Hey, Health Care Professionals…Why Can’t We Be Friends?!

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

Every year, our firm sponsors and attends various medical industry events. Needless to say, our law firm table is not the most popular hangout spot. If we had a penny for every time we have heard “Yikes, an attorney! I hope I never need you.” we could close our doors and all retire.

The feeling is akin to being the last kid picked for teams in gym class. So we ask ourselves: why are we attorneys shunned by health care professionals? Why won’t anyone make eye contact with us at meetings and events? Why is there a negative stigma attached to the phrase “law firm?”

We found the answer.

It’s Not Us. It’s You.

Before you take great offense to such a bold statement, hear me out. Society as a whole seems to have a misconceived notion that a law firm’s services are solely for reactive purposes. Meaning, you need defensive legal assistance. In these reactive situations, lawyers defend their clients to make the most out of an unfortunate situation. I frequently hear, “well nothing has gone wrong yet, so why do I need an attorney?” Here’s the secret: We can do much more than help you when something has gone wrong.

To reap the maximum potential from your profession, you should be utilizing “legal checkups” instead of burying your head in the sand. First, it’s more cost effective to hire a lawyer proactively BEFORE something goes wrong. When you are proactive about your legal needs, you have time to be selective in choosing the right lawyer for your needs. You can build a foundation before you invest in your legal needs. Typically, if you are in need of a lawyer to reactively defend you, you’re already knee-deep and you won’t be afforded the opportunity to find the best attorney.

Taking The Initiative Legal Business Advice.

The benefits of proactively obtaining an attorney are often overlooked. Having an attorney available at any time for legal protection and business advice may not always cross a health care professional’s mind. I find this to be ironic. Health care professionals recommend patients to eat healthy, exercise often, take daily vitamins, and schedule regular checkups. All these suggestions are proactive measures to ensure a stable life, full of longevity. Doesn’t it grind your gears when patients overlook your expert advice until something goes terribly wrong? We can both agree that preemptive measures are necessary in health and health care business.

I am not a medical expert, therefore, I would not attempt to perform a surgical procedure or offer a diagnosis. Legal services are the same. Most health care professionals cannot draft a contract themselves or set up a partnership office flawlessly without experienced legal expertise.

Proactive Legal Help We Often See Overlooked.

Whether it be our firm or not, health care professionals and businesses need a trusted health law attorney readily available to ask for help when additional legal knowledge, experience, or judgment is needed. The following list outlines health care business legal services that are proactive in nature.

– Obtain a contract review, of any agreement, before you sign the dotted line. It is crucial to
have a lawyer experienced in health law review convoluted documents that may bind you to
terms and conditions that you should not be liable for.

– Hire an attorney to negotiate your employment contracts to ensure that you are fairly
compensated for your work.

– A health law attorney adept in assisting with a business restructuring is invaluable. Whether
you are opening or closing a medical office, taking part in a merger, or launching or dissolving
a partnership, these transactions are complex. It is not in your best interest to attempt any
business maneuver without the input of a trusted health law attorney who is familiar with your
professional business goals.

– A compliance assessment is an important proactive measure for health providers and
businesses. With the increase of federal and state oversight, it is wise to have a thorough
review and analysis of your business protocols and procedures on a regular basis. An
experienced health law attorney can help you avoid critical administrative pitfalls. These
assessments verify compliance in areas such as: Medicare/Medicaid billing claims, patient
record keeping, HIPAA and HITECH procedures, etc.

You know what they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Hiring an attorney is NOT solely for the purpose of negative occurrences or damaging mistakes. As a health care professional, it is crucial to work with a trusted health lawyer to advise you in your business decisions. Don’t rely on the notion that you don’t need a lawyer until you are in trouble. Heeding our warning, you could save yourself a lot of time and money.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in Negotiating and Evaluating Physician and Health Professional’s Business Transactions.

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 (DME), medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider or facility.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, preparing contracts, helping employers and employees enforce contracts, advice on setting aside or voiding contracts, litigation of contracts (in state or federal court), business transactions, professional license defense, opinion letters, representation in investigations, fair hearing defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, litigation of restrictive covenant, 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., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Proactive legal services, health law legal advice, health care professional legal help, corporate law, corporate health law, contract review, employment contract reviews, office reconstruction, medical office reconstruction, compliance assessment, partnership dissolutions, mergers, legal business advice, corporate law attorney, corporate lawyer, employment law, employment law attorney, contract negotiation, contract negotiation attorney, contract negotiation lawyer, health law, business law, legal business advice, legal advice, health care professional, attorney for health care professionals, representation for health care professionals, representation for health care facilities, health law defense lawyer, employment law representation, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Two Nursing Home Co-Conspirators Sentenced in $19 Million Fraud Kickback Scheme

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

On July 9, 2018, two co-conspirators in a $19.4 million healthcare fraud scheme involving a nursing home chain, American Senior Communities, were sentenced in Indiana federal court. Both pled guilty to various conspiracy and money laundering charges.

The Multi-Million Dollar Scheme.

Prosecutors allege that the men reached side deals with vendors who handled things like nurse call systems, food and medical supplies for the nursing home chain. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the kickback scheme generated nearly $19.4 million that the men spent on vacation homes, private planes, golf trips, Rolex watches, gold bullion and casino chips. Both were charged in 2016, along with two others for their roles in the same scheme. Read more about their involvement here.

The Sentencing.

The DOJ said Steven Ganote received a five-year sentence with two years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $7 million in restitution. Additionally, Joshua Burkhart was handed a four-month sentence with two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $420,000 in restitution. Each of the men is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and health care fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS).

To learn more about these types of illegal kickback schemes, click here to read one of my prior blogs on health care fraud.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in cases of medical billing fraud, overbilling, 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.

 

Sources:

Fowler, Haylay. “Nursing Home Schemer Sentenced In $19M Kickback Scheme.” Law360. (July 9, 2018). Web.

Kass, Dani. “Ex-Nursing Home Execs Indicted In $16M Kickback Scheme.” Law360. (October 12, 2016). Web.

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

KeyWords: Medical billing fraud, fraudulent billing representation, fraudulent billing attorney, representation for overbilling, representation for submitting false claims, False Claims Act (FCA) violations, representation for submitting false claims, false claims lawyer, FCA defense attorney, Anti-Kickback Statute(AKS) violations, AKS representation, AKS attorney, representation for fraudulent reimbursement, representation for illegal kickback scheme illegal kickback scheme attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, health fraud defense lawyer, health law defense attorney, 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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

The 25 Biggest Mistakes Physicians Make After Being Notified of a Department of Health Complaint

The investigation of a complaint which could lead to the revocation of a physician’s license to practice medicine and the assessment of tens of thousands of dollars in fines, usually starts with a simple letter from the Department of Health (DOH).  This is a very serious legal matter and it should be treated as such by the physician who receives it.  Yet, in many cases, attorneys are consulted by physicians after the entire investigation is over, and they have attempted to represent themselves throughout the case.  Often, the mistakes that have been made severely compromise an attorney’s ability to achieve a favorable result for the physician.

These are the 25 biggest mistakes we see in the physician cases we are called upon to defend after a DOH investigation has been initiated:

  1. Failing to keep a current, valid address on file with the DOH (as required by law), which may seriously delay the receipt of the Uniform Complaint (notice of investigation), letters, and other important correspondence related to the investigation.
  2. Contacting the DOH investigator and providing him/her an oral statement or oral interview.  (Note:  There is no legal requirement to do this.)
  3. Making a written statement in response to the “invitation” extended by the DOH investigator to do so.  (Note:  There is no legal requirement to do this.)
  4. Failing to carefully review the complaint to make sure it has been sent to the correct physician (Note:  Check name and license number).
  5. Failing to ascertain whether or not the investigation is on the “Fast Track” which may then result in an emergency suspension order (ESO) suspending the physician’s license until all proceedings are concluded.  (Note:  This will usually be the case if there are allegations regarding drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual contact with a patient, mental health issues, or failure to comply with PRN instructions.)
  6. Providing a copy of the physician’s curriculum vitae (CV) or resume to the investigator because the investigator requested them to do so.  (Note:  There is no legal requirement to do this.
  7. Believing that if they “just explain it,” the investigation will be closed and the case dropped.
  8. Failing to submit a timely objection to a DOH subpoena when there are valid grounds to do so.
  9. Failing to forward a complete copy of the patient medical record when subpoenaed by the DOH investigator as part of the investigation, when no objection is going to be filed.
  10. Delegating the task of providing a complete copy of the patient medical record to office staff, resulting in an incomplete or partial copy being provided.
  11. Failing to keep an exact copy of any medical records, documents, letters or statements provided to the investigator.
  12. Believing that the investigator has knowledge or experience in hospital procedures, medical procedures or the health care matters or procedures being investigated.
  13. Believing that the investigator is merely attempting to ascertain the truth of the matter and this will result in the matter being dismissed.
  14. Failing to check to see if their medical malpractice insurance carrier will pay the legal fees to defend them in this investigation.
  15. Talking to DOH investigators, staff or attorneys, in the mistaken belief that they are capable of doing so without providing information that can and will be used against them.
  16. Believing that because they haven’t heard anything for six months or more the matter has “gone away.”  The matter does not ever just go away.
  17. Failing to submit a written request to the investigator at the beginning of the investigation for a copy of the complete investigation report and file and then following up with additional requests until it is received.
  18. Failing to wisely use the time while the investigation is proceeding to interview witnesses, obtain witness statements, conduct research, obtain experts, and perform other tasks that may assist defending the case.
  19. Failing to exercise the right of submitting documents, statements, and expert opinions to rebut the findings made in the investigation report before the case is submitted to the Probable Cause Panel of your licensing board for a decision.
  20. Taking legal advice from their colleagues regarding what they should do (or not do) in defending themselves in the investigation.
  21. Retaining “consultants” or other non-lawyer personnel to represent them.
  22. Believing that the case is indefensible so there is no reason to even try to have it dismissed by the Probable Cause Panel.
  23. Attempting to defend themselves.
  24. Believing that because they know someone on the Board of Medicine, with the Department of Health or a state legislator, that influence can be exerted to have the case dismissed.
  25. Failing to immediately retain the services of a health care attorney who is experienced in such matters to represent them, to communicate with the DOH investigator for them, and to prepare and submit materials to the Probable Cause Panel.

 Bonus Point:

 26. Communicating with the Department of Health about the pending case.

Not every case will require submission of materials to the Probable Cause Panel after the investigation is received and reviewed.  There will be a few where the allegations made are not “legally sufficient” and do not constitute an offense for which the physician may be disciplined.  In other cases, an experienced health care attorney may be successful in obtaining a commitment from the DOH attorney to recommend a dismissal to the Probable Cause Panel.  In other cases (usually the most serious ones), for tactical reasons, the experienced health care attorney may recommend that you waive your right to have the case submitted to the Probable Cause Panel and that you proceed directly to an administrative hearing.  The key to a successful outcome in all of these cases is to obtain the assistance of a health care lawyer who is experienced in appearing before the Board of Medicine in such cases and does so on a regular basis.

For more information, on how to respond to a DOH investigation, or other legal matters, visit our website.

Practicing Medicine Without a Medical License Lands Miami Couple Behind Bars

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

By now, you have heard stories of fake doctors and dentists in South Florida working on patients and causing severe injuries.

Usually, these are solo efforts. However, according to CBS Miami, a couple was arrested back in August of 2011, for practicing medicine without a license. The wife owned a clinic where the husband treated patients. The majority of the patients were children, but the fake doctor also apparently performed gynecological exams on female patients.

Click here to see the story from CBS Miami.

Phony Doctor’s Clinic Fooled Customers.

The clinic apparently looked legitimate to its customers, and other facilities would even refer patients there. A legitimate licensed physician, listed as the clinic supervisor, claims he was duped by the clinic and believed that the fake doctor was a nurse practitioner. The real physician also accuses the fake doctor of forging his signature.

The fake doctor holds only a license to operate x-ray machines. From a check on the Department of Health (DOH) website, that license expired seven years ago.

Real Physician Faces Charges for Assisting Fake Doctor.

The real physician was under investigation for his alleged involvement with the fake doctor and the clinic. Though the arrests happened in November 2011, the real physician was served with a complaint by the DOH just recently, on May 29, 2012.

Click here to see the real physician’s administrative complaint.

The real physician is accused by the DOH of assisting the fake doctor in his unlicensed practice of medicine. The outcome of the proceedings has yet to be seen.

Practicing Medicine Without A Legitimate License Is a Crime.

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

Remember, a license to practice medicine in Venezuela, Cuba, or anywhere else, is just that: a license to practice in that country. It does not allow a person to practice medicine in the United States.

More Stories on Fake Physicians and Other Health Professionals to Come.

In the near future on this blog, we will include additional articles on fake doctors and health professionals, some old, some new.

To see a blog on a fake South Florida dentist and the damage he inflicted on a teenage girl, click here. To read a blog on an infamous Florida teen impersonating a physician’s assistant (PA), click here. You can also read the story of a fake plastic surgeon in New York by clicking here.

Comments?

What do you think if this story? Leave a comment below.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Representing Health Care Providers in DOH Cases.

If you find yourself working for or supervising someone that does not have a valid Florida license, your own license may be at risk. If and when the Department of Health (DOH) becomes involved, do not sign anything, do not speak to the investigators and do not make any statements. Contact an experienced health law attorney immediately to review your case.

The Health Law Firm represents dentists, pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses, and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies.

If you are aware of an investigation of you or your practice, or if you have been contacted by the DEA or DOH, contact an experienced health law attorney immediately.

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

Sources:

CBS Miami. Accused Fake Doctor, Wife Bond Out of Jail. CBS Miami online. (August 25, 2011). From: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2011/08/25/police-arrest-accused-fake-doctor-in-miami/

About the Authors: Danielle M. Murray 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 Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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

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

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

Watch Out for Legal Pitfalls Associated with Telemedicine

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

With all the new technologies, mobile medical applications, expansion of access to health care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the emphasis on quality care, telemedicine is at the forefront of the health care industry.

Now is the time to educate yourself on the new opportunities in practicing telemedicine. As with any new health care business model, you also have to assess the risks and be sure you are complying with the ever increasing number of regulations.

Where Telemedicine Stands Today.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) can be credited for the telemedicine revival. In 2011, CMS issued a final rule permitting a more flexible process for credentialing and privileging practitioners who provide telemedicine services. Telemedicine escalated in 2013, when federal and state legislation and major insurers expanded the types of reimbursable telemedicine services. Now in 2014, there are more partnerships between insurers and health care delivery systems to provide patients access to specialists through telemedicine programs.
For example, WellPoint, Inc., and Aetna, Inc., among other health insurers, are letting millions of patients schedule online visits with health care professionals. These insurance companies are working together with companies that offer virtual visits with doctors who, in some states, can prescribe drugs for anything from sinus infections to back pain. According to Bloomberg, this is a major advancement for telemedicine. To read the entire article from Bloomberg, click here.

The Current Status of Telemedicine in Florida.

In March 2014, the Florida Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine adopted updated standards for practicing telemedicine. The final rule, 64B8-9.0141, Florida Administrative Code, defines telemedicine as:

the practice of medicine by a licensed Florida physician or physician assistant where patient care, treatment, or services are provided through the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications. Telemedicine shall not include the provision of health care services only through an audio only telephone, email messages, text messages, facsimile transmission, U.S. mail or other parcel service, or any combination thereof.

The rule states that the standard of care shall remain the same regardless of whether a physician provides services in person or by telemedicine. Also, those providing telemedicine services are responsible for the safety, security and adequacy of their equipment.

Several other parts of the new Florida telemedicine rule are worth noting:

1. Telemedicine is sufficient to establish a physician-patient relationship;
2. All regulations regarding patient confidentiality and record keeping are applicable;
3. The rule specifically exempts medical advice given by emergency responders including EMTs, paramedics and emergency dispatchers;
4. The rule also does not apply to physicians or physician assistants providing emergency care under conditions requiring immediate medical care; and
5. Florida law presently prohibits prescribing controlled substances via telemedicine.


Telemedicine and the Potential Legal Issues.

As telemedicine grows, so will the oversight and scrutiny by state medical boards and federal and state regulatory agencies. Here are some areas to be mindful of:

Reimbursement: This is continuously an issue with telemedicine. Medicare reimbursement for telemedicine services is limited and generally requires face-to-face contact between patients and providers. Medicaid reimbursement varies from state-to-state, and only about 20 states have enacted statutes that require reimbursement for certain telemedicine services. This means health care providers need to review Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement policies, state health insurance regulations, and provider payer contract requirements so that they are aware of the reimbursement requirements that may affect their billing. Educate yourself on what will and what won’t be reimbursed, and only submit compliant claims to avoid audits.

Fraud and Abuse: As a telemedicine provider, you will most likely initiate business arrangements between distinct health care entities that may include the lease of equipment or the use of a product owned, in part, by physicians. Arrangements like this need to be written with federal fraud and abuse laws in mind, including the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law. For more advice on telemedicine-related fraud issues, review advisory opinions issued by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

Medical Staff Bylaws: Health care organizations that depend on information from a distant-site hospital or telemedicine entity to credential and privilege telemedicine practitioners must revise their medical staff bylaws and policies to include criteria for granting privileges to distant practitioners, and a procedure for applying the criteria. Additions should also include what category of the medical staff distant-site telemedicine practitioners will join, the level of involvement they may have in medical staff committees, and what procedural rights they should be given.

Credentialing and Privileging: Under CMS’ final rule, health care organizations may rely on the credentialing and privileging decisions of distant-site hospitals or the information provided by other telemedicine entities when determining privileges for distant-site practitioners who provide telemedicine services, as long as certain conditions are met, including a compliant written agreement.

Patient Privacy: Providers are responsible for ensuring they have secure communication channels, implementing business associate and other confidentiality and privacy agreements, educating staff regarding the appropriate use of telemedicine, and understanding how and what patient information is being collected and stored.

Compliance with State Requirements: Most states require physicians engaging in telemedicine to be licensed in the state where the patient is located. It would be wise for health care organizations to seek the legal guidance of an experienced health law attorney to navigate individual state requirements.

Interactions with Pain Management Laws: Our practice has seen many physicians become the subject of some kind of government investigation or action resulting from the remote practice of medicine in a pain management setting. These telemedicine rules do not alter the status quo in pain management. Physicians are still required to see patients in a face-to-face encounter in order to prescribe controlled substances for the treatment of pain. There are discussions among the members of the Florida  Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine to permit limited prescribing of controlled substances through telemedicine. However, the boundaries of a future rule are unclear. Considering the hard-line stance the Boards have taken toward pain management in general, it is unlikely that any final rule would authorize the remote practice of pain management.

Health care providers need to stay mindful of the listed legal issues, and any others that may come up. It is important when practicing telemedicine to ensure your services are compliant, and you appropriately protect patient safety and privacy.

Comments?

Does your practice use telemedicine? In your opinion what are the benefits and what are the difficulties of telemedicine? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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.

Sources:

French, Marie. “The Doctor Will Click on You Now.” Bloomberg. (July 13, 2014). From: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-14/the-doctor-will-click-on-you-now.html

Kadzielski, Mark and Kim, Jee-Young. “Telemedicine: Many Opportunities, Many Legal Issues, Many Risks.” JD Supra. (July 30, 2014). From: http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/telemedicine-many-opportunities-many-l-18993/

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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Dentist Hit with an Emergency Suspension Order for Allegedly Inhaling Nitrous Oxide

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

A Debary, Florida, dentist has been served with an emergency suspension order (ESO) by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) for allegedly inhaling nitrous oxide or laughing gas in front of patients. The administrative complaint filed against the dentist on November 2, 2012, by the Florida DOH stated a department-approved evaluator deemed the dentist unfit to practice dentistry and was recommended to undergo residential treatment.

Click here to read the full administrative complaint against the dentist.

We want to point out that these are just allegations made against the dentist at this point in time and have not been proven by the state.

Dentist Allegedly Ordered to Rehabilitation.

In June 2012, the Florida DOH ordered the dentist to be treated for alcohol and inhalant dependence. However, while in rehabilitation, she allegedly failed drug tests for alcohol, opiates and hydrocodone. She was then later reportedly caught inhaling laughing gas again.

The dentist allegedly refused another treatment plan by writing on it that she was going to drink champagne on holidays and special occasions.

ESO Means Health Professional Cannot Practice While License is Suspended.

On November 27, 2012, WFTV in Orlando reported a woman that looked to be the suspended dentist drove up to the Debary office and posted a handwritten sign on the front door that read, “Office is open.”

To see the story from WFTV, click here.

The Florida DOH states that when a licensee is served with an ESO that person may not practice in Florida while his or her license is suspended. Click here to see the status of the dentist’s license from the DOH.

Formal vs Informal Hearings.

The dentist may elect to have a formal hearing contesting the facts with the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). She also may waive this right and not dispute the facts and have an informal hearing before the Board of Dentistry.  The Board will then make a final decision concerning the dentist’s license and her future working in dentistry. Be sure to check this blog for updates.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health (DOH) Investigations of Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI 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 this dentist’s story? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Walsh, Michael. “Dentist Gassing Up on Nitrous Oxide No Laughing Matter.” New York Daily News. (November 27, 2012). From: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/dentist-gassing-nitrous-oxide-laughing-matter-article-1.1209081?print

Barber, Tim. “Dentist Accused of Using Laughing Gas on Self While Working on Patients.” WFTV. (November 27, 2012). From: http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/dentist-accused-using-laughing-gas-while-operating/nTGJd/

Department of Health v. Sharon Ann Day-Osteen, D.D.S. Case Number 2012-13461. Administrative Complaint to the Board of Dentistry. (November 2, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/doh%20v%20Day-Osteen.pdf

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.

Internal Medicine Specialists Should Be Aware of Impending Medicare Audits

6 Indest-2008-3Coming to a medical practice near you. . . It’s scary, it’s horrible, and it could cost you a lot of money!

It’s the dreaded Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) audit.

The Horror! The Horror!

First Coast Service Options, the Medicare contractor for Florida, announced a new prepayment audit program that will impact Internal Medicine Specialists. The prepayment program is focused on Initial and Subsequent Hospital Evaluation and Management Services, CPT Codes 99223 and 99233. The program is being launched due to the high CERT error rate associated with these codes.

The audits will start on October 21, 2014.

What is the CERT Program?

CMS created the CERT program to measure the paid claims error rate for Medicare claims submitted to Medicare administrative contractors, carriers, durable medical equipment regional carriers, and Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs). CMS receives more than two billion claims annually. The CERT program randomly selects approximately 120,000 of these claims for review to determine whether the claims were properly paid.

Statistical samples are selected and the CERT documentation contractor (CDC) submits documentation requests to those providers who submitted affected claims. Once the requested documentation has been received, the information is forwarded to the CERT review contractor (CRC) for review. The CRC will review the claims and supporting documentation to measure compliance with Medicare coverage, coding and billing rules. Click here to read my previous blog on the CERT Program.

How Internal Medicine Specialists Can Avoid CERT Audits.

First Coast is only targeting Internal Medicine Specialists as their data analysis suggests the specialty is the primary contributor to an elevated CERT error rate. Errors are normally cause by insufficient documentation to justify the service.

Healthcare providers designated as Internal Medicine with First Coast Service Options need to pay special attention to this audit program and the documentation requirements for billing 99223 and 99233 codes. If you find yourself or your practice the target of a CERT audit, click here for tips on how to respond.

Our Thoughts on the CERT Program.

In working with the CERT Program, we have been pleasantly surprised when our personal phone calls to the CERT auditors have been answered and actual accurate information provided, as well as letters and documents we provided being promptly acknowledged. Like with any other audit, however, we urge those being audited to seek the advice of an experienced health law attorney who may be able to assist in heading off and avoiding a more serious investigation or a large repayment demand.

Comments?

Have you heard of CERT audits? Has your practice encountered a CERT audit? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Responding to a Medicare Audit – Practice Tips

Although you may speak of a “routine” Medicare audit, there is really no such creature. This is like saying you have a “routine IRS audit.”  The fact is that there is some item you have claimed as a Medicare provider or the amount of claims Medicare has paid in a certain category that has caused you or your practice to be audited.

Having too many claims for level five CPT codes might, for example, cause you to be audited.  Having multiple claims submitted for the same date of service, may cause you to be audited.  Submitting claims for CPT codes outside of your medical speciality area, might cause you to be audited.  Having the dollar amount of claims greater than the average for a similar health practitioner in the same geographical area of the country, may cause you to get audited.  Having a greater number of claims submitted than the average for a similar health practitioner in the same geographical area of the country, may cause you to get audited.  Filing claims for services that are on the Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) annual work list may cause you to be audited.

“Routine” audits, those that do not involve some suspicion of false billings or fraudulent activities, should, nevertheless, be treated extremely seriously and the physician, group or health provider being audited should give the matter personal attention.  Examples of some contractors that may be involved in “routine” audits include DelMarva Foundation, Palmetto GBA, Cigna GBA, or First Coast Service Options, Inc.

However, if the audit letter or audit notice is from a Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC), such as SafeGuard Services, LLC, or AdvanceMed, the matter is very serious and should not be treated as a routine audit.  If the “audit” comes in the form of a subpoena, then it is extremely serious.  If any FBI agent or OIG special agent is involved in it, then it is extremely serious.  In any of these three cases, an experienced health attorney should be retained immediately.

Even on a “routine” audit, given the possible consequences, we recommend you immediately retain the services of an experienced health attorney to guide you through the audit process, to communicate with the auditors, and to be prepared if it is necessary to challenge the audit findings.

These are some of the items actions we recommend you take and which we take in representing a physician or other health provider in responding to a Medicare audit.

1. All correspondence from Medicare, or the Medicare contractor, should be taken seriously.  Avoid the temptation to consider the request from Medicare, or the Medicare contractor, just another medical records request.  Avoid the temptation to delegate this as a routine matter to an administrative employee.

2. Read the audit letter carefully and provide all the information requested in the letter.  In addition to medical records, auditors often ask for invoices and purchase orders for the drugs and medical supplies dispensed to patients for which Medicare reimbursed you.

3. Include a copy of the complete record and not just those from the dates of service requested in the audit letter.  Include any diagnostic tests and other documents from the chart that support the services provided.  Many practices document the medications and immunizations given to the patient in a separate part of the chart and not in the progress notes; all documents, the complete record, should be provided to the auditor.  Remember that even other physicians records obtained as history, including reports, consultants and records from other physicians or hospitals, should also be included.  Consent forms, medical history questionnaires, histories, physicals, other physicians’ orders, all may be a crucial part of the record and should be included.  If hospital or nursing home discharge orders or other orders referred the patient to you, obtain these to provide to the auditors.

4. Make sure all the medical records are legible and legibly copied.  If the record is not legible, have the illegible record transcribed and include the transcription along with the hand-written or illegible records.  Make sure than any such transcriptions are clearly marked as a transcription with the current date it is actually transcribed.  Label it accurately.  Do not allow any room for there to be any confusion that the newly transcribed part was part of the original record.

5. If your practice involves taking or interpreting x-rays or other diagnostic studies, include these studies.  They are part of the patient’s record.  If the x-rays are digital, they can be submitted on a compact disc (CD).

6. Never alter the medical records after a notice of an audit.  However, if there are consults, orders, test reports, prescriptions, etc., that have not been filed into the chart, yet, have these filed into it, as you normally would, so that the record is complete.  Altering a medical record can be the basis for a fraud claim including criminal penalties.

7. Make sure each page of the record is copied correctly and completely.  If the copy of the record has missing information because it was cut off, the original needs to be recopied to ensure it includes all the information.  Don’t submit copies that have edges cut off, have bottom margins cut off, are copied slanted on the page, or for which the reverse side is not copied.  Reduce the copied image to 96% if necessary to prevent edges and margins from being cut off.

8. Make color copies of medical records when the original record includes different colored ink of significance.  Colors other than blue and black rarely copy well and may be illegible on standard photocopiers.

9. Include a brief summary of the care provided to the patient with each record.  The summary is not a substitute for the medical records, but will assist an auditor that may not be experienced in a particular specialty or practice area.  Make sure that any such summaries are clearly marked as summaries with the current date they are actually prepared.  Label it accurately.  Do not allow any room for there to be any confusion that this new portion was part of the original record.

10. Include an explanatory note and any supporting medical literature, clinical practice guidelines, local coverage determinations (LCDs), medical/dental journal articles, or other documents to support any unusual procedures or billings, or to explain missing record entries.  See item 9 immediately above.

11. When receiving a notice of a Medicare audit, time is of the essence.  Be sure to calendar the date that the records need to be in to the auditor and have the records there by that date.  Note: the due date is not the last date on which you can mail the records but rather is the date that the records must be at the auditor’s office.

12. Any telephone communication with the auditor should be followed up with a letter confirming the telephone conference.

13. Send all communications to the auditor by certified mail (or express mail), return receipt requested so you have proof of delivery.

14. Properly each copy of each medical record you provide and page number everything you provide the auditors, by hand, if necessary. Medical record copies often get shuffled or portions lost or damaged during copying, storage, scanning or transmission.

15. Keep complete, legible copies of all correspondence and every document you provide.  When we provide records to a Medicare auditor, we make a complete copy for the auditor, for the client, for us (legal counsel) and two for your future expert witnesses (to challenge any audit results) to use.

16. Consult an experienced health law attorney early in the audit process to assist in preparing the response.

The above check list is by no means comprehensive.  Nor do we mean to suggest that you should respond on your own.  The above is illustrative of the many actions that should be taken to help protect your interests when you are subjected to a Medicare audit.

Visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com for more information on Medicare audits, ZPIC audits, health care subpoenas, Medicare and Medicaid search warrants and Medicare and other federal administrative hearings.

What Health Providers Need to Know About Telemedicine

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

For years providing health care to patients has been at a location that is convenient to the health provider. With emerging trends in telemedicine and upcoming healthcare reforms, recently enacted, patients may begin to enjoy the convenience of medical evaluation and follow-up by video, telephone and computer. The biggest bar to this to date has been the refusal of Medicare, Medicaid and insurers to pay for this, along with restrictive state board of medicine regulations prohibiting it. For example, a big thorn in the side of physicians treating pain management patients has been regulatory prohibitions by the Florida Board of Medicine.

According to a Star Tribune article, 30 million Americans are expected to gain access to insurance through the Health Care Reform Act in 2014. Telemedicine is one effective and low-cost solution to treat easy-to-diagnose medical conditions. It is also expected to assist in relieving the looming shortage of physicians.

Telemedicine uses technologies, such as the internet, streaming media, telephones and video conferences to meet the needs of patients. When deciding whether to establish a telemedicine program it is important to look at the state licensure requirements, as requirements are different in each state.

Click here for a breakdown of telemedicine legislation by state.

What You Need to Know About Telemedicine in the Sunshine State.

According to rule 64B15-14.008, Florida Administrative Code, prescribing medication based solely on an electronic medical questionnaire constitutes unprofessional conduct and it groups for disciplinary action. At least in Florida, the medical authorities have required that physicians must see the patient in person in a face-to-face encounter before prescribing medication. Physicians may not provide treatment recommendations unless a document patient evaluation has occurred, sufficient dialogue between the physician and patient regarding treatment options and the risks and benefits of treatment have occurred, and medical records are properly maintained.

Click here to learn more on the standards for telemedicine practices in Florida.

Federal laws and regulations may bring a change in the state requirements.

Online House Call.

Virtuwell is an online medical clinic offered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Patients log onto the Virtuwell website and answer a number of questions. Using the patient’s answers, a nurse practitioner will diagnose the ailment, give treatment advice and, if necessary, send a prescription to a pharmacy. This service costs around $40 per diagnosis. The Virtuwell website launched in 2010. In just two years, more than 40,000 patients have logged on to receive medical advice. This form of telemedicine may be the future of health care.

To read more on Virtuwell from the Star Tribune, click here.

It is important to note that Minnesota allows physicians to offer this service if they are registered to practice telemedicine or are registered to practice across state lines.

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?

What do you think of telemedicine? Do you think it is the future of doctor’s office visits? In your opinion what are the benefits and what are the difficulties of telemedicine? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Crosby, Jackie. “The New House Call is Online.” Star Tribune. (November 24, 2012). From: http://www.startribune.com/business/180632701.html

Gardner, Elizabeth. “Is Your Doctor Out of the Office? Try an E-Visit.” U.S. News. (September 4, 2012). From: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/09/04/is-your-doctor-out-of-the-office-try-an-e-visit

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.

A New Year Means New Audits and Site Visits for Assisted Living Facilities – Protect Yourself Now

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

For Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs) in Florida, it’s time to do a little brushing up on your compliance material.

Beginning in January 2015, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), Office of Inspector General (OIG), Bureau of Medicaid Program Integrity (MPI), will conduct site visits to determine compliance with the Florida Medicaid Provider General Handbook and the Assistive Care Services Coverage and Limitations Handbook. This is just one of several initiatives aimed at ALFs to curtail fraud, waste, and abuse in the Florida Medicaid program.

Be Prepared.

The goal of a site visit is to determine if providers are rendering and documenting required services; to determine if assistive care services are being rendered by qualified and properly trained staff; to identify quality of care/environmental issues; and, to document and report ALF providers’ deficiencies to any managed care organizations with which the ALF is contracted.

According to the Florida Assisted Living Association (FALA), the majority of MPI sanctions concerning these fines are associated with the failure to have the following completed forms on file for each resident:

1. AHCA Form 1823 – The Health Assessment
2. AHCA Form 035 – The Certification of Medical Necessity
3. AHCA Form 036 – Medicaid Service Plan

Knowing is Half the Battle.

This announcement shows that the government will continue rigorous and thorough enforcement efforts this year. ALFs should consider this a fair warning to get supporting documentation in order. If you’re worried your ALF may not be in compliance, we suggest getting a compliance assessment. If your ALF is being audited we always suggest contacting an experienced health law attorney immediately. For general tips on how to respond to a Medicaid audit, click here for a previous blog.

Comments?

Did you know about these anti-fraud initiatives? Do you feel like your ALF is prepared for a site visit? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Assisted Living Facilities.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent assisted living facilities (ALFs) and ALF employees in a number of different matters including incorporation, preparing contracts, defending the facility against malpractice claims, licensing and regulatory matters, administrative hearings, and routine legal advice.

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.

 

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.

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