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Looking Back at 2019’s Largest Healthcare Fraud Case Ever Prosecuted: Surprise! No Surprise, Florida Wins!

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
For years, Florida has topped the lists with the highest rates of Medicare and Medicaid fraud and abuse. But even by the standards of Florida’s rampant healthcare fraud, this 2019 case stands out for its sheer size, making Florida, once again, the leader in fakes and frauds. Often joked and written about by Florida novelists such as Carl Hiassin and Tim Dorsey, this case serves to highlight why the “Debtor’s Haven” state often excels in cases of healthcare fraud.

In April 2019, after decades of alleged schemes, illegal kickbacks and money laundering in connection with fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid, Phillip Esformes was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay $44.2 million in money forfeitures and restitution, and forfeiture of his ownership interests in several skilled nursing homes.

A federal district judge sentenced the South Florida health care facility owner after he was found guilty in the largest health care fraud scheme ever charged by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ).

A Case of “Epic” Fraud.

The nursing home mogul was accused of paying bribes and receiving kickbacks in a massive $1 billion Medicare fraud case touted by federal prosecutors as the largest in the nation. During an eight-week jury trial, prosecutors argued that Esformes himself made $38 million from Medicare and Medicaid payments between 2010 and 2016. Additionally, his South Florida network received more than $450 million through bribes and though services that weren’t medically necessary or which were never provided, according to the prosecution’s case.

To learn more about this case, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Convicted, But Not of Healthcare Fraud.

The shocker, in this case, is that the federal jury convicted Esformes on 20 counts of conspiracy to defraud the taxpayer-funded Medicare program. The lack of a conviction for healthcare fraud itself was puzzling. Many of his alleged co-conspirators had already pled guilty to health care fraud and some had even testified against him at trial. To learn more, click here to read one of my prior blogs on another individual involved in the case.

Despite being billed as the largest healthcare fraud case prosecuted in U.S. history, it is also a stark reminder to prosecutors of how tricky it can be to secure a conviction on any particular charge.

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

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare and Medicaid audits, and in ZPIC and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. We also represent health providers in civil and administrative litigation by government agencies and insurance companies attempting to recoup claims that have been paid. Our attorneys also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, recovery actions and administrative actions seeking termination from Medicare and Medicaid Programs.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, pharmacists, psychotherapists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (ALFs), home health 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:

Weaver, Jay. “Miami healthcare exec Esformes sentenced to 20 years in biggest Medicare fraud case.” Miami Herald. (September 12, 2019). Web.

Hale, Nathan. “The Biggest Stories In Florida Legal News Of 2019.” Law360. (December 20, 2019). Web.

Jackson, David. “Nursing home mogul Philip Esformes sentenced to 20 years for $1.3 billion Medicaid fraud.” Chicago Tribune. (September 13, 2019). 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019/2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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OIG Exclusion: Do You Know if You’re on the List?

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

Have you ever faced a disciplinary action against your professional license? Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a criminal offense? If yes, then you may have also been terminated from the federal Medicare Program or your state Medicaid Program.

Many health care professionals don’t think about the repercussions that an exclusion action by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) can have on their professional career. Whether you are a physician, nurse, dentist, psychologist or other health professional, if you allow yourself to be excluded from the Medicare Program, devastating economic results may follow.

First, Check the List.

The first step is to check if you are on the federal government’s List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE). You can check that list here: http://exclusions.oig.hhs.gov/.

Next, to see if you are on Florida’s list of individuals and entities who have been terminated from Florida’s Medicaid Program, click here.

Collateral Consequences to OIG Exclusion or Termination.

Termination or exclusion can have many collateral consequences about which most health care professionals and providers are not aware. These Include:

– Termination for cause from all state Medicaid Programs.

– Loss of state professional licenses in other states and jurisdictions.

– Loss of hospital, ambulatory surgical center (ASC), and nursing home clinical privileges.

– Removal from the provider panels of health insurers.

– Loss of ability to contract or work for any individual or entity that contracts with the Medicare Program in any capacity. This includes physicians, medical groups, hospitals, healthcare systems, ambulatory surgical centers, skilled nursing facilities, health insurance companies, etc.

– Placement on the General Services Administration (GSA) Exclusions List (or “Debarred” List) from government contracting.

– Loss of ability to contract or work for any individual or entity that contracts with the federal government in any capacity.

To learn more on the consequences of being excluded, click here.

You’re On the List, Now What?

So, you just found yourself on a state’s excluded or terminated list or on the federal LEIE, don’t panic! All is not lost. There are ways to become reinstated.

The OIG exclusion list is a complicated regulatory program which requires experience and perseverance to navigate. It is highly recommended that you do not attempt to handle removal without qualified assistance. If your application is denied, even for hyper-technical reasons, you may be barred from reapplying for one full calendar year. Therefore, it is crucial that your application is complete and correct, and you are fully eligible for removal. To read a past blog about reinstatement after OIG removal, click here.

Contact Attorney Experienced in Defending Against Action to Exclude an Individual or Business from the Medicare Program and Assisting in Reinstatement Applications.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have experience in dealing with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and defending against action to exclude an individual or business entity from the Medicare Program, in administrative hearings on this type of action, in submitting applications requesting reinstatement to the Medicare Program after exclusion, and removal from the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE).

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.

KeyWords:  Office of Inspector General, OIG, OIG exclusion list, OIG reinstatement representation, representation for physicians, representation for physician reimbursement, licensure defense attorney, professional license representation, licensure defense representation, representation for health care professionals, investigations analyst, applying for reinstatement, application for reinstatement, Medicare exclusion attorney, OIG hearing, request for reinstatement, removal from list of excluded individuals and entities (LEIE), application to OIG, Medicare reinstatement representation, Medicaid reinstatement representation, healthcare fraud lawyers, Medicare defense attorney, Medicaid defense lawyer, Florida defense attorney, Florida defense lawyer, The Health Law Firm reviews, health law blog, OIG Exclusion, healthcare fraud,

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

OIG Exclusion: What You Need to Know if You’re on the List

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

Have you ever had disciplinary action against your license as a health care professional? Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a criminal offense? Have you ever been convicted of fraud or patient neglect? If so, then you may have also been terminated or excluded from the federal Medicare Program or your state Medicaid Program.

Many health professionals don’t understand the significant repercussions that an exclusion action by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) can have on their career and employment. Whether you are a physician, nurse, dentist, psychologist or other health professional, if you allow yourself to be excluded from the Medicare Program, devastating economic results may follow.

Check the List.

To check if you are on the federal government’s List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE), click here.

To see if you are on Florida’s list of individuals and entities who have been terminated from Florida’s Medicaid Program, click here.

Collateral Consequences to OIG Exclusion or Termination.

Termination or exclusion can have many collateral consequences about which most health care providers are not aware. These Include:

– Termination for cause from all state Medicaid Programs.

– Loss of state professional licenses in other states and jurisdictions.

– Loss of hospital, ambulatory surgical center (ASC), and nursing home clinical privileges.

– Removal from the provider panels of health insurers.

– Loss of ability to contract or work for any individual or entity that contracts with the Medicare Program in any capacity (officer agent, shareholder, director, employee or independent contractor, even for non-Medicare products and services such as office supplies, building and construction services, software and systems support, etc.), including physicians, medical groups, hospitals, healthcare systems, ambulatory surgical centers, skilled nursing facilities, health insurance companies, etc.

– Placement on the General Services Administration (GSA) Exclusions List (or “Debarred” List) from government contracting.

– Loss of ability to contract or work for any individual or entity that contracts with the federal government in any capacity (officer agent, shareholder, director, employee or independent contractor, even for such services as construction projects, janitorial contracts, computer equipment and software services, real estate brokers on federally underwritten housing loans, sales of motor vehicles, products and services to the government, etc.

To learn more on the consequences of being excluded, click here.

You’re on the List, Now What?

If you find yourself on a state’s excluded or terminated list or if you find yourself on the federal LEIE, all is not lost. There are ways to become reinstated.

The OIG exclusion list is a complicated regulatory program which requires experience and perseverance to navigate. It is highly recommended that you do not attempt to handle removal without qualified assistance. If your application is denied, even for hyper-technical reasons, you may be barred from reapplying for one full calendar year. Therefore, it is crucial that your application is complete and correct, and you are fully eligible for removal. To read a past blog about reinstatement after OIG removal, click here.

Contact Attorney Experienced in Defending Against Action to Exclude an Individual or Business from the Medicare Program and Assisting in Reinstatement Applications.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have experience in dealing with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and defending against action to exclude an individual or business entity from the Medicare Program, in administrative hearings on this type of action, in submitting applications requesting reinstatement to the Medicare Program after exclusion, and removal from the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE).

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.

KeyWords: Exclusion list, Office of Inspector General, OIG, OIG exclusion list, OIG reinstatement representation, representation for physicians, representation for physician reimbursement, licensure defense attorney, professional license representation, licensure defense representation, representation for health care professionals, investigations analyst, applying for reinstatement, Application for Reinstatement, Medicare Exclusion attorney, OIG Hearing, Request for Reinstatement, Removal from List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE), Application to OIG, Medicare Reinstatement representation, Medicaid Reinstatement representation, healthcare fraud lawyes, Medicare defense attorney, Medicaid defense lawyer, Florida defense attorney, Florida defense lawyer, The Health Law Firm reviews

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

Helpful Tips to Speed Up the Medicare Prepayment Review Process

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

For Medicare providers, being notified of an impending audit is not welcome news. Being notified of a prepayment review is even worse. In a prepayment review, the health care provider must submit documentation to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) contractor before ever receiving payment. The health care provider will only receive payment (typically months later) if the contractor is satisfied with the provider’s documentation. This can be financially disastrous for the health care provider, who still must pay day-to-day expenses while waiting for a decision.

CMS Contractors.

If you have received notice of prepayment review, you first need to determine the contractor that has initiated the review. CMS contracts with four types of contractors:

– Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs);
– Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) contractors;
– Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs); and
– Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs).

Both the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) and Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) can initiate prepayment reviews.

MAC Prepayment Reviews.

MACs will initiate prepayment reviews of health care providers suspected of improper billing for services. If the MAC detects anything resembling fraud during the process, the prepayment review can extend for up to a year or more. However, MACs will generally terminate the prepayment review when the health care provider demonstrates a pattern of correct billing. Health care providers who are notified of a MAC prepayment review should consult with an experienced health care attorney from the beginning of the process. An experienced health attorney will be able to assist the health care provider to ensure everything is in place for a speedy prepayment review.

ZPIC Prepayment Reviews.

A MAC may refer a health care provider to a ZPIC for a benefit integrity prepayment review if they suspect fraud. A ZPIC can also initiate a benefit integrity prepayment review based on data analysis.  Unlike MACs, ZPICs generally are less willing to communicate with health care providers about the prepayment review.

Additionally, there are different time limitations for a benefit integrity prepayment review. The MAC prepayment review is governed by Medicare Manual provisions that stipulate a maximum length of time on a prepayment review. However, a benefit integrity prepayment review can last indefinitely, if the basis for the review is not timely and properly addressed by the health care provider.

Further, ZPICs make fraud referrals to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Thus, health care providers should view ZPIC correspondence as the start of a potentially larger investigation. An experienced health care attorney should be contacted immediately after a health care provider receives any contact from ZPIC.

How to Accomplish a Speedy Review.

In many cases, the health care provider will be on Medicare prepayment review until its billing accuracy reaches a certain percentage. However there are other steps to help speed up the Medicare prepayment audit process.

1.  Read all Correspondence from the Contractor Carefully.

Pay close attention to all correspondence sent by the contractor. Make a note of the due date given and make sure your response is sent well within the time limits. Denials will usually occur if a response is not received by the given deadline. Also be sure that you send your response to the correct office.

2.  Be Familiar with Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs).

You should read and be familiar with any and all applicable local coverage determinations (LCDs) and national coverage determinations (NCDs) for any codes, services, supplies or equipment you are billing.

3.  Contact an Experienced Health Care Attorney Immediately.

A health care attorney who is experienced in prepayment reviews will be able to help you file a proper response in a timely fashion. An attorney will also be able to help find out additional information on why you have been placed on prepayment review and exactly what documentation the auditor is looking for. Alternatively, a health care consultant who has actual experience in working on Medicare cases and who has been an expert witness in Medicare hearings may be able to assist, as well.

4.  Contact the Contractor Responsible for the Review.

After you have consulted with an attorney, schedule a call with the contractor responsible for your prepayment review. During the call learn as many details about the audit as you can and find out what the reviewer wants in the documentation.

However, do not:
a. Argue with the auditor.
b. Berate or demean the auditor.
c. Challenge the auditor’s knowledge, competence or credentials.
d. Ask the auditor to prove anything to you.
e. Demand to speak to the auditor’s supervisor.

5.  Do Not File Duplicate Claims.

Keep track of all requests for additional documentation and when they were received. Do not think that you need to file another claim for the same items just because you have not received a response as quickly as other claims where additional documentation was not requested. If you provide duplicate claims, the contractor’s decision can be delayed.

6.  Organize all Submissions and Results.

You must keep track of the date you receive the document request for a claim, the date you submitted the documentation for review, the result of the audit and the date the result was received. This will help you realize how quickly claims are reviewed. If a one claim’s review has taken longer than the others you’ve submitted, you can contact the reviewer to make sure they have received the claim and everything is in order.

7.  Follow-up with the Contractor for Feedback.

Keep in contact with the contractor throughout the review. This will help to maintain the relationship you initiated after first receiving notice of the prepayment review. This will also help you keep track of any issues and resolve them. Be sure to discuss how you can improve your claim submissions to meet the standards of your particular reviewer.

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 prepayment reviews. 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.

Sources:

Baird, Jeff. “Q&A with Jeff Baird: How to Prepare for and Survive Prepayment Reviews.” Home Care. (Sept. 13, 2010). From http://homecaremag.com/news/prepayment-review-faq-20100913/

Greene, Stephanie Morgan. “5 Steps to Get Off Pre-Payment Audit – Quickly!” Harrington Managment Group. (Mar. 18, 2011). From
http://homecaremag.com/news/prepayment-review-faq-20100913/

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.

Tag Words: prepayment audit, prepayment review, Medicare audits, Medicare, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS, RAC, Recovery Audit Contractor, ZPIC, Zone Program Integrity Contractor, MAC, Medicare Administrative Contractor, CERT contractor, Comprehensive Error Rate Testing contractor, overpayment, prepayment reviews, First Coast Service Options, Medicare contractor, Medicare fraud, Medicare investigation, Medicare overbilling, OIG

“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.

At Last, a Ray of Hope for Florida Health Professionals Who Have Paid Their Debt to Society After Criminal Conviction

The Florida Legislature unanimously passed HB 653 which relaxes some of the draconian exclusions enacted under SB 1986, which went into effect on July 1, 2009. SB 1986, which added provisions to Chapter 456, Florida Statutes, among others, prevented numerous healthcare providers from obtaining or renewing licenses based on prior criminal convictions, which could have occurred decades earlier.

As of this writing (March 16, 2012), HB 653 has been passed unanimously by the Florida Legislature, but awaits the Governor’s signature.

Under HB 653, the professional boards within the Department of Health (such as the Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing, Board of Psychology, Board of Massage Therapy, etc.) now will, if signed by the Governor, only prohibit the renewal or granting of a health professional’s license, certificate or registration, if the individual:

1. Has been convicted of, or entered a plea of guilty or no contest to, regardless of adjudication, a felony under Chapters 409 (Medicaid offenses), 817 (theft or fraud) or 893 (drug offenses), Florida Statutes, or similar laws in other jurisdictions, unless the individual successfully completed a drug court program for the felony and provides proof that the plea was withdrawn or the charges were dismissed, or unless the sentence and any related period of probation for such conviction or plea ended:

– For first and second degree felonies, more than fifteen (15) years before the date of application;

– For third degree felonies, more than ten (10) years before the date of application, except for third degree felonies under Section 893.13(6)(a), Florida Statutes; and

– For third degree felonies under Section 893.13(6)(a), Florida Statutes, more than five (5) years before the date of application.

2. Has been convicted of, or entered a plea of guilty or no contest to, regardless of adjudication, a felony under 21 U.S.C. Sections 801-970 or 42 U.S.C. Sections 1395-1396 (federal Medicare & Medicaid offenses), unless the sentence and any subsequent period of probation for such convictions or plea ended more than fifteen (15) years before the date of application; or

3. Is listed on the OIG’s list of excluded individuals and entities.

This new legislation has the effect of reducing the period of time a health professional may be prohibited from holding a license because of a conviction for one of the enumerated felonies. Under the current law, there is a fifteen (15) year prohibition for all enumerated offenses. The new legislation, if signed, will reduce the period to as little as five (5) years for drug offenses.

However, it also broadens the reach of the current Florida law by including, for the first time, convictions under “similar laws in other jurisdictions.” This may now “catch” many to whom the Florida law did not previously apply.

HB 653 also allows individuals previously denied renewals under SB 1986 who at are now eligible for renewal to obtain a license without retaking and passing their examinations.

The latter requirement above, number 3, may present a “catch 22” for many health professionals. Usually, if a licensed health professional is convicted of a felony, loses his/her license or is denied renewal of a health professional’s license, this is reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The NPDB now includes reports previously made to the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB). If this occurs, in most cases the Office of Inspector General (OIG) commences action to exclude the professional from the Medicare Program. This automatically places the health provider’s name on the OIG’s List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE). Therefore, most licensed health professionals, even if they are no longer prohibited from holding a license under numbers 1 and 2 above, may still be prohibited because of requirement number 3 above.

Doubtless, this lacuna (gap) in this legislation will require additional corrective legislation in the future.

As previously indicated, HB 653 is currently (March 16, 2012) awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Medicare Fraud Initiative Leads to Arrests of Over 100 Health Professionals

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

A recent Medicare fraud operation conducted between several federal agencies has resulted in the arrest of over 100 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. They have been charged with various crimes relating to Medicare fraud. The arrests were made on May 2, 2012 in seven cities nationwide, but more than half took place in South Florida.

This  multi-agency attack on medical professionals and health care providers was a joint effort between law enforcement agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCU) and other state and local law enforcement agencies. In addition to arresting over 100 medical professionals, these agents also executed 20 search warrants in connection with ongoing Medicare fraud investigations.

Some of the charges against the health care professionals include conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes and money laundering. The charges are based on a variety of alleged Medicare fraud schemes involving medical treatments and services such as home health care, mental health services, physical and occupational therapy, durable medical equipment (DME), mental health counseling and ambulance services. These alleged Medicare fraud schemes resulted in a combined $452 million in false billings.

HHS also took other administrative action against 52 other health providers. These providers were tracked down through data analysis and are also accused of Medicare fraud. Because of the Affordable Care Act, HHS will be able to suspend payments to these providers the entire time until the investigations are completed.

Because of the severe state budget shortfalls and the federal deficit, we are seeing a tremendous increase in both Medicare and Medicaid fraud initiatives. If you are being accused of Medicare or Medicaid fraud, it is extremely important to retain an experienced health attorney immediately.

Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now Before it is Too Late

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm routinely represent physicians and other healthcare professionals in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions. They also represent physicians and health professionals in actions initiated by the Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs), in False Claims Act cases, in actions initiated by the state to exclude or terminate from the Medicaid Program or by the HHS OIG to exclude from the Medicare Program.

Call now at (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources Include:

Weaver, Jay. “Feds Arrest More Than 100 Medicare Fraud Suspects in South Florida, Nationwide.” Miami Herald. (May 02, 2012). From
http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/02/2779369/feds-arrest-about-100-medicare.html

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Medicare Fraud Strike Force Charges 107 Individuals for Approximately $452 Million in False Billing.” U.S. Department of Justice. Press Release. (May 02, 2012). From http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/May/12-ag-568.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.

Senators Want National Investigation of State Medical Boards

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

A bipartisan effort has been initiated by three U.S. Senators to launch a national evaluation of state medical boards. Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) sent a letter to the director of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requesting an investigation into state medical boards at the end of February 2012.

In the letter the senators ask the OIG to launch a national investigation of state medical boards in which the OIG would:

  • Identify challenges and process improvements for state medical boards, including those that occur across state boundaries;
  • Identify legislative changes that would better facilitate the transfer of information from federal agencies to state medical boards and between state medical boards, including as it affects those physicians needing multiple state licenses such as those practicing telemedicine;
  • Evaluate state medical board performance, including the timeliness and consistency of decision making; and
  • Determine whether the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services'(CMS) Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs) and/or Part A/Part B Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) report adverse information, including Medicare revocations based on felony convictions, to state medical boards or the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).

The OIG has not undertaken an investigation of this magnitude of state medical boards in over fifteen (15) years.

The U.S. Senate letter dated February 15, 2012 can be seen here.

If this proposed federal investigation proceeds, it is likely that more disciplinary actions will be filed against health professionals. State medical boards may feel pressure to suspend or revoke more health care licenses, which could result in a slower administrative proceeding process.

For more information about state medical boards and disciplinary actions against health providers, visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources Include:

Christensen, Pia. “Senators Request Inquiry Into State Medical Boards.” American Association of Health Journalists. (Feb. 15, 2012). From
http://www.healthjournalism.org/blog/2012/02/senators-request-inquiry-into-state-medical-boards/

Oh, Jaime. “U.S. Senators Call for Federal Investigation Into State Boards’ Action on Physicians.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (Feb. 22, 2012). From
http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/quality/us-senators-call-for-federal-investigation-into-state-boards-action-on-physicians.html

Walker, Emily P. “Senators Want Medical Boards Investigated.” MedPage Today. (Feb. 21, 2012). From http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/GeneralProfessionalIssues/31288

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.

Hospital to Pay $3.59 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations Involving Ambulance Services

By Miles Indest

A hospital located in Columbia, Tennesse, has agreed to pay the federal government over $3.5 million to settle False Claims Act allegations that occurred between 2004 and 2009. The hospital submitted a voluntary self-disclosure to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG).

Hospital Voluntarily Self-Reported After Compliance Program Revealed Billing Errors.

The hospital self-reported after its own compliance program revealed billing problems for ambulance services. The hopsital’s audit of billings reported faulty claims and payment for:

  • Ambulance services that were billed with incorrect mileage units;
  • Ambulance services that were not medically necessary or for which medical necessity was not documented;
  • Ambulance services for which a physician certification statement (PCS) was not obtained;
  • Ambulance services for which the requisite signatures were not obtained; and
  • Ambulance services that were assigned an incorrect transport level.

Hospital Works With U.S. Attorney’s Office to Resolve Billing Errors.

After notifying the U.S. Attorney’s Office that billing issues had been discovered, Maury Regional outlined a plan to determine the scope of these issues. The hospital then worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring the matter to resolution.

Ambulance Services Flagged for Medicare Audits.

In a Medicare audit of a hospital or ambulance company, ambulance services are frequently chosen for review. Ambulance services companies have increasingly become a target for Medicare audits and are often accused of billing Medicare for unnecessary services. Ambulance companies should have a compliance plan in place to assist in detecting any errors. Ambulance companies should also take all measures to prepare for a Medicare audit, before notice of an audit is received. To learn more about preparing for Medicare audits, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Medicare Audits and False Act Claims Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents ambulance companies, emergency transport services, physicians, medical practices, pharmacists, pharmacies, home health agencies, nursing facilities, hospitals, and other health provider in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving government health programs (Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE). The Health Law Firm also represents health providers in False Claims Act cases.

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

Sources Include:

Humbles, Andy. “Maury Regional to Pay $3.5 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations.” Tennessean. (June 29, 2012). From: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120629/NEWS21/306290078/Maury-Regional-pay-3-5-million-settle-False-Claims-Act-allegations

Staff. “Maury Regional Hospital to Pay $3.59 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations.” The Daily Herald. (June 29, 2012). From: http://www.columbiadailyherald.com/sections/news/local/maury-regional-hospital-pay-359-million-settle-false-claims-act-allegations.html

How to Speed Up the Medicare Prepayment Review Process

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

For Medicare providers, being notified of an impending audit is not welcome news. Being notified of a prepayment review is even worse. In a prepayment review, the health care provider must submit documentation to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) contractor before ever receiving payment. The health care provider will only receive payment (typically months later) if the contractor is satisfied with the provider’s documentation. This can be financially disastrous for the health care provider, who still must pay day-to-day expenses while waiting for a decision.

CMS Contractors.

If you have received notice of prepayment review, you first need to determine the contractor that has initiated the review. CMS contracts with four types of contractors:

– Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs);

– Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) contractors; 

– Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs); and

– Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs).

Both the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) and Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) can initiate prepayment reviews.

MAC Prepayment Reviews.

MACs will initiate prepayment reviews of health care providers suspected of improper billing for services. If the MAC detects anything resembling fraud during the process, the prepayment review can extend for up to a year or more. However, MACs will generally terminate the prepayment review when the health care provider demonstrates a pattern of correct billing. Health care providers who are notified of a MAC prepayment review should consult with an experienced health care attorney from the beginning of the process. An experienced health attorney will be able to assist the health care provider to ensure everything is in place for a speedy prepayment review.

ZPIC Prepayment Reviews.

A MAC may refer a health care provider to a ZPIC for a benefit integrity prepayment review if they suspect fraud. A ZPIC can also initiate a benefit integrity prepayment review based on data analysis.  Unlike MACs, ZPICs generally are less willing to communicate with health care providers about the prepayment review.

Additionally, there are different time limitations for a benefit integrity prepayment review. The MAC prepayment review is governed by Medicare Manual provisions that stipulate a maximum length of time on a prepayment review. However, a benefit integrity prepayment review can last indefinitely, if the basis for the review is not timely and properly addressed by the health care provider.

Further, ZPICs make fraud referrals to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Thus, health care providers should view ZPIC correspondence as the start of a potentially larger investigation. An experienced health care attorney should be contacted immediately after a health care provider receives any contact from ZPIC.

How to Accomplish a Quick Review.

In many cases, the health care provider will be on Medicare prepayment review until its billing accuracy reaches a certain percentage. However there are other steps to help speed up the Medicare prepayment audit process.

1.  Read everything from the Contractor Carefully.

Pay close attention to all correspondence sent by the contractor. Make a note of the due date given and make sure your response is sent well within the time limits. Denials will usually occur if a response is not received by the given deadline. Also be sure that you send your response to the correct office.

2.  Read and Be Familiar with all Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs).

You should read and be familiar with any and all applicable local coverage determinations (LCDs) and national coverage determinations (NCDs) for any codes, services, supplies or equipment you are billing.

3.  Contact an Experienced Health Care Attorney Immediately.

A health care attorney who is experienced in prepayment reviews will be able to help you file a proper response in a timely fashion. An attorney will also be able to help find out additional information on why you have been placed on prepayment review and exactly what documentation the auditor is looking for. Alternatively, a health care consultant who has actual experience in working on Medicare cases and who has been an expert witness in Medicare hearings may be able to assist, as well.

4.  Contact the Contractor Responsible for the Review.

After you have consulted with an attorney, schedule a call with the contractor responsible for your prepayment review. During the call learn as many details about the audit as you can and find out what the reviewer wants in the documentation.

However, DO NOT:

  a. Argue with the auditor.

  b. Berate or demean the auditor.

  c. Challenge the auditor’s knowledge, competence or credentials.

  d. Ask the auditor to prove anything to you.

  e. Demand to speak to the auditor’s supervisor.

5.  Do Not File Duplicate Claims.

Keep track of all requests for additional documentation and when they were received. Do not think that you need to file another claim for the same items just because you have not received a response as quickly as other claims where additional documentation was not requested. If you provide duplicate claims, the contractor’s decision can be delayed.

6.  Keep all Submissions and Results Organized.

You must keep track of the date you receive the document request for a claim, the date you submitted the documentation for review, the result of the audit and the date the result was received. This will help you realize how quickly claims are reviewed. If a one claim’s review has taken longer than the others you’ve submitted, you can contact the reviewer to make sure they have received the claim and everything is in order.

7.  Follow-up with the Contractor for Feedback.

Keep in contact with the contractor throughout the review. This will help to maintain the relationship you initiated after first receiving notice of the prepayment review. This will also help you keep track of any issues and resolve them. Be sure to discuss how you can improve your claim submissions to meet the standards of your particular reviewer.

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 prepayment reviews. 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.

Sources:

Baird, Jeff. “Q&A with Jeff Baird: How to Prepare for and Survive Prepayment Reviews.” Home Care. (Sept. 13, 2010). From http://homecaremag.com/news/prepayment-review-faq-20100913/

Greene, Stephanie Morgan. “5 Steps to Get Off Pre-Payment Audit – Quickly!” Harrington Managment Group. (Mar. 18, 2011). From http://homecaremag.com/news/prepayment-review-faq-20100913/

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.

Copying and Pasting Clinical Notes in Electronic Health Records Could Be Considered Healthcare Fraud

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

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) is concerned about healthcare providers carelessly copying and pasting clinical notes in electronic health records (EHRs). According to an audit report released on December 10, 2013, copying and pasting in EHRs can lead to fraudulently duplicated clinical notes, which can be considered healthcare fraud. This practice is allegedly widespread across medicine, according to a Modern Healthcare article. Federal officials say there is a need to crackdown on this behavior.

Click here to read the entire audit report from the HHS OIG.

This is the first of two reports on fraud and vulnerabilities in EHR systems. The second report from the OIG will be on weaknesses in how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) payment contractors monitor for fraud in EHRs. This report is scheduled to be published soon.

Report Looks at Hospital Policies Regarding Copy-and-Paste Features.

The audit report studied 864 hospitals that had received subsidies for EHR systems as of March 2012. Out of those hospitals, only twenty-four percent (24%) had any policy regarding the improper use of copying-and-pasting in EHRs. The report concluded that too few hospitals actually have policies defining the proper use of copy and paste in EHRs.

According to Modern Healthcare, adoption of EHR systems has coincided with a rapid rise in higher-cost Medicare claims. This has led to officials looking into whether EHRs are enabling illegal upcoding. Officials say that EHR features such as copy and paste make it too easy to bill for work that wasn’t actually performed and help increase reimbursements, according to Modern Healthcare. Click here to read the entire article from Modern Healthcare.

In the report the HHS OIG recommends that the CMS strengthen its efforts to develop a comprehensive plan to address fraud vulnerabilities in EHRs. It was also suggested that CMS develop guidance on the use of the copy-paste feature in EHR technology.

Tips to Help Avoid Copy-and-Paste Errors.

Tools commonly available in EHRs that allow physicians to copy and paste patient information should be used with extreme care, according to an article on American Medical News. The article offers health care providers some guidelines to help avoid errors related to copying and pasting.

– Avoid copying and pasting of text from another person’s notes.

– Avoid repetitive copying and pasting of laboratory results and radiology reports.

– Note important results with proper context, and document any resulting actions. Avoid wholesale inclusion of information readily available elsewhere in the EHR because that creates clutter and may adversely affect note readability.

– Review and update as appropriate any shared information found elsewhere in the electronic record (e.g., problems, allergies, medications) that is included in a note.

– Include previous history critical to longitudinal care in the outpatient setting, as long as it is always reviewed and updated. Copying and pasting other elements of the history, physical examination or formulations is risky, as errors in editing may jeopardize the credibility of the entire note.

Click here to read the entire article from American Medical News.

What This Means for Healthcare Providers Using EHRs.

The practice of copying and pasting previous information without checking can be considered careless and potentially dangerous to patients. It can be problematic when there are multiple teams taking care of one patient and using the chart to communicate. The right way is to make sure everything in the note you sign accurately reflects what happened on your shift.

In the report the HHS OIG stated that copy-and-paste features in EHRs will be under additional scrutiny. By knowing where the enforcement focus will be, providers can attempt to avoid copy-and-paste practices that are likely to lead to audits. Additionally, providers can beef up compliance efforts and policies.

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

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.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today. To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

In your practice do you use an EHR system? Have you had any issues with copying and pasting clinical notes? Does your practice have a copy-and-paste policy? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.|

Sources:

Carlson, Joe. “Fed Eye Crackdown on Cut-and-Paste EHR Fraud.” Modern Healthcare. (December 10, 2013). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20131210/NEWS/312109965/cut-and-paste-function-can-invite-ehr-fraud-officials-say

O’Reilly, Kevin. “EHRs: ‘Sloppy and Paste’ Endures Despite Patient Safety Risk.” American Medical News. (February 4, 2013). From: http://www.amednews.com/article/20130204/profession/130209993/2/

Levinson, Daniel R. “Not All Recommended Fraud Safeguards Have Been Implemented in Hospital EHR Technology.” Department of Health and Humans Services Office of Inspector General. (December 2013). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/assets/pdf/CH92135129.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.

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