Ex-Navy Officer Sentenced to 2.5 Years in Prison For $2 Million Insurance Fraud

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

On October 18, 2023, an ex-Navy officer was sentenced to 30 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in an insurance fraud scheme. The judge tacked on an extra three years of post-release supervision.

The case is U.S. v. Cote et al., case number 3:18-cr-01674, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

The Fraudulent Scheme.

The former Naval officer admitted to conspiring with eight others to defraud the Traumatic Service Members Group Life Insurance Program. This insurance program provides short-term financial support for injured service members.

The former officer allegedly worked closely in the fraud scheme with his then-spouse, who was a Navy nurse, and a Navy doctor.

The scheme consisted of submitting fake or exaggerated injuries to the insurance company to enrich themselves. The ex-Navy officer submitted false claims to the program and encouraged numerous other Navy personnel to submit false claims.

The Navy personnel would submit their medical records to the former officer’s then-wife. As a Naval nurse, she would allegedly falsify the records and the Naval doctor would sign off on the documents. The ex-Navy officer received kickbacks under the guise of a “processing fee.”

The scheme defrauded the insurance program of $2,000,000, and the former Navy officer personally received $400,000, according to the reports on the case. He was sentenced to 30 months for conspiracy to commit wire fraud with three years of supervised release.

What is happening to the others involved in this scheme is not clear at this time. It is doubtful that they will have long, successful Navy careers.

Consult a Health Law Attorney Who Is Familiar with Army, Navy, and Air Force Health Care Professionals and Their Problems.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have represented federal physicians, nurses, dentists, and other health professionals in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, active duty and retired, as well as physicians, nurses, and other health professionals working for the Veterans Administration (VA) in the U.S. and around the world. They represent physicians and other health professionals with the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Public Health Service (PHS). Representation has included disciplinary action, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions, and appeals.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Correll, Diana Stancey. “Former Navy chief sentenced in $2 million insurance fraud scam.” Navy Times. (19 October 2023) https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2023/10/19/former-navy-chief-sentenced-in-2-million-insurance-fraud-scam/

Danney, Micah. “Ex-Navy Officer Gets 2.5 Years For $2.5M Insurance Fraud.” Law360. (18 October 2023) https://www.law360.com/health/articles/1734129?nl_pk=0cbd4c0b-c6c8-416a-9e67-b4affa63b102&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=health&utm_content=2023-10-19&read_main=1&nlsidx=0&nlaidx=14&detected=1

Lehrfeld, Jonathan. “Former sailor pleads guilty in $2 million insurance fraud scam.” Navy Times. (1 November 2022) https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2023/10/19/former-navy-chief-sentenced-in-2-million-insurance-fraud-scam/

United States v. Toups No. 3:18-cr-01674 (S.D. Cal October 16, 2023)

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. Hartley Brooks is a Law Clerk at The Health Law Firm. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: [email protected] or fax them to (407) 331-3030.

“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 © 2024 George F. Indest III, The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form in any medium for any purpose without the written permission of the copyright holder. The copyright holder/creator reserves the right to have his name associated with every part of this work.

By |2024-01-02T15:59:21-05:00January 2, 2024|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Florida Law Aimed at Healthcare Professional Background Screening Passed

Attorney Michael L. SmithBy Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

For several years, many healthcare professionals have been required to pass a Level II background check in order to work in most Florida healthcare facilities licensed by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Many healthcare professionals are also required to pass a Level II background check in order to be licensed by the Florida Department of Health (DOH). In March 2020, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 713, which will add the offenses of battery on a vulnerable adult and battery on a patient or resident of certain healthcare facilities (primarily nursing facilities) as a disqualifying offense. The law took effect on July 1, 2020. Previously, only felony battery and battery on a minor were disqualifying offenses for purposes of the Level II background screening.

More Details on the New Legislation.

A health professional who previously passed the Level II background check may nevertheless be deemed “not eligible” for employment in a licensed health facility on the next Level II background check. This would occur if the practitioner has been found guilty of, regardless of adjudication, or entered a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to battery of a vulnerable adult, or battery on a patient or resident of a healthcare facility. (This is the wording of the statute, not mine.)

A practitioner who is determined to be “not eligible” on a Level II background check due to a disqualifying offense must apply for an exemption from that disqualifying offense, in order to be permitted to work. The practitioner seeking an exemption has the burden of proving that the exemption should be granted. The provider must prove this with clear and convincing evidence, a standard that is higher and stricter than that in a civil trial.

Any health professional seeking an exemption from a disqualifying offense should seek the assistance of an experienced health law attorney familiar with the application process, and the types of evidence that can prove that the health professional should be granted an exemption.

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, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com

About the Author: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

AHCA Exemptions From Employment Disqualification for Florida Health Professionals

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

Florida law requires that health professionals (including physicians, nurses, physical therapists, nurse practitioners, professional counselors, and social workers, among others) obtain a Level 2 background screening before working in a facility licensed by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).  This includes third and fourth-year medical students, resident physicians, and nursing students.  Often an arrest from years ago, sometimes decades ago, will be located during this screening.  A letter stating that the individual is disqualified from employment or requiring an explanation may result.  What do you do?

Level 2 Background Screens.

A level two background screening requires your fingerprints.  It is done by checking the National Criminal Information System (NCIS) database maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  The NCIS receives reports, arrests, investigations, and criminal actions from all U.S. law enforcement agencies and the military.

It is much broader than a Level 1 background screening and covers all states and U.S. jurisdictions.

Problems and Incomplete Reports.

Although agencies that report arrests and investigations are also supposed to report the outcomes to the NCIS, they often fail to do this.  Therefore there may be incomplete information in the report that is received.  An arrest may be entered, but the dismissal or other resolution of the case may be omitted.  This will cause problems because you will have to explain what happened and produce court documents to prove it.  For example, we had a nurse-client whose Level 2 background screening came back with an arrest for a drunk and disorderly charge, in New Orleans, at Mardi Gras when she was 18 years old, over 30 years prior.  The courthouse had since been flooded during a hurricane, and all records were destroyed.

Another problem lies in military records.  Reports from The Army Criminal Investigative Division  (CID). Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OIS) and Navy Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) are often received and entered into the system, even if the investigation concerned an administrative infraction, a minor infraction of regulations, or resulted in an Article 15 non-judicial punishment (NJP), an administrative proceeding which is not a criminal conviction.  Civilian authorities often mistakenly interpret Article 15 non-judicial punishment (NJP) as a “conviction,” but U.S. Supreme Court cases specifically state that it is not.

Certain Criminal Offenses Will Disqualify Health Professionals from Employment.

Many criminal offenses may be returned on a Level 2 background screening which initially appears to disqualify the individual from being employed in an AHCA-licensed facility, especially where the patients will be elderly, disabled, or children.  In this case, you will get a letter back from AHCA and/or your employer advising you that you are disqualified from employment, but you have thirty (30) days to provide documents to show what really happened, show the charges were dismissed, show that you have completed any sentence you received or show you have been fully rehabilitated.

We recommend that you obtain the services of an experienced health attorney in completing the forms and obtaining and producing the documents needed.  You should contact an attorney at the earliest sign that this might occur.  You will need certified copies of court documents and probation documents, as well as character reference letters.

The fact that you received prior screening when you applied for a license or before you began school is irrelevant to this process.  You will have to follow the procedure, anyway.  In the case of an actual guilty plea, a plea of nolo contendere (no contest), finding of adjudication withheld (deferred), or finding of guilty, you will have to request an exemption or a waiver from AHCA so that you may be cleared to be employed.

The Health Law Firm Attorneys have experience in Complying with AHCA Requirements and in Foiling Requests for Exemptions or Waivers.

The attorneys at The Health Law Firm have experience completing the petitions and providing the documents and explanations that AHCA requires in such matters.

Below is a copy of a decision letter from AHCA showing a successful result in such a case.

Exemptions for Employment Disqualification for Health Professionals

For more information, read our recent blog on Florida’s legislation on background checks for health professionals.

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, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare providers. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

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

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620.


“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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

List of Florida Nursing Schools Issuing Phony Diplomas in Operation Nightingale Increases to 19

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

A recent announcement by the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission (NCQAC), now known as the Washington State Board of Nursing, has listed 19 Florida schools that it states are or were involved in the fraudulent scheme investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as “Operation Nightingale.”


What Are the Names of the 19 Phony Florida Nursing Schools?

The 19 schools that NCQAC states were involved in taking nursing students’ money and issuing fake transcripts are:

Carleen Health Institute
Carleen Home Health School II
Ideal Professional Institute, Inc.
Jay College of Health LLC
Med-Life Institute – West Palm Beach
Med-Life Institute of South Florida
Med-Life Institute School of Nursing
Palm Beach School of Nursing
Quisqueya Health Care Academy
Quisqueya School of Nursing
Sacred Heart International Institute Inc.
Siena College of Health
Siena College of Health II LLC
Siena Education Center LLC
Sigma College
Sigma Institute of Health Careers
Sunshine Academy
Techni-Pro Institute
The Enfimye Institute

Some of the “newer” names on the list are owned and operated by some of the same fraudsters involved in the original “Gang of Six.” For example, Jay College of Health, LLC, was owned or operated by the notorious Johanah Napolean, who has been indicted and has been forced to forfeit millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains to the federal government. In reality, we believe there are many more than this.

How Many Have Been Caught and Convicted to Date?

For a list of the individuals who have been involved in the scam and who have been convicted through September 28, 2023, click here.

How Many More Phony Florida Nursing Schools Are There?  Plenty!

We receive calls several times a week from nursing students who have attended “nursing schools” in Florida who state that heir tuition and fees have been taken and they have completed all courses and activities the school required to obtain a diploma but:

a.  The school will not give them their diploma or transcripts or
b.  The school is requiring them to pay more and take more courses than promised or
c.  The school will not approve them to take the NCLEX examination to get a license or
d.  The school and its owners have disappeared, and they can’t get a transcript to transfer.

Why Is All of This Fraud Occurring in Florida?

Why does all of this fraud seem to be occurring in Florida?  It probably is not all of the fraud, only most of the fraud.  We have also heard about phony nursing schools doing business in other states.  But the vast majority of it seems to be in Florida.

Could this be because Florida prides itself in sheltering criminals and con men?  Probably.

Is this because Florida regulatory agencies do not bother to monitor and regulate the schools they approve as they are supposed to.  Most definitely.

Is this because Florida allows the use of shell companies and corporations to routinely defraud people so that the owners can disappear with their money without any consequences?  You know it!

Why do you think the industries of Medicare fraud, Medicaid fraud, and healthcare fraud in general are doing so well here in Florida?

Why doesn’t Florida do something about it?  Because we would lose all of that stolen income that helps support the rich and powerful here, that’s why.

Florida’s history of cons, scams, and fraud goes way back to the real estate salespeople selling Florida swamp land to out-of-state yokels who then moved here only to find the property they purchased was underwater, literally.  And with Cuba only a boat ride away and many friendly Caribbean and South American countries only a direct plane flight away, suitcases full of cash can be spirited out of the country with little trouble.

Are you the victim of a phony nursing school not on the list?

Are you the victim of a phony nursing school not on the list?  Don’t call us; we can’t do anything about these criminals doing this.

Instead, you might consider calling the FBI and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), which is working hand-in-hand with the FBI and the various state nursing boards on these matters.  The NCSBN can get the word out quickly to the states involved.  Tell them you have been victimized by another school that should be part of “Operation Nightingale” and want to file a complaint.

The telephone number for the NCSBN is (312) 525-3600 or (888) 435-8242and ask for the Nursing Regulation Division, Nursing Education Section, or send an e-mail to [email protected] or send a written letter explaining the problem to:

National Council of State Boards of Nursing
Attn: Nurisng Regulation Division, Education Section
111 E. Wacker Drive, Suite 2900
Chicago, IL 60601.

The FBI’s main hotline for reporting possible criminal activity is (800) 225-5324, file a complaint or tip at https://tips.fbi.gov/home. Alternatively, and perhaps better, you can contact the Miami FBI Office, which is the one handling the Operation Nightingale investigation:

FBI Miami Dade Field Office
2030 S.W. 145th Avenue
Miramar, FL 33027
miami.fbi.gov
Phone: (754) 703-2000.

To see the Washington State NCQAC press release naming the 19 schools above, click here.

To see the original Department of Justice Press Release on Operation Nightingale, click here.

Click here to read one of our prior blogs on Operation Nightingale to learn even more.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Investigations Against Nurses and Nursing Students.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to nurses, nursing students, and ARNPs in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensure defense representation, investigation representation, Department of Health investigations, DOJ investigations, Board of Nursing investigations, formal and informal administrative hearings, emergency suspension orders, emergency restriction orders and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.


Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm.
The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: [email protected] or fax them to (407) 331-3030. View a list of open positions here.

“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 © 2023 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2023-11-13T14:29:41-05:00November 13, 2023|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Iowa Appellate Court Reverses $6 Million Nursing Home Negligence Decision Because of Hearsay Testimony

Author HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A, LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Hartley Brooks, Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm
On June 21, 2023, the Iowa Court of Appeals overturned the verdict in a nursing home negligence case that awarded $6 million in compensation and damages to the plaintiff. The case was reversed and remanded for a new trial because the trial court judge admitted inadmissible hearsay testimony into evidence. The testimony being appealed was that of staff members who claimed to have heard “reports” and “rumors” of alleged abuse by a nurse on staff toward not only the resident in question but other residents.
Hearsay in Iowa law is defined as “a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” Click here to read the Iowa Rules of Evidence concerning hearsay. This is the same definition used by the federal and most other courts.
Essentially, hearsay is when someone repeats something they heard from another person and presents it as if they know it to be true. Hearsay is often equated to rumor. Hearsay is not admissible due to the nature of speculation required in making such a statement, the fact that such statements are inherently unreliable and that the actual witness is not in court to answer questions about it. Thus there is no way for a party or the judge to test the credibility of the actual witness or determine facts that may have influenced the observation and statement.
Hearsay is considered unreliable because the person who knows what happened (who saw what happened or heard what happened) is not to be questioned about it. Therefore, there is no way to know what really happened for sure.
Details of the Case. 
In this case, the estate of the former nursing home resident, who succumbed to her injuries after a fall in the nursing home, claimed adult abuse and that negligence caused a wrongful death. In its defense, the nursing home focused on the alleged abuse by a nurse on the staff. The statements challenged in the appeal included testimony made by six nursing home staff members that residents, other unnamed employees, and an Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals surveyor told them that the nurse in question had been physically rough with and swore at residents.
The employees testifying did not actually witness any such incidents. They were only testifying about someone else’s words (“hearsay”). 
The trial court admitted these statements, allegedly not for their truth, but in an attempt to show that abuse had been reported and there had not been any follow-up investigation. The appellate court stated that this was not a valid reason to admit inadmissible hearsay into evidence because the estate must prove that the conduct existed to prevent the jury from engaging in rampant speculation based on unreliable hearsay evidence.
People in today’s society, yes, even judges, often forget this basic principle of law. With all of the fabricated lies being put out as “news” on some news channels, Internet rumors running rampant, and politicians making egregiously false statements, it’s often hard to remember how to distinguish a fact from an unreliable rumor or hearsay.
This is one of the problems with hearsay. It is often just gossip and rumor, which change from person to person. Especially egregious conduct, criminal activity, and salacious acts become increasingly exaggerated with each retelling. The founding fathers in English and American law realized the inherently unreliable nature of such “evidence.”
Under the hearsay rule, the Court of Appeals agreed with the nursing home that the statements being challenged were inadmissible hearsay evidence that influenced the jury’s verdict. Due to this, the court reversed the verdict and remanded the case for a new trial. To read the court’s opinion in full, click here.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.
The Health Law Firm routinely represents health professionals and health facilities in civil and administrative litigation. We also represent physicians, nurses, and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, board hearings, inspections, and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board-certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.  We represent medical students, interns, resident physicians, and fellows in disputes with their graduate medical education (GME) programs.  We represent clinical professors and instructors in contract disputes, employment disputes, clinical privileges matters, and other disputes with their employers.  We often act as the physician’s personal counsel in medical malpractice litigation.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Source: 
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. Hartley Brooks is a law clerk with the health law firm. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.
Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified attorneys interested in health law practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a member of The Florida Bar and are interested, forward a cover letter and your resume to: [email protected] or fax to: (407) 331-3030.
“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 © 2023 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Medications and Other Substances that Mimic Prohibited Drugs on Urinalysis Drug Tests (Part 1 of a Blog Series)

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
In representing nurses and other licensed health professionals, we constantly discuss positive drug screenings, usually from employer-ordered drug testing, with our clients.  These clients include nurses, pharmacists, dental professionals, mental health counselors, therapists, etc.  Often these individuals need to remember that if they apply for a job with a new employer or are working for a large corporation or the government, they are subject to employer-ordered drug screenings.  Most problems arise when the professional has applied to a hospital or a placement agency for work in a hospital and they must submit to a pre-employment drug test.
The client often contends that the result is a false positive and that some other substance must be responsible for it.

A positive result for any drug for which you do not have a valid prescription from a physician, including marijuana, will cause you to be eliminated from consideration for a new job or terminated from a current position and a complaint against your professional license, which could cause you to lose it.  We are routinely called on to defend such situations.

Series of Blogs to Discuss Substances that Can Mimic Prohibited Drugs on Drug Tests.

In the years I have been doing this, I have encountered many cases in which other substances have caused a positive result for a prohibited substance on a drug screening test.

In this series of blogs, I intend to discuss some of the substances scientifically shown to cause false positives on employer-ordered drug screening tests.  This is the first in the series.

Over-the-Counter Medications Mimicking Amphetamines on Drug Tests.

Following is a discussion of substances that can cause a false positive for amphetamines on a urinalysis drug test.  This material comes from an article in Case Reports in Psychiatry published in 2013. (Ref. 1)
Many prescription pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter (OTC) medications have been previously reported in the literature to cause a false-positive result for amphetamines on urine drug screens. Many OTC medications have been reported in scientific literature to produce false positives for amphetamines on urine drug screenings, chiefly antihistamines.

The OTC medications that have been documented to and are well known as causing false positives for amphetamines on drug tests include nasal decongestants, Vicks inhaler, MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxy methamphetamine;  commonly known as ecstacy, molly, mandy or X), and pseudoephedrine.  (Refs. 1-5)  Some of these are prohibited medications that cannot be prescribed and are only available as “street drugs” such as MDMA.

Prescription Medications Documented as Mimicking Amphetamines.

Prescription medications known to have mimicked amphetamines on testing include antipsychotics and antidepressants.  (Refs. 1 & 2)
The prescription medications known to cause false-positive amphetamine urine drug screen include fluoxetine, selegiline, ranitidine, trazodone, nefazodone, brompheniramine, phenylpropanolamine, chlorpromazine, promethazine, ephedrine, methamphetamine, and labetalol.  (Refs. 2-5)  However, the fact that the individual taking the drug test might have a prescription for one of these might cause the employer to disqualify the employee or potential employee from consideration for the job.
Bupropion (an atypical antidepressant that inhibits norepinephrine and dopamine re-uptake), is a drug used to treat depression and smoking cessation, but may also be used off-label to treat ADHD.  It has also been documented as causing false positive results for amphetamines on drug screenings.  (Ref. 6)
The drug atomoxetine has metabolites that are similar to those of amphetamines (phenylpropan-1-amine verses phenyl-propan-2-amine).  This could also result in a false positive on a urine drug screen.  (Ref. 1)

 

Other Discussions in Future Blogs.

In future blogs, I intend to discuss false positive claims associated with use of ibuprofen, amoxicillin, coca leaf tea, poppy seeds and other common substances and medications.  Stay tuned.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys in Matters Involving PRN or IPN.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, nurses and other health professionals in matters involving PRN or IPN. Our attorneys also represent health providers in Department of Health investigations, before professional boards, in licensing matters, and in administrative hearings.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

References:

1. Fenderson JL, Stratton AN, Domingo JS, Matthews GO, Tan CD. Amphetamine positive urine toxicology screen secondary to atomoxetine. Case Rep Psychiatry. 2013;2013:381261. doi: 10.1155/2013/381261. Epub 2013 Jan 30. PMID: 23424703; PMCID: PMC3570929.
(Accessed on May 20, 2023.)
2. Brahm NC, Yeager LL, Fox MD, Farmer KC, Palmer TA. Commonly prescribed medications and potential false-positive urine drug screens. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2010 Aug 15;67(16):1344-50. doi: 10.2146/ajhp090477. PMID: 20689123.
3. Vincent EC, Zebelman A, Goodwin C, Stephens MM. Clinical inquiries. What common substances can cause false positives on urine screens for drugs of abuse? J Fam Pract. 2006 Oct;55(10):893-4, 897. PMID: 17014756.
4. Rapuri SB, Ramaswamy S, Madaan V, Rasimas JJ, Krahn LE. ‘Weed’ out false-positive urine drug screens. Current Psychiatry. 2006;5(8):107–110. [Google Scholar]
5. Moeller KE, Lee KC, Kissack JC. Urine drug screening: practical guide for clinicians. Mayo Clin Proc. 2008 Jan;83(1):66-76. doi: 10.4065/83.1.66. Erratum in: Mayo Clin Proc. 2008 Jul;83(7):851. PMID: 18174009.
6. Reidy L, Walls HC, Steele BW. Crossreactivity of bupropion metabolite with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays designed to detect amphetamine in urine. Ther Drug Monit. 2011 Jun;33(3):366-8. doi: 10.1097/FTD.0b013e3182126d08. PMID: 21436763.

 

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm.  The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: [email protected] or fax them to (407) 331-3030.

“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 © 2023 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.
By |2023-05-23T13:24:18-04:00October 23, 2023|Categories: Medical Education Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Helpful Tips Healthcare Professionals Should Be Following for Professional Correspondence

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

I review many letters, e-mails, memoranda, and other types of correspondence prepared by my physician and nurse clients during my legal representation. These come to me often because of a dispute with a hospital, their peers, an insurance company, a lawsuit filed by a patient, a complaint being investigated by the licensing agency, an investigation of an incident, or another serious matter.

In many cases, way too many cases, such correspondence is unprofessional and defeats the purpose of the reason you are sending the correspondence. Sometimes the “letter” is so bad, that it will be disregarded by the reader to whom it was directed. I have seen this from doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, owners of health care businesses, and many, many other highly educated professionals who really should know better.

When I receive a “letter” that has no return address on it, no date on it is not addressed to a person or organization, has typographical errors and misspellings, does not have a paragraph, or is not signed, I cringe.

When such documents are dictated and transcribed by a professional medical transcriptionist, they are usually properly formatted and many of the errors I note below are avoided. However, when the health professional types (or word-processes) his or her own document or, worse yet, hand writes it, this is when I see the most errors.

To avoid these errors that make your correspondence and written communications look unprofessional, follow these tips.

Remember Why You Are Writing.

Remember, the basic purpose of your correspondence is to communicate ideas effectively. In many cases, it will be to invoke your legal rights in certain situations (such as an appeal or a hearing request). Sometimes, it will attempt to persuade your hospital, peers, or employer to take a certain action or refrain from a certain action. Remember that your correspondence is often the first impression that the other side will have of you. Do you want it to be an impression that you are sloppy, lazy, unprofessional, not knowledgeable, uneducated, or confused?

Whether you are communicating in a letter or via e-mail, these rules still hold true. In many (if not all) situations involving legal proceedings or legal issues, it is probably best to communicate via a letter sent by U.S. mail or some other reliable delivery service (e.g., Federal Express, Airborne Express, DHL, etc.). Even if you are transmitting your information via e-mail, it is my suggestion to prepare it in the form of a paper letter (if your e-mail is not set up to insert your letterhead and signature block automatically) and then scans it in and send it electronically.

I discourage legal communications via e-mail in serious matters because e-mails are often difficult to obtain, isolate, and authenticate when you need them for hearings. Additionally, they are rarely secure, often available to many others who shouldn’t see them, and easily susceptible to being accidentally sent to others who should not see them at all.

Horror Stories of Unprofessional Correspondence.

Why do I feel this article is necessary? Because of all the truly horrible correspondence I have seen written by allegedly highly educated professionals, mostly physicians and nurses. That’s why!

True “Horror Stories” About Unprofessional Correspondence

Here are just a few examples of true “horror stories” regarding unprofessional correspondence:

The physician never wrote a separate response to any charges or allegations made against him after receiving letters from the Medical Staff advising him he was under investigation. He would just hand write (scribble, actually) his remarks on the bottoms and in the margins of whatever document was sent to him and then send it back.

A nurse practitioner was required to respond to serious negligence charges, resulting in an adverse outcome for a patient. On unlined paper, she hand-wrote a response letter that was not addressed to anyone, not dated, not signed, and did not state who was sending it. There was no name or signature on it.

A physician was required to provide his analysis of a patient’s case for peer review purposes within the hospital. His typed letter of three full pages, single-spaced, contained one long paragraph. I used to work for a Medical Corps Admiral when I was a Navy JAG Corps officer. The Admiral, a very educated and proper professional, would just glance at such correspondence and state: “I can tell this doctor doesn’t have any idea what he is talking about.” Failing to follow good correspondence procedures will show others your thoughts lack organization and cohesion. A document that lacks organization reflects a mind that lacks organization.

A health professional was required to complete an application for clinical privileges. He wrote all of the answers by hand, not even staying within the lines on the form, writing over the questions printed on the form and around in the margins of the application. This is what he signed and turned in to the credentials committee at the hospital. Believe me, this did not look very professional.

A physician was requested to respond to a medical staff inquiry from the hospital. Her response came back typed (actually word-processed) in a type font that was 22 characters per inch (cpi), almost too small to read. Perhaps she was just trying to save a sheet of paper. But many of us would have had to pull out a magnifying glass or put on reading glasses in order to be able to read it. Once it is scanned or faxed and then photocopied or re-scanned and re-faxed several times, it will be completely illegible. If you are actually trying to communicate your ideas, make your correspondence easier to read, not harder to read. This is my cardinal rule.

A dentist was notified of a pending complaint investigation being opened against her dental license. She wrote her response to the charges back to the investigator, without using any business address or title, and began her response statement with “Dear Sharon,”. Do not treat others informally, especially in professional or formal situations. You will be deemed to be unprofessional when you do so. The investigator is not your friend, your sister, or your mommy. Do not address her by her first name. Do not end the salutation with a comma, like you would a love letter. End it with a colon like you would a professional business letter.

30 Tips for Good Professional Correspondence.

Here are some pointers on professional communications that should be followed in all of your professional written communications about business, professional or legal matters, even in e-mails. Please note, that the terms below in quotation marks have certain defined meanings. If you don’t know what these terms mean, look them up.

1. Always remember that the reason you are sending the correspondence is to attempt to effectively and accurately communicate your position and ideas. If you are trying to make your message indecipherable or difficult to understand, ignore these tips. If you are trying to come across as someone who doesn’t give a damn about how he or she is perceived, ignore these tips. If you want to come across as unprofessional, ignore these tips.

2. Make sure you include your complete and correct “return address” and contact information if you are not using your own letterhead. This includes your physical or mailing address, telephone number, telefax number and e-mail address, so that the other party knows exactly how to reach you. In cases where you already have this on your letterhead, be sure to use your letterhead (but only your own). Also, it appears more professional to create a letterhead with the information in it and to use your new letterhead instead of having a professional business letter with a typed “return address.” However, a typed “return address” is better than none.

3. Don’t use someone else’s letterhead. Don’t use your hospital, medical group or institutional letterhead for your own personal communications, unless you are the owner. Use your personal letterhead (see above), instead. If you are being accused of poor utilization review, unprofessional conduct, or personal use of hospital (or company) property, then using someone else’s letterhead just helps prove the charge against you.

4. Date your correspondence. Date your correspondence. Date your correspondence. Nothing shows a lack of professionalism and lack of attention to detail as sharply as undated correspondence. It will certainly be difficult to prove when your letter or document was sent if you do not have a date on it. A year or two later, it may be completely impossible to do so. In case I forgot to mention it, be sure to date your correspondence.

5. Use titles or honorifics. In the “business address” of your correspondence, always use the complete name of the person to whom you are writing (if known) together with that person’s honorific or professional title (e.g., Mr., Ms., Dr., Nurse, Prof., Dean, etc.) This shows both respect and professionalism.

6. Always use the complete mailing address, including the title, of the person to whom you are sending the letter. The business address of your correspondence includes not only the person’s name and honorifics but the title or position and division within the institution or organization to which you are sending it. In the case of large organizations, you should include the building and suite or room numbers and any internal routing codes, designations, “mail stops” or other organizational routing codes, that the agency or business you are writing requires to route its mail internally. Large organizations, especially government agencies and insurance companies, all have large mail rooms that sort and route all mail the organization receives from any source. Correct internal routing codes will help ensure that your correspondence gets to the correct person or official in a timely manner. Often today companies scan or have all e-mails saved by a clerk, as well

7. Always use a salutation. This is self-explanatory but see below.

8. In your “salutation,” always use the person’s last name with a title or honorific. It is customary to use the term “Dear” in a salutation in formal writing, so this is permitted. But you may leave it out. For example, “Dear Secretary Jones:” or “Secretary Jones:” or “Dear Dr. Johnson:” or “Dr. Johnson:”; all of these are correct. Never refer to the person by that person’s first name in any type of formal correspondence or correspondence that anyone else might read. Never say: “Dear Sue:” or “Sharon:”. Even if you know these people well enough to call them by their first names, don’t do it in this situation; it’s unprofessional and may be interpreted as “talking down” to the person.

9. Always end your “salutation” with a colon, not a comma. A comma is only used in informal communications to those you know well or socially, such as a letter to your mother or a note to your girlfriend. Unless this is your mother or your girlfriend to whom you are writing, use a colon. For example, “Dear Secretary Jones,” or “Dear Sue,” is incorrect. “Dear Secretary Jones:” or “Ms. Smith:” is correct.

10. Type (or word-process) your correspondence or have it typed (or word-processed) for you; this is one reason transcriptionists, secretaries and clerks have jobs. Do not send handwritten letters in formal or professional matters. Do not write on the other person’s correspondence or documents and send them back. Prepare and send a professional-looking letter or e-mail, even if you must pay someone to type it for you (and if you are sending an e-mail, I know you can type a little bit yourself, anyway). To do otherwise is to show laziness, disrespect and unprofessionalism.

11. Always use a type font in your correspondence (including e-mails) of at least 12 points (10 characters per inch). Do not use small, difficult-to-read type fonts, for example, the size of the type font that most e-mail software defaults to. Smaller type fonts than 12 points become difficult to read, especially if scanned/rescanned, faxed/refaxed, or copied/recopied. Change the default font in your e-mail software or computer word processing software, if necessary. You can do this, regardless of how difficult it may seem at first; I know you can do it because I can do it. Make your professional correspondence easier to read, not more difficult to read.

12. Never use unprofessional-looking type fonts for your communications. Stay away from script-type fonts, italics, or novelty-type fonts. These are notoriously more difficult to read and look unprofessional. You are not publishing a flyer for a high school bake sale. Times New Roman, CG Times, and similar type fonts are more professional looking and easier for a person to read. Use Courier or Letter Gothic type fonts if necessary.

13. Keep the correspondence to which you are responding unmarked. One reason to not write on or mark up the other person’s documents or correspondence is that you may need them as evidence in a court of law or a hearing someday. Nothing looks less professional than a document you are trying to use as evidence when a different person has made handwritten marks all over it. The impression is similar to one in which a child with a box of crayons has gotten to it. You don’t want this or need this. Show respect and self-control. Keep the other side’s documents pristine. They will look much better that way as your “Exhibit 1” in the court hearing.

14. Use a good concise, descriptive reference line or subject line (often called the “re:” line). Make it a very brief summary. State what the content of your letter is actually about. State if you are responding to a letter or document that you received from the “addressee” (the person to whom you are addressing your correspondence) of your letter.

15. Include the recipient’s routing information. If the intended receiver of your letter or correspondence (the “addressee”) included reference numbers, file numbers, account numbers, case name and numbers, a policy number, an investigation number, a routing number, or other similar information on its letter to you, repeat these back in the reference line of your correspondence. This will help make sure that your correspondence gets routed to the correct file and recipient more timely. This is especially crucial in large organizations and government agencies.

16. The contents of the body of your correspondence should be easy to read and easy to understand. To this end, be sure to use short sentences and short paragraphs. Each paragraph should convey one idea. Use headers and section titles, if necessary, to organize your correspondence, especially if it is lengthy. Remember, headings within your letter that help to organize it are like street signs in a busy city. They will really help any subsequent reader (and this may be a judge, a jury or a Board of Mediciney) to navigate his, her or its way through your letter.

17. Be sure to skip a line between each paragraph and, preferably, indent the first line of each paragraph. [Note: Some writers will tell you not to indent the first line of each paragraph in professional correspondence; however, I feel that this makes the correspondence more difficult to read, so I encourage indenting or tabbing in on the first line of each paragraph.] This makes it easier on the reader and more likely that your ideas will not get lost in a crowd of words.

18. Keep your paragraphs short and to the point. Nothing turns readers off as much as a single lengthy paragraph written from margin to margin taking up the whole page. I suppose some people may have never been taught what paragraphs are. However, I am willing to bet that most were. These rare used even in foreign countries.

19. In longer correspondence, use section headings (in bold or underlined) or headings for each issue, to better organize it. Think of these as road signs on a long road. They help the reader to know where he or she is at any given time, and where he or she is going.

20. When using headers, skip two lines before the header and one line after the header. This helps to set off the new section and header and show a definite division.

21. Keep your language objective and professional. Do not ever use profanity [Oops, I just went back and removed the word “damn” I used above.] Do not ever use any comments even remotely resembling racism, sexism, or antisemitism or prejudice. Do not be sarcastic.

22. Be direct and concise in your language. To the greatest extent possible, use the same terminology and wording that the other party uses, or has used, or the wording used in whatever statutes, regulations, policies, procedures, instructions, or governing documents with which you are dealing (but also, be sure you know what the words and terms mean).

23. If you intend to request a formal hearing say “I request a formal hearing.” If you want a full refund, state: “I request a full refund.” If you want to appeal the decision, state: “I want to appeal the decision.” Don’t be wishy-washy or vague. For example, don’t say, “I am looking for an attorney to file an appeal for me,” when what you mean to say is “I appeal the decision” or “I request an appeal.” Say precisely what you want. Don’t be vague or leave the reader guessing.

24. If there are any deadlines by which you must respond, be aware of these and make sure your response is received by that date. Remember “received” means “actually received” by the correct person (or office) at the correct address. It does not mean “mailed by” or “postmarked by.” If you have correspondence or a document to which a response must be received by a ceratin date, you need to make sure it is actually in the receiving person’s hands by that date, even if you must hand carry it to that person. I will usually send important documents by two different methods, in case the mail man dies, the courier service’s plan crashes or the e-mail server goes down.

25. In closing your correspondence conclude by stating what action is next, whether this is action you intend to take, or action you are requesting the other party to take. For example: “I expect to hear from you within ten days as to whether you grant my request or not.” “Please contact me with hearing dates within the next fourteen days.” “I will forward you a refund within five days.” “I will send you my records within five days.”

26. Always advise the other party of exactly how they should contact you; provide multiple means of contacting you. If you are very busy or have an assistant who is authorized to act for you, provide that person’s name and contact information to use as an alternate, as well. Then be available to receive the return communication(s). Don’t give telephone numbers you never answer. Don’t provide an incorrect address (e-mail or physical).

27. In dealing with dates and deadlines, remember that ten days is ten days; fourteen days is fourteen days, twenty-one days is twenty-one days. Made up rules such as “weekends and holidays don’t count” are just that, made up (outside of formal court proceedings). If the other party has given you “fourteen days to respond,” this means fourteen days from the date on the letter, unless specifically stated otherwise. Fourteen days means fourteen days, unless it is specifically stated otherwise (e.g., “you have fourteen business days to reply”).

28. Include a professional closing above your signature. This should be “Sincerely,” “Sincerely yours,” “Respectfully,” “Respectfully submitted,” or some other professional closing. Do not conclude with “Love,” or “Very truly yours,” despite the tradition.

29. In your signature block, include your full typed name, with credentials and title or position listed. For example, your full name, followed by your degree and other credentials (e.g., “John J. Smith, M.D., F.A.A.C.P.”) should be on the line immediately below where you sign. Next should be listed your position within your organization (if applicable) (e.g., “Chair, Pediatrics Department”).

30. If you have enclosures, list them at the end of the correspondence, giving a brief or shortened description and numbering them (this is slightly different from military correspondence). List and number them in the order you discuss them in your correspondence. Be sure they are properly organized, labeled, and divided, especially if any are lengthy.

Following these simple rules, most people learn in middle school will help to keep your correspondence professional looking and in conformity with what most professionals see on a daily basis. If your correspondence is professional-looking, people will be more likely to think you are a professional and to treat you professionally.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law 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, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

DOJ Files False Claims Suit Against Nursing Homes Over “Substandard Services and Nonexistent” Care

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

On June 15, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it has sued three nursing homes in Ohio and Pennsylvania, citing their “grossly substandard skilled nursing services.” The False Claims Act (FCA) complaint against the American Health Foundation (AHF), its affiliate AHF Management Corporation, and three nursing homes alleges the facilities fraudulently billed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for often “nonexistent care.”

According to the complaint, all three AHF nursing homes not only provided substandard nursing home care services that failed to meet required standards of care but also did not maintain adequate staffing levels between 2016 and 2018.

Click here to view the complaint filed by the DOJ in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

FCA Violations For “Substandard or Nonexistent Care.”

The government alleged AHF Management and its entities violated the FCA stemming from reimbursements for “grossly substandard” care provided at the Cheltenham, Wilmington Place, and Samaritan nursing homes.

“The defendants knowingly submitted, or caused the submission of, false claims to Medicare and Medicaid for nursing home care and services that were blatantly substandard or nonexistent,” the complaint read. “The Medicare and Medicaid programs provided reimbursement for the claims, but these payments were by mistake as CMS didn’t know the true and full extent of the defendants’ failure to provide patients with proper treatment and care.”

Alleged Patient Conditions and Mistreatment.

Examples of the appalling conditions described in the complaint included housing elderly and medically vulnerable patients in “pest-infested” buildings whose belongings were often stolen; giving residents unnecessary medications, including antibiotic, anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety, and hypnotic drugs; subjecting residents to verbal abuse; neglecting to provide residents with activities or stimulation, and failing to provide needed psychiatric care.

Additionally, the complaint outlines the suicide of a resident who was admitted with a history of self-harm and was later hospitalized after slashing his wrists but still was not provided psychiatric services. Tragically, just weeks after readmission, the resident committed suicide by hanging himself from a bedsheet in a shower room, justice officials said.

“Nursing homes are expected to provide their residents, which include some of our most vulnerable individuals, with quality care and to treat them with dignity and respect,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the DOJ’s Civil Division in a statement. He continued, “the department will not tolerate nursing homes, or their owners or managing entities, who abdicate these responsibilities and seek taxpayer funds to which they are not entitled.”

To read the DOJ’s press release in full on the case, click here.

The United States’ complaint stems from an investigation that the DOJ initiated as part of its “National Nursing Home Initiative.” The department launched the initiative in March 2020 to identify and investigate nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care.

Click here to learn more about the Justice Department’s nursing home initiative.

The case is United States v. American Health Foundation Inc., case number 2:22-cv-02344, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling False Claims Act (FCA) Violations, Investigations, and other Legal Proceedings.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in defending audits and investigations by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Florida Department of Health (DOH), Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), state boards of medicine, state boards of pharmacy, and state boards of nursing. They also represent health professionals and providers in administrative litigation (state and federal) and civil litigation (state and federal). They represent physicians, nurses, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, dentists, pharmacies, assisted living facilities, and other healthcare providers and institutions in recovery actions and termination from Medicare and Medicaid Programs.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

D’Annunzio, P.J. “Feds Hit Nursing Home With FCA Suit Over ‘Nonexistent’ Care.” Law360. (June 15, 2022). Web.

Marceas, Kimberly. ‘Grossly substandard’ care leads to False Claims charges for Ohio-based nursing home operator. McKnights Long Term Care News. (June 16, 2022). Web.

“Nursing Homes Face DOJ False Claims Suit Over Standards of Care.” Bloomberg Law. (June 15, 2022). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Iowa Appellate Court Reverses $6 Million Nursing Home Negligence Decision Because of Hearsay Testimony

Author HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A, LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Hartley Brooks, Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm
On June 21, 2023, the Iowa Court of Appeals overturned the verdict in a nursing home negligence case that awarded $6 million in compensation and damages to the plaintiff. The case was reversed and remanded for a new trial because the trial court judge admitted inadmissible hearsay testimony into evidence. The testimony being appealed was that of staff members who claimed to have heard “reports” and “rumors” of alleged abuse by a nurse on staff toward not only the resident in question but other residents.
Hearsay in Iowa law is defined as “a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” Click here to read the Iowa Rules of Evidence concerning hearsay. This is the same definition used by the federal and most other courts.
Essentially, hearsay is when someone repeats something they heard from another person and presents it as if they know it to be true. Hearsay is often equated to rumor. Hearsay is not admissible due to the nature of speculation required in making such a statement, the fact that such statements are inherently unreliable and that the actual witness is not in court to answer questions about it. Thus there is no way for a party or the judge to test the credibility of the actual witness or determine facts that may have influenced the observation and statement.
Hearsay is considered unreliable because the person who knows what happened (who saw what happened or heard what happened) is not to be questioned about it. Therefore, there is no way to know what really happened for sure.
Details of the Case. 
In this case, the estate of the former nursing home resident, who succumbed to her injuries after a fall in the nursing home, claimed adult abuse and that negligence caused a wrongful death. In its defense, the nursing home focused on the alleged abuse by a nurse on the staff. The statements challenged in the appeal included testimony made by six nursing home staff members that residents, other unnamed employees, and an Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals surveyor told them that the nurse in question had been physically rough with and swore at residents.
The employees testifying did not actually witness any such incidents. They were only testifying about someone else’s words (“hearsay”). 
The trial court admitted these statements, allegedly not for their truth, but in an attempt to show that abuse had been reported and there had not been any follow-up investigation. The appellate court stated that this was not a valid reason to admit inadmissible hearsay into evidence because the estate must prove that the conduct existed to prevent the jury from engaging in rampant speculation based on unreliable hearsay evidence.
People in today’s society, yes, even judges, often forget this basic principle of law. With all of the fabricated lies being put out as “news” on some news channels, Internet rumors running rampant, and politicians making egregiously false statements, it’s often hard to remember how to distinguish a fact from an unreliable rumor or hearsay.
This is one of the problems with hearsay. It is often just gossip and rumor, which change from person to person. Especially egregious conduct, criminal activity, and salacious acts become increasingly exaggerated with each retelling. The founding fathers in English and American law realized the inherently unreliable nature of such “evidence.”
Under the hearsay rule, the Court of Appeals agreed with the nursing home that the statements being challenged were inadmissible hearsay evidence that influenced the jury’s verdict. Due to this, the court reversed the verdict and remanded the case for a new trial. To read the court’s opinion in full, click here.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.
The Health Law Firm routinely represents health professionals and health facilities in civil and administrative litigation. We also represent physicians, nurses, and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, board hearings, inspections, and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board-certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.  We represent medical students, interns, resident physicians, and fellows in disputes with their graduate medical education (GME) programs.  We represent clinical professors and instructors in contract disputes, employment disputes, clinical privileges matters, and other disputes with their employers.  We often act as the physician’s personal counsel in medical malpractice litigation.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Source: 
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. Hartley Brooks is a law clerk with the health law firm. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.
Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified attorneys interested in health law practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a member of The Florida Bar and are interested, forward a cover letter and your resume to: [email protected] or fax to: (407) 331-3030.
“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 © 2023 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Medications and Other Substances that Mimic Prohibited Drugs on Urinalysis Drug Tests (Part 1 of a Blog Series)

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
In representing nurses and other licensed health professionals, we constantly discuss positive drug screenings, usually from employer-ordered drug testing, with our clients.  These clients include nurses, pharmacists, dental professionals, mental health counselors, therapists, etc.  Often these individuals need to remember that if they apply for a job with a new employer or are working for a large corporation or the government, they are subject to employer-ordered drug screenings.  Most problems arise when the professional has applied to a hospital or a placement agency for work in a hospital and they must submit to a pre-employment drug test.
The client often contends that the result is a false positive and that some other substance must be responsible for it.

A positive result for any drug for which you do not have a valid prescription from a physician, including marijuana, will cause you to be eliminated from consideration for a new job or terminated from a current position and a complaint against your professional license, which could cause you to lose it.  We are routinely called on to defend such situations.

Series of Blogs to Discuss Substances that Can Mimic Prohibited Drugs on Drug Tests.

In the years I have been doing this, I have encountered many cases in which other substances have caused a positive result for a prohibited substance on a drug screening test.

In this series of blogs, I intend to discuss some of the substances scientifically shown to cause false positives on employer-ordered drug screening tests.  This is the first in the series.

Over-the-Counter Medications Mimicking Amphetamines on Drug Tests.

Following is a discussion of substances that can cause a false positive for amphetamines on a urinalysis drug test.  This material comes from an article in Case Reports in Psychiatry published in 2013. (Ref. 1)
Many prescription pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter (OTC) medications have been previously reported in the literature to cause a false-positive result for amphetamines on urine drug screens. Many OTC medications have been reported in scientific literature to produce false positives for amphetamines on urine drug screenings, chiefly antihistamines.

The OTC medications that have been documented to and are well known as causing false positives for amphetamines on drug tests include nasal decongestants, Vicks inhaler, MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxy methamphetamine;  commonly known as ecstacy, molly, mandy or X), and pseudoephedrine.  (Refs. 1-5)  Some of these are prohibited medications that cannot be prescribed and are only available as “street drugs” such as MDMA.

Prescription Medications Documented as Mimicking Amphetamines.

Prescription medications known to have mimicked amphetamines on testing include antipsychotics and antidepressants.  (Refs. 1 & 2)
The prescription medications known to cause false-positive amphetamine urine drug screen include fluoxetine, selegiline, ranitidine, trazodone, nefazodone, brompheniramine, phenylpropanolamine, chlorpromazine, promethazine, ephedrine, methamphetamine, and labetalol.  (Refs. 2-5)  However, the fact that the individual taking the drug test might have a prescription for one of these might cause the employer to disqualify the employee or potential employee from consideration for the job.
Bupropion (an atypical antidepressant that inhibits norepinephrine and dopamine re-uptake), is a drug used to treat depression and smoking cessation, but may also be used off-label to treat ADHD.  It has also been documented as causing false positive results for amphetamines on drug screenings.  (Ref. 6)
The drug atomoxetine has metabolites that are similar to those of amphetamines (phenylpropan-1-amine verses phenyl-propan-2-amine).  This could also result in a false positive on a urine drug screen.  (Ref. 1)

 

Other Discussions in Future Blogs.

In future blogs, I intend to discuss false positive claims associated with use of ibuprofen, amoxicillin, coca leaf tea, poppy seeds and other common substances and medications.  Stay tuned.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys in Matters Involving PRN or IPN.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, nurses and other health professionals in matters involving PRN or IPN. Our attorneys also represent health providers in Department of Health investigations, before professional boards, in licensing matters, and in administrative hearings.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

References:

1. Fenderson JL, Stratton AN, Domingo JS, Matthews GO, Tan CD. Amphetamine positive urine toxicology screen secondary to atomoxetine. Case Rep Psychiatry. 2013;2013:381261. doi: 10.1155/2013/381261. Epub 2013 Jan 30. PMID: 23424703; PMCID: PMC3570929.
(Accessed on May 20, 2023.)
2. Brahm NC, Yeager LL, Fox MD, Farmer KC, Palmer TA. Commonly prescribed medications and potential false-positive urine drug screens. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2010 Aug 15;67(16):1344-50. doi: 10.2146/ajhp090477. PMID: 20689123.
3. Vincent EC, Zebelman A, Goodwin C, Stephens MM. Clinical inquiries. What common substances can cause false positives on urine screens for drugs of abuse? J Fam Pract. 2006 Oct;55(10):893-4, 897. PMID: 17014756.
4. Rapuri SB, Ramaswamy S, Madaan V, Rasimas JJ, Krahn LE. ‘Weed’ out false-positive urine drug screens. Current Psychiatry. 2006;5(8):107–110. [Google Scholar]
5. Moeller KE, Lee KC, Kissack JC. Urine drug screening: practical guide for clinicians. Mayo Clin Proc. 2008 Jan;83(1):66-76. doi: 10.4065/83.1.66. Erratum in: Mayo Clin Proc. 2008 Jul;83(7):851. PMID: 18174009.
6. Reidy L, Walls HC, Steele BW. Crossreactivity of bupropion metabolite with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays designed to detect amphetamine in urine. Ther Drug Monit. 2011 Jun;33(3):366-8. doi: 10.1097/FTD.0b013e3182126d08. PMID: 21436763.

 

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm.  The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: [email protected] or fax them to (407) 331-3030.

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