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MedPAC Wants to Hold Accountable Care Organizations More Accountable

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

As the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) prepares to designate the next class of accountable care organizations (ACOs), the agency sought the advice and input of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) on how to proceed.  MedPAC is an independent Congressional Agency established to advise the U.S. Congress on issues affecting Medicare.

Click here to read our previous blog on the background and purpose of ACOs.

MedPAC Suggests All Medicare Shared Savings Program ACOs Join the Two-Sided Risk Model.

In response to the request from the CMS, MedPAC reiterated its previous position that it would like to see all Medicare ACOs take on greater financial risk.  As it presently stands, some Medicare-contracted ACOs do not share in the risks associated with the ACOs patients’ healthcare costs exceeding certain target ranges.  Even though those ACOs do not bear any financial risk if the goals are not met, they nevertheless stand to benefit if they are.

MedPAC found that the one-sided risk model being used by most Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) ACOs to be insufficient to reach the goals of the MSSP.

Specifically, MedPAC wants to see all MSSP ACOs in the two-sided risk model.  That model requires the ACO to reimburse Medicare for some of the costs which exceeded the target ranges. This pressure is important to note because only 13 of the 32 Pioneer ACOs generated enough savings to Medicare to qualify for MSSP savings payments.

Understand an ACO Agreement Before You Sign.

As we see more and more physicians being approached to join or form ACOs, it is crucial to understand exactly what type of arrangement you are getting into.

Many ACO contracts we see are simply for participation as a provider in the organization.  However, some of the contracts we see require that the physician make a financial investment in the ACO or otherwise require that the physician pay a “pro rata” share of any penalty assessed by CMS.

Current ACO participation and recruiting is something akin to the gold rush of the nineteenth century.  Everyone is rushing to stake a claim in fear of being left out.  Be careful about what kind of an agreement you sign and be sure that you understand the long-term consequences of tying your practice to an as-yet unproven model. To read our previous blog on the first year pioneer ACO results, click here.

If you are approached to join an ACO, or are considering signing a participation agreement/contract with one, make sure to read the contract carefully and consult with an experienced healthcare attorney.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced With Healthcare Business Practices.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physician groups and practices with issues involving establishing, licensing, selling, merging, and intergroup affiliation.  If you are considering establishing an ACO or have been approached to become a participant in one, you can contact The Health Law Firm at (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 or you can visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of MedPAC’s position on ACOs? Have you considered joining an ACO? Why or why not? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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.

Sexual Misconduct by Rogue Employees Can Cost Big Money: Your Responsibility as an Employer

2 Indest-2009-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Johns Hopkins Health System agreed to shell out $190 million to more than 7,000 women and girls, in one of the largest settlements ever in the United States involving sexual misconduct by a physician.

A gynecologist, practicing in a Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Hospital, one of the nation’s most prestigious medical institutions, was accused of using a tiny camera to secretly take videos and pictures of his patients. The doctor worked at the hospital for 25 years, but was fired after admitting to the misconduct and surrendering his recording devices to authorities.

This is a chilling example of how employers can be held responsible for “rogue” employees clearly not working under the consent of the employer. In general, employers have a responsibility to properly supervise their employees’ actions. As in this case, failure to do so can cost millions.

Background of the Case.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a co-worker tipped off Johns Hopkins officials that the gynecologist was wearing a pen around his neck that looked like a camera. In February 2013, an investigation revealed that the gynecologist secretly used the device in question to photograph and videotape thousands of women and girls during pelvic exams. The investigation found that the doctor’s camera captured 1,200 videos and 140 images of his patients, that were then stored on his computer. The doctor was fired in February 2013, and committed suicide days later.

Click here to read the entire article from the Wall Street Journal.

“Rogue” Employee.

In this case, Johns Hopkins states that insurance will cover the entire $190 million settlement. The preliminary agreement is awaiting final approval from a judge. In a statement, Johns Hopkins’ attorney said that the hospital was unaware of the doctor’s conduct, and that he had become a “rogue” employee. The hospital sent out letters of apology to the gynecologist’s patient list, calling the incident a “breach of trust.”

Click here to read all of the statements from Johns Hopkins Medicine in regard to this incident.

Employer’s Responsibility.

The lawsuit against Johns Hopkins alleged that the hospital failed to properly supervise the doctor and should have known of his alleged misconduct.

This situation brings up an interesting point, even though the employee was acting on his own accord, the health system would still likely have been held liable if the case was not settled.

Employers are generally “vacariously liable” for their employees’ actions. The basic idea of vicarious liability or the doctrine of respondeat superior is that an employer is held responsible for the negligent acts of its employee that cause injuries to a third party, provided that such acts were committed during the course of and within the scope of the employment.

To establish that the employee’s conduct was within the scope of employment:

1. The conduct must have occurred substantially within the time and space limits authorized by the employment;
2. The employee must have been motivated, at least partially, by a purpose to serve the employer; and
3. The act must have been of a kind that the employee was hired to perform.

In certain circumstances, including the example of the gynecologist, an employer’s vicarious liability can extend to intentional or even criminal acts committed by the employee.

Vicarious liability is a powerful concept and, as evident by the Johns Hopkins case, can result in an employer being responsible for significant sums of money. Employers should institute policies which curb activities that could be injurious to others. The employer has a responsibility to monitor employees and immediately investigate any suspicious activity.

Despite the fact that Johns Hopkins acted quickly, the hospital system will still most likely be left holding a settlement sum of $190 million for actions of an employee.

Comments?

As an employer, how do you make sure your employees aren’t acting on their own or violating company policies and procedures? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Attorneys Experienced in Health Law and Employment Law.

The Health Law Firm represents both employers and employees in the health care industry in defending allegations of sexual misconduct and other complaints from employees and patients. We represent employers in unemployment compensation hearings, in defending against EEOC (discrimination) complaints, and in defending litigation involving wage and hour disputes, as well as other types of contract or employment litigation. We also can investigate such allegations and attempt to negotiate settlements where warranted. Our attorneys represent individuals and institutions in litigation, civil or administrative, state or federal.

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

Sources:

Linderman, Juliet. “Hopkins Pays $190M in Pelvis Exam Pix Settlement.” Associated Press. (July 22, 2014). From: http://apne.ws/UquXOI

Levitz, Jennifer. “Johns Hopkins Agrees to $190 Million Exam-Photos Settlement.” Wall Street Journal. (July 21, 2014). From: http://online.wsj.com/articles/johns-hopkins-hospital-agrees-to-190-million-exam-photos-settlement-1405961572

Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Statement from Johns Hopkins Medicine on the recent news surrounding Nikita Levy, M.D.” Hopkins Medicine. (July 21, 2014). From: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/Nikita_Levy.html

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

 

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

CMS Extends Waivers under the ACO Shared Savings Program

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

On November 2, 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) promulgated the interim final rule on fraud and abuse waivers for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program. The interim rule can be found at 76 Fed. Reg. 67801. The waiver was granted pursuant to the agency’s authority under the Affordable Care Act, specifically, 42 U.S.C. § 1899(f).

You can read our prior blog postings on the ACO waiver programs here.

Normally, interim final rules are only permitted to remain in effect for a maximum of three years (see 69 Fed. Reg. 78422). CMS regulations require the agency to publish a final rule within three years of a proposed or interim final rule. As the interim final rule is set to expire on November 2, 2014, the agency took advantage of the procedure that allows it to extend the life of the rule for an additional year by publishing a notice explaining the reasons why the regular timeline was not met.

Explanation for the Extension.

CMS stated that it is in the process of preparing a final rule, and allowing the interim final rule to expire would create a great deal of legal uncertainty for ACOs currently participating in the Shared Savings Program. According to CMS, this uncertainty has the potential to disrupt ongoing ACO business, plans, and operations.

Ultimately, CMS has learned through the course of its operation of the Shared Savings Program that certain modifications to the program are necessary. Although these modifications are not yet defined completely, CMS nevertheless believed the prudent course of action was to maintain the status quo during the rule making process.

Check back with us for updates on the process and any further information as the final rule is developed.

Comments?

Have you considered joining an ACO? Why or why not? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced With Healthcare Business Practices.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physician groups and practices with issues involving establishing, licensing, selling, merging, and intergroup affiliation. If you are considering establishing an ACO or have been approached to become a participant in one, you can contact The Health Law Firm at (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 or you can 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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Students Graduating Medical School in Three Years

IMG_5281 fixedBy Danielle M. Murray, J.D.

To combat the nationwide shortage of primary care physicians and the increase in student debt, several medical schools around the country are offering the chance for students to finish school in three years, instead of four. According to a number of news articles, these programs are geared specifically toward medical students looking to practice primary care. The hope is that these programs will be cost less for students and add more primary care physicians to under-served areas.

Schools Across the U.S. Offer Three-Year Degrees.

According to an article in The New York Times, a small number of students are currently participating in the three-year degree program. There are about 16 incoming students in the program at New York University (N.Y.U.), nine students at Texas Tech Health Science Center School of Medicine and an even smaller number are at the Mercer University School of Medicine campus in Georgia. In an interview in The New York Times, the dean at Texas Tech said if this approach works, the schools will open up the program to a larger number of students.

To read the entire New York Times article, click here.

Condensed Medical School Not for Everyone.

According to an article in American Medical News, the condensed medical school eliminates breaks and electives and allows students to begin clerkship training in their second year. This is a full year earlier than the traditional four-year curriculums. In the same article, medical experts warn these accelerated programs are not for everyone, saying it takes a mature person to go through rotations earlier and at a quicker pace.

Students are given a chance to opt out if they decide to pursue a different career path. The American Medical News article explains that at Mercer, students who decide that family medicine is not for them are integrated into the traditional four-year program.

Click here to read the article from American Medical News.

Program Developed to Help with Student Debt and Doctor Shortage.

This three-year program is expected to save a quarter of the cost of medical school, which is more than $49,000 a year in tuition and fees at N.Y.U., according to The New York Times. The money saved helps primary care physicians lessen their debt as they go to work in a lower paying field. This program is expected to attract more students to practice in fields such as pediatrics and internal medicine.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the physician shortage is expected to reach 91,500 physicians by 2020. This program, as it grows, can help alleviate the shortage and bring more doctors to areas in need.

Contact a Health Care Attorney that is Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent medical school students in disputes with their medical schools, internship supervisors, and in dismissal hearings. We have represented residents, interns and fellows in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete integral parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), because of discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation and on other matters.

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 a three-year medical school degree for doctors? Do you think the fourth year of medical school is necessary for primary care physicians? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Hartcocollis, Anemona. “N.Y.U. and Other Medical Schools Offer Shorter Course in Training, for Less Tuition.” The New York Times. (December 23, 2012). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/24/education/nyu-and-others-offer-shorter-courses-through-medical-school.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Krupa, Carolyne. “Med School on the Fast Track: A 3-Year Degree.” American Medical Association. (May 7, 2012). From: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/05/07/prl20507.htm

About the Author: 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.

“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 Physician To Pay $10,000 Fine for Prescribing Painkillers to Undercover Agents

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

On January 24, 2013, an Orlando physician pleaded no contest to racketeering charges for allegedly prescribing pain pills to undercover agents who did not need them. The physician was fined $10,000 and placed on 20 years of probation.

Physician Was One of the First Arrested in Florida’s Prescription-Abuse Crackdown.

According to the DOH complaint, between 2008 and 2009, the physician allegedly saw two undercover agents six times. Each agent complained about minor pain. Both agents were allegedly prescribed pain medication by the physician.

The complaint states that each office visit between the physician and undercover agents was filmed and the audio was taped using hidden surveillance equipment. This is a common tactic used by undercover agents investigating pain management physicians.

Click here to read the entire complaint filed against the physician.

The physician was arrested in 2010. He was charged with racketeering because the six prescriptions were characterized as an “ongoing criminal enterprise.” For this criminal case he just pay a $10,000 fine and was placed on 20 years of probation.

This physician was one of the first doctors to get arrested in Florida’s prescription-abuse crackdown. In July 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Florida law enforcement announced a statewide pill mill bust that spanned several cities in Florida. Seven doctors and seven pain clinic owners were arrested. The raid was dubbed “Operation Pill Street Blues” by the DEA. To read a blog on “Operation Pill Street Blues,” click here.

Physician’s Hopes to Settle DOH Complaint.

According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, the physician hopes to settled the Florida DOH complaint by agreeing to medical probation, which will require him to be monitored by an outside doctor, undergo continuing education and possibly pay a fine.

The physician is expected to continue practicing at his Orlando office.

Click here to read the Orlando Sentinel article.

Legal Tips for Physicians to Manage Pain Patients.

I have represented a number of physicians who have been accused of overprescribing. Some of these were criminal investigations by local law enforcement authorities, such as a county sheriff’s office. Some were investigations by the DEA. Some were investigations by the state licensing agency such as the Florida DOH.

As in this case, it’s common for undercover agents to posing as patients to make appointments with the physician, agents will usually wear a wire device, and give the physician false information.

Click here for some ideas on how physicians might protect themselves from drug-seeking patients. These are tips I give to physicians I advise on this issue.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Providers in DOH Cases.
The Health Law Firm 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.

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.

Comments?

Do you think the physician received a harsh punishment? Is it becoming too hard for Florida doctors to prescribe pain medication? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Stutzman, Rene. “Orlando Doctor Fined $10,000, Placed on 20 Years Probation in Pill Case.” Orlando Sentinel. (January 24, 2013). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-01-24/news/os-roman-mosai-pill-doctor-plea-20130124_1_pain-pills-orlando-doctor-pill-mill

Department of Health v. Roman Mosai, M.D. Case Number 2009-06572. Administrative Complaint. (June 5, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/DOH%20v%20Mosai.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.

Lehigh University Student Sues Grad School for $1.3 Million for Bad Grade

Patricia's Photos 013By George F. Indest, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

While in school, we all received grades that we believed to be unfair or unwarranted. One graduate of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, has taken her bad grade to court. She is suing the university over a “C+” grade. In the lawsuit, the student claims that if not for a zero she was given in participation for a fieldwork class in 2009, she would have gotten a “B.” That grade would have allegedly allowed the student to move on toward finishing her master’s in counseling and human services. The student claims the one bad grade prevented her from attaining her dream to become a licensed professional counselor. Now she is suing the university for $1.3 million, according to an article in The Morning Call.

Click here to read the entire article from The Morning Call.

Was the Grade Given for Unprofessional Behavior or in Retaliation of Student’s Activism?

According to an article in The Morning Call, the student claims she received the low grade because the teacher and the then-director of the degree program conspired to hold her back. The student allegedly claims they were unhappy she had complained after being forced to find a supplemental internship partway through the semester. The student also claims the teacher was biased against her (the student’s) activism for gay and lesbian rights.

Attorneys for the university argue the grade was given to the student in an effort to help her address the skills she needed to be a licensed professional counselor. It’s stated in the complaint that the student expressed unprofessional behavior during class, including outbursts of cursing and crying.

The student ended up graduating from Lehigh University with a master’s degree in human development. She now works as a drug and alcohol counselor, according to The Morning Call. The $1.3 million she is seeking represents the alleged difference in her earnings over her career if she was instead a state-certified counselor.

Can a Judge Change a Grade?

The judge in this case questions whether he has the legal authority to actually change a grade received by a student. He has looked at cases nationally and has been unable to find one in which a judge had done so. The student’s attorney believes the judge has a wide enough latitude to impose “equitable remedies,” according to The Morning Call.

From our experience with such matters, the courts are extremely reluctant to become involved in such academic matters. Absent convincing evidence of discrimination, it is doubtful the courts will decide in the student’s favor.

Legal Ramifications of this Case.

According to an article on Huffington Post, there have been a number of students who have sued their alma maters in grading conflicts. For example, two former Texas Southern University law students filed a lawsuit in 2012 against the university’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law because they received “Ds.” The bad grades led to their dismissal for not maintaining 2.0 GPAs and put a stop to their pursuit of becoming attorneys.

Click here to read more stories of students suing their schools.

Contact a Health Care Attorney that is Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent medical school students in disputes with their medical schools, internship supervisors, and in dismissal hearings. We have represented residents, interns and fellows in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete integral parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), because of discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation and on other matters.

To learn more about our experience in the representation of medical students, click here.

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 about this case? Do you think the judiciary should be injecting itself into the academic process? How do you think this lawsuit will end? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Yates, Riley. “Judge decides quickly after request to dismiss Lehigh lawsuit over C+ grade.” The Morning Call. (February 13, 2013). From: http://articles.mcall.com/2013-02-13/news/mc-lehigh-university-student-sues-over-grade-0213-20130213_1_carr-and-nicholas-ladany-zero-in-classroom-participation-daughter-of-lehigh-finance

Kingkade, Tyler. “Megan Thode, Lehigh University Grad, Files $1.3 Million Lawsuit Over C+ Grade.” HuffingtonPost. (February 13, 2013). From: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/13/megan-thode-lehigh-university-lawsuit_n_2671739.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

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.

You Must Challenge Overpayment Demands from Medicare and Medicaid Audits

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

We have recently received numerous communications from health care professionals, including physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, mental health counselors, durable medical equipment (DME) providers, assisted living facilities (ALFs), group homes, and psychologists, who have been placed on prepayment review after failing to challenge Medicare or Medicaid audit results. The problem is that these providers, once placed on prepayment review, have their payments held up for many months and are often forced out of business. Sometimes it appears that this may actually be the goal of the auditing contractor or agency.

What Happens on Prepayment Review.

Failing to challenge, follow-up on, and appeal any adverse audit determinations can be very detrimental. An error rate in excess of fifteen percent (15%) will usually result in the provider being placed on prepayment review. While on prepayment review, the provider will be required to submit the documentation for medical records by mail to support each claim submitted and have that claim and its supporting medical records’ documentation audited, prior to any claims being paid. Often the auditing agency will come back to the provider again and again to demand additional information and documentation on claims instead of immediately processing them. This can hold up processing of the claim for months. Often the resulting termination of income flow will force the provider out of business. This saves the government lots of money, because the provider has then provided services to Medicare or Medicaid recipients for many months without ever getting paid for it.

These are some of the reasons why we recommend that physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, podiatrists, optometrists, psychologists, mental health counselors, respiratory therapists, and others always hire the Board Certified Health Law Attorney experienced in audits from the very beginning.

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

In one case we know of, a therapist was audited by Medicare. The audit by the Medicare administrative contractor (MAC) requested only 30 records. The therapist provided copies of the records he thought the auditors wanted. He did not number the pages or keep an exact copy of what he provided. The MAC came back and denied one percent (1%) of the claims audited. However, since the amount demanded back by the MAC was only a few thousand dollars, the therapist never hired an attorney and never challenged the results. Instead of retaining legal counsel and appealing the results, the therapist paid the entire amount, thinking that was the easy way out.

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

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

Challenge Improperly Denied or Reduced Claims.

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

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Audit Cycle.

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

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

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


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

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

Comments?

Have you ever been audited? What was the process like? Did you retain legal counsel to help with the process? Was having legal assistance worth it? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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.

Stryker Orthopaedics Facing Dozens of Hip Implant Lawsuits

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

As of February 2013, more than 80 lawsuits have been consolidated into multicounty litigation (MCL) in the Superior Court in New Jersey against Stryker Orthopaedics. Patients are claiming the company’s Rejuvenate and ABG II modular-neck femoral hip systems are defective, according to a number of news sources. The case is on track to becoming one of the largest mass-tort litigations in the country.

In July 2012, Stryker issued a voluntary recall of the Rejuvenate and ABG II modular-neck femoral hip systems. (Click here to see the press release from Stryker.) The company is currently in the process of sending out letters to surgeons urging them to perform clinical exams, such as blood work and cross sectional imaging, on patients who had implants installed. The letters state that Stryker will compensate patients for any tests or work that has to be done.

Click here to read a letter from Stryker to a surgeon.

Unfortunately, for some, this notice is too late. Hundreds of patients are already experiencing pain from the Stryker hip implants, which has forced them to have the implants removed. Even after surgery some patients alleged they have permanent damage and are demanding compensation.

Early Lawsuit Filed from Florida Patient.

According to the Palm Beach Post, one of the first lawsuits against Stryker came from a Boca Raton retiree. Her replacement came with a promise to last for decades. The device allegedly failed within months. Click here to read the patient’s entire story.

According to Drug Watch, most patients who received Stryker’s devices allegedly suffered from muscle, nerve and bone damage as the metallic components of the device rub against each other, causing metallic elements to be released into the body and be absorbed into the blood stream and body tissue. To read the entire article from Drug Watch, click here.

More Lawsuits to Come – Contact an Experienced Health Lawyer.

Since the implants were recently recalled, it’s expected that there are many more cases out there.

Many of the people who have already filed lawsuits claim Stryker marketed and sold a defective device and failed to warn the public, among other issues.

If you or a family member received a Stryker Rejuvenate or ABG II hip implant and suffered complications, you don’t have to face the medical issues alone. Contact an experienced attorney that is board certified in health law. Before you talk about settling, call an attorney.

Stryker Lawsuits Similar to DePuy.

According to an article in The Records, similar mass-tort cases in New Jersey include hundreds of lawsuits filed against DePuy Orthopaedics. More than 2,500 plaintiffs in that case alleged similar complaints due to a metallic hip part. DePuy’s product, ASR, was recalled by the company in August 2010. The cases being heard involve potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements or verdicts. Click here to read the entire article from The Records.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.
If you or a family member received a Stryker Rejuvenate or ABG hip implant and suffered complications you don’t have to face the medical issues alone. Our attorneys are available seven days a week to answer your questions. We can help you decide whether filing a lawsuit is the right option for you. Our 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?

Did you or someone you know have a Stryker Rejuvenate or ABG II modular-neck femoral hip implant? What has been your experience? Did you know about the recall? Are you in need of legal assistance? Please leave comments below.

Sources:

Markos, Kibret. “Mahwah-based Stryker Orthopaedics Faces Hip Implant Lawsuits.” The Records. (February 28, 2013). From: http://www.northjersey.com/mahwah/Over_80_lawsuits_on_hip_implants_filed_against_Mahwah-based_Stryker_Orthopaedics_.html?c=y&page=3

Singer, Stacey. “Artificial Hips Corrode, Poisoning Some Patients, Local Lawsuits Say.” The Palm Beach Post. (January 27, 2013) From: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/lifestyles/health/artificial-hips-corrode-poisoning-some-patients-lo/nT7jf/

Hooks, Beau. “Stryker Hip Replacement Lawsuits.” Drug Watch. (February 2013). From: http://www.drugwatch.com/stryker/lawsuit-hip-replacement/

Guilfoyle, Jeanine. “Stryker Initiates Voluntary Product Recall of Modular-Neck Stems.” Stryker. (July 6, 2012). From: http://www.stryker.com/stellent/groups/corporate/documents/web_prod/147504.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.

First Trial Over DePuy Hip Implants Finished – Plaintiff Receives $8.3 Million

GFI Blog LabelBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D., The Health Law Firm

On March 8, 2013, a California jury ruled that Johnson and Johnson’s DePuy unit designed a defective metal-on-metal ASR XL hip implant and was negligent, according to Bloomberg News. The plaintiff in this case was awarded $8.3 million in compensation damages, after the jury found that the design of the hip implant was the reason behind the plaintiff’s injuries. This is the first trial, out of 10,750 lawsuits filed against DePuy’s ASR XL hip implant. Click here to read more on the first trial against DePuy from Bloomberg News.

In August 2010, DePuy recalled 93,000 ASR XL hip implants after 12 percent (12%) failed within five years. Last year, 44 percent (44%) allegedly failed in Australia within seven years. (Click here to see the press release on the recall from DePuy.) We recently blogged on similar problems with Stryker brand hip implants and similar litigation. Click here to read that blog.

Hip Implants Allegedly Sold with Design Flaws.

During the trial, attorneys for the plaintiff argued DePuy knew that the design flaws in the defective device could cause it to shed particles into patients.

Almost all the patients who filed lawsuits complain that DePuy’s ASR XL hip implants have caused them constant pain and follow-up surgeries, according to Bloomberg News.

DePuy Believes Product is Solid.

During the trial a DePuy spokeswoman said the company believes the ASR XL was properly designed and that the actions they took concerning the product were appropriate.

According to Bloomberg News, an attorney for DePuy said three things have to work well for a successful surgery: a doctor who does his/her job; a device that works properly; and a patient whose body responds to the implant. The attorney went on to say that the bodies of some patients with existing medical conditions did not react well to the implants, and they do not know why.

Second Lawsuit in Court in Illinois.

On March 12, 2013, a second trial began in Illinois. This time a nurse claims her DePuy hip failed after three years and she needed a replacement surgery. Click here to read more on the second trial.

DePuy has a long road ahead. The company faces about 500 lawsuits in state court in Illinois, about three-quarters of the total lawsuits were consolidated in the federal court in Ohio and more than 2,000 are in the state court in California. The next trial is scheduled for May in Ohio federal court.

DePuy Cases Very Similar to Those Against Stryker Orthopaedics.

As of February 2013, more than 80 lawsuits have been consolidated into multicounty litigation (MCL) in the Superior Court in New Jersey against Stryker Orthopaedics. Patients claim the company’s Rejuvenate and ABG II modular-neck femoral hip systems are defective, according to a number of news sources. The case is on track to becoming one of the largest mass-tort litigations in the country.

In July 2012, Stryker issued a voluntary recall of the Rejuvenate and ABG II modular-neck femoral hip systems. (Click here to see the press release from Stryker.) The company is currently in the process of sending out letters to surgeons urging them to perform clinical exams, such as blood work and cross sectional imaging, on patients who had implants installed. Click here to read a letter from Stryker to a surgeon.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Products Liability Cases.

Since the implants were recently recalled, it’s expected that there are many more cases out there.  Many of the people who have already filed lawsuits claim Stryker marketed and sold a defective device and failed to warn the public, among other issues.

If you or a family member received a Stryker Rejuvenate or ABG II hip implant and suffered complications, you don’t have to face the medical issues alone. Contact an experienced attorney that is board certified in health law. Before you talk about settling, please call an attorney. Our 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.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of the DePuy and Stryker lawsuits? Have you experienced complications for a hip implant? Please leave thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Possley, Maurice, Voreacos, David and Pettersson, Edvard. “J&J Must Pay $8.3 Million Over Defective Hip, Jury Says.” Bloomberg. (March 8, 2013). From: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-08/j-j-must-pay-8-3-million-in-suit-over-defective-hip-jury-says.html

Harris, Andrew and Voreacos, David. “J&J Faces Second Trial Over Recalled Hip After Loss.” Bloomberg. (March 12, 2013). From: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-11/j-j-faces-second-trial-over-recalled-hip-after-losing-first-case.html

About the Authors: 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.

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” 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.

Why You Should Not Voluntarily Relinquish Your Medical License or DEA Registration Number

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

I am often contacted by clients who are health professionals or own businesses in the health care industry who have been approached by government agents or investigators regarding possible complaints or charges. In many cases, the individuals involved do not think to consult with an attorney until many months later, and this may be too late to save the business or professional practice involved. This holds for physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacies, pain management clinics, physician assistants, group homes, assisted living facilities (ALFs) and home health agencies, among others.

“Voluntary” Relinquishment Treated the Same as a Revoked License.

We have seen a trend recently, especially here in Florida, of investigators immediately offering the person being investigated the option to voluntarily relinquish his or her professional license. This is offered as an option to being investigated, even in the event of very minor or frivolous complaints. The problem is that once an investigation has been opened, then a voluntary relinquishment of a license is treated the same as if it were revoked for disciplinary reasons. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to ever get a new license under the circumstances.

Furthermore, if the professional has other licenses or similar licenses in other states, then this will be reported to the other states and disciplinary action will probably be initiated against those other licenses.

We have heard horror stories of investigators, accompanied by police or sheriff’s deputies or Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, making all sorts of threats against a health professional in order to intimidate him or her into giving up a DEA registration number or professional license, including medical licenses, nursing licenses and pharmacy licenses.

In the case of such an incident occurring in Florida, the “voluntary” relinquishment must still be presented to the applicable professional Board and voted on at a scheduled meeting, since it is considered to be disciplinary. It may be possible to withdraw the “voluntary” relinquishment before it is voted on, so all may not be lost.

Think Long and Hard About Relinquishing DEA Registration Number.

However, in the case of the DEA, a DEA registration number is considered gone as soon as the “voluntary” relinquishment paper is signed. This is one of the reasons it is crucial to talk with a knowledgeable health law attorney before making such a decision. The ones putting pressure on you to do this will do everything they can to persuade you not to talk to an attorney. But it is your right to do so. Don’t be rushed or intimidated into making a foolish decision you will regret.

We have represented clients attempting to obtain a new DEA registration number or a new professional license many years after they did a voluntary relinquishment. In most cases, it is an extreme uphill battle and is often not successful.

Additional Consequences of Voluntary Relinquishment of a Professional License or DEA Registration Number.

The following are some of the additional consequences of voluntary relinquishment of professional license or DEA number after notice of an investigation:

1. Disciplinary action will be commenced against any other professional licenses in the state.

2. Disciplinary action will be commenced against any similar licenses in other states.

3. The matter will be reported to any national certification boards of which you are a member and they will most likely commence action against you to revoke your national certification.

4. You will be placed on the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) List of Excluded Entities and Individuals (LEIE) and excluded from the federal Medicare Program.

5. You will be terminated from the state’s Medicaid Program, if you are a Medicaid provider.

6. You will be terminated from the panels of any health insurers or managed care plans of which you are a provider member.

There are many other possible repercussions to such actions, so it is extremely important to be prepared if such an event occurs. To prepare you can:

1. Purchase professional licensing defense insurance coverage through Lloyd’s of London, Healthcare Provider’s Service Organization (HPSO), Nurses Service Organization (NSO) or one of the other reputable insurance companies that provide such coverage.

2. Have the names, telephone numbers and other information on good, reputable criminal defense and health law attorneys at hand at all times. Make sure your practice manager has this information as well.

3. Call as soon as an investigator walks in. Don’t wait.

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

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


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

Comments?

Have you ever been approached by government agents or investigators about possible complaints or changes? What was the experience like? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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

 

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

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