Category Archives: Health Care Industry

The health care industry includes health care providers (hospitals, nursing homes, pain management clinics, doctor’s offices, surgical centers, rehab facilities, etc.) and health care professionals (physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, medical students, medical interns, hospital administrators, etc.). These health care providers and health care professionals are often the subject of legal issues.

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 The submitted paper application is an outdated version.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.

 

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.

Doctors’ Medicare Payment Data to be Released Spring 2014

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

For years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has kept private its records on Medicare claims payments made to individual physicians. However, beginning March 18, 2014, the government may disclose the payment data on a case-by-case basis. According to CMS, this directive is a push by the Obama Administration to crack down on doctors who are making a habit out of repeatedly overcharging Medicare. On January 15, 2014, CMS stated that recalcitrant providers could face civil fines and exclusion from Medicare and other federal health care programs. According to CMS, a recalcitrant provider is defined as one who is abusing the program and not changing inappropriate behavior even after extensive education to address these behaviors.

Data Made Public to Fight Healthcare Fraud.

According to The New York Times, federal officials estimate that 10 percent (10%) of payments in the fee-for-service Medical program are improper. Supporters of releasing the data say it could help identify patterns of waste and fraud. The Medicare payment data, combined with data from other sources, could be enormously useful to consumers, researchers and whistleblowers analyzing patterns of health spending.

Physician groups express caution in Medicare releasing individual payment information, saying it could lead to public misunderstanding and unintended consequences, according to The New York Times.

Click here to read the entire article from The New York Times.

Data Prohibited From Being Release for Past Thirty Years.

In 1979, a federal district judge in Jacksonville, Florida, issued an injunction that prohibited Medicare officials from releasing what Medicare pays individual doctors. The ruling, in a lawsuit filed by doctors, said such disclosure would violate the Privacy Act and constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. In May 2013, the judge lifted the injunction.

According to a MedPage Today article, the decision does not require the wholesale release of Medicare payment data but allows Medicare officials and courts to consider the merits of each request.

To read the entire article from MedPage Today, click here.

Healthcare Providers Should Prepare for Possible Public Scrutiny.

Although it remains to be seen how CMS will implement its new policy, health care providers should be prepared for the possibility that their coding, billing and reimbursement patterns will become the subject of public scrutiny, particularly those providers in specialized areas including internal medicine, radiation oncology and ophthalmology.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Healthcare Fraud Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm 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. We also handle Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S.

Our attorneys 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 http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think about the decision to release payment data for physicians? How will this effect health care providers? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pear, Robert. “Doctors Abusing Medicare Face Fines and Expulsion.” The New York Times. (January 25, 2014). From: http://nyti.ms/1cpIaOg

Pittman, David. “Medicare to Release Doc Pay Data This Spring.” MedPage Today. (January 14, 2014). From: http://bit.ly/1ndaCHu

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.

California Doctor To Pay $562,500 Fine and Spend 5 Days in Jail for Balance Billing Patients Covered by Managed Care Plans

MLS Blog Label 2By Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A California doctor was fined $562,500 and ordered to spend five days in jail for illegally balance billing patients covered by health plans, according to a Los Angeles Times posted in December 2013. The doctor, Jeannette Martello, M.D., is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon practicing in the Los Angeles area. She was accused of balance billing patients covered by managed care health plans that were provided emergency treatment in several hospitals in Los Angeles. The doctor had very aggressive collection practices and allegedly sued her patients frequently to collect the fees not covered by the managed care health plans.

Click here to the entire Los Angeles Times article.

What is Balance Billing?

Balance billing is the practice of doctors charging the patient the difference between what the managed care plan pays and doctor’s regular charges. A physician who is in-network is usually prohibited from balance billing patients by the health plan’s contract with the physician. The problem of balance billing arises most often in the context of emergency services where the patient may go to an in-network hospital, but the specialist physician providing services to the patient may be out-of-network. Most states require the managed care plan to pay the out-of-network physician a “reasonable fee” for the services. The physicians and the managed care plans rarely agree on the “reasonable fee” for a particular service. This often results in litigation between the physician and the health plan. The situation also arises when a patient goes to an in-network hospital for surgery, but the anesthesiologist is not in-network.

Doctor Plans to Appeal.

According to the Los Angeles Times article, Dr. Martello plans to appeal the ruling. Dr. Martello and her attorney claim the prohibition on balance billing did not apply to her patients because the patients were in stable condition.

Court Previously Entered Injunction Prohibiting Illegal Billing.

In 2012, The Los Angeles Superior Court entered an injunction ordering Dr. Martello to cease all illegal billing practices, according to the Department of Managed Health Care. Dr. Martello continued the billing practices, which is why the judge ordered Dr. Martello to serve five days in jail. The judge also issued a permanent injunction prohibiting Dr. Martello from illegally billing patients in the future.

To read the press release from the Department of Managed Health Care, click here.

The Medical Board of California also placed Dr. Martello on probation for five years for her illegal billing practices in August 2013.

Balanced Billing Could be Considered a Matter of Contract Law.

It is usually sound legal advice that if a court orders you to do something or to stop doing something, comply with the court’s order. It is hard to imagine legal advice to the contrary, unless the parties desire to have a test case to challenge the law or challenge such rulings.

Balance billing in such cases is usually a matter of contract law. The provider agreement between the physician and the health plan is the contract at issue. This, then, would be a breach of contract action and not a criminal matter.

However, in certain instances, such as for Medicare or Medicaid patients, laws may prohibit balance billing. It is always best to check with your experienced health attorney first.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Doctors.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to doctors and other healthcare providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers. The Health Law Firm also represents providers in billing disputes with third-party payers.

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 heard of balance billing patients? Do you think the doctor received a far punishment for her billing practices? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Terhune, Chad and Brown, Eryn. “Doctor Gets Jail Time, $562,500 Penalty in Improper-Billing Case” Los Angeles Times. (December 6, 2013). From: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/dec/06/business/la-fi-mo-doctor-balance-billing-case-20131205

Green, Marta. “Department of Managed Care Director Brent Barnhart Issues Statement on Preliminary Injunction Granted in People v. Martello.” Department of Managed Health Care. (June 13, 2012). From: http://www.dmhc.ca.gov/library/reports/news/pr061312.pdf

The Pathology Blawg. “Dr. Jeannette Martello Gets Five Years Medical Probation for Aggressive Balance Billing.” The Pathology Blawg. (August 20, 2013). From: http://pathologyblawg.com/medical-news/balance-billing/jeannette-martello-five-years-medical-probation-aggressive-balance-billing/

About the Authors: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He 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.

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.

Scribes Offer Physicians Some Relief from EHR Frustrations

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

In November 2013, a physician satisfaction study, sponsored by the American Medical Society (AMA), was published. In the study, physicians stated one of the most hated items in the medical industry is the electronic health record (EHR). According to physicians, EHRs are time-consuming, they hinder the physician-patient relationship by dividing the physician’s attention, they require health care professionals to perform tasks below their level of training, and EHRs can decrease efficiency in the practice.

Now there is a trend in the medical industry that allows physicians and health care practitioners to complete all their EHR documentation without ever having to touch a computer. According to an article in The New York Times, many medical practices and emergency rooms are hiring medical scribes to ease physicians’ note-taking responsibilities.

What is a Scribe?

A medical scribe is an unlicensed, trained medical information manager specializing in charting physician-patient encounters during the medical exams. A scribe enters information into the EHR at the direction of the physician or health care practitioner. Scribes can also support workflow and documentation for medical record coding.

Duties of a scribe vary by the practice. Some common duties include:

- Documenting procedures performed by the physician;
– Reviewing patient evaluation data for comparison and transcribing the results;
– Recording physician-dictated diagnoses, prescriptions and instructions for discharge; and
– Recording a provider’s consultations with other health care professionals.


Benefits of a Scribe.

According to an article in The New York Times, there are an estimated 10,000 scribes currently working in hospitals and medical practices around the country. In the same article physicians using scribes stated that they are more satisfied with their choice of career because the scribe allows the physician to concentrate on treating patients. Physicians also stated that by using scribes they can see up to four extra patients a day. Other benefits include, a reduced amount of clerical work for doctors, and better record keeping.

To read the entire article from The New York Times, click here.

Requirements of a Medical Scribe.

The growing medical scribe industry has yet to come together on a unified training and certification process. While the practitioner is ultimately responsible for the record, scribes should be trained to have a basic understanding of the EHR documentation guidelines, according to a Medical Economics article. Furthermore, there are specific signature requirements to be used when scribes are utilized, according to Medical Economics.

Some signature requirements for scribes include:

- Signing and dating all entries into the medical record. The role and signature of the scribe must be clearly distinguishable from that of the physician or licensed practitioner.
– The physician or licensed practitioner must authenticate the entry by signing, dating, and recording the time. A physician signature stamp is not permitted for use in the authentication of scribed entries.
– The authentication must take place before the physician and scribe leave the patient care area.
– If the organization determines that the scribe will be allowed to enter orders into the medical record, those orders entered into the medical record cannot be acted on until authenticated by the physician.
– The medical practice should implement a performance improvement process to ensure that the scribe is not acting outside of his or her job description, authentication is occurring as required, and that no orders are being acted on before they are authenticated.

When adding scribes to your practice, it is important to consult the guidelines laid out by state boards and other regulatory authorities in order to develop compliant scribe policies. Knowing your state’s requirements is key to reducing legal dangers and defending potential claims.

To learn more on medical scribes, click here to read the Medical Economics article.

Medical Assistants vs. Scribes.

In most states, medical assistants are allowed to perform more patient care activities than a scribe is. For example, see the list contained in Florida Law, Section 458.3485, Florida Statutes. On the other hand scribes are, in effect, merely medical transcriptionists. However, each job may prove to be a gateway to the other job. A well-trained medical assistant may make an excellent scribe and be of great assistance to the physician. An experienced medical scribe may make an excellent medical assistant, being familiar with medical terminology and patient care.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians and medical groups on EHR issues. It also represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Comments?

What do you think about the use of scribes in the medical practice? Do you or have you ever used a scribe? What are the benefits or pitfalls of using a scribe? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Hafner, Katie. “A Busy Doctor’s Right Hand, Ever Ready to Type.” The New York Times. (January 12, 2014). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/14/health/a-busy-doctors-right-hand-ever-ready-to-type.html?_r=0

Lewis, Maxine. “Scribes Can Help Document Care, Boost Efficiency at Medical Practices.” Medical Economics. (October 20, 2013). From: http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/medical-economics/news/scribes-can-help-document-care-boost-efficiency-medical-practices

Conn, Joseph. “More Docs Get EHR Help.” Modern Healthcare. (August 24, 2013). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20130824/MAGAZINE/308249958

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.

Copying and Pasting Clinical Notes in Electronic Health Records Could Be Considered Healthcare Fraud

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

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) is concerned about healthcare providers carelessly copying and pasting clinical notes in electronic health records (EHRs). According to an audit report released on December 10, 2013, copying and pasting in EHRs can lead to fraudulently duplicated clinical notes, which can be considered healthcare fraud. This practice is allegedly widespread across medicine, according to a Modern Healthcare article. Federal officials say there is a need to crackdown on this behavior.

Click here to read the entire audit report from the HHS OIG.

This is the first of two reports on fraud and vulnerabilities in EHR systems. The second report from the OIG will be on weaknesses in how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) payment contractors monitor for fraud in EHRs. This report is scheduled to be published soon.

Report Looks at Hospital Policies Regarding Copy-and-Paste Features.

The audit report studied 864 hospitals that had received subsidies for EHR systems as of March 2012. Out of those hospitals, only twenty-four percent (24%) had any policy regarding the improper use of copying-and-pasting in EHRs. The report concluded that too few hospitals actually have policies defining the proper use of copy and paste in EHRs.

According to Modern Healthcare, adoption of EHR systems has coincided with a rapid rise in higher-cost Medicare claims. This has led to officials looking into whether EHRs are enabling illegal upcoding. Officials say that EHR features such as copy and paste make it too easy to bill for work that wasn’t actually performed and help increase reimbursements, according to Modern Healthcare. Click here to read the entire article from Modern Healthcare.

In the report the HHS OIG recommends that the CMS strengthen its efforts to develop a comprehensive plan to address fraud vulnerabilities in EHRs. It was also suggested that CMS develop guidance on the use of the copy-paste feature in EHR technology.

Tips to Help Avoid Copy-and-Paste Errors.

Tools commonly available in EHRs that allow physicians to copy and paste patient information should be used with extreme care, according to an article on American Medical News. The article offers health care providers some guidelines to help avoid errors related to copying and pasting.

- Avoid copying and pasting of text from another person’s notes.

- Avoid repetitive copying and pasting of laboratory results and radiology reports.

- Note important results with proper context, and document any resulting actions. Avoid wholesale inclusion of information readily available elsewhere in the EHR because that creates clutter and may adversely affect note readability.

- Review and update as appropriate any shared information found elsewhere in the electronic record (e.g., problems, allergies, medications) that is included in a note.

- Include previous history critical to longitudinal care in the outpatient setting, as long as it is always reviewed and updated. Copying and pasting other elements of the history, physical examination or formulations is risky, as errors in editing may jeopardize the credibility of the entire note.

Click here to read the entire article from American Medical News.

What This Means for Healthcare Providers Using EHRs.

The practice of copying and pasting previous information without checking can be considered careless and potentially dangerous to patients. It can be problematic when there are multiple teams taking care of one patient and using the chart to communicate. The right way is to make sure everything in the note you sign accurately reflects what happened on your shift.

In the report the HHS OIG stated that copy-and-paste features in EHRs will be under additional scrutiny. By knowing where the enforcement focus will be, providers can attempt to avoid copy-and-paste practices that are likely to lead to audits. Additionally, providers can beef up compliance efforts and policies.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They 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.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today. To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

In your practice do you use an EHR system? Have you had any issues with copying and pasting clinical notes? Does your practice have a copy-and-paste policy? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.|

Sources:

Carlson, Joe. “Fed Eye Crackdown on Cut-and-Paste EHR Fraud.” Modern Healthcare. (December 10, 2013). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20131210/NEWS/312109965/cut-and-paste-function-can-invite-ehr-fraud-officials-say

O’Reilly, Kevin. “EHRs: ‘Sloppy and Paste’ Endures Despite Patient Safety Risk.” American Medical News. (February 4, 2013). From: http://www.amednews.com/article/20130204/profession/130209993/2/

Levinson, Daniel R. “Not All Recommended Fraud Safeguards Have Been Implemented in Hospital EHR Technology.” Department of Health and Humans Services Office of Inspector General. (December 2013). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/assets/pdf/CH92135129.PDF

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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

MedPAC Wants to Hold Accountable Care Organizations More Accountable

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

As the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) prepares to designate the next class of accountable care organizations (ACOs), the agency sought the advice and input of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) on how to proceed.  MedPAC is an independent Congressional Agency established to advise the U.S. Congress on issues affecting Medicare.

Click here to read our previous blog on the background and purpose of ACOs.

MedPAC Suggests All Medicare Shared Savings Program ACOs Join the Two-Sided Risk Model.

In response to the request from the CMS, MedPAC reiterated its previous position that it would like to see all Medicare ACOs take on greater financial risk.  As it presently stands, some Medicare-contracted ACOs do not share in the risks associated with the ACOs patients’ healthcare costs exceeding certain target ranges.  Even though those ACOs do not bear any financial risk if the goals are not met, they nevertheless stand to benefit if they are.

MedPAC found that the one-sided risk model being used by most Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) ACOs to be insufficient to reach the goals of the MSSP.

Specifically, MedPAC wants to see all MSSP ACOs in the two-sided risk model.  That model requires the ACO to reimburse Medicare for some of the costs which exceeded the target ranges. This pressure is important to note because only 13 of the 32 Pioneer ACOs generated enough savings to Medicare to qualify for MSSP savings payments.

Understand an ACO Agreement Before You Sign.

As we see more and more physicians being approached to join or form ACOs, it is crucial to understand exactly what type of arrangement you are getting into.

Many ACO contracts we see are simply for participation as a provider in the organization.  However, some of the contracts we see require that the physician make a financial investment in the ACO or otherwise require that the physician pay a “pro rata” share of any penalty assessed by CMS.

Current ACO participation and recruiting is something akin to the gold rush of the nineteenth century.  Everyone is rushing to stake a claim in fear of being left out.  Be careful about what kind of an agreement you sign and be sure that you understand the long-term consequences of tying your practice to an as-yet unproven model. To read our previous blog on the first year pioneer ACO results, click here.

If you are approached to join an ACO, or are considering signing a participation agreement/contract with one, make sure to read the contract carefully and consult with an experienced healthcare attorney.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced With Healthcare Business Practices.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physician groups and practices with issues involving establishing, licensing, selling, merging, and intergroup affiliation.  If you are considering establishing an ACO or have been approached to become a participant in one, you can contact The Health Law Firm at (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 or you can visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of MedPAC’s position on ACOs? Have you considered joining an ACO? Why or why not? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.