Category Archives: In the Know

Health care law encompasses a wide range of issues. Learn more about regulations, legislation and general information involving health care providers and professionals (physicians, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, mental health counselors, rehab facilities, nursing homes, DME suppliers, medical students and interns, pain management clinics, hospital administrators, etc.) including information regarding the Department of Health, professional boards (Board of Nursing, Board of Pharmacy, Board of Dentistry, Board of Medicine, etc.), DEA, AHCA (Florida Agency for Health Care Administration) and Medicare and Medicaid.

Why Have You Received a Denial on Your Medicare Enrollment Application?

GFI Blog LabelBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Christopher E. Brown, J.D., The Health Law Firm

Did you receive a denial on your Medicare enrollment application and can’t figure out why? You may be surprised to find out that even the smallest punctuation error, such as a missing comma or period, could be the reason Medicare rejected your application.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will deny Medicare applications of physicians, medical groups, home health agencies (HHAs), pharmacies and durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers because the name on file with the National Plan & Provider Enumeration System (NPPES) is not the same legal business name as reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The use of punctuation marks and abbreviations in your name with NPPES could produce a no match in the CMS records. It is imperative when filling out the Medicare enrollment forms that you use the exact legal business name on file with the IRS.

The easiest way for a health care provider or facility to apply for enrollment or make changes to enrollment information is to use the internet-based Provider Enrollment Chain and Ownership System (PECOS). Click here to utilize PECOS.

Other Reasons Why a Medicare Enrollment Application can be Denied.

Here are some more situations that can cause a provider’s application to be denied:

1. The form CMS-855 or PECOS certification statement is unsigned; is undated; contains a copied or stamped signature; or for the paper form CMS-855I and form CMS-855O submissions, someone other than the physician or non-physician practitioner signed the form.
2. The submitted paper application is an outdated version.
3. The applicant failed to submit all of the forms needed to process a reassignment package within 15 calendar days of receipt.
4. The form CMS-855 was completed in pencil.
5. The wrong application was submitted (for example: a form CMS-855B was submitted for Part A enrollment).
6. If a web-generated application is submitted, it does not appear to have been downloaded from the CMS website.
7. The health care provider sent in an application or PECOS certification statement via fax or e-mail when he/she was not otherwise permitted to do so.
8. The health care provider failed to submit an application fee (if applicable to the situation).

Update All of Your Information with Medicare.

If you are already a Medicare provider, I urge you to personally go into the PECOS and NPPES and print out a copy of the existing information to check it.

If anything is incorrect, including an incorrect or incomplete name for your medical group, corporation or business, immediately fix this. Everything should be consistent. All of your state licenses and corporation/company information on file with your Secretary of State should also contain the same information as well.

Incorrect Information Could Lead to the Termination of Your Medicare Provider Number.

The consequences of not checking your information on file are severe, and can include termination of your Medicare provider number and billing privileges.

The effect of this termination includes:

- You are prohibited from reapplying to Medicare for at least two years.
- You may have to pay back any money received from the Medicare program since the effective date of the termination (often many months prior to the notification letter).
- Other auditing agents may be notified such as the Medicare Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) and the state Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).
- You may no longer contract with Medicare or anyone who does.
- You may and probably will be terminated from the approved provider panels of health insurance companies with which you are currently contracted.
- You may and probably will be terminated from skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and HHAs with which you have contracts.
- You may and probably will have your clinical privileges terminated by hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs).

To read our recommendations on what to do if your Medicare provider number is terminated, click here to read my previous blog.

Comments?

Did you know that even the smallest punctuation errors could lead to a denial of your application for Medicare enrollment? Have you ever had an issue enrolling in the Medicare program? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Don’t Wait Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions. They also represent them in preparing and submitting corrective action plans (CAPs), requests for reconsideration, and appeal hearings, including Medicare administrative hearings before an administrative law judge. Attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent health providers in actions initiated by the Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs), in False Claims Act cases, in actions initiated by the state to exclude or terminate from the Medicaid Program or by the HHS OIG to exclude from the Medicare Program.

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

About the Authors: 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.

Christopher E. Brown, J.D., is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas 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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

CMS in the Hot Seat for Lax Oversight of Medicaid Managed Care Organizations

LLA Headshot smBy Lenis L. Archer, J.D., M.P.H., The Health Law Firm

For years, each state has kept an eye on its own Medicaid managed care plans, while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is required to monitor how well each individual state is doing. However, a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report claims CMS is sleeping on the job. The report, released on June 20, 2014, stresses the need for more federal oversight of these plans.

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Medicaid program is expected to expand significantly. Most of the new beneficiaries enrolled in managed care are covered almost entirely by federal funds. The need for federal oversight in this area is of growing importance to ensure accountability of taxpayers’ dollars.

To read the entire report from the GAO, click here.

Report Findings: MCOs Need to be Watched by the Feds.

The persistent theme of the GAO report is that CMS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have done little to control the integrity of managed care organizations (MCOs). Federal programs have delegated managed care supervision to each individual state, but fail to provide needed guidelines and resources. CMS has not updated its MCO program guidance since 2000.

The report found neither state nor federal programs are well positioned to identify improper payments made to MCOs. Further, these programs are unable to ensure that MCOs are taking appropriate actions to identify, prevent or discourage improper payments.

For example, the report looked at state program integrity (PI) units and Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCU) from seven states. These anti-fraud groups admitted to primarily focusing their efforts on Medicaid fee-for-service claims. Meanwhile, claims made to MCOs have flown under their radar.

GAO Recommendations.

The GAO recommends that CMS:

- Require states to conduct audits of payments to and by MCOs;

- Update its managed care guidance program integrity practices and effective handling of MCO recoveries; and

- Provide states with additional support in overseeing MCO program integrity.

The GAO also suggests that CMS increase its oversight, especially as states expand their Medicaid programs. The GAO report recommends CMS take a bigger role in holding states accountable to ensure adequate program integrity efforts in the Medicaid managed care program. If CMS does not step up to the plate, the report predicts a growing number of federal Medicaid dollars will become vulnerable to improper payments.

The Future of MCOs.

If this report is taken seriously, be assured that audits of MCOs will become more frequent and extensive. If CMS ramps up their efforts, claims could be reviewed in detail by Medicaid integrity contractors. Now is the time to verify you are in compliance and receiving proper payments; before CMS turns the magnifying glass on you or your facility .

Comments?

What do you think of the GAO’s assessment of MCOs? Do you think CMS needs to step up and provide more oversight? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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

Medicaid fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the state MFCU, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), the FBI, and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and other law enforcement agencies often participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned about possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today. Often Medicaid fraud criminal charges arise out of routine Medicaid audits, probe audits, or patient complaints.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions. To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Mullaney, Tim. “Federal Government Needs to Boost Medicaid Managed Care Oversight, GAO Says.” McKnight’s Long-Term Care & Assisted Living. (June 20, 2014). From: http://www.mcknights.com/federal-government-needs-to-boost-medicaid-managed-care-oversight-gao-says/article/356779/

Adamopoulos, Helen. “GAI Calls on CMS to Increase Medicaid Managed Care Oversight.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (June 20, 2014). From: http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/gao-calls-on-cms-to-increase-medicaid-managed-care-oversight.html

Bergal, Jenni. “Advocates Urge More Government Oversight of Medicaid Managed Care.” Kaiser Health News. (July 5, 2013). From: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/stories/2013/july/05/medicaid-managed-care-states-quality.aspx?referrer=search

About the Author: Lenis L. Archer is as attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“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 Attorney General Targets Targeted Case Management Fraud

DPP_12By Christopher E. Brown, J.D., The Health Law Firm

Due to increased fraud throughout the system, the Florida Attorney General (AG), through the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), is focusing its attention on Medicaid targeted case management (TCM) services.

TCM services were created to assist children with documented mental health conditions in gaining access to medical, social, educational, and other support services. To be eligible for such services a child must meet very strict criteria.

Eligibility Criteria for Children’s Mental Health TCM Services:

1. Must be enrolled in a Department of Children and Families (DCF) children’s mental health target population (birth through 17 years);
2. Has a mental health disability (i.e., serious emotional disturbance) that requires advocacy for and coordination of services to maintain or improve level of functioning;
3. Requires services to assist in attaining self sufficiency and satisfaction in the living, learning, work, and social environments of choice;
4. Lacks a natural support system for accessing needed medical, social, educational, and other services;
5. Requires ongoing assistance to access or maintain needed care consistently within the service delivery system;
6. Has a mental health disability (i.e., serious emotional disturbance) that, based upon professional judgment, will last for a minimum of one year;
7. Is in out-of-home mental health placement or at documented risk of out-of-home mental health treatment placement; and
8. Is not receiving duplicate case management services from another provider.

Unfortunately, many of the children TCM providers assist and bill Medicaid for do not meet these criteria. In addition, a lack of oversight by the Medicaid program has led to numerous improper and fraudulent payments to TCM providers.

Florida TCM Fraud Cases.

Improper and fraudulent payments are often related to TCM providers billing for services that were never performed and paying kickbacks for client referrals.

According to the Florida AG, the three owners of Destiny TCM Corporation in Central Florida were arrested by the MFCU for $27,000 worth of Medicaid fraud. The corporation is accused of falsely billing the Medicaid program for illegitimate targeted case management services and bribing individuals in order to obtain Medicaid recipient numbers. Click here to read the press release from the AG.
In another similar case, the owners of Kingdom Builders Ministries in Lake County, Florida, were also arrested for allegedly defrauding Florida Medicaid out of $80,000. The MFCU revealed that the two owners allegedly directed employees to bill for an entire family when only one member received services. Employees were also allegedly instructed to bill for unauthorized expenses, such as travel time, employee staff meetings and phone calls. Additionally, records indicate that Kingdom Builders Ministries received payment for services allegedly provided to young children who did not have any documented mental health condition and continued to submit invoices months after terminating services. Click here to read more from the AG.

Tips for Responding to a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Investigative Subpoena.

The MFCU has become aware of these improper payments and has begun to investigate TCM providers, aggressively. The MFCU is in charge of investigating and prosecuting health care providers suspected of defrauding the state’s Medicaid program. When the unit opens a case against a provider, the first step is usually the issuance of an investigative subpoena, requesting specific patient records. It is important to remember that the MFCU would not be involved unless criminal fraud was suspected. This is not a routine audit. Click here to read practice tips on how to properly respond to an MFCU subpoena.

Defend Yourself from Fraud Charges.

We have been consulted by many individuals similar to the subjects of this story, both before and after criminal convictions for fraud or related offenses. In many instances, we are convinced that the person is actually not guilty of fraud. However, in many cases those subject to Medicaid or Medicare fraud audits and investigations refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter or they decide not to spend the money required for a top quality attorney to defend them.

If you are accused of Medicare or Medicaid fraud, realize that you are in the fight of your life. Your liberty, life and profession are at stake. You need to sell everything you own, borrow everything you can and hire the absolute best criminal defense attorney available who has experience in defending such cases to represent you.

If you win and are acquitted, at least you still have a professional license and can start over. However, if you lose, you will most probably be in prison for years. You will lose your license. You will be excluded from Medicare. You will be a convicted felon. You will have nothing and will have no way of starting over successfully.

Do not delude yourself. This is extremely serious. Be prepared to give up whatever you have in order to avoid a conviction.

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

Medicaid fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the state MFCU, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), the FBI, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Often other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and other law enforcement agencies participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today. Often Medicaid fraud criminal charges arise out of routine Medicaid audits, probe audits, or patient complaints.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent speech therapists, occupational therapists, vocational therapists, therapy groups, physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions. To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Did you know the eligibility criteria for children’s mental health TCM services? Were you aware that the AG is targeting these services? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: Christopher E. Brown, J.D., is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://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.

HIPAA Fines, Mobile Devices and Risk Assessments: Follow the Steps or Pay the Price

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

Two separate entities have agreed to pay the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) $1,975,220 in fines collectively. The settlements resolve potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy and security rules involving stolen, unencrypted laptops. These two actions shine a light on the significant risk unencrypted laptops and other mobile devices pose to the security of patient information.

To read the press release from the HHS OCR, published on April 22, 2014, click here.

Concentra Received Risk Assessments, But Did Not Act on Findings.

According to the OCR, an investigation of Concentra Health Services, a subsidiary of Humana, was conducted after a laptop was stolen from a Missouri physician therapy center. This investigation revealed that Concentra had previously received multiple risk analyses that stated the company lacked encryption on its laptops, desktop computers, medical equipment, tablets and other devices containing electronic protected health information. Concentra’s efforts to remedy the risk were incomplete and inconsistent, leaving patients’ health information vulnerable. Concentra agreed to pay $1,725,220 to settle potential security violations and adopt a corrective action plan.

QCA Investigation.

The QCA Health Plan, Inc., investigation began in February 2012, after an unencrypted laptop containing the medical records of 148 individuals was stolen from an employee’s car. The investigation revealed that QCA failed to comply with multiple requirements of the HIPAA privacy and security rules. According to Modern Healthcare, the company is required to pay $250,000, as well as provide HHS with an updated risk analysis and corresponding risk-management plan.

Click here to read the entire article from Modern Healthcare.

Encrypt Laptops and Other Equipment or Pay the Price.

Encryption is one of your best defenses against incidents. These two settlements highlight the need for all entities to encrypt their laptops and other devices. Failing to do so may put that entity at risk for paying a large fine to the OCR and possible fines for state law violations.

HIPAA-covered entities are responsible for making sure all personal information is protected.

The following are some practical tips to use when handling protected health information. Share them with others in your organization:

1. Ensure that all types of electronic media by which you transfer patient health information of any kind are encrypted. This includes thumb drives, CD ROMs, DVDs, backup tapes, mini hard drives and anything else.
2. Try not to remove any patient information from your work site. If you need to work on it remotely, use a secure, encrypted internet connection to access your work database. Avoid saving the work or data onto your laptop hard drive or other removable media.
3. Never leave your laptop or other media in a car you are having worked on by a mechanic, having an oil change, having the car washed, or while you run into a store. Thieves stake out such locations and are waiting for careless individuals to do this.
4. Never leave your laptop, thumb drive or other electronic media from work in your car. What can be worse than having your car stolen? Having your car stolen with your laptop in it with patient information on it.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Defending HIPAA Complaints and Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other health care providers and institutions in investigating and defending alleged HIPAA complaints and violations and in preparing Corrective Action Plans (CAPs).

For more information about HIPAA violations, electronic health records or corrective action plans (CAPs) please visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

Are the laptops and other mobile devices at your practice encrypted? Does your practice regularly perform HIPAA risk assessments? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Conn, Joseph. “Unencrypted-Laptop Thefts at Center of Recent HIPAA Settlements.” Modern Healthcare. (April 23, 2014). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20140423/NEWS/304239945/unencrypted-laptop-thefts-at-center-of-recent-hipaa-settlements

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Press Office. “Stolen Laptops Lead to Important HIPAA Settlements.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (April 22, 2014). From: http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2014pres/04/20140422b.html

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Kansas Cancer Treatment Center and Owner Pay $2.9 Million Settlement for Alleged False Claims Act Violations

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

A whistleblower or qui tam lawsuit against a cancer treatment facility in Kansas has been settled. On April 14, 2014, the Hope Cancer Institute and its owner agreed to pay $2.9 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by defrauding Medicare, Medicaid and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. According to the complaint, it is alleged that the cancer treatment facility submitted false claims for drugs and services that were not provided to beneficiaries.

Click here to read the entire whistleblower complaint filed in 2012.

The complaint identifies three former employees of Hope Cancer Institute as the plaintiffs or “relators” in this case.

Owner Allegedly Instructed Employees to Submit Inflated Claims and Altered Medical Records.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), between 2007 and 2011, the Hope Cancer Institute’s owner allegedly instructed employees to bill for a predetermined amount of cancer drugs at certain dosage levels. However patients were allegedly given lower dosages of these drugs. This resulted in the center submitting false claims to federal health care programs for drugs that were not actually provided to beneficiaries. The three plaintiffs also stated they watched the owner use a paper cutter and tape to alter medical records before faxing them to Medicare. The employees’ investigation allegedly turned up altered documents for 13 patients.

To read the entire press release from the DOJ, click here.

The claims made against the Hope Cancer Institute and its owner are allegations. There has been no determination of liability.

Most Qui Tam Claims Filed by Employees.

The plaintiffs in this case filed the lawsuit against their employer under the qui tam or whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act. This law encourages whistleblowers to file fraud claims on behalf of the government by giving them a share of whatever the government collects, usually 15 percent (15%) to twenty-five percent (25%). Under the law, the employees are also required to give the DOJ the evidence they have collected so the government can join the lawsuit.

From our review of qui tam cases that have been unsealed by the government, it appears most of these are filed by physicians, nurses or staff employees who have some knowledge of false billing or inappropriate coding taking place. Typically the government will want to see some actual documentation of the claims submitted by the hospital or other institution. Physicians, nurses or staff employees usually have access to such documentation. Whistleblowers are urged to come forward as soon as possible. In many circumstances, documentation showing fraud “disappears” or cannot be located once it is known that a company is under investigation.

To learn more on whistleblower cases, read our two-part blog. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. 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. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

Comments?

Individuals working in the health care industry often become aware of questionable activities. Often they are even asked to participate in it. In many cases the activity may amount to fraud on the government. Has this ever happened to you? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Government Settles False Claims Act Allegations Against Kansas Cancer Treatment Facility and Its Owner.” Department of Justice. (April 14, 2014). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2014/April/14-civ-378.html

United States of America ex rel., Krisha Turner, Crystal Dercher and Amanda Reynolds v. Hope Cancer Institute, Inc. Case Number 2:12-cv-02122-EFM-JPO. Complaint. (March 1, 2012).

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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

OIG Audit Finds Federal Database of Terminated Medicaid Providers Needs Improvement

LLA Headshot smBy Lenis L. Archer, J.D., M.P.H., The Health Law Firm

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to establish a process for sharing information about terminated Medicaid providers. The federal database, called Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program State Information Sharing System (MCSIS), is designed to prevent terminated health care providers from billing another state’s program. However, an audit by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG), released in March 2014, states the MCSIS is not working as intended.

The MCSIS is supposed to collect data from every state Medicaid program on providers that were terminated from Medicaid for cause. However, the report found that the HHS OIG is not receiving data from 17 states or the District of Columbia. It was also found that a majority of the data does not meet the ACA criteria.

To read the entire report from the HHS OIG, click here.

Specific Issues Within Database.

According to the OIG, only 27% of the 6,439 MCSIS records involve terminated Medicaid providers. The database is filled with providers who had not been terminated, but rather had died, retired, left the state or stopped working with Medicaid of their own accord. It is also reported that about one-third of the records are not related to for-cause provider terminations. A majority of the data comes from California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and New York. According to Reuters, more than half of the records submitted did not include a National Provider Identification number, which is critical to any state trying to identify a terminated provider.

Click here to read the entire article from Reuters.

Recommendations to Improve Database.

CMS is now exploring options to implement mandatory state reporting. The agency has begun requiring that states submit termination letters for each provider entered in the MCSIS, and that CMS employees review each letter to ensure the provider belongs in the system.

What This Means for Medicaid Providers.

As CMS works to improve this database, those providers who have fallen through the cracks due to the reporting lag will now face repercussions for exclusion. Exclusion from Medicaid could mean exclusion from Medicare and other federal providers. It is important that health care providers know their status regarding exclusion, and contact an experience attorneys to assist them in having their names removed from exclusion lists.

To read more on the devastating consequences of exclusion, click here for a previous blog.

Contact Attorneys Experienced in Defending Against Action to Exclude an Individual or Business from the Medicare or Medicaid Programs.

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

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

Comments?

As a health care provider, do you know your status regarding exclusion? Are you aware of the consequences of being excluded? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pell, M.B. “U.S Database for Tracking Medicaid Fraud Fall Short, Auditor Says.” Reuters. (March 27, 2014). From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/27/us-usa-medicaid-database-idUSBREA2Q08D20140327

Levinson, Daniel. “CMS’s Process for Sharing Information About Terminated Providers Needs Improvement.” Department of Health and Human Service Office of Inspector General. (March 2014). From: http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-06-12-00031.pdf

About the Author: Lenis L. Archer is as attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Use Caution in USMLE Step Exam Preparation

CTH Blog LabelBy Catherine T. Hollis, J.D., The Health Law Firm and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Bulletin of Information outlines several examples of conduct that is deemed to be irregular behavior.  On February 27, 2014, the USMLE posted an Announcement listing the types of alleged irregular behavior recently reviewed by the Committee for Individualized Review (CIR).  Some of the cases reviewed involved individuals who were accused of soliciting unauthorized access to examination materials or communicating about specific test items, cases, or answers with other examinees.  This particular type of irregular behavior seems to be increasingly alleged against individuals who have participated in online forum discussions requesting assistance with examination preparation.

Click here to read the entire February 27, 2014, USMLE Announcement.

Do Not Seek Specific Examination Materials or Attempt to Communicate With Other Examinees.

The USMLE is taking a hard line stance on enforcing its irregular behavior policies concerning soliciting test materials and communicating about specific test items.  We have recently seen a number of individuals accused of engaging in irregular behavior because of posts on forum websites that appear to be solicitations for specific examination materials or cases.  Some examples of these posts include:

-    Joining in requests from others for information on recent test questions after another individual’s post requesting Step 2 Clinical Skills  (CS) cases;
-    Requesting that others provide information about some of the cases at a specific test center;
-    Suggesting approaching examinees as they leave the exam center to ask about the exam; and
-    Requesting a list of CS cases for a specific test center.

Know the Rules.

All USMLE applicants are required to be familiar with the USMLE’s Bulletin of Information.  By signing a Step Exam application, an applicant is certifying that he or she has read and is familiar with all information contained in the Bulletin. You will still be held responsible for this whether you read it or not.

According to the Bulletin, irregular behavior includes any action that subverts or attempts to subvert the examination process.  As noted above, the Bulletin contains a non-exhaustive list of examples of conduct that is deemed to be irregular behavior.

Click here to read our previous blog about irregular behavior.

Irregular Behavior Has Serious Potential Consequences.

If an examinee is found to have engaged in irregular behavior, the CIR will impose sanctions.  These sanctions can include an annotation on an individual’s USMLE transcript, invalidation of scores, a report to the Federation of State Medical Boards, and even a bar from taking future USMLE examinations.

Appropriate Test Preparation.

Examinees can adequately prepare for the USMLE Step exams without the need to seek further assistance that might cross the line into irregular behavior.  On April 4, 2014, the USMLE posted an Announcement on its website with information about materials available from the USMLE, the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and third parties. From the USMLE website, examinees can access free orientation and practice materials, including:

-    Informational materials on the overall USMLE program and content descriptions for each of the USMLE examinations;
-    Tutorials that illustrate the USMLE Step 1, Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK), Step 3 multiple-choice software and the Step 3 computer-based case simulation (CCS) Primum® software;
-    Sample multiple-choice test questions with answer keys for each Step exam;
-    Sample Step 3 CCS cases with feedback; and
-    Orientation materials for Step 2 CS.

Examinees may also, for a fee, take advantage of the self-assessment services offered by the NBME.  These services are designed to familiarize examinees with USMLE questions and provide feedback on the examinee’s areas of strength and weakness.

There are also a variety of commercial test preparation materials and courses that claim to prepare examinees for USMLE Step exams.  These courses are not affiliated with or sanctioned by the USMLE program, but may be helpful to you.

Click here to read the entire April 4, 2014, USMLE Announcement.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to medical students, residents, interns and fellows in academic disputes, graduate medical education (GME) hearings, contract negotiations, license applications, board certification applications and hearings, credential hearings, and civil and administrative litigations.

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

Comments?

Have you ever come across these online forums? Have you ever posted in these forums? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

“USMLE Takes Action Against Individuals Found to Have Engaged in Irregular Behavior.” USMLE. (February 27, 2014). From: http://www.usmle.org/announcements/?ContentId=130

“Use Caution in Selecting Review Courses.” USMLE. (April 4, 2014). From: http://www.usmle.org/announcements/?ContentId=67

“USMLE 2014 Bulletin of Information.” USMLE. (2013). From: http://www.usmle.org/pdfs/bulletin/2014bulletin.pdf

About the Authors:  Catherine T. Hollis is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

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. http://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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Supreme Court Overturns Medical Malpractice Caps

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Florida’s Supreme Court ruled 5-to-2 in favor of invalidating medical malpractice caps on non-economic damages. The initial legislation was put into place in 2003 by the Florida Legislature due to an alleged medical malpractice crisis. The caps limited payments to patients for non-economic damages at $500,000 in most malpractice cases and $1 million in cases involving deaths. However, on March 13, 2014, the Supreme Court concluded that the cap on wrongful death non-economic damages violates the state Constitution’s equal protection clause.

This decision by Florida’s highest court makes Florida the seventh state to make such a ruling that such limitations are unconstitutional. There are 35 states that currently have some type of cap on medical malpractice awards.

This decision stirs up harsh criticism from doctors, and praise from trial attorneys.

History of the Caps on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits.

The damages caps were initiated in 2003 by former Governor Jeb Bush, backed by doctors, hospitals and insurance companies. Supporters argued that reforms were needed to curb the outbreak of medical malpractice costs. The caps were also initiated in an effort to lower the cost of malpractice insurance rates and to keep doctors from moving out of the state. According to Health News Florida with the caps, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits fell, which was interpreted as a sign that the caps discouraged trivial lawsuits. To read the entire article from Health News Florida, click here.

Harsh Words from Florida Medical Association.

The Florida Medical Association (FMA) President Alan Harmon, M.D., wasted no time in releasing a statement of discontent. In a press release Dr. Harmon stated, “The FMA is extremely disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision. This decision imperils our considerable efforts to make Florida the best state in the nation for physicians to practice medicine and for patients to receive care.”

Dr. Harmon mentions that without caps to help regulate out-of-control litigation, many physicians may move out of the state, and few out-of-state physicians will look to locate to Florida.

To read the full press release from Dr. Harmon, click here.

What This Means for Health Care Professionals.

Now that medical malpractice caps are gone, trial lawyers will be refocusing on lawsuits. Health care professionals need to carefully evaluate each patient before treatment begins, even consulting with specialists when necessary. Detailed documentation is also important. Make sure everything is properly charted in the patient’s medical record. As a health care professional, its important to have an open line of communication with your patient, so that he or she knows and understands his or her medical treatment.

Get Professional Liability Insurance Now.

It is now more important than ever to have good professional liability insurance. The truth of the matter is that all health care professionals should protect themselves by obtaining a personal professional liability insurance policy. A good policy will provide medical malpractice and, very importantly, licensure protection coverage. The cost on these policies varies, but it is generally quite affordable, often costing little more that $10 to $15 a month. If you do not already have it, call Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO), Lloyd’s of London, CPH & Associates Insurance, or another insurance company to discuss obtaining professional liability insurance.

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

Our firm regularly represents physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, massage therapists, mental health counselors, registered nurses (RNs), assisted living facilities (ALFs), home health agencies (HHAs), nurse practitioners, lab technicians, occupational therapists, physical therapists (PTs), social workers, physician assistants, psychologists and other health professionals in many different legal matters.
Services we provide include representation before your professional board in Department of Health investigations, in administrative hearings, in civil litigation, in defense of malpractice claims, in professional licensing matters, in defense of allegations concerning HIPAA privacy violations and medical record breaches, in Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) actions, and in many other matters.

In cases in which the health care professional has professional liability insurance or general liability insurance which provides coverage for such matters, we will seek to obtain coverage by your insurance company and will attempt to have your legal fees and expenses covered by your insurance company. If allowed, we will agree to take an assignment of your insurance policy proceeds in order to be able to submit our bills directly to your insurance company.

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

Comments?

As a health care provider, how do you feel about the malpractice caps being thrown out? Will it make you think twice about taking certain cases or treating certain patients? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Gentry, Carol. “FL Malpractice Caps Thrown Out.” Health News Florida. (March 14, 2014). From: http://health.wusf.usf.edu/post/fl-malpractice-caps-thrown-out

Klas, Mary Ellen. “Florida Supreme Court Tosses Out Medical Malpractice Cap on Damages.” Tampa Bay Times. (March 13, 2014). From: http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/florida-supreme-court-tosses-out-medical-malpractice-cap-on-damages/2170030

VanSickle, Erin. “Supreme Court Invalidates Medical Liability Caps.” Florida Medical Association. (March 13, 2014). From: http://www.flmedical.org/Supreme_Court_invalidates_caps.aspx

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. http://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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Data Breach at Colorado Hospital Highlights IT Security Risks

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

A small rural hospital in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, has identified a virus on its computer network that had captured and stored screen shots of protected health information in a hidden file system. The hidden folder was created on Sept. 23, 2013, but was not discovered until Jan. 23, 2014. The breach identified at least 5,400 individual patients whose information was compromised.

According to Healthcare IT News, among the stolen data was patient names, addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, credit card information, and admission and discharge dates.

Hospital officials have been unable to determine how the virus was loaded onto the hospital network, according to Healthcare IT News. Consequently, officials believe that there is “very high” probability that the data had been accessed by an outside entity.

To read the entire article from Healthcare IT News, click here.

Take Steps to Secure Your Network.

Breaches of this kind are not solely confined to hospitals and large providers. In fact, it may be that this hospital was targeted because it was a smaller provider in a rural area with easier access to its systems.

Viruses like the one in question could be loaded onto systems as a result of an outside attack (think hackers) or through inside means like a flash drive or deliberately opening an infected e-mail.

It is imperative that a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) covered entity have an effective cyber security plan. Make sure that you have up-to-date anti-virus software and that your computers are secure from access by unauthorized personnel like cleaning crews or patients and their families. Also, meet with your IT professional to discuss security measures you can put in place such as restricting access and accessibility to certain files or the ability to download programs and applications to essential staff only.

Hacked data represents a growing share of HIPAA breaches. It is imperative that covered entities ensure their compliance with HIPAA to avoid any sanctions by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). To date, the OCR has collected in excess of $18 million in fines and penalties for failures to secure patient information.

Get a Risk Assessment.

A HIPAA Risk Assessment is a thorough review and analysis of areas where you may have risk of violating the HIPAA laws. Federal regulations require that covered entities have this assessment done. When the OCR auditor comes to visit your office to check for HIPAA compliance, they will ask for your Risk Assessment. Do you have one? Does your staff know who your HIPAA compliance officer is? To learn more on HIPAA risk assessments, click here.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Defending HIPAA Complaints and Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other health care providers and institutions in investigating and defending alleged HIPAA complaints and violations and in preparing Corrective Action Plans (CAPs).

For more information about HIPAA violations, electronic health records or corrective action plans (CAPs), please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

Do you think it is likely that this hospital was targeted because it was a smaller provider in a rural area? Do you think a HIPAA risk assessment could have helped this practice avoid a breach? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Harvey, Nelson. “Hospital Database Hacked, Patient Info Vulnerable.” Aspen Daily News. (March 15, 2014). From: http://www.aspendailynews.com/section/home/161578

McCann, Erin. “Small-Town Hospital Gets Hacked.” Healthcare IT News. (March 17, 2014). From: http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/small-town-hospital-gets-hacked

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Verifying Patients’ Affordable Care Act Exchange Insurance is Putting Doctors’ Office Employees Through the Ringer

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 ultimate goal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is to provide millions of previously uninsured Americans with access to health care. Open enrollment does not end until March 31, 2014; however, practices are already seeing an influx of patients who have bought insurance through the exchanges. With that, some offices are reporting a new challenge being presented in doctors’ offices.

In a National Public Radio (NPR) article, some doctors’ office employees report having to call insurance companies to verify that each exchange patient is paid up. These calls are reportedly taking up to an hour or more, which costs the practice both time and resources.

Click here to read the entire NPR article.

Doctors’ Offices Used to Check Insurance Online.

In the past, practices were able to verify patients’ insurance quickly through online verification systems. However, for exchange patients, some doctors’ offices are choosing to call insurance companies to make sure the patient has paid the premium. It if is not paid, the insurance company can refuse to pay the doctor for the visit, or recoup payments already made.

Financial Risk Part of the 90-Day Grace Period Included in the ACA.

Individuals that purchased subsidized coverage through the exchanges are granted a 90-day grace period before their coverage is cancelled for nonpayment. The insurance plan is required to pay any claims incurred during the first 30 days of the grace period. However, for the next 60 days, nothing is guaranteed. If a patient visits the doctor, the insurer can “pend” the claim and wait to pay until the patient pays the premium. At the end of the 90 days, the insurer can cancel the coverage and refuse to pay the pended claims or recoup payments already made. To read a previous blog on this topic, click here.

Risk Falls on Health Care Professionals and Providers.

The rule imposes a significant risk for uncompensated care on health care providers. The rule does require insurers to tell health care providers when patients are behind on their premium payments, but the rule does not specify how the health plan will provide that notice to the providers. This is why some practices are opting to get in front of the insurance companies by calling and verifying everything is in order before proceeding with the visit. However since the calls are taking so long, this means longer hours, more overtime and higher overhead expenses.

The Office Has Options.

If the premium is not paid, the office is at risk to not receive reimbursements. Instead of taking that risk, the office can provide patients with other options. The patient could reschedule the appointment for a later date. Or the patient could pay the office in cash and then apply to the insurer for reimbursements. Either way, the practice will receive its proper payment.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in insurance company or other third party payor reimbursements.

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

Comments?

Has your practice been calling insurance companies to verify patients have paid their premiums? As a health care professional or provider, are you worried you don’t have adequate financial protection? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Source:

Gold, Jenny. “Doctors’ Offices Get Put On Hold Trying to Find Out Who’s Insured.” National Public Radio. (February 25, 2014). From: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/02/25/282115303/doctors-offices-get-put-on-hold-trying-to-find-out-whos-insured

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. http://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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.