heart transplants. It also handles advance care planning, including a patient who desires treatment for a condition that affects his or her decision-making. These are conversations already taking place, but physicians are not currently paid for them.

The Pressure is on Medicare.

Medicare reimbursement is extremely important for elderly and disabled persons. As the second-largest insurer, many private insurers also follow the same rules Medicare adopts. Their place in the end-of-life care has long been debated. Whether or not health care professionals should be reimbursed for hospice and end-of-life treatment talks has been the center of debate. Physician groups and patient advocates have been pushing the health program to pay doctors for these consultations.

Many advocacy groups, including the American Medical Association (AMA), support the proposal. The AMA believes it’s the patient’s choice to plan advance-care decisions. Research has shown that there are great benefits to elders in advance-care planning and having their end-of-life wishes known to others. Receiving timely knowledge from physicians and health professionals can result in better decisions and ease of mind.

Rules Previously Criticized as “Death Panels” by Ignoramuses.

Sarah Palin, the towering mountain of medical knowledge and intellectual analysis, who dragged down John McCain into defeat during the elections of 2008, previously denounced similar payment provisions in the past. Sparking a great deal of unnecessary controversy, Palin claimed the health care reform legislation would create “death panels.” As a result of these and other similar accusations, the provision was removed from the final Affordable Care Act legislation. This deprived elders of useful knowledge and deprived health care providers of payment for their services. To read more about the “death panel” controversy, click here.

Comments?

What do you think of end-of-life discussions? Do you think they should be in place? Should physicians be reimbursed?  Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Grier, Peter. “ ‘Death Panel’ Controversy Very Much Alive.” The Christian Science Monitor. (Aug. 21, 2009). From: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2009/0821/death-panel-controversy-remains-very-much-alive

Sun, Lena H. “Medicare Proposes to Pay Doctors to Have End-of-Life Care Discussions.” The Washington Post. (July 8, 2015). From:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/medicare-proposes-to-pay-doctors-to-have-end-of-life-care-discussions/2015/07/08/1d7bb436-25a7-11e5-aae2-6c4f59b050aa_story.html

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., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Medicare, federal health, health law, health law attorney, health law lawyer, end-of-life issues, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), CMS, Medicaid, healthcare, health care, health care attorney, health care lawyer, physicians, physician attorney, health care legislation, Affordable Care Act, ACA, medicine, the health law firm, death panel, death panel controversy, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations, elderly healthcare, senior health care, American Medical Association

“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 © 1996-2015 The Health Law firm. All rights reserved.

Report: Florida Received an F in Medical Pricing Transparency

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

6 Indest-2008-3In Florida, it’s difficult to compare prices for medical services and procedures because the various prices are not made public. In part because of this, a recent study by a health-care advocacy group gave Florida an F for transparencies in pricing.


What Did the Analysis Look For?

The report analyzed whether or not states have laws and regulations that require health prices be made public.

Only One State Received an A.

The only state to receive an A in the study was New Hampshire. This is because of its NH Health-Cost site. The site provides consumers prices based on geography, type of insurance and other factors for everything from a basic visit to complicated medical tests. Consumers are able to go on the site and compare prices.

Florida Was Not the Only State to Receive an F.

Every state except five received the lowest grade from the Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Institute. So, if F was the average grade, I guess that means that Florida actually only received a C. Maybe there should be a “No State Left Behind” policy.

Comments?

Would you have given Florida an F? Do you think every state should have a health-cost website? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Experienced Health Law 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:

Kassab, Beth. “Hidden prices for health care earn Florida an F for transparency.” Orlando Sentinel. (July 16, 2015). Print.

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: Florida attorney, health care lawyer, health care attorney, law, health law, health care law, medical services, physician attorney, health care defense attorney, health care defense lawyer, health care, health care coverage, health law attorney, health law lawyer, The Health Law Firm

“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 © 1996-2015 The Health Law firm. All rights reserved.

Appeals Court Upholds Medical Malpractice Law Changes

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

On July 21, a state appeals court in Tallahass2 Indest-2009-1ee upheld the constitutionality of a controversial change in Florida’s medical malpractice law. It ruled that some privacy rights are waived when patients pursue medical malpractice lawsuits. A federal appeals court last year also upheld the change in Florida’s law.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal resulted from a 2013 change in the medical malpractice law. The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature passed the amendments to the laws after a lobbying dispute between groups like doctors and plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Ex Parte Communications Play a Major Role.

The disputes in whether the changes were constitutionally valid centered around what is known as “ex parte communications.” The amended statute allowed doctors being sued for malpractice (or their attorneys) to speak with the patients’ other physicians, whether the patient consents or not. The new law also requires patients to sign forms authorizing the release of medical information before filing malpractice claims.

Ex parte communications allow a patient’s personal health information be obtained and used in a case. Other doctors who have treated the patient could provide the information. Additionally, without the patient’s knowledge or the patient’s attorney present, a disclosure of medical information could occur.

This Ruling Stemmed From a 2013 Case in Escambia County.

In 2013, Emma Gayle Weaver of Escambia County, Florida wanted to file a medical-malpractice lawsuit against a physician. According to court documents, her concern was about the constitutionality of the ex parte provision of the law. She challenged having to disclose her medical information to the other physician she was suing in order to bring her case.

The challenge raised legal questions about privacy rights given to all citizens by the Florida Constitution. But the panel of appeal judges disagreed that the ex parte provision violates her privacy rights.

The appeal decision, written by Judge James Wolf, stated: “It is well-established in Florida and across the country that any privacy rights that might attach to a claimant’s medical information are waived once that information is placed at issue by filing a medical malpractice claim. Thus, by filing the medical malpractice lawsuit, the decedent’s medical condition is at issue.”

To read more about the Weaver v. Myers decision, click here.

Another Issue Was Addressed.

Another issue questioned whether the ex parte change violated the constitutional separation of powers. The contention dealt with whether the Legislature overstepped the role of the Florida Supreme Court. But the appeals court ruled that the change was not procedural but rather was “integral to the substantive pre-suit notice” requirements that are in the law and mandated before the filing of a medical malpractice case.

The Federal Appeals Court Also Said the Law Doesn’t Violate HIPAA.

Last year, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ex parte change in a ruling that focused on whether the 2013 law violates the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which prevents disclose of personal medical information. The federal appeals court said the law did not violate HIPAA, a decision also cited in the First District Court of Appeal’s decision.

Comments?

Do you agree the court’s ruling? Do you think this provision violates privacy rights? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Consult With a Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation Health Care Professionals.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in academic disputes, contract negotiations, license applications, board certification applications and hearings, credential hearings and civil and administrative litigations.

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

Source:

Saunders, Jim. “Appeals court upholds waiver of privacy rights in malpractice cases.” (July 22, 2015). Palm Beach Post. From: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/florida-appeals-court-backs-controversial-medical-/nm48m/

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: Medical malpractice, medical malpractice defense attorney, medical malpractice defense lawyer, Florida defense attorney, Florida defense lawyer, health law attorney, health law lawyer, privacy rights, privacy rights violation, appeals court, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, HIPAA, health law, The Health Law Firm

“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 © 1996-2015 The Health Law firm. All rights reserved.

The American Nurses Association Breathes New Life Into The Nursing Code of Ethics For 2015

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

On a daily basis, the average nurse uses knowledge, training and ethical standards to make vital decisions regarding patient health. Nurses are required to quickly process simple and complex emergency situations, which leaves little room for second guessing. So, to help guide those in the profession, the American Nurses Association (ANA) created a Code of Ethics.

This Code is the structure that provides foundational standards and offers guidance to practicing nurses for various situations. It also sets the standards against which nursing performance can be judged. For the first time since 2001, the ANA has revised the Nursing Code of Ethics. The revised Code was released to the public on January 1, 2015.

Why Now?

The revised version of the Nursing Code of Ethics is geared to help nurses in a more modern practice environment. It addresses some of the more current issues, including confidentiality issues raised by social media, treatment for end-of-life care and the integration of social justice into health care policy as a whole. These guidelines need to be updated as conditions and society changes, and health care advances and presents new problems.

What Changes Were Made?

Provisions 1-3: These contain newly established guidelines on advocating for the patient, family and community, along with the need to exercise kindness and respect in all professional relationships.

Provisions 4-6: Contains new guidelines on delivering and maintaining competent care that includes self-respect and self-care, accountability, and responsibility to continue learning and growing personally and professionally.

Provisions 7-9: Sets forth broader health issues in the community and on a national and international level, along with the advancement of professional values, social policy and education.

The Nursing Code of Ethics is a reflection of the proud ethical heritage of nursing and serves as a guide and promise to society for all nurses now and into the future.

To view the complete revised Nursing Code of Ethics, click here.

Click here to find out more information on the American Nurses Association’s 2015 Year of Ethics

Comments?

What are your thoughts on the updates made to the code of ethics? Do you think it will help nurses identify components of real-world problems and analyze the situation effectively?

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

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

Sources:

Howard, Cynthia. “2015: The Year of Nursing Ethics.” Nurse Together. (February 5, 2015). From: http://www.nursetogether.com/2015-the-year-of-nursing-ethics

Northeast Ohio Media Group Marketing Staff. “Year of Ethics Offers Nurses Guidance and Support Regarding Moral Decisions.” Cleveland.com. (April 15, 2015). From: http://blog.cleveland.com/university_hospitals_health_system_inc/2015/04/year_of_ethics_offers_nurses_g.html

American Nurses Association. “Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretive Statements.” (May 1, 2015). From: http://www.nursingworld.org/Mobile/Code-of-Ethics

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 © 1999-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Workers Can Be Fired For Using Marijuana Off-Duty

By Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D., The Health Law Firm

Marijuana may be legal in Colorado, but you can still be fired for using it. Employers’ zero- tolerance drug policies trump Colorado’s medical marijuana laws, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled on Monday. In a 6-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that businesses can terminate an employee for the use of medical marijuana – even if it’s off-duty.

Coats v. Dish Network.

Brandon Coats became a quadriplegic after a car accident and has relied on medical marijuana to help with muscle spasms. Dish Network fired Coats after a failed drug test in 2010.  “As a national employer, Dish remains committed to a drug-free workplace and compliance with federal law,” company spokesman John Hall said in a statement.  To read about the Coats v. Dish Network case in its entirety, click here.

What is Lawful Activity?

This case was brought based on Colorado Revised Statute 24-34-402.5, Colorado’s “lawful activities statute.” The Supreme Court held the term “lawful” in the statute refers only to those activities that are lawful under both state and federal law. Therefore, employees who engage in an activity such as medical marijuana use that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law, are not protected by this statute.  Like Texas, Colorado law allows employers to set their own policies on drug use.  Unlike Texas, Colorado has a law that says employees can’t be fired for “lawful” off-duty activities.
To read C.R.S. § 24-34-402.5. – Unlawful prohibition of legal activities as a condition of employment, click here.

Legal Off-Duty Activity.

Coats claims that Dish Network violated C.R.S. § 24-34-402.5, by terminating him due to his state licensed use of medical marijuana at home during non-working hours. The Colorado justices ruled that because marijuana is illegal under federal law, Coat’s use of the drug couldn’t be considered legal off-duty activity.  State laws only govern the citizens within a particular state, but federal laws apply to all U.S. citizens. Therefore, federal laws trump state laws.

To read past blogs on this topic or any health law topic, visit our blog pages on our website : www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Visit our Colorado Health Law blog.

Comments?

Do you think medical marijuana is considered a “lawful” activity? Do you agree with Dish Network’s decision? Do you think Coats v. Dish Network was a fair case, why or why not? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

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

Sources:

Linsley, Brennon. “Colorado court: Workers can be fired for using pot off-duty.” The News Herald. (June 15, 2015) From:

http://www.morganton.com/colorado-court-workers-can-be-fired-for-using-pot-off/article_f4f67447-5d36-5e6e-9a67-8548d5fc77a4.html

“24-34-402.5. Unlawful Prohibition of Legal Activities as a Condition of Employment.” Department of Regulatory Agencies. (June 15, 2015) From:

http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite?blobcol=urldata&blobheadername1=Content-Disposition&blobheadername2=Content-Type&blobheadervalue1=inline%3B+filename%3D%22Colorado+Anti-Discrimination+Act+statutes+-+unofficial.pdf%22&blobheadervalue2=application%2Fpdf&blobkey=id&blobtable=MungoBlobs&blobwhere=1251818317123&ssbinary=true

Coats v. Dish Network, LLC., CO 44. No. 13SC394. U.S. (2015)

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620. The Health Law Firm also has offices in Fort Collins, Colorado and Pensacola, Florida.

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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.
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