State Nursing Boards Delay Nursing Licenses Across the U.S. Even As COVID-19 Pandemic Continues

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

Staffing shortages at hospitals across the U.S. are worsening helped along by state boards and other licensing authorities taking months to process nursing licenses, a recent NPR survey claims. As a result, thousands of new nurses who want to help during the COVID-19 pandemic are reportedly getting sidelined by state bureaucratic red tape. Now, it’s resulted in a considerable backlog in nurses waiting for jobs.

State nursing boards are usually created and charged with safeguarding the public. But there are those who claim they have become an obstacle to ensuring public safety by preventing qualified nurses from getting into the workforce. A review of statistics from nursing boards shows that new applications are taking months to be reviewed and approved when basic vetting should take only weeks.

An Investigation Into Nursing Applications.

In 2021, National Public Radio (NPR) examined license applications and found that newly graduated nurses and those moving to new states often get sidelined by state bureaucracies for months, waiting for state approval to treat patients. This is occurring at a time of extreme nursing shortages and increased demand for nurses to work during a pandemic.

Of course, we may have those who want to challenge whether or not there is a pandemic still going on. But we feel that those nurses working in hospitals right now can tell us. We also believe that not enough time has passed since the last wave went over us to state that the pandemic has ended.

The Following are some key findings from NPR’s investigation:

1. How long is too long to wait for your license? Almost one (1) in ten (10) nurses issued new licenses last year waited six (6) months or longer, according to an analysis of licensing records from 32 states. More than a third of these 226,000 registered nurses and licensed practical nurses had to wait at least three (3) months. The processing time varies because each state has its own rules. Generally, state boards have to check a nurse’s education, run a criminal background check, and wait for new graduates to pass a national exam. This all does take time. However, some of the procedures, such as fingerprinting and background checks have speeded up tremendously over the past decade.

2. Applicants are stuck in license limbo. Some state nursing boards blame slow processing times on staff shortages, increased workloads, and remote work. California’s nursing board, for example, has just 47 people on staff handling tens of thousands of applications for licenses. That’s for a state with nearly a half-million RNs. To put it into more perspective, that works out to 10,000 nurses for each employee to assist.

3. When does the clock start? NPR’s investigation found that states often start the clock on processing times only after an application is marked complete. Some nurses NPR spoke with described scenarios where they spent weeks or longer arguing with the licensing authority that their applications were complete. In addition, many state boards don’t count that lost time when measuring how long it takes to process an application.

4. Some states aren’t part of any interstate agreement. Several large states have refused to join the Nurse Licensure Compact, which allows nurses to use licenses across state lines — sort of like a driver’s license lets you drive across state lines. One reason cited for this is that many nursing boards make most of their money, sometimes tens of millions of dollars, just from the licensing fees.

Overall, researchers found that one (1) in ten (10) nurses who received new licenses from nursing boards in 2021 waited six (6) months or longer. More than one-third of the nurses waited at least three (3) months. NPR reported: “[Nurses are] emotionally exhausted. They’re physically exhausted. We add to that the frustration of not being able to get your license,” Betsy Snook, BSN, RN, who is CEO of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, reportedly told NPR.

To learn some helpful tips if you are applying for your nursing license, click here to read my prior blog.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.

If you are applying for a nursing or health care license, have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, it is imperative that you contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career. Remember, your license is your livelihood, it is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents nurses, physicians, dentists, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“Nurses are waiting 6 months or more for licenses despite hospitals’ need for nurses.” Georgia Public Broadcasting. (March 10, 2022). Web.

Fast, Austin. “Nurses are waiting months for licenses as hospital staffing shortages spread.” NPR. (March 11, 2022). Web.

Gooch, Kelly. “Nurse license wait times complicating staffing shortages.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (March 11, 2022). 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 Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2022-04-11T17:37:52-04:00April 11th, 2022|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Fight Back in National Practitioner Data Bank Disputes and Appeal Adverse Reports

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

The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), created in 1986, was part of the Health Care Quality Improvement Act (HCQIA). Its purpose is to improve the quality of health care by encouraging state licensing boards, hospitals, health care entities, and professional societies to report into a national data bank those physicians and health professionals who demonstrate substandard skills or engage in unprofessional behavior.  In part, it is used to make sure that incompetent physicians do not move from one state to another in order to avoid the consequences.

Adverse Reports Stay in the NPDB for Life.

How long does an adverse NPDB report stay in the Data Bank?  I have received two (2) different answers to this question from different authorities.  I was originally informed that adverse NPDB reports are for life, and believed that for my first 25 or so years of practice.  However, more recently I have been informed that they only stay in the Data Bank for 50 years.  However, there is little difference whether it is actually 50 years or for life.  For most physicians 50 years is a lifetime for a medical career.

A Negative NPDB Report Has the Ability to Ruin Your Career.

All reports in the NPDB on an individual can and are queried by state licensing boards, hospitals, and other health care facilities to assist in investigating adverse incidents and disciplinary actions that may have been taken against a physician applying for a license or clinical privileges. Therefore, adverse NPDB reports can have long-lasting, devastating effects on the career of a health care provider.

Additionally, the real-world consequences of being the subject of an NPDB report include possible exclusion from the panels of health plans and independent physician organizations, termination for cause from state Medicaid programs, loss of medical staff privileges at hospitals and health facilities, increases in professional liability insurance premiums, exclusion from the Medicare Program, and additional licensing investigations and potential discipline by other organizations and states.

If you are the subject of an adverse NPDB report, there are several actions you should take to correct any errors, provide your side of the facts, and possibly have the adverse report removed or corrected.

What Happens If You Disagree With Your Report?

Reports to the NPDB are, for all practical purposes for life, as explained above.  But healthcare professionals may appeal adverse reports through a dispute resolution process involving the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). You can dispute reports if you disagree with factual accuracy of the report or if the event reported are not proper under NPDB guidelines.  For example, getting fired from a job or having a contract terminated for cause are not proper events to cause an adverse NPDB report. We have had to represent physicians in the past having these types of reports removed from the NPDB.

It’s important to note that entering the report into dispute status does not automatically trigger a review. When in dispute status, you have to notify the reporting organization.  The reporting organization can correct, void, or choose to leave the report unchanged. If after 60 days you have received no response from the reporting organization, or you are unsatisfied with the response you received, you can elevate the report to dispute resolution (appeal).

Visit the NPDB website here for more details on this process.

For more reference, you can see what a successful voided NPDB report looks like here. This example results from The Health Law Firm’s recent successful appeal of an adverse NPDB report for a client.

Your Career May Depend On Having Legal Counsel Who Understands the NPDB.

If you have received a negative National Practitioner Data Bank report and wish to appeal it, contact The Health Law Firm. Our attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, and other healthcare professionals in disputing and appealing NPDB reports. To learn more, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late, Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm attorneys routinely represent physicians, physician assistants (PAs), nurses, nurse practitioners (NPs), dentists, and other health professionals in dealing with reports being made to the NPDB, disputing NPDB reports and appealing NPDB reports, hospital clinical privileges hearings, medical staff fair hearings, medical staff peer reviews. 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 Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida’s Protecting DNA Privacy Act: How Will It Affect Healthcare Providers?

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

On June 29, 2021, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law HB 833, known as the “Protecting DNA Privacy Act,” which took effect in Florida October 1, 2021. Under the act, collecting or submitting another person’s DNA sample for analysis without his or her express consent now constitutes a second-degree felony in the state of Florida.  It amends Section 760.40, Florida Statutes, with the criminal penalties being set forth in Section 817.5655, Florida Statutes.

The new law clarifies the extent to which individuals own their genetic information. It also creates new crimes for the unlawful collection, retention, analysis, disclosure, or sale of an individual’s DNA sample and the results of a DNA analysis.  The act also has important implications for secondary uses of data by health care providers and others that perform genetic testing and analyze genetic information.


What is Genetic/DNA Privacy Law?

The use and accessibility of genetic testing, primarily through direct-to-consumer options (companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com ), has significantly increased in recent years, which has resulted in growing concerns about the privacy of genetic information and its use by third parties.

The Florida Legislature has focused on strengthening the protections surrounding genetic information. In 2020, it amended Florida law to limit the use of genetic information by life insurance companies for specific insurance purposes, including underwriting. Click here to read the final bill analysis for the act.


The Impact on Healthcare Professionals.

The new law will have the biggest impact on physicians who employ DNA testing in their practices. Physicians who collect or submit a patient’s DNA sample for DNA analysis will have to first obtain the patient’s express consent to do so.

“Express consent” is defined as “authorization by the person whose DNA is to be extracted or analyzed, or such person’s legal guardian or authorized representative, evidenced by an affirmative action demonstrating an intentional decision after the person receives a clear and prominent disclosure regarding the manner of collection, use, retention, maintenance, or disclosure of a DNA sample or results of a DNA analysis for specified purposes.”

This means that physicians who wish to have a patient’s DNA analyzed for a specified purpose need first to explain how the DNA sample will be collected, used, retained, and maintained and how the results of the DNA analysis will be used. This information ideally will be outlined in a formal, written document that the patient will sign. In addition, the legislation allows physicians to obtain a single express consent for every instance of a specified purpose or use.

What This Means For You.

Any healthcare professional engaged in such activities should consider reevaluating their consent processes to determine whether they obtain appropriate consent for all uses of de-identified results of DNA analysis. To learn more, click here.

Click here to view HB 833 in full.

Click here to review Section 760.40, Florida Statutes.

Click Here to review Section 817.5655, Florida Statutes, containing the criminal penalties.


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, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Sources:

Peloquin, David. “What Fla. DNA Privacy Law Means For Health Providers.” Law360. (October 4, 2021). Web.

“How the new DNA privacy law could affect your practice.” Florida Society of Clinical Oncology. (September 20, 2021). 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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Court Allows New York Doctor To Subpoena Yelp for User Information in Defamation Suit

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

On October 7, 2021, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Yelp is subject to a subpoena to reveal the names of anonymous users who left negative reviews for a doctor and his medical practice. The federal court judge found that the statements in the reviews made on Yelp contained factual claims that the doctor did have a legal right to contest in court. This is a factor that is usually missing in such cases. Accordingly, a motion for expedited discovery filed by the plaintiff physician was granted by the federal judge.

A Litigious History of Lawsuits.

The embattled physician has reportedly filed other lawsuits against reviewers for defamation. The doctor himself says he’s won or reached settlements with three of the negative reviewers, forcing them to take down their “false” reviews and paying an undisclosed amount of money.

Most recently, the physician filed suit in November 2020 against nine anonymous Yelp account-holders. According to the complaint, from November 2019 to August 2020, the users posted several reviews that contained statements that harmed his practice by making untrue and libelous comments.

In the present case we are discussing filed against the Yelp reviewer, the judge found that statements such as the physician “diluted” injectables and deceived patients about pricing to be factual statements. (The physician is apparently one who performs cosmetic procedures on patients like using botox and fillers.) Therefore, if they were false statements, as the physician alleged, this establishes a prima facie claim for defamation that courts have the authority to hear. According to the court’s order: “Because Plaintiff has alleged a prima facie case . . . and they cannot identify John Doe[s] without a court-ordered subpoena, the Court agrees that there is good cause to allow for early discovery.”  Click here to view the court’s opinion on our website.

I see this as a positive occurrence. Too often reviewers on Yelp, Google, Glass Door, and other such websites post egregious comments amounting to character assassination and libel, because they believe they can remain anonymous. And the owners of the websites fight tooth and toenail to avoid any liability and to avoid any co-operation when justice is sought by those harmed by their actions. We have had a number of cases we have handled where a “reviewer” uses a phony name and creates a phony user account just for the purpose of making a libelous, damaging review. Then, if caught, they just create a new phony account and re-post the same thing again. If the major carriers and websites like Yelp, Google, Bing, AOL, and Glass Door, want to remain free of liability, then they should co-operate when a person has to hire a lawyer and pursue legal action in order to obtain justice.

Is This Abusing the Legal System in An Effort to Stifle Free Speech?

Yelp reportedly warns users of the physician’s previous attempts to sue over negative reviews in a “Consumer Alert” pop-up notice on the doctor’s review page. Additionally, it reminds users, “reviewers who share their experiences have a First Amendment right to express their opinions on Yelp.”

Unlike a newspaper or television outlet, Yelp, Google, Glass Door, and other Internet carriers and websites enjoy immunity from liability for what they allow to be posted because of a federal law that protects them. Why are they given such a big advantage over more traditional media outlets? Why should they be?

In a separate lawsuit, a judge denied the effort by the same doctor to reveal the anonymous reviewer who wrote: “Cheap product and he’s absolutely not experienced nor does he care!!!!!” Yelp argued that the review is not defamatory as there is no statement of fact that can be proven true or false. The court agreed and found that the review used a “loose, figurative tone,” suggesting that the author expressed opinions rather than facts based on a negative experience.

Therefore, according to the court, the plaintiff was not able to make “a sufficient showing of prima facie defamation.” Click here to read the judge’s order in full in that case.

I disagree with the court’s ruling, however. Whether or not the physician has any experience is certainly a fact. It can easily be proven or disproven. It seems that if a doctor hung up a sign that said “Absolutely no Experience,” this would be perceived by most reasonable people to be a negative thing. I doubt that many people would be attracted to that doctor or his practice.

Key Takeaway From the Case.

The key takeaway from this case is that contrary to what Yelp’s pop-up notice implies, Yelp’s users have “implicitly agreed” to the release of their personal data if ordered by a court.

To learn more about fighting negative reviews on websites like Yelp as a healthcare professional, click here to read my prior blog.

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 healthcare provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians in investigations and at Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine hearings. We represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, in patient complaints and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Capriel, Jonathan. “Doc Can Subpoena Yelp User Info In Botox Defamation Suit.” Law360. (October 7, 2021). Web.

Marza, Mike. “Manhattan doctor sues over Yelp reviews he says are false.” ABC 7NY. (November 19, 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Doctor Indicted in $1.3 Million Medicare Fraud Kickback Case Seeks Reinstatement of Medicare Billing Privileges

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

On November 2, 2021, a doctor and his wife who had been indicted for their roles in a $1.3 million Medicare fraud scheme asked a New Jersey court to eliminate a bail condition. The doctor argued that the bail condition impeded his ability to practice medicine. Additionally, the doctor indicated that he was seeking to directly address CMS and the Medical Practice’s ability to bill Medicare and Medicaid.

According to the brief, the defendants argued that the court should not get involved in a licensed physician’s medical practice. They argued that this is the role of the state board of medicine.

Background of Their Case.

Both of the defendants, in this case, were arrested and charged in July 2020 for accepting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for ordering unnecessary genetic tests for patients. Genetic testing has turned out to be the latest area of large-scale health care fraud. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the scheme billed Medicare for a total of $1.3 million for unnecessary tests. Both of the defendants had been released on $250,000 unsecured personal recognizance bonds.

Click here to view the press release issued by the DOJ.

Is It Really Possible?

In a brief filed with the court, the doctor and his spouse specifically asked the judge to allow them to submit claims to the federal government for reimbursement and to allow the referral of patients to certain other providers.

The defendants argued that because CMS had already suspended both individuals from submitting claims, the court’s bail conditions were unnecessary. The defendants wanted to be able to approach CMS and attempt to have the medical practice’s ability to continue billing the Medicare and Medicaid Programs reinstated. They contended that certain safeguards could be put into place if the practice were allowed to do so. The brief further argued that to the extent, the court had the concern that they would continue to submit fraudulent billing, the following arguments would prevent that:

1. A proposed third-party management company and a third-party billing company, with appropriate peer review, would take over all management and billing responsibilities;

2. CMS would need to agree to reinstate the medical practice with whatever conditions and restrictions it felt necessary before the practice submitted any additional Medicare or Medicaid claims;

3. It is already a condition of their bail that the defendants commit no further crimes.

These defendants’ brief argued that these safeguards should adequately address any concerns of possible future wrongdoing.

Defendants Say Bail Conditions Are Unreasonable For a Working Medical Practice.

The defendants claim the court’s order makes it practically impossible for the doctor to keep his Pennsylvania medical practice open. They claimed that the doctor treats a sizable Medicare and Medicaid patient population. It also argued that, as a licensed physician, he must continue treating his existing patients. Lastly, the defendants argued that they are hoping to eliminate a condition which they claim forces the medical practice to choose between meeting required standards of patient care or violating the court’s bail order.

What Was The Court’s Decision?

These all seemed like some pretty well-thought-out arguments that the defendants made. What did the court finally decide on this matter? Unfortunately, you will have to tune in to this blog at a later date to find out. Hopefully, the answer will not be lost in chaos.

Click here to view the defendant’s brief in full.

To read about another recent case involving bribery and kickbacks in a healthcare fraud scheme, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Health Care Fraud, False Claims Act Violations, and Anti-Kickback Statute Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in cases of medical billing fraud, overbilling, Medicare audits, program integrity Contractor audits, False Claims Act cases, and whistleblower/qui tam cases throughout Florida and across the United States. 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, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Pagan, McCord. “Indicted Doc In Kickback Case Seeks CMS Billing Privileges.” Law360. (November 2, 2021). Web.

“Two Scranton area doctors charged in genetic testing bribery and kickback scheme.” PA Homepage. (July 17, 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

2022-03-16T13:20:55-04:00March 16th, 2022|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

NPDB Disputes and Appeals: Fight Back Against Adverse Reports

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

The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), created in 1986, was part of the Health Care Quality Improvement Act (HCQIA). Its purpose is to improve the quality of health care by encouraging state licensing boards, hospitals, health care entities, and professional societies to report into a national data bank those physicians and health professionals who demonstrate substandard skills or engage in unprofessional behavior. In part, it is used to make sure that incompetent physicians do not move from one state to another in order to avoid the consequences.

Adverse Reports Stay in the NPDB for Life.

How long does an adverse NPDB report stay in the Data Bank? I have received two (2) different answers to this question from different authorities. I was originally informed that adverse NPDB reports are for life, and believed that for my first 25 or so years of practice. However, more recently I have been informed that they only stay in the Data Bank for 50 years. However, there is little difference whether it is actually 50 years or for life. For most physicians, 50 years is a lifetime for a medical career.

 

A Negative NPDB Report Has the Ability to Ruin Your Career.

All reports in the NPDB on an individual can and are queried by state licensing boards, hospitals, and other health care facilities to assist in investigating adverse incidents and disciplinary actions that may have been taken against a physician applying for a license or clinical privileges. Therefore, adverse NPDB reports can have long-lasting, devastating effects on the career of a health care provider.

Additionally, the real-world consequences of being the subject of an NPDB report include possible exclusion from the panels of health plans and independent physician organizations, termination for cause from state Medicaid programs, loss of medical staff privileges at hospitals and health facilities, increases in professional liability insurance premiums, exclusion from the Medicare Program, and additional licensing investigations and potential discipline by other organizations and states.

If you are the subject of an adverse NPDB report, there are several actions you should take to correct any errors, provide your side of the facts, and possibly have the adverse report removed or corrected.

What Happens If You Disagree With Your Report?

Reports to the NPDB are, for all practical purposes for life, as explained above. But healthcare professionals may appeal adverse reports through a dispute resolution process involving the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). You can dispute reports if you disagree with factual accuracy of the report or if the event reported are not proper under NPDB guidelines. For example, getting fired from a job or having a contract terminated for cause are not proper events to cause an adverse NPDB report. We have had to represent physicians in the past having these types of reports removed from the NPDB.

It’s important to note that entering the report into dispute status does not automatically trigger a review. When in dispute status, you have to notify the reporting organization. The reporting organization can correct, void, or choose to leave the report unchanged. If after 60 days you have received no response from the reporting organization, or you are unsatisfied with the response you received, you can elevate the report to dispute resolution (appeal).

Visit the NPDB website here for more details on this process.

For more reference, you can see what a successful voided NPDB report looks like here.  This example results from The Health Law Firm’s recent successful appeal of an adverse NPDB report for a client.

Your Career May Depend On Having Legal Counsel Who Understands the NPDB.

If you have received a negative National Practitioner Data Bank report and wish to appeal it, contact The Health Law Firm. Our attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, and other healthcare professionals in disputing and appealing NPDB reports. To learn more, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late, Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm attorneys routinely represent physicians, physician assistants (PAs), nurses, nurse practitioners (NPs), dentists and other health professionals in dealing with reports being made to the NPDB, disputing NPDB reports and appealing NPDB reports, hospital clinical privileges hearings, medical staff fair hearings, medical staff peer reviews. 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 Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at http://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 or Toll-Free: (888) 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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Court Rules New York Doctor Can Subpoena Yelp for User Information in Defamation Suit

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

On October 7, 2021, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Yelp is subject to a subpoena to reveal the names of anonymous users who left negative reviews for a doctor and his medical practice. The federal court judge found that the statements in the reviews made on Yelp contained factual claims that the doctor did have a legal right to contest in court. This is a factor that is usually missing in such cases. Accordingly, a motion for expedited discovery filed by the plaintiff physician was granted by the federal judge.

A Litigious History of Lawsuits.

The embattled physician has reportedly filed other lawsuits against reviewers for defamation. The doctor himself says he’s won or reached settlements with three of the negative reviewers, forcing them to take down their “false” reviews and paying an undisclosed amount of money.

Most recently, the physician filed suit in November 2020 against nine anonymous Yelp account-holders. According to the complaint, from November 2019 to August 2020, the users posted several reviews that contained statements that harmed his practice by making untrue and libelous comments.

In the present case we are discussing filed against the Yelp reviewer, the judge found that statements such as the physician “diluted” injectables and deceived patients about pricing to be factual statements. (The physician is apparently one who performs cosmetic procedures on patients like using botox and fillers.) Therefore, if they were false statements, as the physician alleged, this establishes a prima facie claim for defamation that courts have the authority to hear. According to the court’s order: “Because Plaintiff has alleged a prima facie case . . . and they cannot identify John Doe[s] without a court-ordered subpoena, the Court agrees that there is good cause to allow for early discovery.”  Click here to view the court’s opinion on our website.

I see this as a positive occurrence. Too often reviewers on Yelp, Google, Glass Door, and other such websites post egregious comments amounting to character assassination and libel, because they believe they can remain anonymous. And the owners of the websites fight tooth and toenail to avoid any liability and to avoid any co-operation when justice is sought by those harmed by their actions. We have had a number of cases we have handled where a “reviewer” uses a phony name and creates a phony user account just for the purpose of making a libelous, damaging review. Then, if caught, they just create a new phony account and re-post the same thing again. If the major carriers and websites like Yelp, Google, Bing, AOL, and Glass Door, want to remain free of liability, then they should co-operate when a person has to hire a lawyer and pursue legal action in order to obtain justice.

Is This Abusing the Legal System in An Effort to Stifle Free Speech?

Yelp reportedly warns users of the physician’s previous attempts to sue over negative reviews in a “Consumer Alert” pop-up notice on the doctor’s review page. Additionally, it reminds users, “reviewers who share their experiences have a First Amendment right to express their opinions on Yelp.”

Unlike a newspaper or television outlet, Yelp, Google, Glass Door, and other Internet carriers and websites enjoy immunity from liability for what they allow to be posted because of a federal law that protects them. Why are they given such a big advantage over more traditional media outlets? Why should they be?

In a separate lawsuit, a judge denied the effort by the same doctor to reveal the anonymous reviewer who wrote: “Cheap product and he’s absolutely not experienced nor does he care!!!!!” Yelp argued that the review is not defamatory as there is no statement of fact that can be proven true or false. The court agreed and found that the review used a “loose, figurative tone,” suggesting that the author expressed opinions rather than facts based on a negative experience.

Therefore, according to the court, the plaintiff was not able to make “a sufficient showing of prima facie defamation.” Click here to read the judge’s order in full in that case.

I disagree with the court’s ruling, however. Whether or not the physician has any experience is certainly a fact. It can easily be proven or disproven. It seems that if a doctor hung up a sign that said “Absolutely no Experience,” this would be perceived by most reasonable people to be a negative thing. I doubt that many people would be attracted to that doctor or his practice.

Key Takeaway From the Case.

The key takeaway from this case is that contrary to what Yelp’s pop-up notice implies, Yelp’s users have “implicitly agreed” to the release of their personal data if ordered by a court.

To learn more about fighting negative reviews on websites like Yelp as a healthcare professional, click here to read my prior blog.

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 healthcare provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians in investigations and at Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine hearings. We represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, in patient complaints and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Capriel, Jonathan. “Doc Can Subpoena Yelp User Info In Botox Defamation Suit.” Law360. (October 7, 2021). Web.

Marza, Mike. “Manhattan doctor sues over Yelp reviews he says are false.” ABC 7NY. (November 19, 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

Court Rules NY Doctor Can Subpoena Yelp for User Info in Defamation Suit

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

On October 7, 2021, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Yelp is subject to a subpoena to reveal the names of anonymous users who left negative reviews for a doctor and his medical practice. The federal court judge found that the statements in the reviews made on Yelp contained factual claims that the doctor did have a legal right to contest in court. This is a factor that is usually missing in such cases. Accordingly, a motion for expedited discovery filed by the plaintiff physician was granted by the federal judge.

A Litigious History of Lawsuits.

The embattled physician has reportedly filed other lawsuits against reviewers for defamation. The doctor himself says he’s won or reached settlements with three of the negative reviewers, forcing them to take down their “false” reviews and paying an undisclosed amount of money.

Most recently, the physician filed suit in November 2020 against nine anonymous Yelp account-holders. According to the complaint, from November 2019 to August 2020, the users posted several reviews that contained statements that harmed his practice by making untrue and libelous comments.

In the present case we are discussing filed against the Yelp reviewer, the judge found that statements such as the physician “diluted” injectables and deceived patients about pricing to be factual statements. (The physician is apparently one who performs cosmetic procedures on patients like using botox and fillers.) Therefore, if they were false statements, as the physician alleged, this establishes a prima facie claim for defamation that courts have the authority to hear. According to the court’s order: “Because Plaintiff has alleged a prima facie case . . . and they cannot identify John Doe[s] without a court-ordered subpoena, the Court agrees that there is good cause to allow for early discovery.”  Click here to view the court’s opinion on our website.

I see this as a positive occurrence. Too often reviewers on Yelp, Google, Glass Door, and other such websites post egregious comments amounting to character assassination and libel, because they believe they can remain anonymous. And the owners of the websites fight tooth and toenail to avoid any liability and to avoid any co-operation when justice is sought by those harmed by their actions. We have had a number of cases we have handled where a “reviewer” uses a phony name and creates a phony user account just for the purpose of making a libelous, damaging review. Then, if caught, they just create a new phony account and re-post the same thing again. If the major carriers and websites like Yelp, Google, Bing, AOL, and Glass Door, want to remain free of liability, then they should co-operate when a person has to hire a lawyer and pursue legal action in order to obtain justice.

Is This Abusing the Legal System in An Effort to Stifle Free Speech?

Yelp reportedly warns users of the physician’s previous attempts to sue over negative reviews in a “Consumer Alert” pop-up notice on the doctor’s review page. Additionally, it reminds users, “reviewers who share their experiences have a First Amendment right to express their opinions on Yelp.”

Unlike a newspaper or television outlet, Yelp, Google, Glass Door, and other Internet carriers and websites enjoy immunity from liability for what they allow to be posted because of a federal law that protects them. Why are they given such a big advantage over more traditional media outlets? Why should they be?

In a separate lawsuit, a judge denied the effort by the same doctor to reveal the anonymous reviewer who wrote: “Cheap product and he’s absolutely not experienced nor does he care!!!!!” Yelp argued that the review is not defamatory as there is no statement of fact that can be proven true or false. The court agreed and found that the review used a “loose, figurative tone,” suggesting that the author expressed opinions rather than facts based on a negative experience.

Therefore, according to the court, the plaintiff was not able to make “a sufficient showing of prima facie defamation.” Click here to read the judge’s order in full in that case.

I disagree with the court’s ruling, however. Whether or not the physician has any experience is certainly a fact. It can easily be proven or disproven. It seems that if a doctor hung up a sign that said “Absolutely no Experience,” this would be perceived by most reasonable people to be a negative thing. I doubt that many people would be attracted to that doctor or his practice.

Key Takeaway From the Case.

The key takeaway from this case is that contrary to what Yelp’s pop-up notice implies, Yelp’s users have “implicitly agreed” to the release of their personal data if ordered by a court.

To learn more about fighting negative reviews on websites like Yelp as a healthcare professional, click here to read my prior blog.

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 healthcare provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians in investigations and at Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine hearings. We represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, in patient complaints and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Capriel, Jonathan. “Doc Can Subpoena Yelp User Info In Botox Defamation Suit.” Law360. (October 7, 2021). Web.

Marza, Mike. “Manhattan doctor sues over Yelp reviews he says are false.” ABC 7NY. (November 19, 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

Florida Surgeon, Device Company Owner Arrested For Paying Bribes, Kickbacks

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

On September 7, 2021, federal prosecutors announced the arrest of a Florida surgeon and owner of device company SpineFrontier Inc on charges of bribing surgeons to use products by paying sham consulting fees.

Accused in an indictment in Boston federal court for violating the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and conspiracy to commit money laundering, is the company’s founder and CEO from Florida. Also charged in the indictment were the company’s chief financial officer from Massachusetts and the device company itself. The charges of AKS violations carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, while the money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Click here to view the indictment in full.


Alleged Bribes & Kickbacks.

The allegations are that from March 2013 through December 2018, the defendants entered into consulting contracts in which they allegedly agreed to pay surgeons between $250 and $1,000 per hour for consulting work. However, prosecutors claim that the surgeons paid did little consulting work, and the payments only served as bribes to use their company’s products. During that time, surgeons accepted between $32,625 and $978,000 in improper payments, according to the indictment.

Department of Justice Civil Lawsuit For ‘Sham’ Consulting Fees.

In March 2020, the DOJ filed a civil lawsuit against SpineFrontier, accusing the company of illegally funneling more than $8 million to nearly three dozen surgeons.  The complaint alleges that the defendants created a separate company which was used as an intermediary to funnel illicit payments to surgeons.  Additionally, the indictment lists seven surgeons who have allegedly received bribes totaling $2,747,463 to serve as “sham consultants.”  Read the complaint in full here to learn more.


In Summary.

The Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) prohibits offering, paying, soliciting, or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by Medicare, TRICARE, and other federally funded programs.  It is intended to ensure that a physician’s medical judgment is not compromised by improper financial incentives. Conspiring to violate the kickback laws, can bring up to five years in prison while actually violating the kickback laws can result in a sentence of up to 10 years.

“Kickbacks paid to surgeons as sham medical consultants, as alleged in this case, cheat patients and taxpayers alike,” reportedly said Phillip Coyne, Special Agent in Ccharge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG). “Working with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to investigate kickback schemes that threaten the integrity of our federal health care system, no matter how those schemes are disguised.”

You can read the DOJ’s press release on the case here.

Physicians Beware of Such Schemes.

Physicians should beware of any contract, plan or offer which offers them money for little or no work at all.  They should also be aware of plans in which they are “given” ownership interest in or made officers in companies and businesses without their having to buy into them. Such schemes are often used by unscrupulous non-physicians to sucker in physicians so that they can be used to perpetrate criminal enterprises. In may cases, the scheme is to defraud Medicare or another health insurer.  Often older or retired physicians seeking to supplement their income fail prey to such schemes.  Often the purpose is just to obtain the physician’s personal identification number or DEA number to order false prescriptions and diagnostic tests or to carry out other fraudulent billing schemes.  Physicians should always remember two old adages: “Nothing is free” and “If it seems to good to be true, it isn’t.”


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Health Care Fraud,  False Claims Act Violations, and Anti-Kickback Statute Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in cases of medical billing fraud, overbilling, Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits, False Claims Act cases, and whistleblower/qui tam cases throughout Florida and across the United States. 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, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Schulte, Fred. “Florida Spine Surgeon and Device Company Owner Charged in Kickback Scheme.” Kaiser Health News. (September 8, 2021). Web.

Pierson, Brendan. “SpineFrontier execs arrested, charged with kickback scheme.” Reuters. (September 7, 2021). Web.

“Florida Spine Surgeon And Device Company Owner Charged in Kickback Scheme.” Health News Florida. (September 8, 2021). 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 or Toll-Free: (888) 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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2022-01-25T02:54:39-05:00January 25th, 2022|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog, In the Know|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments
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