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Health Care Professionals Need to be Compliant with Anti-Fraud Laws

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

The federal government has several tools available to help combat Medicare fraud. Among those are the Stark Act, Anti-Kickback laws and Civil Monetary Penalty Laws. Each of these typically focuses on a particular type of behavior that is prone to abuse by health care providers.

The Stark laws exist to combat the problems that can arise from physician self-referrals. Self-referrals are cases in which a physician orders a test or service and refers the patient to a provider in which the referring physician has a financial interest. This second provider will then bill Medicare for the service, essentially allowing the referring physician to cash in twice.

The concern is that if physicians are permitted to benefit from referring to an entity, they will be prone to order tests and services that are not medically necessary. I previously wrote an article on the legal ramifications of unnecessary tests, which was published in Medical Economics. Click here to read that article.

Obligations for Compliance.

Stark compliance is a two-way street. Not only is the physician prohibited from referring to an entity in which he has a non-exempt financial interest, the provider receiving the referral is prohibited from accepting it.

Medicare conditions payment of a claim upon the certification by the claimant that it is in compliance with the Stark law. What this means is that there is an obligation on the recipient of a referral to make sure that it is proper.

In the complicated world of healthcare business entities, it is incumbent upon the management of a supplier of Designated Health Services (DHS) to know who all of its owners, investors, and stakeholders are so that it can remain in compliance and avoid any charges of impropriety.

Exceptions to Stark Law.

Like many other regulatory frameworks, the Stark law have exceptions. The law provides a number of exceptions to the rules which allow otherwise impermissible referral arrangements to pass muster.

Because the exceptions are numerous and often subject to change, it is highly recommended that any new business arrangement, or substantial change to an existing one, is reviewed by a health law attorney experienced in the area of Stark law.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Stark Compliance.

If you are involved in referring or providing DHS it is crucial that your arrangements are reviewed for compliance with Stark and other anti-fraud laws.

Violations of these laws can carry severe financial and criminal penalties. One of the best ways to avoid these sanctions is to have your current or potential arrangement reviewed by an attorney who is experienced in these matters.

The Health Law Firm routinely advises healthcare providers on Stark compliance issues for practitioners and providers of all types of DHS. We can advise you on the legality of a particular arrangement and can assist with remedying any perceived compliance issues.

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.

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

Autistic Kids in Florida May Lose Care as Medicaid fraud Investigation Continues

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

On July 26, 2018, state investigators revealed that six behavioral therapists in Florida billed the state for “impossible” days of service that at times indicated they worked for more than 24 hours in a day. The six therapists, who worked with low-income children with autism, were then subsequently terminated from the Medicaid program.

The company that employed them, DRA Behavioral Health, was among four South Florida behavioral therapy companies sanctioned by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) for failing to pay fines, hiring unqualified therapists and failing to disclose required information to the state.

Is AHCA Delaying Health Care?

While AHCA continues its probe into behavior analysis services paid for by Medicaid, schools and programs say the agency is dragging out authorizations for therapy and approvals of new therapists. Thus, AHCA is effectively preventing children from getting therapy for months while reducing the costs to the state.

Advocates claim that AHCA used wrong or outdated information as a reason to suspend their therapists from Medicaid and then forced the provider to repay thousands of dollars.

In response, AHCA has urged parents of children with Medicaid to contact the agency if they are having difficulty getting behavioral analysis services as the state continues to add new providers to meet demand. For more information, click here.

Be sure to check our Mental Health Law Blog regularly for updates.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Mental Health Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers, and Marital and Family Therapists.

We have had mental health professionals who became victims of completely unreasonable demands from their clients/patients (house sitting, pet sitting, etc.), stalking by their clients/patients, identity theft and computer hacking by their clients/patients. Don’t become a victim yourself.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm can assist and advise you in dealing with difficult clients/patients. We can stop stalking, cyber-stalking and harassment. We can respond to client/patient letters. We can defend you if a client/patient files a complaint against you.

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

Sources:

Chang, Daniel. “Autistic kids could lose care as Florida cracks down on Medicaid fraud.” Miami Herald. (July 26, 2018). Web.

Viteri, Amy. “Autistic children caught up in Medicaid fraud investigation.” (August 7, 2018). Web.

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

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

Beware of These Illegal Business Arrangements in Healthcare

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

Florida does not have a corporate practice of medicine prohibition like many other states do.  In other words, a physician is allowed to work as an employee or independent contractor of a corporation or other business entity owned by nonphysicians   However, there are a number of exceptions to this rule.

For dentists, optometrists and chiropractors there are specific statutory prohibitions on any member of that profession practicing his or her specialty while working for a group, practice or organization that is owned or controlled by one who is not a member of that profession.  These laws, a different one for each specialty, make it a felony to do so, as well as grounds for discipline against the professional’s license.  It is considered to be a separate felony offense for each day.

The main exceptions for these prohibitions include, for example, working for a hospital, working for a federal health care clinic, working for a not-for-profit charity health care clinic, and other limited exceptions.

There are All Treated the Same: Revoked License, Licensed in Another State But Not in Florida and Suspended License.

We have seen cases in which a dentist or chiropractor licensed in another state, but not in Florida, owned or operated a dental or chiropractic clinic in Florida.  This would be prohibited, of course.

In other cases, we have seen health professionals who have had their licenses revoked continue to own and operate or even “lease out” their practices to others.  The ownership or control of the practice by one with a revoked license would also be illegal.

We have seen cases in which a spouse or child of a deceased physician has continued to own and operate a clinic after the health professional died, when he or she was not a health professional.  This is illegal from the day the health professional died and there is no “grace period.”

In the Cases of Health Care Clinics and Pain Management Clinics…

In cases in which a member of the profession is allowed to work for a group, practice, clinic, corporation or other business entity that is not owned by health professionals, then that organization (again, with certain exceptions) is required to obtain a health care clinic license from the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).  Professionals other than dentists, chiropractors and optometrists, could work, for example, for a corporation (corp.) or limited liability company (LLC) owned by an accountant and a businessman, as long as it had a valid health care clinic license.  Owning, operating or working for an unlicensed health care clinic which would be required by Florida law to be licensed, is a felony offense.

If you are a physician, nurse practitioner, other licensed health professional, you need to check the business’s licensure status with AHCA to make sure it is current and valid, before going to work there.

Additional situations include pain clinics and other types of health practices which constitute “risky” areas of practice.  If you are not aware of the almost daily occurrences of physicians getting busted, pharmacists getting arrested, and pharmacies and pain clinics being searched, closed and shuttered, you’re not reading the newspapers or watching TV.  Usually pain clinics are required to be licensed as health care clinics by AHCA and as pain medicine clinics by the Department of Health (DOH).  However, a regular medical practice is exempt from those requirements (with certain exceptions, of course).

We have encountered situations where a good physician is recruited into a very questionable practice setting by unscrupulous nonprofessionals who are merely using him or her.  Everything is placed in the physician’s name.  On paper it appears the physician is running a legitimate medical practice.  However, behind the scenes, the physician actually controls nothing.  It is clear that the whole setup is just a shell, a phony medical practice set up to skirt the law and avoid licensure.

We have seen medical practices and dental practices where a nonprofessional business person has control of all of the billings and collections, the employees, the bank accounts and all of the records.  The physician does not have control of anything, not even the practice’s bank account.  We have encountered several situations where the physician does not even have passwords to his/her own computers and software or keys to his/her own office.  We believe that such situations are sham operations set up to avoid statutory requirements.  A physician would be well warned to stay away from such situations.

Beware of Scams to Avoid the Law.

We have seen many cases where individuals, including lawyers and business people, have attempted to get creative to come up with schemes to try to get around the laws.  Often there may be a legal way to create an arrangement between licensed health professionals and unlicensed business people, to accomplish their goals, especially related to financial arrangements.

However, we have also seen many such schemes that were clearly illegal and meant to just put a facade on an obviously illegal arrangement.  When the criminal authorities start to investigate the behind-the-scenes people disappear, leaving the physician to pay the price. A physician or health care provider should have any such business arrangement reviewed in detail by a board certified health lawyer before he or she gets involved with it.  If you are thinking about investing in such a practice or arrangement, then we strongly recommend that you obtain an opinion letter from a board certified health lawyer as to the legality of the situation or arrangement.

Do Not Let Anyone Else Use Your Billing Number or Medicare Provider Number.

We have also been consulted on a number of occasions by physicians who were contacted by business people starting clinics allegedly seeking a “medical director” for their clinic, offering the physician a large amount of money without having to perform any real work.  However, they just need to use the physician’s Medicare number to bill with for a few months until their Medicare number is approved.  Such enterprises usually turn out to be Medicare billing fraud schemes.  The company uses the physician’s Medicare number to bill for hundreds or thousands of physician patient visits in patient’s homes, nursing homes or assisted living facilities (ALFs) that never occur.  When Medicare stops paying and starts investigating, the ones behind the scheme disappear and leave the physician holding the bag.

Avoid such schemes.  Avoid any situation where someone else “needs” to use your Medicare number for services that you are not actually performing yourself.  If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  You will wind up paying a heavy price later on if you fall for it,

There are Many Illegal Situations Which Carry Heavy Consequences.

Many of the above situations can result in criminal prosecutions.  In addition, these are also usually grounds for discipline on a health professional’s license.  In many cases, all fees collected while operating illegally must be refunded.  In the case where pain management is involved, the penalties are much higher than in other situations.  Where Medicare and Medicaid patients or billings may be involved, the risks of criminal prosecution and very large monetary penalties are much greater.

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

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, durable medical equipment suppliers (DME), medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, preparing contracts, helping employers and employees enforce contracts, advice on setting aside or voiding contracts, litigation of contracts (in start or federal court), business transactions, professional license defense, opinion letters, representation in investigations, fair hearing defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, litigation of restrictive covenant (covenants not to compete), Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings.

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

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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.

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