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The Most Common Cases The Health Law Firm Takes

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

One of the most common questions we get asked by doctors and lawyers alike, is about the types of cases our firm takes. They often mistake the practice of health law as medical malpractice defense. However, this is an incorrect assumption. Likewise, if we had a penny for every time we have heard “Yikes, an attorney! I hope I never need you,” we could close our doors and all retire.

As a general health law practice, we concentrate on both proactive and defensive legal issues and clients involved in the health care industry. To a certain extent our law firm does practically everything a physician, medical group, health facility or health care professional could need in the legal arena.

The types of cases we most commonly see are the following:

1. Sales, mergers and acquisitions of medical practices, health care clinics, and health facilities. We represent buyers, sellers and lenders at any stage of the process.

2. Contracts for medical and health care transactions. We prepare contracts, review contracts, negotiate contracts, help to terminate or break contracts, and we litigate contracts. We can be on either side of these transactions. Our litigation can take place in state court or federal court. We review and analyze quite a few employment contracts for medical residents and fellows going to new positions.

3. We research and prepare complex legal opinion letters on proposed health care transactions. The health care industry is the most regulated industry in the United States. There are complex layers of both federal and state laws and regulations as well as numerous federal and state agencies regulating it. Often, legal opinion letters are sought by purchasers and lenders for healthcare transactions for these reasons. We have several board certified health lawyers in our firm who have written dozens of these.

4. We represent health professionals and health facilities in Medicare audits, including fraud audits by the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) and by Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs). This includes representation in the appellate process, including requests for reconsideration, request for redetermination, and federal administrative law judge hearings. Preparation of the response to the audit request, completion of the audit questionnaire, response to the preliminary audit report (PAR), and defense of any repayments demanded, through administrative hearings before federal administrative law judges and appeals if necessary.

5. We represent health professionals and health facilities in Medicaid audits, including fraud audits by the zone program integrity contractors (ZPICs). This includes preparation of the initial response to the audit request, completion of the audit questionnaire, response to the preliminary audit report (PAR), and defense of any repayments demanded, through administrative hearings and appeals if necessary.

6. If there has been an action by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to terminate the Medicare provider’s billing privileges, we aggressively represent them to have the decision reversed and have them reinstated. This includes filing requests for reconsideration and corrective action plans (CAPs). We have been very successful in obtaining relief for our clients.

7. We have represented a number of clinical investigators, primarily physicians, and defensive charges of research fraud, misconduct in science, manipulation of data, manipulating outcomes, in research investigations, and other similar proceedings brought by their institutions or and investigation review board. Whether it is at the initiation of such an investigation or in later hearings and appeals, we have navigated a number of principal investigators through these processes.

8. Our firm has represented a number of medical students, residents and fellow, including foreign medical graduates, in cases brought by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) in cases where there is an allegation of “irregular behavior” and rules violations through the hearing process and in appeals as necessary.

9. We represent physicians and other health professionals in hospital medical staff peer review proceedings and hearings. Whether it’s the initial application for clinical privileges and medical staff membership or action being taken to revoke or limit clinical privileges, we have been involved representing physicians and other health professionals at all levels. We have also done similar work for physicians in actions initiated by HMOs, professional associations, certification bodies, and other organizations. This is an area where a physician truly needs a health lawyer experienced in this type of proceeding.
10. “Disruptive physician” defense is another area where a doctor really needs an attorney who knows what he or she is doing. When your hospital or medical staff is attempting to place the label on you “disruptive physician,” you are really in trouble. This is an area in which careful navigation is required to prevent actions that result in such a label. Other wise, the physician can be pigeon-holed for life, placed into disruptive physician programs requiring years, if not a lifetime, of close monitoring and can even have discipline commenced against his or her medical license. We can assist you in taking actions to avoid having this happen.

11. When you receive a Medicare, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), or Office of the Inspector General (OIG) subpoena or civil investigative demand (CID), you know there is serious trouble for someone in the works. We help you to respond promptly and professionally and attempt to keep you from becoming the target of serious federal investigations.

12. We represent physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists and other licensed health professionals in responding to Department of Health (DOH) letters of investigation. Many physicians, nurses, dentists and other licensed health professionals do not understand that when they receive a letter from the Department of Health complaints advising them that they are under investigation for a complaint that is been made against them, this is a very serious matter. There is nothing that is “routine” about this. This means that there is an investigation that has been opened against your license that could ultimately result in disciplinary action being taken against you. Any disciplinary action taken against you will be on your license forever. This is the time to obtain an attorney. This is not a time to attempt to represent yourself. You should not ever speak with the investigator or provide a statement to the investigator; this is something only your attorney should do and only if it is determined to be advisable considering the facts of the case. We have represented hundreds of licensed health professionals in such investigations and in subsequent disciplinary hearings.

13. We also represent health professionals and others who have been excluded from the Medicare program and placed on the Office of Inspector General (OIG) List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE). We have represented a number of healthcare professionals in completing and submitting applications to be removed from the LEIE and reinstated to the Medicare program.

14. We routinely counsel and represent physicians, dentists, psychologists, mental health counselors, and other health professionals in referrals to the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) for evaluation. We have found that often the health professional will not actually have any type of substance abuse problem or mental health issue. However, one referred for an evaluation to the PRN can wind up in a five year contract or even a lifetime contract for monitoring containing many mandatory requirements in order to continue practicing his/her profession and a lot of expenses associated with meeting such requirements.

15. We also routinely counsel and represent nurses and nurse practitioners (ARNPs), including certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) in similar referrals to the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN). We have found that often the nurse will not actually have any type of substance abuse problem or mental health issue. However, one referred for an evaluation to the IPN can wind up in a five year contract or even a lifetime monitoring contract containing many mandatory requirements in order to continue practicing his/her profession and a lot of expenses associated with meeting such requirements.

16. We have been involved in a number of qui tam or whistle blower cases, either representing the whistle blower or representing an employer or institution that is being accused of wrongdoing. Whether this is pursuant to the Federal False Claims Act (FCA), a state false claims act or a private whistle blower act, we are experienced in investigating, prosecuting, defending, and litigating such cases in state or federal court.

17. Our firm represents physicians, pharmacists, health professionals and health facilities in administrative litigation against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and the Department of Health, among other agencies. Whether the government agency is seeking to recover civil monetary penalties (CMP), attempting to recover large Medicare overpayments, seeking to revoke your DEA registration or seeking to discipline your medical license, we have experience in litigating such matters in these administrative tribunals. This can make the difference between a favorable outcome or a devastating outcome.

18. We represent Veterans Administration (VA) physicians, Army physicians, Navy physicians, Air Force physicians, and Indian Health Service physicians, in employment disputes, peer review investigations and hearings, clinical privileging investigations and hearings, and decisions to report to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).

19. Reporting a conviction for Driving under the influence (DUI) or some other criminal offense is required by most state licensing agencies. We are experienced in making such reports when required and in such a manner that a subsequent investigation and discipline on the professional license is often avoided.

20. Complex litigation involving health professionals is another area in which we routinely practice. Whether the matter involves a dispute between the shareholders of a medical clinic or practice, restraints on trade, allegations of false claims and fraud, the enforcement or avoidance of restrictive covenants (or covenants-not-to-compete), employment, pay and bonus disputes, ownership of practices or facilities, or any other of a number of different situations, we represent either side in state court or federal court.

21. Because of our experience in mental health law, we have come to represent individuals who have been incorrectly confined in mental health facilities in Florida because of allegations of impairment, drug abuse, mental health issues and other issues in which the person is initially though to be a threat to himself or to others. Both law enforcement authorities and medical personnel are being trained to take fewer chances with an individual acting unusual who may tend to hurt herself or someone else. They often tend to err to the side of ordering confinement under the Florida Mental Health Act (also known as the “Baker Act”). When this happens, the individual may be set for a long stay unless he or she has assistance in navigating the way out. We help doing this as quickly and expeditiously as possible.
22. We routinely representing physicians, pharmacists, nurses, dentists and other licensed health professionals in attempting to avoid or in disputing or in appealing adverse National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) Reports. There are only limited grounds for doing this so the professional needs to obtain counsel as early in the process as possible.

23. Any type of subpoena or search warrant from a government agency or law enforcement organization seeking your patient records can herald an investigation into false claims, over-prescribing, or other serious possible charges, criminal, civil or administrative. Our representation seeks to determine the reasons for this as early in the process as feasible and to protect your rights and limit your exposure as much as possible.

24. There are many, many other types of cases which we have experience with. To see some of these others, please visit our website.

As the business of health care grows, our law firm also grows. We are always seeking to expand our areas of practice within the health law field. Be sure to check back regularly for updates.

For more information on various health law topics and how The Health Law Firm can help you, visit our YouTube page to watch our video blogs.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) investigations, Medicare Audit defense, 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.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 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 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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Industry Trend: Hospital Systems Merging and Acquiring Private Practices All Over the Country

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

There’s a structural shift that is sweeping the health care system – hospitals are acquiring private physician practices. It is happening all over the U.S., including right here in Central Florida. On December 31, 2012, Orlando Health – a nonprofit, multi-hospital system that owns Orlando Regional Medical Center and eight other hospitals – will allegedly merge with Physician Associates – Central Florida’s largest medical practice, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The alleged price tag on this sale is $50 million, with each of the group’s 95 physicians receiving about $500,000 a piece.

Critics Believe the Merger will Hurt Patients.

Orlando Health maintains the goal of the merger is to move toward a new payment model and reduce health care costs, but critics interviewed in the Orlando Sentinel article disagree.

The trend around the country is that after a merger patients will see a facility fee tacked onto a doctor’s fee, even if patients go to the same doctor’s office. Critics also believe providers will feel obligated, or will be required, to only refer patients to the hospital that employs them. Another fear is job loss, as hospitals take over office management.

To read the article from the Orlando Sentinel, click here.

An Investigation into Acquisitions.

In August 2012, the Wall Street Journal took a closer look at what happens after an acquisition of a private practice by a hospital system.

The article stated as physicians are absorbed into hospital systems, they can get paid for services at the hospital systems’ rates, which are typically higher than what insurers pay to independent doctors. Some services that physicians previously performed at their facilities may start to be billed as hospital outpatient procedures, this can double or triple the cost.

Medicare pays more for certain services if they are performed at hospital facilities. According to the Wall Street Journal, if a hospital system transforms a private clinic to become an outpatient facility or moves services onto a hospital site, the hospital’s Medicare reimbursement rates will increase.

To read the entire Wall Street Journal article, click here.

Physician Associates Writes Letter to Patients.

On November 15, 2012, the Physician Associates Chairman of the Board of Directors posted a letter to patients on the practice’s website. The letter assures patients nothing about the service they receive will change. The letter says the sale is about patients receiving the best possible care in a new, fast-paced health care environment. In response to the sale price, the chairman said a large component of the purchase price reflects the sale of all of the Physician Associates’ assets to Orlando Health, along with an agreement to provide future employment.

Click here to read the entire letter.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Business Transactions and Contracts.
At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings.

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

Comments?

What do you think of the merger between Physician Associates and Orlando Health? Who do you think it will benefit more, the patients or the doctors? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Jameson, Marni. “$50M sale of Physician Associates Signals Major Shift in Orlando Health Care.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 13, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-11-13/news/os-physician-associates-orlando-health-20121109_1_orlando-health-health-care-physicians

Wilde Matthews, Anna. “Same Doctor Visit, Double the Cost.” Wall Street Journal. (August 27, 2012). From: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443713704577601113671007448.html

Walker, M.D., Erik. “Letter to Our Patients Regarding Potential Orlando Health Merger.” Physician Associates. (November 15, 2012). From: http://www.paof.com/news/2012/11/letter-our-patients-regarding-potential-orlando-health-merger

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.

 

Hospitals Allegedly Enforcing Questionable Practices to Increase Bottom Line

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

Doctors and hospitals around the country seem to be butting heads. In the past month, an article in The New York Times and a segment on the television “magazine” show 60 Minutes shed light on some questionable practices being enforced by hospitals on physicians working for them.

I previously wrote a blog on this structural shift in the practice of medicine. Click here to read that blog.

The effects of this trend are examined in these two news stories. Doctors and former employees from a number of hospitals around the country were interviewed and all seem to be dealing with the same issues. The biggest concerns addressed were: pressure to order unnecessary tests, admitting patients to fill hospital quotas and drive hospital profits, and the feeling of being controlled by hospital executives and administrators instead of practicing effective medicine.

Doctors Allegedly Pressured to Fill Emergency Room Beds to Increase Profits.

On December 2, 2012, 60 Minutes aired an investigative segment on one of the largest for-profit hospital chains in the country. Former employees and physicians alleged this hospital system thrived by buying urban-area hospitals and turning them into profit centers by filing empty beds from emergency rooms. A former emergency medicine doctor stated that the hospital in which he worked required an admission rate of twenty percent (20%) for patients seen in the ER and fifty percent (50%) for patients who were 65 years old and older (most of whom are Medicare patients) seen in the ER.

A former hospital system employee interviewed by 60 Minutes claimed he was in charge of auditing the hospital chain in question. He stated that he was convinced that doctors were under an extraordinary amount of pressure to fill hospital beds. He stated that he personally audited hospitals in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma, and concluded there were hundreds of thousands of dollars submitted to Medicare and Medicaid for hospital stays that did not meet standards for reimbursement, including medical necessity.

Doctors interviewed for The New York Times article had similar stories. They stated in interviews that hospital administrators created quotas for how many patients should be admitted, because more admissions allegedly meant more money. Doctors who met or exceeded quotas were rewarded with increased compensation, while doctors who did not felt in danger of losing their jobs.

Click here to read the entire New York times article.

Consequences of Ordering Unnecessary Tests.

The New York Times article looked at a number of lawsuits filed by former employees who allege the hospitals they worked for compensated doctors for ordering more tests than necessary.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently settled with a hospital group in Joplin, Missouri. According to the DOJ press release, the hospital system had to pay more than $9.3 million for rewarding doctors partly based on how many tests they ordered. This is in direct violation of the Stark Law and the False Claims Act.

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

I recently wrote an article for Medical Economics on the legal ramifications of ordering unnecessary tests. To read that article, click here.

If you want to know more on the Stark Law, click here.

Doctors Feel Controlled By Hospital Executives.

Doctors also stated they felt controlled by hospital executives. This was due, in part, to a corporate wide computer software system that was customized to automatically order an extensive battery of tests, some unnecessary, as soon as a patient walked into the hospital. It’s also stated that the software would prompt a physician to reconsider when he or she decided to send an emergency room patient home.

Most doctors interviewed were upset that the program also generated reports that evaluated each doctor’s performance and productivity.

To watch the segment from 60 Minutes, click here.

Hospitals Say They are Embracing the New Model of Health Care.

The hospital system in question by 60 Minutes maintains that these allegations are not correct. The executive vice president said that as a whole admission rates haven’t changed in four years and are near or below industry averages. The hospital systems believe that by consolidating they are embracing the new model of health care and state patient care comes first.

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

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings.

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

Comments?

Do you think there are constant battles between doctors and hospitals? As a health professional, have you experienced the pressure to admit patients, order unnecessary tests or refer a patient inside your network? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Creswell, Julie and Abelson, Reed. “A Hospital War Reflects a Bind of Doctors in the U.S.” The New York Times. (November 30, 2012). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/business/a-hospital-war-reflects-a-tightening-bind-for-doctors-nationwide.html?pagewanted=all

Kroft, Steve. “Hospitals: The Cost of Admission.” 60 Minutes. (December 2, 2012). From: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50136261n

Department of Justice. “Missouri Hospital System Agrees to Pay $9.3 Million to Resolve False Claims Act and Stark Law Violations.” DOJ. (November 5, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/printf/PrintOut3.jsp

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.