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How to Respond to a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) Investigative Subpoena

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

The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) is a division of the Florida Office of Attorney General. It is in charge of investigating and prosecuting health care providers suspected of defrauding the state’s Medicaid program.  When the unit opens a case against a provider, the first step is usually the issuance of an investigative subpoena, requesting specific patient records.  The practice tips below were prepared to assist a health care provider in properly responding to such a subpoena and being prepared to defend oneself.

It is important to remember that the MFCU would not be involved unless criminal fraud was suspected. This is not a routine audit.

1. Speak with an attorney experienced in Medicaid fraud and abuse prior to responding to the government’s requests.

The MFCU does not issue a subpoena without reason.  It is essential that you immediately retain an attorney experienced in Medicaid fraud and abuse claims when served with such a subpoena.  If retained early, an experienced health attorney can review the requested records to determine what concerns the government may have and how best to defend against them.  An experienced attorney can also determine if the subpoena has been properly served and what documents will be most responsive to the government’s requests.  An investigation by the MFCU is a very serious matter that can lead to both the recoupment of Medicaid reimbursements and criminal charges. Administrative action, civil action or criminal charges or all three could result.

2. Do NOT believe the government investigator is on your side.

It is not uncommon for a government investigator to notify you that the subpoena you have been served with is a routine matter and that there is nothing to fear.  The investigator may also tell you that your practice is not the subject of the investigation and that retaining counsel is unnecessary.  A subpoena issued by the MFCU is always a very serious matter and should always be treated as such. Remember, the investigator’s job is to build a case against you and, in our experience, the investigator will use whatever tactics are at his/her disposal to do so.

Do not be lured into the temptation to “explain” or tell “your side of the story.” You will merely be helping the government to make a case against you, one which it might not have been able to prove otherwise.

3. Provide the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with the documents than have been requested and NOTHING more.

It is almost never advisable to provide the MFCU with more documents than requested in the subpoena.  Providing the government investigator with additional information beyond what was requested will only provide the government with more evidence to use against you at a later date.

4. DO NOT provide the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with your original records.

Unless required by the government, do not provide the MFCU with your original records. These investigations can often take years to reach a final resolution, and once the original records have been turned over it is very difficult to get them back. In most cases, if the government is provided with an organized paginated copy of the requested records, it will not require you to produce the originals.

5. Remember: the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has the right to request copies of only Medicaid patient records.

As a general rule, the MFCU has the right to subpoena and review the patient records for Medicaid patients only.  The records of a non-Medicaid patient may not be reviewed by the government without the patient’s prior written consent.

6. If proper and lawful, you must respond to the subpoena.

If the MFCU properly serves you with a lawful subpoena, you must produce the written records within the time prescribed. Extensions of time may be granted, but these need to be requested in advance and documented in writing. If the subpoena is not obeyed, the government will petition a court to compel compliance and you will likely have to pay the government’s attorney’s fees and costs associated with enforcing the investigative subpoena.

7. You and your employees are not required to talk with government investigators or explain the records unless individually subpoenaed.

Remember that a subpoena for records is just that, a subpoena for records. It is not a subpoena for testimonies or interviews.

After your records have been produced, it is important to remember that neither you nor your employees are required to speak with government investigators, absent a specific subpoena for this.  As noted above, it is rarely advisable to volunteer information to the MFCU, and in most cases, this information will be used to build a case against you.

8. Remain patient after complying with the subpoena.

Finally, it is important to remain patient after you have submitted your records to the government for review.  The MFCU investigates hundreds of cases each year, involving thousands of records. It is not uncommon for an investigation to go years without a final determination.  Legal representation is extremely important at this time. The communication between your counsel and the government can make the difference between a civil penalty and criminal charges.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling MFCU Investigations.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, medical groups, clinics, home health agencies, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), group facilities for the developmentally disabled, hospitals, and other health care providers in responding to a MFCU investigation. We also represent health providers in administrative hearings in such matters at both the federal and state levels. We have represented health providers in civil court litigation and in appeals on such matters, as well.

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

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

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

Christopher E. Brown, J.D. is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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

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

The American Academy of Family Physicians Releases Third List for Choosing Wisely Campaign

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

On September 24, 2013, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) released its third list of commonly prescribed tests and procedures that may not be necessary. This list is part of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation’s Choosing Wisely campaign.

The Choosing Wisely Campaign was initiated to give patients a catalog of procedures, tests and treatments that have been overused, misused or have been identified as ineffective. Since its launch in April 2012, more than fifty (50) medical specialty societies have created lists of procedures, tests and drug treatments that deserve to be questioned before a physician orders them or patients accept them.

The purpose is to help patients become more discriminating about what care they receive. Physicians and health care providers also need to use this information to review the latest research and use that information to help avoid any litigation.

I’ve previously written about the Choosing Wisely campaign. Click here for part one and here for part two.

AAFP’s Updated List of Commonly Prescribed Tests and Procedures That May Not be Necessary.

1. Do not prescribe antibiotics for otitis media in children aged 2-12 years with non-severe symptoms where the observation option is reasonable.

2. Do not perform voiding cystourethrogram routinely in first febrile urinary tract infection in children aged 2-24 months.

3. Do not routinely screen for prostate cancer using a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test or digital rectal exam. Evidence suggests that PSA-based screening leads to an overdiagnosis of prostate tumors.

4. Do not screen adolescents for scoliosis. Potential harms include unnecessary follow-up visits resulting from false-positive test results.

5. Do not require a pelvic exam or other physical exam to prescribe oral contraceptive medications. Hormonal contraceptives are safe, effective, and well tolerated by most women.

Click here to read the AAFP’s previous recommendations.

Health Care Providers and Professionals’ Responsibility to Patients.

A doctor should have the knowledge, skill, training, and confidence to know when such tests and procedures are not warranted. Also, a health care professional or provider should not be swayed by increasing his/her personal bottom line. Specifically, physicians that work in a fee-for-service setting that rewards doctors for performing more procedures are at risk for ordering unnecessary tests or procedures. If a physician persists in ordering these tests solely for the means of increasing profits, he or she should be penalized. If not, the physician should be able to justify them.

Laws Protect Patients from Unnecessary Testing.

This situation may have the side effect of promoting additional litigation against doctors, healthcare clinics and hospitals that provide the unnecessary tests and procedures. Many states have laws that prohibit unnecessary tests and procedures and sanction those who provide them. For instance, Section 766.111, Florida Statutes, provides a private cause of action by a patient against a health provider who orders or furnishes such “unnecessary” diagnostic tests, but unlike other tort and medical malpractice statutes, it allows the prevailing party in such a case to recover attorney’s fees and costs. This law may by itself promote litigation in the face of the lists of tests produced by the specialty groups in the Choosing Wisely campaign.

Look for More Whistleblower/Qui Tam Cases.

As this list continues to grow, I believe that we will see more qui tam/whistleblower and false claims cases.

Qui tam cases have been brought under the federal False Claims Act for the recovery of Medicare payments from hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, diagnostic testing facilities, clinical laboratories, radiology facilities and many other types of healthcare providers. These cases allege that a false claim was submitted to the government. If the test or procedure was unnecessary, then it seems almost axiomatic that a claim for it is false. The plaintiff bringing such cases receives a percentage of the recovery, which often amounts to millions of dollars in successful cases.

Most states now have similar false claims act or qui tam laws providing similar causes of action and recoveries to individual plaintiffs in the case of state Medicaid payments as well.

Because medical necessity is a requirement for practically every Medicare and Medicaid service, as well as most services paid by private health insurers, the lists provided by the specialty may very well be exhibit one in future lawsuits.

We’ve recently written about a couple of whistleblower/qui tam cases stemming from unnecessary procedures. To read a blog on a group of Florida radiation oncology service providers accused of performing unnecessary and improperly supervised procedures, click here. To read a blog on Winter Park Urology’s settlement over allegations stemming from radiation therapy used to treat cancer patients, click here.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

As a health care professional or provider what do you think of the Choosing Wisely campaign? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Hand, Larry. “AAFP Releases Third Choosing Wisely List.” Medscape. (September 25, 2013). From: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/811638

Carman, Diane. “Useless, Costly Medical Procedures Targeted by Choosing Wisely Campaign.” Health Policy Solutions. (October 15, 2013). From: http://www.healthpolicysolutions.org/2013/10/15/useless-costly-medical-procedures-targeted-by-choosing-wisely-campaign/

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.

Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges Florida Adventist Hospitals Overbilled Millions of Dollars

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

A whistleblower lawsuit based on information from a former Florida Hospital Orlando billing employee and a former staff physician alleges that seven of Adventist’s Florida hospitals overbilled the federal government between 1995 and 2009, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in false or padded medical claims, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel and other sources.

To read the entire False Claims Act complaint filed, click here.

Hospital Allegedly Used Improper Coding to Overbill Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare.

The suit claims that seven Adventist Florida hospitals allegedly used improper coding to overbill Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare. In addition, the lawsuit alleges the hospitals also overbilled for a drug used in MRI scans and billed for computer analyses that were never performed.

The article states that the plaintiffs are a bill-coding and compliance officer, and a radiologist that were either employed or affiliated with Florida Hospital Orlando between 1995 and 2009. They allege the discrepancies occurred during those years. The lawsuit was filed in July 2010, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Hospitals that allegedly partook in the overbilling include: Florida Hospital Orlando, Florida Hospital Altamonte, Florida Hospital East Orlando, Florida Hospital Apopka, Florida Hospital Celebration Health, Florida Hospital Kissimmee and Winter Park Memorial Hospital.

The U. S. district court judge has set the trial in this case for December 2013.

Click here to read the Orlando Sentinel article.

Steep Fines if Found Liable. 

If the health system is found liable for the false claims it would be responsible for repaying the excess money received, for paying civil penalties of $5,500 to $11,000 per false claim, and damages.

Under the False Claims Act, Whistleblowers Encouraged to Speak Up.

Whistleblowers stand to gain substantial amounts, sometimes as much as thirty percent (30%), of the award under the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. Sect. 3730). Such awards, often reaching into millions of dollars, encourage employees to come forward and report fraud.

You can learn more on the False Claims Act on the Department of Justice (DOJ) website.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Medicaid and Medicare Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

In addition to our other experience in Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare cases, attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblowers cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To learn more on our experience with Medicaid and Medicare quit tam or whistleblower cases, visit our website.

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

Sources:

Jameson, Marni. “Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges Florida Hospital Filled Millions in False Claims.” Orlando Sentinel. (August 8, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-08-08/health/os-whistleblower-lawsuit-florida-hospital-20120808_1_adventist-health-suit-claims-celebration-health/2

Gamble, Molly. “Whistleblower Suit Alleges Florida Adventist Hospitals Overbilled Tens of Millions.” Becker’s Hospitals Review. (August 9, 2012). From: http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/legal-regulatory-issues/whistleblower-suit-alleges-florida-adventist-hospitals-overbilled-tens-of-millions.html

Flagler Live and Kaiser Health News. “Florida Hospital Flagler Spared Sister Hospitals’ Fraud Lawsuit and Medicare Penalties.” Flagler Live. (August 13, 2012). From: http://flaglerlive.com/42723/adventist-lawsuit-medicare/

Amanda Dittman and Charlotte Elenberger, M.D. v. Adventist Health Systems/Sunbelt, Inc. No. 6:10-cv-01062-JA-GJK (July 15, 2010), available at: http://flaglerlive.com/wp-content/uploads/whistleblower-lawsuit-adventist.pdf

Justice.Gov. “The False Claims Act.” Department of Justice. From: http://www.justice.gov/civil/docs_forms/C-FRAUDS_FCA_Primer.pdf

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

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

Florida Nursing Home Owner Arrested for Alleged $395,000 Medicaid Fraud Scheme

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

A Miami-Dade nursing home owner was arrested for allegedly committing $395,000 worth of Medicaid fraud. The Florida Attorney General (AG) accused the nursing home owner of using the billing names of non-existent businesses to submit fraudulent invoices. The fake invoices were then allegedly paid with Medicaid funds. The nursing home owner was arrested on October 17, 2013, by the AG’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) and the Miami-Dade Police Department.

To read the press release from the AG, click here.

Nursing Home Owner Allegedly Pocketed Medicaid Money.

According to the AG, the nursing home owner recorded forty-seven (47) fraudulent operating expense charges and submitted the cost report to the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). The owner is accused of then writing checks to these phony businesses to “pay” the expense charges. The AG alleges that the nursing home owner was just paying himself. AHCA referred the case to the MFCU.

If convicted, the nursing home owner faces up to 90 years in prison and more than $1.9 million in fines.

MFCU and State and Federal Auditing Agencies.

The MFCU receives referrals from many other state and federal agencies. Often, matters that could be resolved as simple billing errors get escalated to criminal charges when Medicaid providers are interviewed and give evidence against themselves. Admitting to any misconduct, no matter how slight, may lead to far more serious criminal charges.

Click here for tips on how to respond to a Medicaid audit.

Take Fraud Charges Seriously.

In many cases those subject to Medicaid or Medicare fraud audits and investigations refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter or they decide not to spend the money required for a top quality attorney to defend them.

If you are accused of Medicare or Medicaid fraud, realize that you are in the fight of your life. Your liberty, life and profession are at stake. Do not delude yourself. This is extremely serious. Be prepared to give up whatever you have if you can avoid a conviction.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits, Investigations and other Legal Proceedings.

Medicaid fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the state MFCU, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), the FBI, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Often other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and other law enforcement agencies participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today. Often Medicaid fraud criminal charges arise out of routine Medicaid audits, probe audits, or patient complaints.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

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

Comments?

Have you heard of the MFCU? Would you know how to properly respond to a Medicaid audit? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Source:

Ray, Whitney. “Miami-Dade Nursing Home Owner Arrested for $395,000 in Medicaid Fraud.” My Florida Legal. (October 17, 2013). From: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/F652FC98C9E1BA0C85257C0700530C42
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.

Palm Beach Speech Pathologist Arrested for Alleged Medicaid Fraud

By Dr. Thu Pham, O.D., Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm

A Palm Beach, Florida, speech pathologist has allegedly been charged with Medicaid fraud and grand theft by the Attorney General’s (AG) Office of Statewide Prosecution. According to the press release posted on June 29, 2012, from the AG’s office, the speech pathologists is accused of attempting to defraud Medicaid out of more than $459,000.

To read the entire press release from the Florida Attorney General, click here.

Speech Therapy Performed by Unsupervised Assistants.

The speech pathologist allegedly allowed her assistants to perform unsupervised speech therapy to Medicaid recipients, many of whom were children.  She then proceeded to bill Medicaid for their services, which was against Medicaid rules.

If Convicted, Speech Pathologist Could Pay More Than One Million Dollars in Fines and Spend Time in Jail.

If convicted, the speech pathologist could face up to $1.5 million dollars in fines and up to 60 years in prison.

This case was investigated by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).  Please remember, all persons are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

To learn more about Medicaid audit defense visit our website by clicking here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits.

Medicaid fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the state MFCU, the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA), the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), the FBI, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Often other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and other law enforcement agencies participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today.  Often Medicaid fraud criminal charges arise out of routine Medicaid audits, probe audits, or patient complaints.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

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

Sources:

My Florida Legal. “Attorney General Pam Bondi Announces Arrest of a Palm Beach Speech Language Pathologist for Medicaid Fraud.” AG. From:

http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/E6129E7B45E2590385257A2C006A280C

Turner, Jim. “Attorney General: Speech Language Pathologist Arrested for Medicaid Fraud.” Sunshine State News. (July 2, 2012). From: http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/blog/attorney-general-speech-language-pathologist-arrested-medicaid-fraud

About the Author: Dr. Thu Pham, OD, is a law clerk with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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

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

Adventist Health System Settles Whistleblower Lawsuit

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

On December 18, 2013, Adventist Health System/Sunbelt Inc., the parent company of Orlando-based Florida Hospital, settled a whistleblower lawsuit, according to court documents. The whistleblower lawsuit, filed in 2010, stated that seven Adventist hospitals in Florida overbilled the federal government between 1995 and 2009, allegedly resulting in tens of millions of dollars in false claims, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel and other sources.

Click here to read the Order of Dismissal.

Previous reports from the Orlando Sentinel stated that the lawsuit could have damages of more than $100 million, but the details of the settlement are not yet available.

Alleged Details in the Case Against Adventist Health System.

The lawsuit claims that seven Adventist hospitals in Florida allegedly used improper coding to overbill Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare. In addition, the lawsuit alleges the hospitals also overbilled for a drug used in MRI scans and billed for computer analyses that were never performed.

The plaintiffs are a bill-coding and compliance officer, and a radiologist that were either employed or affiliated with Florida Hospital Orlando between 1995 and 2009. They allege the discrepancies occurred during those years.

To read the entire False Claims Act complaint filed, click here.

Hospitals that allegedly partook in the overbilling include: Florida Hospital Orlando, Florida Hospital Altamonte, Florida Hospital East Orlando, Florida Hospital Apopka, Florida Hospital Celebration Health, Florida Hospital Kissimmee and Winter Park Memorial Hospital.

This case was scheduled to go to trial in December 2013.

Click here to read more on this case from my previous blog.

Most Qui Tam Claims Filed by Employees.

From our review of qui tam cases that have been unsealed by the government, it appears most of these are filed by physicians, nurses or hospital staff employees who have some knowledge of false billing or inappropriate coding taking place. Normally the government will want to see some actual documentation of the claims submitted by the hospital or other institution. Usually physicians, nurses or staff employees have access to such documentation. Whistleblowers are urged to come forward as soon as possible. In many circumstances, documentation that shows the fraud “disappears” or cannot be located once it is known that a company is under investigation.

To learn more on whistleblower/qui tam cases, read our two-part blog. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

Comments?

Individuals working in the health care industry often become aware of questionable activities. Often they are even asked to participate in it. In many cases the activity may amount to fraud on the government. Has this ever happened to you? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Aboraya, Abraham. “Adventist Health Whistleblower Lawsuit Settled.” Orlando Business Journal. (December 19, 2013). From: http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/blog/2013/12/adventist-health-whistleblower-lawsuit.html

United States of America and State of Florida ex rel., Amanda Dittman and charlotte Elenberger, M.D. vs Adventist Health System/Sunbelt, Inc. Case No. 6:10-cv-1062-Orl-28GJK. Order of Dismissal. (December 18, 2013). From: http://assets.bizjournals.com/orlando/pdf/document.pdf

Jameson, Marni. “Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges Florida Hospital Filed Millions in False Claims.” Orlando Sentinel. (August 8, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-08-08/health/os-whistleblower-lawsuit-florida-hospital-20120808_1_adventist-health-suit-claims-whistleblower-lawsuit

Amanda Dittman and Charlotte Elenberger, M.D. v. Adventist Health Systems/Sunbelt, Inc. No. 6:10-cv-01062-JA-GJK. False Claims Act Complaint. (July 15, 2010). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/whistleblower-lawsuit-adventist.pdf

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

 

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

Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleging Medicare Fraud Against Blackstone Medical, Inc., Dismissed

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

A whistleblower lawsuit against Blackstone Medical, Inc., alleging Medicare fraud against Parrish Medical Center, was dismissed by a U.S. District Judge in Tampa, Florida, on August 15, 2012. According to Orthopedics This Week, the case was unsealed on August 8, 2012, but dismissed without prejudice, all pending motions were denied as moot, and the clerk was directed to close the case, just one week after.

To see a copy of the order of dismissal, click here.

Whistleblower Originally Filed False Claims and Kickback Complaint.

According to the lawsuit, the whistleblower was asked to bid on a contract with the Parrish Medical Center in Florida, to provide intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring services. The whistleblower alleges he discovered that a Blackstone Medical, Inc., sales representative and two doctors were using outdated technology that did not allow doctors to actually monitor patients’ neurological activity during procedures.

The plaintiff alleged this discovery uncovered thousands of dollars in Medicare claims being made as part of a kickback scheme, beginning as early as 2002.

To see the original false claims complaint, click here.

Whistleblower Requested Order of Dismissal.

According to an article in Orthopedics This Week, the order of dismissal was in response to the whistleblower’s request for voluntary dismissal without prejudice. This request means that the man keeps his right to come back before the court in the future.

To see the full article from Orthopedics This Week, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Medicaid and Medicare Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

In addition to our other experience in Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare cases, attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblowers cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To learn more on our experience with Medicaid and Medicare quit tam or whistleblower cases, visit our website.

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

Sources:

Eisner, Walter. “Blackstone Florida Whistleblower Lawsuit Dismissed.” Orthopedics This Week. (August 22, 2012). From: http://ryortho.com/companyNews.php?news=2168_Blackstone-Florida-Whistleblower-Lawsuit-Dismissed

Jon Schiff v. Blackstone Medical, Inc., Case Number 8:11-cv-02430-JSM-TBM United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida Tampa Division (October 26, 2011), available at, http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/Blackstone%20case.pdf.

Jon Schiff v. Blackstone Medical, Inc., et al., Case No: 8:11-cv-2430-T-30TBM United States District Court Middle District of Florida Tampa Division (August 15, 2012), available at, http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/Blackstone%20dismissal.pdf.

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

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

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

CMS Delays Stage 3 Meaningful Use for Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs

MLS Blog Label 2By Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law, and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 6, 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a revised timeline for the implementation of Stage 3 meaningful use measures for the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs.

According to CMS, Stage 2 will be extended through 2016, and Stage 3 will begin in 2017 for those hospitals, physicians and other eligible providers that have completed at least two years of Stage 2 meaningful use. These changes affect two groups of eligible providers: providers who started Stage 1 in 2011, and who are currently scheduled to start Stage 3 in 2016, and those providers who started Stage 1 in 2012, and who are scheduled to start Stage 3 in 2016.

This announcement does not change when providers must start Stage 2, nor does it affect the requirement for hospitals and critical access hospitals to upgrade to EHR technology to receive incentive payments. The Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs are staged in three steps with increasing requirements for participation. Eligible providers who do not meet meaningful use requirements will still be penalized with reduced Medicare reimbursement starting January 1, 2015.

To read more from CMS, click here.

Reasons for the Timeline Change.

According to Modern Healthcare, CMS stated that the goal of the timeline change is two-fold. First, to allow CMS and the Office of National Coordinator (ONC) to focus on assisting providers to meet Stage 2 demands for patient engagement, interoperability and information exchange, as well as use data collected during the phase to inform policy decisions for Stage 3.

CMS expects that it will release a notice of proposed rulemaking for Stage 3 in the fall of 2014, and the corresponding ONC notice for proposed rulemaking for the 2017 Edition of the ONC Standards and Certification Criteria will also be released at that time. Click here to read the entire article from Modern Healthcare.

What this Means for You.

If you begin participation with your first year of Stage 1 for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program in 2014:

– You must begin your 90 days of Stage 1 of meaningful use no later than July 1, 2014 and submit attestation by October 1, 2014 in order to avoid the 2015 payment adjustment.

If you have completed one year of Stage 1 of meaningful use:

– You will demonstrate a second year of Stage 1 of meaningful use in 2014 for a three-month reporting period fixed to the quarter for Medicare or any 90 days for Medicaid.
– You will demonstrate Stage 2 of meaningful use for two years (2015 and 2016).
– You will begin Stage 3 of meaningful use in 2017.

If you have completed two or more years of Stage 1 of meaningful use:

– You will still demonstrate Stage 2 of meaningful use in 2014 for a three-month reporting period fixed to the quarter for Medicare or any 90 days for Medicaid.
– You will demonstrate Stage 2 of meaningful use for three years (2014, 2015 and 2016).
– You will begin Stage 3 of meaningful use in 2017.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

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

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

Comments?

What do you think of the revised timeline for the implementation of Stage 3 meaningful use? Will this affect you? If so, how? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Conn, Joseph. “Meaningful-Use Deadline Pushed Back One Year.” Modern Healthcare. (December 6, 2013). From: http://bit.ly/1kkAtsC

Tagalicod, Robert and Reider, Jacob. “Progress on Adoption of Electronic Health Records.” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (December 13, 2013). From: http://www.cms.gov/eHealth/ListServ_Stage3Implementation.html

About the Authors: 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. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. 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.

South Florida Pharmacy Owner Pleads Guilty to $23 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

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

A co-owner and operator of three Miami-area pharmacies pleaded guilty on December 6, 2012, for his part in a $23 million health care fraud scheme. The pharmacy owner allegedly admitted in the Florida Southern Federal District Court to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay illegal health care kickbacks, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release.

Click here to read the entire press release from the DOJ.

Pharmacy Owner Used Kickbacks and Referrals to Allegedly Scam Medicare and Medicaid.

According to court documents, the pharmacy owner allegedly admitted to paying illegal kickbacks to an unnamed number of co-conspirators in return for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiary information. That information was then used to submit fraudulent claims. A majority of the beneficiaries referred to the owner’s pharmacies reportedly resided at assisted living facilities (ALFs) in Miami.

The court documents state that the pharmacy owner also allegedly paid kickbacks to physicians in exchange for prescription referrals which were also billed to Medicare.

Unused and Partially Used Medicine Part of Scheme.

As part of the scheme, the pharmacy owner allegedly instructed drivers working for his pharmacies to pick up unused medications from ALFs around Miami. The medications were then allegedly placed back into pill bottles. Unused and partially used medications were billed back to Medicare and Medicaid, according to court documents.

Click here to read the court documents on this case.

The pharmacy owner and his co-conspirators allegedly submitted more than $23 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Florida Medicaid programs.

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

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

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

Comments?

What do you think of this case? Is the Miami area just a hotbed for Medicare and Medicaid schemes? Please leave any thoughtful comment below.

Sources:

United States of America v. Jose Carlos Morales. Case Number 12-23374, Preliminary Injunction and Supporting Memorandum of Law. (September 14, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/USA%20v%20Morales.pdf

Department of Justice. “Pharmacy Owner Pleads Guilty in Miami for Role in $23 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice . (December 6, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/December/12-crm-1461.html

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

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

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

AHCA Expert Not Allowed to “Use His Discretion” in Deciding Claims Were Improper in Medicaid Appeal Hearing

FACTS: The Agency for Health Care Administration’s (“AHCA”) Office of Medicaid Program Integrity audited Dr. Rao, an authorized provider of Medicaid services, for claims between July 1, 2007, and June 30, 2009, and found him to be in violation of certain Medicaid provider policies. AHCA prepared a Final Audit Letter on June 1, 2011, notifying Dr. Rao that he had been overpaid by the Medicaid program by $110,712.09 for services provided during the audit period. Dr. Rao’s administrative hearing challenging AHCA’s overpayment determination was pending before DOAH. On August 17, 2012, Dr. Rao filed an unadopted rule challenge, alleging that AHCA’s overpayment determination was based on unadopted rules regarding the medical necessity of long-term monitored electroencephalograms (LTM EEGs).

OUTCOME: The ALJ found that AHCA’s peer review expert applied certain standards to the Medicaid claims he examined in conducting the Medicaid audit, but “exercised his discretion as to whether to apply them based on the specifics of each patient’s medical records.” The ALJ dismissed the unadopted rule challenge, explaining that “where application of agency policy is subject to the discretion of agency personnel, the policy is not a rule. . . . The medical standards at issue in this case are not self-executing and require the exercise of discretion in their application.” The ALJ noted that “the medical standards of practice must be applied on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the services provided were medically necessary, and provided both an appropriate level of care and standard of care ‘customarily furnished by the physician’s peers and to recognized health care standards” as required by section 409.9131(2)(d), Florida Statutes.

Source:

Radhakrishna K. Rao et al. v. AHCA, DOAH Case No. 12-2813RU (Final Order Aug. 20, 2013).

About the Author: The forgoing case summary was prepared by and appeared in the DOAH case notes of the Administrative Law Section newsletter, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Dec. 2013), a publication of the Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar.

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