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Almost 19% of Nurse Aides Charged with Abuse and Neglect in 2010 had Prior Criminal Records

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

A report released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) on October 5, 2012, found that nineteen percent (19%) of long-term care nurse aides who were found guilty of on-the-job abuse, neglect or property theft in 2010 had prior criminal records that would have showed up on a background check. Click here to read the entire report from the HHS OIG.

Background Check Program Initiated to Decrease Abuse Cases.

Section 6201 of the Affordable Care Act establishes a background check program. This voluntary program gives grants to states that support nursing home employee background checks. The report was released to assess the ability of the background check program to help decrease the number of neglect, abuse and misappropriation of resident property cases.

Nurse Aides Mostly Convicted for Burglary and Larceny.

Out of 1,611 nurse aides charged with abuse, neglect or property theft in 2010, 300 nurse aides had at least one prior criminal conviction. The Inspector General (IG) found the majority of disciplined nurse aides with records had been convicted of burglary, larceny or other crimes against property. Of the 300 nurse aides, 170 of them had at least one conviction prior to their date of registration as a nurse aide. The remaining 130 nurse aides, each had at least one conviction after the date of their registration. In a National Public Radio (NPR) story, a nursing professor from the University of California, San Francisco, said she is “most disturbed by the fact that nursing homes had hired some aides who’d been convicted of serious crimes.” Click here to read the NPR article.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses and Nurse Aides.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses and nurse aides in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida. 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 nurse, nursing aide or any other health professional, what do you think of this report? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Schultz, David. “Among Disciplined Nurse Aides, Criminal Records Turn Up.” NPR. (October 11, 2012). From: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/10/11/162636910/among-disciplined-nurse-aides-criminal-records-turn-up

Wright. Stuart. “Criminal Convictions for Nurses Aides With Substantiated Findings of Abuse, Neglect, and Misappropriation.” Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. (October 5, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/Criminal%20Convictions%20for%20nurses%20aides.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.

Locating a Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) Insurance Defense Attorney in Florida

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

We are sometimes told by the health professionals we represent especially pharmacists, licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs), advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), massage therapists and physical therapists that after they received a complaint regarding their license from the Florida Department of Health (DOH) they had difficulty finding an experienced attorney in Florida who would accept their professional liability insurance.  In this case, I am speaking specifically about Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) Insurance.

Benefits of HPSO Insurance.

The professionals who are covered by HPSO Insurance have excellent insurance coverage.  HPSO Insurance provides professional liability coverage that protects in the event of a lawsuit or negligence claim.  But much more often the professional receives a notice of an investigation, a subpoena for a deposition in someone else’s case, a demand because of an allegation of sexual harassment or sexual impropriety, a complaint because of a breach of medical records confidentiality or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy complaint, or some other administrative type of action.

HPSO provides great coverage for these.  For example, HPSO currently reimburses up to $10,000 in legal fees and expenses just for representation of you at depositions.  HPSO currently reimburses up to $25,000 in legal fees and expenses for your defense in a DOH or Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) notice of investigation or complaint.  HPSO currently reimburses up to $25,000 in legal fees and expenses for your legal representation in defense of a complaint or investigation regarding breach of medical confidentiality.

If you are a pharmacist, own a pharmacy, are a massage therapist, own an assisted living facility (ALF), are a mental health counselor or a social worker, or you are one of the many other types of health care professionals who HPSO insures, it should be fairly easy to find experienced health lawyers to represent you, especially in Florida.

Our firm and our attorneys, including George F. Indest III, Michael L. Smith, Joanne Kenna, Carole C. Schriefer, Lance O. Leider, Christopher E. Brown and Danielle M. Murray, routinely represent licensed health care professionals, interns and students in all types of administrative investigations and hearings and in defending lawsuits and other actions that have been filed.  We also represent health facilities in license defense, survey complaints and administrative hearings.  We represent them throughout Florida, from Pensacola, to Jacksonville, to Key West.  We also occasionally represent them in other states, as well.  We accept HPSO Insurance assignments.

Free Legal Advice: Get Insurance Immediately.

It is very important for every health professional to carry insurance that covers any investigation, complaint or administrative hearing that might be filed or opened against your license.  You may think that you are covered for this by your employer, but you are not.  If your employer contradicts this, ask for a statement in writing that your employer will pay for your legal defense for any such matter arising during your employment.

What typically happens, especially in the case of a hospital employee, nursing home employee, pharmacy employee or corporate employee, is that the employer is the one who terminates the employee and then files a complaint with the DOH.  The DOH then opens an investigation against the health professional.  The employer is not going to pay your legal defense costs if the employer has reported you.

You may very well be out of work, out of money and face an investigation and complaint that could terminate your professional license and career.  You should not take this chance.  Insurance such as HPSO Insurance is inexpensive and reliable.  Buy it while you can afford it. After the actions have occurred, it is too late.

Find an Experience Health Law Attorney in the Event of an Investigation.

Also, you should immediately contact an experienced health law attorney if you are telephoned or visited by any investigator, or if you receive a letter advising you that an investigation has been opened regarding your care.  Call immediately for advice before you speak with an investigator or provide any documents or statements of any kind.

You cannot and should not seek “legal advice” on what to do from the investigator, from a DOH employee, from your professional board or from any attorney representing any of them.  They are not your friends.  They are on the side against you. You should definitely not take any advice from them.

Do Not Skimp on Insurance Coverage.

If you have good insurance, it will pay for your legal expenses from the very beginning, so use it.  However, beware of cheap insurance policies from professional associations that do not provide any coverage for disciplinary complaints and licensure investigations.  Always check to be sure this is covered.  Get it in writing.  With some companies you have to pay an extra premium to obtain this coverage.  With some insurers, they do not offer it, and you have to purchase a completely separate policy covering just this.  It is worth it!  Do it!

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

Our firm regularly represents pharmacists, massage therapists, mental health counselors, registered nurses, assisted living facilities, home health agencies, nurse practitioners, lab technicians, occupational therapists, physical therapists, social workers, physician assistants, psychologists and other health professionals in many different legal matters.

Services we provide include representation before your professional board, in DOH investigations, in administrative hearings, in civil litigation, in defense of malpractice claims, in professional licensing matters, in defense of allegations concerning HIPAA privacy violations and medical record breaches, in Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) actions, and in many other matters.

We routinely represent physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, and others in defending against malpractice claims, civil lawsuits, administrative complaints, peer review actions, DOH investigations, Medicare audits, Medicaid audits, and other matters. In cases in which the health care professional has professional liability insurance or general liability insurance which provides coverage for such matters, we will seek to obtain coverage by your insurance company and will attempt to have your legal fees and expenses covered by your insurance company.  If allowed, we will agree to take an assignment of your insurance policy proceeds in order to be able to submit our bills directly to your insurance company.

We also defend health professionals and health facilities in general litigation matters and business litigation matters.

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

Comments?

Do you have professional liability insurance? Why or why not. 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.

New Professional Liability Insurance Benefits for Health Professionals

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

I have been pleasantly surprised recently to discover that several professional liability insurance companies have raised their coverage amounts and added coverage in areas sorely needed by health professionals.  I’m referring to coverage for incidents not necessarily related to malpractice or professional liability.

I do note that Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) Insurance has increased its basic policy limits from a cap of $3,000,000 in the aggregate per year to $5,000,000 aggregate per year for counselors on professional liability coverage.

However, we have always maintained that the most important coverage for any licensed health professional is professional licensure legal defense coverage.  This is probably the most used type of coverage and the most beneficial for a health professional.

HPSO Insurance and Nurses Service Organization (NSO) Insurance, as well as several other insurers now provide up to $25,000 coverage.  If an employer whether it’s a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility (ALF), home health agency (HHA), medical group or public health clinic or a patient complains about you to the state Department of Health (DOH) or state licensing authority, you could face investigation and hearings that would cost you tens of thousands of dollars to have properly defended by an experienced attorney.  If you don’t have the funds to pay for this, you could be forced to accept discipline on your license which could result in a number of unexpected additional adverse actions against you.

Although I would prefer to see this coverage increased to $50,000, and there are several companies that provide this much in coverage, $25,000 will go a long way toward defending you against meritless or unprovable complaints.

New HPSO Insurance and NSO Coverages.

Representation During a Deposition – A patient is injured at the facility where you work. You are not named in the lawsuit, but you receive a subpoena for testimony. Your coverage through HPSO Insurance will pay up to $10,000 per deposition with a $10,000 annual aggregate for you to be represented at the deposition by an attorney.

Information Privacy Coverage (added upon request) – People today are very conscious about their privacy. Most are aware of the protection they receive under the new Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws. This optional endorsement extends your coverage to pay for HIPAA fines and penalties arising from a HIPAA proceeding, subject to a $25,000 aggregate limit.

Sexual Misconduct – In the past, while your coverage through HPSO Insurance would pay to defend you against allegations of sexual misconduct related to your professional services, there was no coverage for a settlement. This new endorsement provides you with a $25,000 aggregate sublimit for covered sexual misconduct claims.

Reimbursement for Rendering First Aid – This benefit provides reimbursement up to $10,000 for expenses you incur while rendering first aid to a person other than yourself. For example, this could include supplies from your personal first aid kit that you used to help a victim of an automobile accident.

Accidental Injury to Others – If someone was hurt by something like a slip and fall at your residence or your workplace and required medical attention, they can receive reimbursement for their expenses up to $10,000 per incident with a $100,000 annual aggregate. It must be an accidental injury, not a medical incident.

Service to Animals (added for pharmacists, physical therapists (PTs), massage therapists and counselors) – In the course of providing professional services to an animal, if they are injured and the owner files suit, the new service to animals endorsement provides $25,000 aggregate coverage. (Added upon request for all others.)

Accidental Damage to Others’ Property – While you are providing care at a patient’s home what if you accidentally break something? No worries. Your policy pays for unintentional damage you cause to someone else’s property while at your personal residence or workplace. This coverage provides up to $10,000 per incident with a $10,000 aggregate.

Other Coverages Added to Professional Liability Insurance Policies.

In addition to the coverages I have discussed above, there have been some other coverages added to many professional liability insurance policies that could pay off for damages or injuries the individual health professional incurs, as well.

Workplace Violence Counseling – While your assault coverage pays for the medical expenses resulting from an attack, this new endorsement broadens your coverage to include $25,000 aggregate limits for the payment of any emotional counseling needed as a result of a covered incident.

Coverage If You are Assaulted – Violence in the workplace is a sad reality. Should you be the victim of a violent action at work or on your way to or from work, this coverage will pay up to $25,000 per incident with a $25,000 aggregate for medical expenses you incur or for damage to your personal belongings.

Reimbursement for Defendant Expenses – Regardless of its outcome, a malpractice suit will likely cost you money and could mean thousands of dollars out of your pocket. Your policy through HPSO Insurance will reimburse you up to $1,000 per day, up to $25,000 aggregate for lost wages, travel and other covered expenses.

Business Owner Coverage Extension (added upon request) – The ‘named insured’ on a policy for a healthcare firm is typically the business name. If the business owner volunteers or moonlights there is always the chance they could be named in a malpractice suit under their individual name. This new extension provides protection for the owner if sued under their personal name.

HPSO Insurance Also Provides Coverage For:

   Students (Health Professional Students)
   Counselors
   Interns (Health Professional Interns)
   Physician Extenders
   Physicians
   Fitness Professionals
   Integrated Health Practitioners
   Massage Therapists
   Nurse Practitioners
   Occupational Therapists
   Pharmacists
   Physical Therapists (PTs)
   Physician Assistants (PAs)
   Radiologist Assistants
   Radiology Practitioner Assistants
   Social Workers
Healthcare Businesses:

   Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs)
   Nurse Registries
   Home Health Agencies (HHAs)
   Pharmacies
   Physical Therapy Practices
   Occupational Therapy Practices
   Outpatient Therapy Clinics

There is no time like the present, when you have the funds and can afford it, to purchase professional liability insurance.  It is surprisingly inexpensive.  Every professional should carry it.  If you don’t buy it before you need it, when you do really need it, it will be too late.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

Our firm regularly represents physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, massage therapists, mental health counselors, registered nurses (RNs), assisted living facilities (ALFs), home health agencies (HHAs), nurse practitioners, lab technicians, occupational therapists, physical therapists (PTs), social workers, physician assistants, psychologists and other health professionals in many different legal matters.

Services we provide include representation before your professional board in DOH investigations, in administrative hearings, in civil litigation, in defense of malpractice claims, in professional licensing matters, in defense of allegations concerning HIPAA privacy violations and medical record breaches, in Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) actions, and in many other matters.

In cases in which the health care professional has professional liability insurance or general liability insurance which provides coverage for such matters, we will seek to obtain coverage by your insurance company and will attempt to have your legal fees and expenses covered by your insurance company.  If allowed, we will agree to take an assignment of your insurance policy proceeds in order to be able to submit our bills directly to your insurance company.

We also defend health professionals and health facilities in general litigation matters and business litigation matters.

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.

VA Physicians and Health Professionals Should Fight Allegations of Substandard Care in Peer Review Matters

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

I have represented physicians, psychologists, nurse practitioners, nurses and other health professionals working in Veterans Administration (VA) medical centers and clinics throughout the United States.  My representation has included personnel and employment issues, disciplinary actions, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions and appeals.

If a complaint involving allegations of lack of clinical competence or skill is made, it is extremely important for the physician or nurse practitioner to retain the services of an experienced health lawyer to represent him or her immediately.  This is not the time to seek the cheapest attorney you can find.  You need skilled representation by an advocate who knows medical terminology, understands medical issues and procedures, knows physicians, and has experience with fair hearings.

You Have Rights.

VA Handbook 1100.19, Credentialing and Privileging, requires that the VA hospital afford you due process of law and fundamental fairness at every step of the process in any clinical privileges action.  This includes timely advance notice of the specific allegations made against you, the evidence that is to be used against you, legal representation, advance notice of witnesses and documents that may be introduced against you, the opportunity to prepare a defense to the allegations, the right to cross examine witnesses, the right to introduce evidence (documents and witnesses, including expert witnesses) in your defense, a neutral and unbiased hearing panel, and other such rights.  Attorneys who are not familiar with such hearings may be unaware of your rights or how to properly exercise and safeguard them.

How to Take Care of Your License.

Don’t seek legal advice from your colleagues, from your accountant or from an attorney who does not specialize in such matters. We don’t recommend shopping around for the cheapest attorney you can find.  Please do not hire a personal injury attorney, a civil litigation attorney, and employment law attorney or any other attorney without health law experience.  Your professional life, career and medical license are at stake.  You are in the fight of your life.  Treat it as such.

If you were diagnosed with a brain tumor, would you attempt to perform your own brain surgery?  Would you shop around to find the cheapest neurosurgeon to perform the surgery?  Or would you look for the best?  Yet, physicians routinely believe they can represent themselves in such matters.  In our experience, this simply is not the case.

Contact an Experienced Health Law Attorney Before You Do Anything.

Far too frequently we are contacted by physicians after the investigation has been completed, after the hearing has been held and after the physician’s clinical privileges have been revoked.  Except for an appeal on narrow grounds, little can be done.

If the VA revokes your clinical privileges, by regulation, this will be reported to the NPDB and to every state in which you have a license.  The NPDB report remains on your file for 50 years.  Any time in the future you apply for clinical privileges, for a medical license or for medical malpractice insurance, this report will come up and cause you serious problems.  It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain employment or to obtain clinical privileges in any hospital or institution with such a NPDB report on your file.  Additionally, any state in which you hold a license will also open an investigation against your medical license.

NPDB reports can be mitigated by filing an explanatory rebuttal (as is your right) or by filing a request for a Secretarial Review (appeal).  We can do this for you.  However, it is best to prevent a NPDB report from being filed to begin with.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Veterans Administration (VA) Physician Representation and Military Physician Representation.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have represented physicians, psychologists, nurse practitioners, nurse and other health professionals working in Veterans Administration medical centers and clinics throughout the United States.  Representation has included personnel and employment issues, 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 (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.

Strike Force Busts 89 People, Mostly Health Care Professionals, in Nationwide Crackdown on Medicare Fraud

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

In a nationwide takedown nearly 100 people, including doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, in eight cities were all allegedly charged in separate Medicare fraud schemes. These individual scams involved approximately $223 million in false billing, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Humans Services (DHHS). On May 14, 2013, more than 400 law enforcement officials with the Medicare Fraud Strike Force spread out between Miami, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, Houston, Chicago and Tampa to make the arrests of these 89 people, according to the DOJ.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Medicare Schemes Could Not Have Happened Without the Help of Health Professionals.

According to an article in Reuters, one out of every four defendants in this crackdown was some type of health professional. Authorities say most of these allegedly complex scams could not have happened without the participation of a doctor signing off on a bogus service, or a nurse filling out false paperwork.

Click here to read the entire article from Reuters.

Florida Health Professionals Involved.

According to the DOJ, in Miami, a total of 25 people, including two nurses and a paramedic, were allegedly part of numerous Medicare scams, totaling about $44 million in false claims. In one case involving a home health agency, defendants allegedly bribed Medicare beneficiaries for their Medicare information, which was used to bill for home health services that were never rendered or not medically necessary. The DOJ believes the lead defendant spent a majority of the money from the scam on luxury cars.

Phony Health Care Clinics Set Up.

In Tampa, nine individuals were charged in a variety of schemes, ranging from pharmacy fraud to health-care related money laundering. According to the DOJ, in one case four individuals allegedly established four health care clinics. The individuals allegedly used these clinics to steal more than $2.5 million from Medicare for surgical procedures that were never performed.

This Marks the Sixth Time the Medicare Fraud Strike Force Has Executed a Nationwide Crackdown.

This crackdown marks the sixth time the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has taken nationwide action against Medicare fraud. To date, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force is credited with making more than 1,500 arrests on charges related to $5 billion in allegedly false Medicare claims since 2007. According to the DOJ, it’s believed Medicare fraud costs the program between $60 billion and $90 billion each year.

Medicare operates under a pay-and-chase system, but according to the Washington Post, authorities are beginning to use new technology that flags suspicious claims before Medicare makes a payment. To read the entire Washington Post article, click here.

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 health care 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 these nationwide crackdowns on Medicare fraud? Do you think they work as a deterrent for others committing health care fraud? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Medicare Strike Force Charges 89 Individuals for Approximately $223 Million in False Billing.” Department of Justice. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/May/13-crm-553.html

Kennedy, Kelli. “Doctors and Nurses Among Nearly 100 Charged in $223 Million Medicare Fraud Busts in 8 Cities.” Washington Post. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/health_care/doctors-nurses-among-nearly-100-charged-in-223-million-medicare-fraud-busts-in-8-cities/2013/05/14/fbb0de3a-bcbc-11e2-b537-ab47f0325f7c_story.html

Morgan, David. “U.S. Charges 89 People in $223 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Reuters. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/14/usa-healthcare-fraud-idUSL2N0DV3GZ20130514

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.

Former Texas Official Sentenced for Retaliation Against Nurses

According to ABC News, Scott Tidwell, a former West Texas county attorney, will serve four months in jail and 10 years of probation for retaliating against two nurses.

The nurses filed an anonymous complaint to state medical regulators against a doctor who used herbal remedies and hospital supplies to perform at-home procedures. The doctor then ordered a friend, a county sheriff at the time, to investigate the complaint, which resulted in the nurses being fired from their jobs and charged with felonies.

Tidwell acted as the prosecutor in the trial against one of the nurses. She was acquitted, and the charges against the other nurse were dropped.

Tidwell is not the only player in this case who is suffering from involvement. The Texas Medical Board found that the doctor tried to intimidate the nurses and placed him on probation for four years. He has also been charged with aggravated perjury and two counts each of retaliation and misuse of official information.

Earlier this year, a law was passed that adds protection from retaliation for nurses who advocate for patients. This bill allows nurses to report unsafe care with immunity from criminal liability.

Nurses and other health care professionals need this kind of legislation to allow them to fulfill their responsibilities to their patients. Without legal protection, health care professionals cannot be assured that there won’t be repercussions for acting on concerns. If our health care professionals are not protected, the care and safety of patients is compromised.

For more information about legal matters involved in nursing, visit www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or read the Nursing Law Manual.

Health Care Professionals and Providers Beware: The Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) Is Catching Fire

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

In May 2009, the Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) created the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT). HEAT’s mission is to focus its efforts on preventing and deterring fraud and to enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. To date, almost 1,400 individuals have been charged in connection with schemes involving more than $4.8 billion in fraudulent billings in these HEAT takedown operations.

To learn more about HEAT, click here to visit the website.

The Success of the HEAT Team.

According to the website, between 2008 and 2011, HEAT actions led to a seventy-five percent (75%) increase in individuals charged with criminal health care fraud. So far there have been six nationwide HEAT sting operations.

In 2011, HEAT agents led the largest-ever federal health care fraud takedown involving $530 million in fraudulent billing. To read more on this sting, click here.

On May 14, 2013, the DOJ announced that more than 400 law enforcement officials with HEAT spread out between eight cities including Miami and Tampa Bay to arrest 89 people accused of false billing. A majority of these arrests were allegedly of health care professionals. Click here to read a blog with more information on this takedown.

HEAT Captures One of Medicare’s Most-Wanted Fugitives.

On June 1, 2013, a former Los Angeles physical therapy clinic owner, and one of Medicare’s most-wanted fugitives, was arrested by HEAT agents at the Los Angeles International Airport on his return flight. According to a Los Angeles Times article, the clinic owner was an acupuncturist who billed Medicare for $2.1 million in false claims and was paid about $1.2 million. To read more from the Los Angeles Times, click here.

Expanding the Medicare Fraud Strike Force Efforts.

HEAT is a multi-agency team of federal, state and local investigators who combat Medicare fraud through the use of Medicare data analysis techniques and an increased focus on community policing.

The Affordable Care Act has given HEAT additional tools to preserve Medicare by expanding the team’s authority to suspend Medicare payments and reimbursements when fraud is suspected.

To better combat fraud, the government has established HEAT in a number of cities, such as Los Angeles, Miami, Tampa Bay, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Brooklyn, Baton Rouge and Detroit.

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

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

Comments?

Have you heard of HEAT? Do you think the team’s efforts are curbing Medicare fraud around the country? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Medicare Fraud Strike Force Charges 89 Individuals for Approximately $223 Million in False Billing.” Department of Justice. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/May/13-crm-553.html

Terhune, Chad. “One of Medicare’s Most-Wanted Fugitives is Arrested in L.A.” Los Angeles Times. (June 3, 2013). From: http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-medicare-most-wanted-fugitive-arrest-20130603,0,7474342.story

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.

Nurses: Insuring Your Legal Protection

Though many nurses pursue a career in nursing hoping that they will never face disciplinary charges, any number of events not in a nurse’s control can lead to an investigation or administrative action. Nurses need to make sure they are covered if this ever occurs, with appropriate insurance.

The primary reason that a nurse should purchase a professional liability insurance policy is that this type of insurance usually includes coverage for legal defense of licensing and disciplinary action commenced against a nurse.

License defense coverage pays the legal fees and costs associated with defending a nurse when an investigation is initiated that may result in action against her nursing license or disciplinary action against the nurse. Coverage is usually available from the time the nurse receives written notice that an investigation by a state agency has been initiated. It will also cover formal complaints made against the nurse, informal hearings before the Board of Nursing, and formal administrative hearings before an administrative law judge.

Such investigations, complaints, and administrative action may be opened based on events including patient complaints, hotline calls, Code 15 reports, nursing home and home health agency surveys, abuse investigations by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), newspaper articles, copies of lawsuits, and many other sources. It is far more likely that a nurse will be involved in one of these types of actions than being sued for nursing negligence.

Professional liability policies, which provide coverage for licensure defense, will usually provide compensation to the nurse for her out-of-pocket expenses (travel, postage, etc.) that she herself incurs, as well as lost wages because of working time missed for hearings, depositions, etc. However, the maximum coverage available under such policies for licensure defense is usually limited. to between $10,000 and $15,000. This amount will usually be sufficient to provide for most of the legal fees and costs involved in defense of such a case.

Does Vicarious Liability Actually Absolve the Nurse From Liability?

The assumption that vicarious liability or the legal doctrine of respondeat superior protects a nurse against a medical negligence claim is a mistaken one. If the employer provides legal representation, the attorney representing the nurse will almost always be the same attorney representing and being paid by the hospital or employer.

In many circumstances, the nurse may conclude that her interests are contrary to those of the hospital or employer, which could result in the attorney hired by the hospital withdrawing from further representation of the nurse. Additionally, it may be necessary for the nurse to raise evidence showing that the injury was caused by another nurse or hospital employee, in order to defend herself. It is doubtful that an attorney representing the employer or hospital would raise this defense since it would prove liability against the employer hospital.

Many employers will not provide legal representation if the matter involves licensing or disciplinary action against the nurse. This could force the nurse to fund all the fees and costs associated with her defense. However, some larger corporations with good risk management programs will provide the nurse with legal representation for such matters.

If you are an agency nurse, a home health agency nurse, a nursing home nurse, an independent duty nurse, or you are not employed by a large hospital chain, then you should consider nursing liability insurance mandatory. It appears that complaints of negligence against nurses working in these positions are far more likely. This may be because of the high turnover of nurses in some types of healthcare facilities (such as nursing homes), or because the nurse is no longer employed at the facility when the investigation begins (for example, in the case of an agency nurse). Additionally, agency nurses may only work in facility for a short period of time making them less familiar with the facility’s policies and procedures, and not a part of the permanent team of nurses who may have established relationships with each other and are more likely to cover for each other.

As previously mentioned, a number of different proceedings may be covered by the licensure defense coverage provided in professional liability insurance. These proceedings may include an investigation by the Department of Health based on a patient complaint or Code 15 report; an abuse investigation (abuse of a child, abuse of a developmentally disabled or vulnerable person, or abuse of an elderly person) by the Department of Children and Families (DCF); allegations of nursing negligence or abuse being investigated by a state “surveyor” by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA); an investigation into allegations of Medicaid over-billing or fraud; an investigation by the Agency for Health Care Administration or on the Attorney General’s State-wide Medicaid Task Force; and allegations of improper Medicare billing or fraud.

A nurse might be involved in a Medicaid fraud investigation, for example, in the case of an Advance Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) or Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) who has her own provider identification number and is allowed to bill as part of a group practice or independently. This might also occur, for example, in the case of a nurse working for a home health agency which receives its reimbursement for the nurse’s services from Medicare or Medicaid.

Cost of Professional Liability Coverage is Minimal

Nurses can purchase liability coverage rather inexpensively. For example, an excellent insurance policy providing coverage for nurses is available through the Nurses Service Organization (N.S.O.) for less than $100 per year. Professional liability coverage provided by this type of insurance represents a bargain at these rates.

Focusing on Protecting the Nurse’s Individual Interests

Perhaps most importantly, the nurse should have an attorney focusing on her interests only in defending her against any type of negligence or licensing complaint. A nurse with her own professional liability insurance coverage will be able to hire a separate, independent attorney, and often the insurer will allow her to pick her own attorney.

Important Considerations When Purchasing Liability Protection

When deciding on which professional liability insurance to purchase, the nurse should inquire as to the extent of coverage for licensing in disciplinary defense coverage. Some professional liability insurers have a “broad form” of coverage which may provide legal defense for the nurse in almost any type of administrative action. This might include, for example, defense of a discrimination complaint filed against the nurse with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and for Medicare and Medicaid complaints. Other companies limit coverage to only actions that may result in disciplinary action against the nurse’s license. The nurse should always attempt to get the broadest coverage available for disciplinary defense and licensure defense coverage.

Additionally, the nurse should inquire as to whether or not she will be allowed to select her own attorney. Many insurance companies have contracts with certain law firms to provide legal services on their cases for a reduced fee. The insurance company may require you to use one of its own contracted attorneys, or even one of its in-house attorneys which it employs directly. Given the limited number of attorneys with experience at handling nursing law issues and trying malpractice cases, the nurse should attempt to obtain coverage through a company which allows her to choose her own attorney.

The most important reason to purchase professional liability insurance is for the licensure defense coverage. A nurse does not want to risk losing her nursing license because she was unsuccessful at defending an investigation against her license or did not have the resources to do so. Since there are far more complaints filed each year against nurses’ licenses than here are nursing malpractice lawsuits, it is far more likely that a working nurse will need legal defense of a licensure complaint investigation.

For more information about the legal needs of nurses visit www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Orlando Health’s Restructuring Efforts Might Mean Pay Cuts and Layoffs for Employees

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

Many employees at Orlando Health might be getting hit hard in the wallet with pay cuts schedule for later this year. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the eight-hospital health system notified its night-shift workers that their differential pay would be trimmed by several dollars an hour. For some employees that could be a twenty percent (20%) reduction in salary. The differential pay cuts are scheduled to take effect on September 8, 2013.

Meanwhile the hospital allegedly raised prices in the cafeteria, reduced the tuition reimbursement benefit, cut some workers hours and made a number of layoffs, according to the Orlando Sentinel. According to Orlando Health officials, this is all part of a restructuring effort that began in November 2012. The cutbacks will affect all eight hospitals and all departments.

Anyone who has eaten in the cafeteria at Orlando Regional knows what a bargain the food was. Now this will be the subject of reminiscence as when us old codgers fondly think back on 5 cent Coca Colas and 10 cent loaves of bread.

To read the Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

Night-Shift Workers Feel Under Paid and Under Appreciated.

Some Orlando Hospital employees spoke to the Orlando Sentinel about the pay cuts. According to the Orlando Sentinel, night-shift workers receive incentive pay on top of their base salary for their willingness to work night shifts. One worker interviewed explained the incentive pay is given to them because no one wants to work the overnight shift. Workers also get differential pay for weekend and holiday hours.

On top of the pay cuts, workers are seeing their hours drop, as well as layoffs around the hospital. In the November 2012, restructuring announcement, Orlando Health said 300 to 400 employees’ jobs were on the chopping block, according to WFTV. Some people were previously let go, while more layoffs will be coming. Hospital officials would not say how many people have been laid off so far.

To read more from WFTV, click here.

Orlando Health’s Statement.

Orlando Health reported an $8.1 million loss last quarter. That’s on top of losing money for the last four out of five quarters, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Hospital officials said the change in differential pay puts Orlando Health in line with the pay of other hospitals in the Southeast. On August 13, 2013, Orlando Health sent out an official statement, click here to read the full statement.

Petition to Block Pay Cuts Gaining Momentum.

A petition filed on August 9, 2013, on Change.org, is requesting the Orlando Health CEO block the pay cuts to the night shift workers. The petition was started by a registered nurse at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies and is quickly picking up steam. As of August 15, 2013, the petition had more than 2,700 signatures, although not all are local. To view the petition, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

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 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 cutbacks at Orlando Health? Are these steps necessary? If you are an Orlando Health employee, how will these changes affect you? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Jameson, Marni. “Orlando Health Workers Concerned by Cutbacks in Hours and Pay.” Orlando Sentinel. (August 9, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/os-orlando-health-cutbacks-20130809,0,5234963.story?dssReturn

Hughes, Ryan. “Orlando Health Confirms Second Round of Layoffs.” WFTV. (August 2, 2013). From: http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/orlando-health-confirms-second-round-layoffs/nZCjC/

Lewis, Kena. Orlando Health Statement. Orlando Business Journal. (August 13, 2013). From: http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/blog/2013/08/orlando-health-pay-cuts-to-save-18m.html?page=all

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.

Nurses Rx: Medication Administration

From George Indest’s Nursing Law Manual

Nurses face a busy schedule often including a long list of patients and extensive work hours. As a result, they can become overworked and overtired, which may lead to mistakes when carrying out essential job duties like administering medication. An Institute of Medicine (IOM) report titled To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System (IOM, Dec. 1999) states the deaths from medication errors that take place both in and out of hospitals, more than 7,000 annually, exceed those from workplace injuries. In a separate report, investigation by the Chicago-Tribune states that since 1995, at least 1,720 hospital patients have died and 9,548 others have been injured because of mistakes made by RN’s across the country (Associated Press, Sept. 10, 2000).

Because nurses are usually the front-line health care providers who are required to administer medications prescribed by physicians (and often the most potent medications to critically ill patients), they must be especially careful in their procedures and practices to avoid one of the many types of common medication errors. The most common types of medication errors include:

1. similar sounding medication name;

2. administration without a prescription;

3. the wrong medication;

4. the wrong dosage;

5. negligent injection;

6. failure to note an order change;

7. failure to administer medication;

8. failure to discontinue medication;

9. use of an unsterile needle;

10. the wrong patient;

11. allergic reactions; and

12. failure to assure patient taking medications.

Nurses are required to handle and administer a vast variety of drugs that are prescribed by physicians and dispensed by an organization’s pharmacy. Medications may range from aspirin to esoteric drugs that are administered through intravenous solutions. These medications must be administered in the prescribed manner and dose to prevent serious harm to patients.

There are a variety of ways to ensure that, as a nurse, you are helping to prevent medication errors within your facility. Use this checklist from George Indest’s Nursing Law Manual in order to maintain safe administration procedures.

Nurses are exempted from the various pharmacy statutes when administering a medication on the oral or written order of a physician. However, the improper administration of medications can lead to malpractice suits.

ADMINISTRATION OF CONTROLLED MEDICATIONS WITHOUT A PRESCRIPTION

A nurse should never administer prescription medications without a valid prescription or order from a physician. In effect, doing that constitutes practicing medicine without a medical license and is beyond the scope of a nurse’s license. Administering medications without approval may give rise to legal liability and disciplinary action against the nurse.

ADMINISTERING THE WRONG MEDICATION

The injection of the wrong medication into a patient can lead to civil liability or to a charge of substandard nursing care made to the Department of Health. A nurse who prepares medication for a physician is liable for the preparation of that medication. A physician can blame a nurse who fails to prepare the medication properly in order to escape liability.

In the case of Ambercrombie v. Roof, a solution was prepared by a nurse employee and injected into the patient by a physician, 28 N.E. 2d 772 (Ohio 1940). The physician made no examination of the fluid, and the patient suffered permanent injuries as a result of the infection. An action was brought against the physician for malpractice. The patient claimed that the fluid injected into her was alcohol and that the physician should have recognized its distinctive odor. The court, in finding for the physician, stated that the physician was not responsible for the misuse of drugs prepared by the hospital, unless the ordinarily prudent use of his faculties would have prevented injury to the patient.

GIVING THE WRONG DOSAGE

A nurse is responsible for making an inquiry if there is uncertainty about the accuracy of a physician’s medication order in a patient’s record. A nurse who is in doubt about a physician’s orders should contact that physician and seek clarification of their order.

WRONG ROUTE

The nurse in Fleming v Baptist General Convention, 742 P.2d 1087 (Okla. 1987), negligently injected the patient with a solution of Talwin and Atarax subcutaneously, rather than intramuscularly. The patient suffered tissue necrosis as a result of the improper injection. The suit against the hospital was successful. On appeal, the court held that the jury’s verdict for the plaintiff found adequate support in the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness on the issues of nursing negligence and causation.

FAILURE TO NOTE AN ORDER CHANGE

A nurse’s failure to review a patient’s record before administering a medication, to ascertain whether an order has been modified, may render a nurse liable for negligence.

FAILURE TO ADMINISTER MEDICATION

In Kallenberg v. Beth Israel Hospital, 357 N.Y. S.2d 508 (N.Y. App. Div. 1974), a patient died after her third cerebral hemorrhage because of the failure of the physicians and staff to administer necessary medications. When the patient was admitted to the hospital, her physician determined that she should be given a ceratin drug to reduce her blood pressure and make her condition operable. For some unexplained reason, the drug was not administered. The patient’s blood pressure rose, and after a hemorrhage, she died. The jury found the hospital and physicians negligent in failing to administer the drug and ruled that the negligence had caused the patient’s death. The appellate court found that the jury had sufficient evidence to decide that the negligent treatment had been the cause of the patient’s death.

FAILURE TO DISCONTINUE A MEDICATION

A health care organization will be held liable if a nurse continues to inject a solution into a patient after noticing its ill effects. Once something is observed to be wrong with the administration of the medication, the nurse has a duty to discontinue its use.

NONSTERILE NEEDLE

The blood donor in Brown v. Shannon West Texas Memorial Hospital, 222 S.W. 2d 248 (Tex. 1949), sought to recover from a serious injury allegedly caused by the use of a nonsterile needle. The court held that the burden of proof was on the plaintiff to show, by competent evidence, that the needle was contaminated when used and that it was the proximate cause of the alleged injury. The mere proof, said the court, that infection followed the use of the needle or that the infection possible could be attributed to the use of an unsterile needle was insufficient. If the plaintiff had been able to prove the needle was not sterile, then the plaintiff would have recovered damages.

WRONG PATIENT

It is of utmost importance to check each patient’s name bracelet before administering any medication. To ensure that the patient’s identity corresponds to the name on the patient’s bracelet, the nurse should address the patient by name when approaching the patient’s bedside to administer any medication. Especially in nursing homes and hospitals where there may be more than one patient in a room, this is exceptionally important. Should the nurse unwittingly administer one patient’s medication to a different patient, the attending physician should be notified and appropriate documentation placed on the patient’s chart.

ALLERGIC REACTIONS

Any adverse reactions to a medication should be charted on the patient’s medical record. The attending physician and the facility’s pharmacy should be advised as to the patient’s allergic reaction.

FAILURE TO MONITOR AND ENSURE PATIENT TAKING MEDICATIONS

A nurse normally has a duty to monitor and ensure that a patient is taking their medications. A failure to perform this act can lead to nursing negligence on the part of the nurse.

THE “SEVEN RIGHTS” OF PATIENT MEDICATION

There is a checklist every nurse should learn called the “Seven Rights of Medication.” If this checklist is memorized and followed in every case, medication errors would be significantly reduced or eliminated altogether. Every nurse and nursing student should memorize this list and go through it in her mind every time a patient is administered a medication by the nurse.

Always check for and confirm:

1. The right medication;

2. The right patient;

3. The right dose;

4. The right time;

5. The right route;

6. The right reason; and

7. The right documentation;

The nurse may be the last wall of defense to protect a patient from a medication error. The nurse should avoid at all costs, being rushed, tired, inattentive, sloppy, or lazy. Guard at every turn against medication errors. For more information about nursing law, or to read more from the Nursing Law Manual, visit www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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