11th Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects Florida Eye Doctor’s Request for New Medicare Fraud Trial

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

On July 31, 2020, a panel of U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal judges upheld a 17-year prison sentence for a Florida ophthalmologist found guilty of Medicare fraud. The three-judge panel rejected an appeal in which Salomon Melgen claimed prosecutors mishandled his 2017 criminal trial.

It upheld the conviction on all 67 counts, deemed the 17-year-sentence to be even-handed, and denied him a new trial.

Details of the Case and Why the Former Ophthalmologist Requested a New Trial.

To understand how the panel reached their decision, it helps to understand the details of the scheme and the accusations. Back in April 2017, a jury in the Southern District of Florida convicted Melgen of carrying out systemic billing fraud at his South Florida medical offices. He stood accused of routinely administering unnecessary, invasive treatments and profiteering off the macular-degeneration drug Lucentis.

Additionally, he was charged with running millions of dollars’ worth of unnecessary diagnostic tests, often using outdated technology that allowed him to bill at higher rates.

According to the opinion, Melgen presented a list of perceived reasons for reversal, including the sufficiency of the evidence and reasonableness of his sentence. He argued that charts comparing his billing rates to his peers were not covered by Federal Rule of Evidence 1006 and, therefore, amounted to inadmissible hearsay in violation of the Confrontation Clause of the U.S. Constitution. To learn more, click here to view his appeal.

Unfortunately for the doctor, the alleged errors in the trial did not persuade the judges.

Other Alleged Errors and How the 11th Circuit Judges Came to Their Decision.

One issue was whether any of the witnesses’ communications with others had tainted their testimony at the trial. In the opinion, the appellate panel stated that Melgen failed to show that the witness interactions affected testimony. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by continuing the trial after the witness intimidation came to light. Lastly, the sentence length the district court imposed was “more than reasonable,” the panel stated.

U.S. Circuit Judge Britt C. Grant, said on behalf of the panel, “The scope of the scheme was easily enough for the jury to conclude that Melgen had engaged in systematic fraud, rather than committing isolated mistakes. We find the evidence sufficient to uphold the jury’s verdict.” You can read the opinion in full here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Optometrists and Ophthalmologists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to optometrists, ophthalmologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Sources:

Kapnick, Izzie. “11th Circuit Upholds Doctor’s Massive Fraud Conviction.” Courthouse News. (July 31, 2020). Web.

Jarvis, Sarah. “11th Circ. Won’t Grant Menendez-Linked Doc New Fraud Trial.” Law360. (July 31, 2020). Web.

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

“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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2021-02-17T14:04:29-05:00April 17th, 2021|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

11th Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects Florida Eye Doctor’s Request for New Medicare Fraud Trial

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

On July 31, 2020, a panel of U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal judges upheld a 17-year prison sentence for a Florida ophthalmologist found guilty of Medicare fraud. The three-judge panel rejected an appeal in which Salomon Melgen claimed prosecutors mishandled his 2017 criminal trial.

It upheld the conviction on all 67 counts, deemed the 17-year-sentence to be even-handed, and denied him a new trial.

Details of the Case and Why the Former Ophthalmologist Requested a New Trial.

To understand how the panel reached their decision, it helps to understand the details of the scheme and the accusations. Back in April 2017, a jury in the Southern District of Florida convicted Melgen of carrying out systemic billing fraud at his South Florida medical offices. He stood accused of routinely administering unnecessary, invasive treatments and profiteering off the macular-degeneration drug Lucentis.

Additionally, he was charged with running millions of dollars’ worth of unnecessary diagnostic tests, often using outdated technology that allowed him to bill at higher rates.

According to the opinion, Melgen presented a list of perceived reasons for reversal, including the sufficiency of the evidence and reasonableness of his sentence. He argued that charts comparing his billing rates to his peers were not covered by Federal Rule of Evidence 1006 and, therefore, amounted to inadmissible hearsay in violation of the Confrontation Clause of the U.S. Constitution. To learn more, click here to view his appeal.

Unfortunately for the doctor, the alleged errors in the trial did not persuade the judges.

Other Alleged Errors and How the 11th Circuit Judges Came to Their Decision.

One issue was whether any of the witnesses’ communications with others had tainted their testimony at the trial. In the opinion, the appellate panel stated that Melgen failed to show that the witness interactions affected testimony. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by continuing the trial after the witness intimidation came to light. Lastly, the sentence length the district court imposed was “more than reasonable,” the panel stated.

U.S. Circuit Judge Britt C. Grant, said on behalf of the panel, “The scope of the scheme was easily enough for the jury to conclude that Melgen had engaged in systematic fraud, rather than committing isolated mistakes. We find the evidence sufficient to uphold the jury’s verdict.” You can read the opinion in full here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Optometrists and Ophthalmologists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to optometrists, ophthalmologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Sources:

Kapnick, Izzie. “11th Circuit Upholds Doctor’s Massive Fraud Conviction.” Courthouse News. (July 31, 2020). Web.

Jarvis, Sarah. “11th Circ. Won’t Grant Menendez-Linked Doc New Fraud Trial.” Law360. (July 31, 2020). Web.

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

“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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

By |2021-02-17T14:01:38-05:00March 17th, 2021|Categories: Medical Education Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

Obligations for Compliance.

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

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

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

Exceptions to Stark Law.

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

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Stark Compliance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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