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After Discipline on Your Massage Therapy License or Resignation of a Massage Therapy License After Notice of Investigation, What Happens Next?

7 Indest-2008-4By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Do you have massage therapy licenses in several states?  Do you have a license in more than one health profession?  Have you been notified that an investigation has been opened against you?  Are you thinking about resigning or voluntarily relinquishing your massage therapy license?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then continue reading.

First, you should never voluntarily relinquish or resign your license after you know that an investigation has been opened or that disciplinary action has been taken against you.  Such a resignation is considered to be a “disciplinary relinquishment.” It is treated the same as if your license had been revoked on disciplinary grounds.

Second, this will be reported out to other states, agencies, to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) and to any certifying bodies for certifications you have.  Other states and other professional boards will most likely initiate disciplinary action as well.

Beware of These Adverse Actions That Can be Taken Against You.

The following is a list of some of the adverse actions that you can expect to be taken against you after discipline on your license or after you resign your massage therapy license:

1.  A mandatory report to the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB) which remains there for 50 years. Note: The Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank or HIPDB recently merged into the NPDB.

2.  Must be reported to and included in the Department of Health (DOH) profile that is available online and remains there for at least ten years.

3.  Any other states or jurisdictions in which the massage therapist has a license will also initiate investigation and possible disciplinary action against him or her in that jurisdiction.  (Note:  I have had two clients who had licenses in seven other states and all, even ones that were inactive or not renewed years ago, initiated action).

4.  The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will take action to exclude the provider from the Medicare Program.  If this occurs (and most of these offenses require mandatory exclusion) the provider will be placed on the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) maintained by the HHS OIG.

a.  If this happens, you are prohibited by law from working in any position in any capacity for any individual or business, including hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, physicians, medical groups, insurance companies, etc., that contract with or bill Medicare or Medicaid.  This means, for example, you are prohibited from working as a janitor in a nursing home that accepts Medicare or Medicaid, even as an independent contractor.

b.  If this happens, you are also automatically “debarred” or prohibited from participating in any capacity in any federal contracting, and you are placed on the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) debarment list.  This means you are prohibited by law from working in any capacity for any government contractor or anyone who takes government funding.  This applies, for example, to prevent you from being a real estate agent involved in selling property financed by a government backed loan, prohibited from working for an electrical company that bids on contracts for government housing projects, working as a school teacher in a public school, etc.

c.  If this happens, your state Medicaid Program is required to terminate you “for cause” from the state Medicaid Program.  In many states, this is also grounds for revocation of your massage therapy license.

5.  Any profile or reporting system maintained by a national organization or federation will include the adverse action in it, generally available to the public.

6.  If you have clinical privileges at a hospital, nursing home, HMO or clinic, action will be taken to revoke or suspend the clinical privileges and staff membership. This may be in a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, skilled nursing facility, staff model HMO or clinic.

7.  Third party payors (health insurance companies, HMOs, etc.) will terminate the professional’s contract or panel membership with that organization.

8.  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will act to revoke the  professional’s DEA registration if he or she has one.

9.  Many employers will not hire you or will terminate your employment if they discover your license has been disciplined in another state.

Tips to Follow if You are Under Investigation.

–  Don’t immediately relinquishing your license if you are notified you are under investigation.

–  Don’t think the case will just go away on its own.

–  If you are innocent, request a formal hearing and contest the charges; defend yourself.

–  Do not request an informal hearing or a settlement agreement in which you admit the facts alleged against you are all true.  If you do this, you are “pleading guilty.”

–  Do immediately seek the advice of an attorney who has experience in such professional licensing matters and administrative hearings.  They are out there, but you may have to search for one.  Do this as soon as you get notice of any investigation and especially before you have talked to or made any statement (including a written one) to any investigator.

–  Do purchase professional liability insurance that includes legal defense coverage for any professional license investigation against you, whether it is related to a malpractice claim or not.  This insurance is cheap and will provide needed legal assistance at the time when you may be out of a job and not have money to hire an attorney.  Beware of the insurance policy that only covers professional license defense if it is related to a malpractice claim.

Keep This Information in Mind When Purchasing Professional Liability Insurance.

We strongly encourage all licensed health professionals and facilities to purchase their own, independent insurance coverage.  Make sure it covers professional license defense under all circumstances.  Make sure you have enough coverage to actually get you through a hearing. $25,000 coverage for just professional licensure defense is the absolute minimum you should purchase;  $50,000 may be adequate but $75,000 or $100,000 may be what you really need in such a situation.  For a few dollars more you can usually purchase the higher limits.

Also, verify it covers your legal defense in an administrative disciplinary proceeding against your license, even if there is no malpractice claim filed against you.

We also recommend that you purchase coverage through an insurance company that allows you to select your own attorney and does not make you use one that the insurance company picks for you.

Companies we have encountered in the past who provide an inexpensive top quality insurance product for professional license defense costs include:  CPH & Associates Insurance, Healthcare Providers Organization (HPSO) Insurance and Lloyd’s of London Insurance.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Massage Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensing matters 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.

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.

The Health Law Firm Attorneys Often Represent Massage Therapists in Last Minute Depositions and Hearings

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Our attorneys often receive calls from massage therapists regarding the possibility of representing them on short notice at a Board of Massage Therapy hearing, or at a deposition related to a health care matter.

We Take Last Minute Cases.

There are some law firms that refuse to represent a client at a hearing unless given plenty of advance notice and preparation time. We always prefer to have sufficient time to obtain documents, review files, interview witnesses, conduct research and prepare, in order to provide our clients the best possible representation. But we realize that in certain cases, the alternative is that the client either gets legal representation on little or no advance notice, or has to suffer the consequences of having no legal representation.

If we think the case is too complex for us to represent you effectively on such short notice or that any legal representation would be completely futile we may also refuse to represent a client. However, often this is not the situation.

Administrative Proceedings Can Be Confusing, Even For Inexperienced Attorneys.

In some cases individuals responding to a disciplinary complaint may be fooled into believing that they can effectively represent themselves. Laypersons (meaning, in this case, nonlawyers) who are not aware of such complex matters as the Administrative Procedure Act, the Rules of Civil Procedure, the Rules of Evidence, the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) Rules which the Board of Massage Therapy and the Department of Health (DOH) have enacted may quickly be perplexed. Often the individual may only figure this out days or weeks before the final hearing.

The inexperienced individual, or even the inexperienced attorney, in these matters can fall into a number of procedural traps that damage an effective defense. This can be advising the individual to talk to the DOH investigator, filing an unnecessary answer to an Administrative Complaint, forgetting or not knowing that the client’s right to be free of self-incrimination applies in this type of case and many others.

Don’t Damage Your Defense.

Often you will find that merely having an experienced attorney to represent you at a hearing or Board meeting will assist you in avoiding mistakes that damage your case and assist you in preserving your rights for an appeal. In other cases it may even be possible to obtain a change in forum to obtain a better result. For example, many laypersons do not know that if you elect an informal hearing before the Board of Massage Therapy, you have waived your right to prove you are innocent by contesting the facts alleged against you.

What few know or think of in the heat of the moment is that you can ask at the informal hearing before the Board of Massage Therapy to contest the facts, to prove you are not guilty of the charges, and to have the hearing converted to a formal hearing. A formal hearing will be in front of a neutral Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), and you have a great many more procedural rights than you have at an informal hearing. However, we still recommend that you have an experienced health lawyer represent you at a formal hearing.

The Health Law Firm is Available for Deposition Coverage.

In a number of cases, we have been requested to provide local deposition coverage in an area near to one of our offices, when an out-of-town lead counsel is unable to make the trip. If the issues involve health care, we are pleased to be able to assist.

Often Professional Liability Insurance Will Pay Legal Fees for Deposition Coverage.

If you are a massage therapist who has a professional liability insurance policy, these often provide legal coverage for depositions. This is primarily because the outcome of the deposition may include having you named as a defendant in a professional liability or negligence lawsuit or having disciplinary charges filed against you.

One of the first things you should do if you receive a subpoena or a notice of a deposition is to contact your professional liability insurance carrier and see if it will pay for an attorney to represent you. For example, Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO), CPH & Associates, Lloyds of London and many other malpractice insurance companies provide excellent deposition coverage.

The second thing you should do is to call an experienced attorney and schedule a consultation. Even if you cannot afford to retain the services of the attorney for the actual deposition, a consultation may assist you in properly preparing.

Consult With A Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Massage Therapists.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to massage therapists, massage therapy assistants and other health professionals being deposed in criminal cases, negligence cases, civil cases or disciplinary cases involving other health professionals.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing health professionals in investigations and at Board of Massage Therapy hearings. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Have you ever had an informal or formal hearing before the Board of Massage Thearpy? 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.

Massage Therapists (LMTs) and Massage Therapy Assistants: What You Don’t Know About Legal Matters Can Hurt You

7 Indest-2008-4By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent Licensed Massage Therapists (LMTs) and Massage Therapy Assistants in a number of different legal matters. We appear before the Board of Massage Therapy. We represent massage therapists and massage therapy assistants in disciplinary matters, in credential matters, in licensing matters and in defending against malpractice claims and suits.

If you receive a letter from the Department of Health (DOH) notifying you that you are being investigated, this is a very serious matter. Get an attorney who is experienced in such matters. If you do receive a letter from the DOH, finding correct information regarding the next steps in the process is vital. Read on the learn more, and hopefully help you fight to keep your license.

Here is what you didn’t know:

1.  You are not required to make any statement to the investigator, oral or written, and     you should not do so.

2.  You do not have to send the investigator a copy of your resume, and you should not     do so.

3.  You have a Fifth Amendment right to refuse to say or do anything that might incriminate yourself. This applies to administrative investigations.

4.  If you have malpractice insurance (professional liability insurance) it may pay for     your legal defense in an investigation. Use it!

5.  You have the right to obtain a copy of the investigation after it is completed and to file a rebuttal to it.

Other things about this that you probably don’t know:

1.  You should never agree to voluntarily relinquish your license if any investigation is pending. This will be treated the same as a disciplinary revocation and the consequences will be severe. (see below.)

2.  You should never request an informal hearing. An informal hearing means you are admitting all of the allegations against you are true (pleading guilty), and you are not disputing them.

3.  If disciplinary action is taken against you (including a “voluntary” relinquishment) this will be reported to your national certification board and it will most probably revoke your national certification.

4.  If you have licenses in other states or in other health professions, this will be reported and they will commence investigations and disciplinary actions.

5. It will be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) and the Office of         the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG will then commence action to exclude you from the Medicare Program. If excluded, it is likely that you will not be able to work in health care or for any government contractor in any capacity.

Our attorneys have been very successful in representing massage therapists and massage therapy assistants. We may be able to have your case dismissed by the Probable Cause Panel of the Board. If not, we may be able to obtain a favorable result for you in a formal administrative hearing (like a trial) where the government has to prove the case against you and you are able to defend yourself.

You spent a great deal of time and money to get your professional education and your profession licenses. Don’t give it all up without getting advice from experienced attorneys.

Information Regarding Insurance Coverage.

Our recommendation is that every massage therapist and massage therapy assistant carry professional liability insurance that includes professional license defense coverage (sometimes called disciplinary defense, license defense, administrative hearing coverage or broad coverage). Most often this type of insurance coverage is included in most professional liability policies; however, if it is not, it can often be added as a rider to the insurance policy for a slight additional charge. You should be sure that your coverage for professional license defense is at least $25,000, and we recommend that you increase it to $50,000. You should also request and obtain “broad form coverage” that includes coverage of your legal fees for defense of all administrative or governmental proceedings, including Medicare audits, Medicaid audits, EEOC complaints and other types of governmental actions that could be initiated against you.

If you are required to defend yourself at a formal administrative hearing, this is similar to a medical malpractice trial in civil court. Attorney’s fees, court reporter costs, expert witness fees and other costs and fees can rapidly mount up to the point where most massage therapists and massage therapy assistants could not afford to defend themselves. If you are then required to appeal an adverse outcome, the appeal alone could cost $10,000.

Don’t wait to purchase this type of insurance until there is complaint filed against you, because then it is too late to purchase it. Complaints can be initiated against you based solely on anonymous calls to the Department of Health Hotline, newspaper reports, prior arrest reports, disgruntled patients, disgruntled insurance companies, competitors or other sources. Once and investigation is initiated, you should obtain legal representation right away. Without insurance, you probably will not be able to afford to hire a competent, experienced health lawyer to defend you. Always go to a board certified health lawyer experienced in representing massage therapists and massage therapy assistants.

For a chart depicting the Florida Department of Health investigation process, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Massage Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensing matters 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?

As a massage therapist or massage therapy assistant, how much of this blog did you already know? What are your biggest concerns as a health care professional? 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. http://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