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411-PAIN Settles with Florida Attorney General

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

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that her office has reached a settlement with 411-PAIN. The settlement requires 411-PAIN to pay $550,000 and change its advertising practices for allegedly making misrepresentations to consumers. 411-PAIN is a Florida-based attorney and chiropractic referral service.

411-PAIN Allegedly Misrepresented Consumer Entitlements.

The Attorney General pursued action against 411-PAIN for the company’s alleged violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, Chapter 501, Part II, Florida Statutes. To view Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, click here.

Allegedly, the company misrepresented that consumers could be entitled to $100,000 or more for injuries and lost wages as a result of accidents. The company also allegedly misrepresented that consumers could be entitled to more than $10,000 in personal injury protection compensation or benefits for injuries and lost wages. The alleged misrepresentations were made through the company’s advertising.

Additionally, 411-PAIN was accused of falsely stating that police officers require consumers to call 411-PAIN after calling emergency services following an auto accident. This was allegedly conveyed through the company’s advertisements which used actors dressed as police officers. The advertisements allegedly did not feature a disclosure that the individuals in the commercials were actors and not actual law enforcement officers.

Attorney Services Allegedly Misrepresented by 411-PAIN.

411-Pain also allegedly misrepresented attorney services to consumers. The company is accused of stating that consumers would be referred to a “qualified” attorney or “specialized” attorney who specializes in the type of injury or accident they sustained, when no such attorney specialization exists in Florida.

Settlement Restricts the Company’s Advertising.

The settlement reached by the state in Broward Circuit Court prohibits 411-PAIN from
 • Promising any monetary compensation in its ads; 
 • Saying it’s referring victims to a “specialized attorney;” 
 • Using images of law enforcement officers to suggest that officials are directing consumers to use 411-Pain after calling 911, unless the officer is labeled as a “paid actor.”

To view the full settlement, click here.

Sources:

Cohen, Bryan. “Florida AG Settles with 411-PAIN.” Legal Newsline. (June 5, 2012). From:
http://www.legalnewsline.com/news/contentview.asp?c=236354

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.

WellCare Health Plans Reaches Settlement in False Claims Act Case

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

WellCare Health Plans Inc.(WellCare) has reached a $137.5 million settlement with the federal government and nine states. The settlement resolves four lawsuits alleging violations of the False Claims Act.

WellCare is based in Tampa, Florida. The company provides managed health care services for approximately 2.6 million Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries across the United States.

Lawsuits Allege WellCare Submitted False Claims to Medicare, Medicaid Programs.

The lawsuits allege that WellCare submitted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid programs. WellCare allegedly falsely inflated the amount it claimed to be spending on medical care. Allegedly, this was done in order to avoid returning money to Medicaid and other programs in various states, including the Florida Medicaid program and Florida Healthy Kids program. WellCare also allegedly knowingly retained overpayments it had received from Florida Medicaid for infant care. Furthermore, WellCare allegedly falsified data that misrepresented the medical conditions of patients and the treatments they received.

WellCare to Pay the United States and Nine Individual States in Settlement.

WellCare’s settlement requires the company to pay the United States and nine individual states $137.5 million. The nine states are Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New York, and Ohio. The settlement also requires WellCare to pay an additional $35 million if the company is sold or experiences a change in control within three years of the agreement.

Whistleblowers Share in Settlement.

The four lawsuits against WellCare were filed by whistleblowers under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. The qui tam provisions allow individuals to file lawsuits on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.

The whistleblower whose qui tam complaint initiated the government’s investigation will receive approximately $20.75 million. The other whistleblowers will share approximately $4.66 million and will also be entitled to receive an additional share of any contingency payment.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in False Claims Act Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents physicians, medical practices, pharmacists, pharmacies, and other health provider in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving government health programs (Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE). The Health Law Firm also represents health providers in False Claims Act cases.

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

Sources Include:

Kutscher, Beth. “WellCare Agrees to Pay Over $137.5 Million in Settlement.” Modern Healthcare. (Apr. 3, 2012). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20120403/NEWS/304039975#ixzz1yAklA7rutrk=tynt

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Florida-Based WellCcare Health Plans Agrees to Pay $137.5 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations.” U.S. Department of Justice. (Apr. 3, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/April/12-civ-425.html

Voreacos, David. “WellCare to Pay $137.5 Million to Settle False Claims Case.” Bloomberg News. (Apr. 3, 2012). From: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-03/wellcare-to-pay-137-5-million-to-settle-false-claims-case-1-.html

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

Settlement Reached in GlaxoSmithKline Healthcare Fraud Case

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

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a prescription drug manufacturer, will pay $3 billion in fines to resolve allegations of healthcare fraud. The settlement was announced by federal prosecutors on July 1, 2012, and in a press release from the Florida Attorney General on July 2, 2012. This is the largest healthcare fraud settlement in U.S. history.

Settlement Resolves Allegations Against GSK Related to Healthcare Fraud.

The settlement resolves allegations that GSK:

  • Marketed the depression drug Paxil for off-label uses, such as use by children and adolescents; 
  • Marketed the depression drug Wellbutrin for off-label uses, such as for weight loss and treatment of sexual dysfunction, and at higher-than-approved dosages; 
  • Marketed the asthma drug Advair for off-label uses, including first-line use for asthma;
  • Marketed the seizure medication Lamictal for off-label uses, including bipolar depression, neuropathic pain, and various other psychiatric conditions; 
  • Marketed the nausea drug Zofran for off-label uses, including pregnancy-related nausea; 
  • Made false representations regarding the safety and efficacy of Paxil, Wellbutrin, Advair, Lamictal, Zofran, and the diabetes drug Avandia;
  • Offered kickbacks to healthcare professionals to induce them to promote and prescribe certain prescription drugs; and
  • Submitted incorrect pricing data for various prescription drugs, thereby underpaying rebates owed to Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs.

GSK Will Also Plead Guilty to Criminal Charges as Part of Settlement.

As part of the settlement, GSK has will plead guilty to criminal charges that it violated the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). Allegedly, GSK introduced Wellbutrin and Paxil into interstate commerce when the drugs contained labels that were not in accordance with their FDA approvals. Additionally, GSK allegedly failed to report certain clinical data regarding Avandia to the FDA.

Florida to Receive Over $56 Million In Settlement.

Florida will receive more than $56 million as part of the settlement with GSK. Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, announced the state’s participation in the settlement on July 2, 2012.

Settlement Stems From Whistleblower Actions.

The settlement is based on four qui tam, or whistleblower, actions brought by individuals pursuant to state and federal false claims. To view the federal False Claims Act, click here. A National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units team, along with several other federal agencies, investigated the matter and conducted settlement negotiations with the defendants. Florida’s civil investigation was handled by the Attorney General’s Complex Civil Enforcement Bureau, which is part of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Healthcare Fraud Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents physicians, medical practices, pharmacists, pharmacies, and other health providers in healthcare fraud cases, including investigations, regulatory matters, litigation, and audits involving government health programs (Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE).

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

Sources Include:

Meale, Jenn. “Attorney General Bondi’s Office Reaches Historic Healthcare Fraud Settlement.” Florida Office of the Attorney General. (July 2, 2012). Press Release. From: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/E494FDADFF113AC885257A2F0068F790

Schmidt, Michael S. and Katie Thomas. “GlaxoSmithKline Agrees to Pay $3 Billion in Fraud Settlement.” New York Times. (July 2, 2012). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/business/glaxosmithkline-agrees-to-pay-3-billion-in-fraud-settlement.html?pagewanted=all

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

Florida Hospice to Pay $1 Million to Settle Whistleblower Lawsuit Over False Billing Claims

10 Indest-2008-7By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Hernando-Pasco Hospice (HPH Hospice) in Hudson, Florida, agreed to pay $1 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by submitting false claims for services to the Medicare and Medicaid Programs. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, the hospice allegedly admitted patients that did not meet the requirements for end-of-life care. This lawsuit was originally filed in 2010, by two former hospice employees. The announcement was made on July 22, 2013.

Click here to read the entire press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

Hospice Accused of Admitting Ineligible Patients to Meet Targets.

HPH Hospice is accused of admitting ineligible patients in order to meet targets imposed by the management team, according to federal authorities. The settlement also resolves allegations that the hospice billed the government at higher rates than it was entitled to receive. It’s also accused of providing illegal kickbacks by giving services to skilled nursing facilities at no cost, in exchange for patient referrals.

Two former employees of the hospice first stepped forward with these allegations. The employees were longtime social workers at HPH Hospice. They filed a lawsuit alleging the facility’s management instructed the staff to make false or misleading statements in patients’ medical records to make them appear eligible for hospice care. The two former employees will share $250,000 of the settlement.

HPH Hospices Claims No Wrongdoing.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the HPH Hospice spokesperson said the allegations were completely false. The organization stated that the settlement was the better option for patients and staff. As a result of these allegations, HPH Hospice said that it has hired three registered nurses to review and monitor all admission documentation, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

To read the entire Tampa Bay Times article, click here.

Under the False Claims Act, Whistleblowers Can Come Out on Top.

Whistleblowers stand to gain substantial amounts, sometimes as much as thirty percent (30%), of the award under the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. Sect. 3730). Such awards encourage employees to come forward and report fraud.

You can learn more read our two part blog on whistleblowers. Click here for part 1, and click here for part 2.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Medicaid and Medicare Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

In addition to our other experience in Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare cases, attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblowers cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To learn more on our experience with Medicaid and Medicare quit tam or whistleblower cases, visit our website. 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 about this settlement agreement? Do you think settling was a better option for the hospice? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “HPH Hospice to Pay $1 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations.” Department of Justice. (July 22, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/flm/press/2013/july/20130722_HPH.html

Tillman, Jodie. “Hernando-Pasco Hospice Agrees to Pay $1 Million to Settle False Billing Cliams.” Tampa Bay Times. (July 22, 2013). From: http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/hernando-pasco-hospice-agrees-to-pay-1-million-to-settle-false-billing/2132592?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

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.

Florida Registered Nurses Finalize Union Agreement with HCA

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

Registered nurses at ten HCA hospitals in Florida have reached a collective bargaining agreement with the hospital chain. After negotiating for over a year, National Nurses United–a union for registered nurses–announced that it finalized the agreement with HCA on May 7, 2012.

The agreement affects over 3,000 Florida registered nurses at HCA hospitals. It will be effective for three years.

According to National Nurses United, Florida HCA management has agreed to establish a committee of elected nurses at each hospital to make recommendations on improving patient care. The contract also protects nurses against forced overtime and provides for a new wage system based on experience.

Milestone for Florida Nurses.

This collective bargaining agreement is a milestone for Florida nurses. It provides some degree of security and assurances of fairness to nurses before they can be terminated. Internal grievance procedures will have to be complied with by the employing hospital which will no longer be able to arbitrarily terminate a nurse.

Unionization Means Written Contract for Nurses.

This also means that nurses employed by the hospital will now have a written contract and will have contractual rights. Most nurses work as “at will employees” without a contract. This allows them to be fired for any (non-discriminatory) reason or no reason at all. This will prevent that from happening from now on.

This also has an advantage even for those nurses who are not union members. The labor contract will apply to them, too, giving them contract rights, as well.

Union Representative.

Although the union believes that the RNs covered by the new agreement will greatly benefit from it, there are often problems that arise from union negotiations that may not be initially apparent.

For example, the nurse employee will have the right to have a union representative present at any disciplinary proceedings, interviews, or investigations by the hospital employer. A nurse may feel that having a union representative present will ensure that his or her legal interests are protected. However, this is not always the case. A union representative will generally not do anything to jeopardize the union’s relationship with the employer. Additionally, the union representative is not a lawyer and often will not be able to provide legal strategy, legal advice, or good defenses to the nurse.

Union reps should never be mistaken for legal counsel. They will likely have no legal background and are not a substitute for an attorney.

Nurses Unfairly Accused of Diverting Narcotics.

This firm has heard from a number of nurses employed by hospitals across the state and regularly represents them. Often we are contacted by nurses who state that they are unfairly and incorrectly accused of diverting narcotics from patients or pilfering them from Pyxis, Diebold or ther brands of automated pharmacy dispensing systems. Many of these have been terminated by their employers even though their drug tests came back negative or they passed a polygraph examination (lie detector test).

When nurses are unionized and have contractual rights, this helps to end unfair and arbitrary terminations. Such abuses by hospital employers cause nurses to decide to vote in favor of unionization.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Nursing Issues Today.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to nurses, nurse practitioners, and CRNAs in investigations, contract negotiations, licensing issues and at Board of Nursing hearings.  They also advise nurses wrongfully accused of diverting drugs and those wrongfully terminated from employment.  Its attorneys represent nurses in DOH investigations, Board of Nursing cases 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.

Sources Include:

Dymond, Richard. “Nurses Win First Bargaining Contract with HCA’s Blake, Doctor’s Hospital.” Bradenton Herald. (May 8, 2012). From
http://www.bradenton.com/2012/05/08/4029914/nurses-win-first-bargaining-contract.html

Peters Smith, Barbara. Registered Nurses Reach Labor Agreement with 10 Florida Hospitals.” Herald-Tribune. (May 7, 2012). From
http://health.heraldtribune.com/2012/05/07/registered-nurses-reach-labor-agreement-with-10-florida-hospitals/

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.

Settlement Reached in WellCare False Claims Case

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

WellCare Health Plans Inc.(WellCare) has reached a settlement in its False Claims Act case. WellCare will pay $137.5 million to the federal government and nine states to settle four lawsuits. The lawsuits alleged violations of the False Claims Act.

WellCare is based in Tampa, Florida. The company provides managed health care services for approximately 2.6 million Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries across the United States.

WellCare Allegedly Submitted False Claims to Medicare and Medicaid Programs.

The lawsuits accused WellCare of submitting false claims to Medicare and Medicaid programs. WellCare allegedly falsely inflated the amount it claimed to be spending on medical care. Allegedly, this was done in order to avoid returning money to Medicaid and other programs in various states, including the Florida Medicaid program and Florida Healthy Kids program. WellCare also allegedly knowingly retained overpayments it had received from Florida Medicaid for infant care. Furthermore, WellCare allegedly falsified data that misrepresented the medical conditions of patients and the treatments they received.

Settlement Requires WellCare to Pay the United States and Nine Individual States.

WellCare’s settlement requires the company to pay the United States and nine individual states $137.5 million. The nine states are Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New York, and Ohio. The settlement also requires WellCare to pay an additional $35 million if the company is sold or experiences a change in control within three years of the agreement.

Whistleblowers Will Also Share in Settlement.

The four lawsuits against WellCare were filed by whistleblowers under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. The qui tam provisions allow individuals to file lawsuits on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.

The whistleblower whose qui tam complaint initiated the government’s investigation will receive approximately $20.75 million. The other whistleblowers will share approximately $4.66 million and will also be entitled to receive an additional share of any contingency payment.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in False Claims Act Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents physicians, medical practices, pharmacists, pharmacies, and other health provider in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving government health programs (Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE). The Health Law Firm also represents health providers in False Claims Act cases.

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

Sources Include:

Kutscher, Beth. “WellCare Agrees to Pay Over $137.5 Million in Settlement.” Modern Healthcare. (Apr. 3, 2012). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20120403/NEWS/304039975#ixzz1yAklA7ru?trk=tynt

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Florida-Based WellCcare Health Plans Agrees to Pay $137.5 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations.” U.S. Department of Justice. (Apr. 3, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/April/12-civ-425.html

Voreacos, David. “WellCare to Pay $137.5 Million to Settle False Claims Case.” Bloomberg News. (Apr. 3, 2012). From: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-03/wellcare-to-pay-137-5-million-to-settle-false-claims-case-1-.html

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

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