Category Archives: In the News

The field of health care is frequently in the news with technology updates, privacy breaches, innovative procedures, malpractice claims, etc. Learn more about the happenings of health care providers (physicians, nurses, dentists, hospitals, nursing homes, pain management clinics, medical students, mental health counselors, etc.) in Florida and around the United States.

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.

 

Say Goodbye to Physicians United Plan and Hello to Changes

MS_smBy Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

As of July 1, 2014, at 12:01 a.m., Physicians United Plan (PUP) will be liquidated. The insurance company was declared insolvent by a Florida circuit judge in Tallahassee on June 9, 2013. The judge turned the company over to the Florida Chief Financial Officer for immediate control of the company’s property and assets.

PUP is a Medicare Advantage plan, which is a private insurance company that insures Medicare patients. The Orlando, Florida-based company reports having 38,000 insurance subscribers. Those members have been switched back to original Medicare and a Part D prescription drug plan to avoid losing coverage during the transition. PUP subscribers will have to move to a new plan this fall if they want to stay with the Medicare Advantage program.

Click here to read the letter from the Department of Financial Services on the transition of patients from PUP to Medicare.

Background on the PUP Liquidation.

PUP failed to raise a required $30 million by the June 3, 2014, a deadline set to meet the state’s guidelines for financial solvency of an insurance company. The court order allows Florida’s Chief Financial Officer to “take immediate possession of all the property, assets and estate, and all other property of every kind whatsoever and wherever located.” PUP agreed to allow the Florida Division of Financial Services to become its court-appointed receiver on April 16, 2014.

To read the consent order appointing the Florida Department of Financial Services as the receiver of PUP, click here.

How Will This Affect Hospitals and Medical Providers?

If a medical group had a capitated plan, PUP should have been paying the physician group a set amount each month to keep its patients healthy. These groups won’t be hit as hard as others. However, more than 87 percent of PUP doctors were on fee-for-service contracts with PUP. These providers are more likely to get paid 20 to 30 percent of their outstanding bills after liquidation.

What to Say When a PUP Patient Comes Into Your Office.

After PUP was placed under the state’s control, patients reported health care providers have been canceling their appointments, canceling procedures and not filling their prescriptions. So on June 13, 2014, the Department of Financial Services sent a stern letter to health care providers warning them to continue taking patients with PUP. The letter stated: “Refusal of care, cancellation of appointments and any similar activities impacting member care form the basis of nonpayment of services and other state action.” To read the warning letter from the Florida Department of Financial Services to health care providers, click here.

On June 16, 2014, the Department of Financial Services advised health care providers to submit the claims to Medicare for prompt payment after June 23, 2014.

Comments?

What do you think about the liquidation of PUP? Do you think it will have an affect on your practice? Do you have any hesitations about PUP being liquidated? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians and medical groups in insurance 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 http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Sources:

Powers, Scott. “PUP Customers Must Find New Medicare Plans.” Orlando Sentinel. (June 9, 2014). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/os-state-shutting-down-medicare-insurer-20140609,0,2911253.story

Aboraya, Abraham. “Judge Approves Liquidating Physicians Unite Plan on July 1.” Orlando Business Journal. (June 9, 2014). From: http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/blog/2014/06/judge-approves-liquidating-physicians-united-plan.html

Shedden, Mary. “Don’t Abandon PUP Patients: State.” Health News Florida. (June 13, 2014). From: http://bit.ly/1lt8WoA

About the Author: 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.

“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.

Fake Surgeon in Florida Accused of Performing Liposuction Without a License

2 Indest-2009-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A Kissimmee, Florida, man was arrested on December 18, 2013, on charges that he has been allegedly performing liposuction without a medical license in a Central Florida clinic. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI) began investigating the phony surgeon about a year ago, after Florida Department of Health (DOH) received a complaint about the clinic in which the phony doctor worked. The clinic was called “Sculptural Orlando.”

Click here to read the article from the Orlando Sentinel.

Investigators Looking for More Victims.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, it is alleged the fake surgeon has been performing illegal liposuction surgeries for about a year and telling his patients he was a licensed medical doctor.

After further investigation, MBI agents discovered the clinic was licensed as a massage establishment and the fake surgeon did not hold a valid medical license in Florida. Several MBI agents visited the clinic undercover, posing as potential customers. The agents allege the fake surgeon performed evaluations on them and showed them before-and-after photos of his patients.

The DOH is still looking for victims or tips related to the fake surgeon and any unlicensed activity at the clinic.

Practicing Without a License Is a Crime.

This is by no means the first report we’ve heard of phony health care professionals operating on patients or injecting people with toxic chemicals. For some reason, Florida seems to get more than its fair share of these.

Practicing medicine without a license is a crime. Additionally, so is helping someone practice medicine without a license. As a licensed healthcare practitioner, you may be asked to supervise others or participate in a clinic or practice as a “medical director,” supervisor, or monitor. Remember that your license may be at stake with any wrongdoing by those subordinates under your supervision. Before you join a practice or agree to supervise others, check first with the DOH that the other providers have legitimate, active licenses. You can verify a license for free on the DOH’s website.

Also, remember that a license to practice medicine in Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico or anywhere else, is just that: a license to practice in that country. It does not allow a person to practice medicine in the United States or Florida. A license from the State of Florida is required to practice in Florida, except for certain military and government-employed physicians. Always check a physician’s license.

Additionally, a medical clinic that is not owned 100% by a licensed physician, podiatrist, chiropractor, physical therapist or nurse practitioner (or a few other specified medical professions) must have a separate Health Care Clinic License (HCCL) that is issued by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).

We have been consulted by many professionals who have found themselves caught working in illegal clinics. For example, a medical clinic cannot be owned by a deceased physician’s spouse who is not a licensed health professional, unless it has a HCCL. A clinic cannot be owned 50% by a CPA and 50% by a doctor, unless it has a separate HCCL. A dental clinic cannot be owned 20% by a non-dentist and 80% by a dentist; this is illegal and even a HCCL will not make it legal.

Always check out the credentials of a clinic, and its owners before you accept a job there or before you seek treatment there.

More Stories on Fake Physicians and Other Phony and Fraudulent Professionals to Come.

On this blog we will include additional articles on fake doctors and health care professionals, similar to those we have published in the past.

To see a blog on a fake dentist in Miami, click here. You can also read the story of a fake plastic surgeon in New York by clicking here. To read the story of a fake doctor in Texas accused of injecting patients with silicone instead of Botox, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Comments?

What do you think of all of these news stories of phony health care professionals? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “Man Accused of Performing Illegal Liposcutions.” Orlando Sentinel. (December 19, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-liposuction-without-license-arrest-20131219,0,7677863.story

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.

Fake Doctor in Texas Accused of Injecting Patients with Silicone Instead of Botox

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A South Texas woman was charged on October 31, 2013, for allegedly injecting people with silicone, that she claimed was Botox. The phony health professional, described in some media reports as an “unlicensed plastic surgeon,” has been charged with practicing medicine without a license. According to Reuters, the unlicensed health professional could also be facing charges of manslaughter if investigators confirm that a woman’s death was related to treatments received from the imposter.

Click here to read the entire article from Reuters.

If convicted, the fake health care professional could spend up to ten (10) years in prison and have to pay up to $10,000 in fines.

Investigators Looking for More Victims.

Investigators say this phony health professional would travel to different spas and massage parlors along the Texas-Mexico border offering her services and leaving advertisements. She allegedly made injections in patients’ lips, buttocks and legs. The advertisements seized by authorities touted collagen treatments for $250.

According to Fox News, investigators learned of the underground practice when a victim allegedly received a series of injections in her legs in August 2013. The victim has allegedly been hospitalized since October 9, 2013. Authorities also say they are investigating the death of a woman who may have been a victim of the treatments. So far around 30 victims have been identified, but investigators say there could be more, according to Fox News.

To read the Fox News story, click here.

Underground Injections Happen All Over the Country.

This is by no means the first report we’ve heard of phony health care professionals injecting people with toxic chemicals.

In February 2013, a South Florida man was arrested for allegedly injecting people with silicone in a West Palm Beach motel room. According to police, this fake physician injected his patients with buttocks-enhancing silicone injections. He would then allegedly seal up the skin wounds with Krazy Glue. To read more on this, click here to read my previous blog.

As far as we know, there is no relationship between the Florida fake doctor and the Texas fake doctor. However, they could have attended the same medical school.

Practicing Without a License Is a Crime.

Practicing medicine without a license is a crime. Additionally, so is helping someone practice medicine without a license. As a practitioner, you may be asked to supervise or join a practice. Remember that your license may be at stake with any wrongdoing by your subordinates. Before you join a practice or agree to supervise others, check first with the Department of Health (DOH) that the other providers are legitimate. You can verify a license for free on the DOH’s website.

Also, remember that a license to practice medicine in Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico or anywhere else, is just that: a license to practice in that country. It does not allow a person to practice medicine in the United States. A specific license from the State of Florida is required to practice in Florida, except for certain military and federal physicians. Always check a physician’s license.

More Stories on Fake Physicians and Other Phony and Fraudulent Professionals to Come.

In the near future on this blog we will include additional articles on fake doctors and health care professionals.

To see a blog on a fake dentist in Miami, click here. You can also read the story of a fake plastic surgeon in New York by clicking here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Comments?

What do you think of all of these news stories of phony health care professionals? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Taylor, Jared. “Phony Plastic Surgeon Accused of Using Silicone for Botox.” Reuters. (October 31, 2013). From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/31/us-usa-crime-texas-idUSBRE99U1CT20131031

Associated Press. “South Texas Woman Charged for Allegedly Injecting Client; Authorities Seek More Victims.” Fox News. (October 31, 2013). From: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/10/31/south-texas-woman-charged-for-allegedly-injecting-clients-authorities-seek-more/

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.

Grace Period Included in the Affordable Care Act Could Pose Financial Risk to Healthcare Professionals and Providers

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 little known rule published by CMS to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could pose a significant financial risk for doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers. The rule requires health plans participating in the exchanges to provide individuals purchasing insurance through the exchanges a grace period before terminating the coverage for non payment of the premiums. Doctors and other healthcare providers will continue to provide care during the grace period, but the insurance plan will not be required to pay the claims incurred during most of the grace period. The result could be that physicians and other healthcare providers would provide a significant amount of uncompensated care.

Details of the Rule.

The CMS rule provides individuals that purchased subsidized coverage through the exchanges a 90-day grace period before their coverage is cancelled for non payment. The insurance plan is required to pay any claims incurred during the first 30 days of the grace period, but the insurance plan is not required to pay the claims incurred during the last 60 days of the grace period if the individual’s coverage is terminated. The insurance plan is allowed to place all the claims during the last 60 days of the grace period in a pending status. The rule requires the insurance plan to notify the healthcare providers when an insured individual is in the last 60 days of the grace period.

Risk Falls on Healthcare Professionals and Providers.

The rule imposes a significant risk for uncompensated care on the healthcare providers. The rule does require insurers to tell healthcare providers when patients are behind on their premium payments, but he rule does not specify how the health plan will provide that notice to the providers. The only notice some providers receive will probably be the pending status placed on the unpaid claims by the insurance plan.

Many doctors and hospitals are reluctant to participate in insurance plans offered on the exchanges due to the increased financial risk associated with the CMS rule. The result could be that individuals enrolling in insurance plans through the exchanges may find it difficult to find a healthcare provider willing to accept them as patients. CMS has been asked to modify the rule so that insurers are required to pay claims during the entire 90-day grace period.

How Grace Period Can be Manipulated to Benefit Patients.

The CMS rule may also result in individuals manipulating the system. Some individuals may intentionally pay premiums for only part of the year and become serial abusers of the 90 day grace period. Another unintended consequence of the ACA is that individuals that choose not to pay their premiums and have their coverage terminated can reenter the exchange and enroll in a plan regardless of their pre-existing conditions so there is little incentive for some individuals to maintain their coverage.

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?

Were you aware of the 90-day grace period? As a healthcare professional or provider, are you worried you don’t have adequate financial protection? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Fiegl, Charles. “Medical Groups Fear ACA Grace Period Will Lead to Unpaid Claims.” American Medical News. (September 2, 2013). From: http://www.amednews.com/article/20130902/government/130909984/4/

Block, Jonathan. “Providers Protest Rule Putting Them at Financial Risk if Patients Don’t Pay Premiums.” Modern Healthcare. (August 13, 2013). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20130813/NEWS/308139968

Adams, Samuel. “Hospitals May Absorb Risk of Insurers’ Debtor Patients.” Bloogberg. (August 17, 2013). From: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-16/hospitals-may-pay-for-insurers-debtor-patients-under-obamacare.html

45 C.F.R. Section 156.270

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. 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.

Oncologist Accused of Billing Medicare for Unnecessary Chemotherapy-Employee Whistleblowers Filed First Claim

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A Michigan oncologist is accused of deliberately misdiagnosing patients with cancer so he could allegedly administer chemotherapy treatments and bill the government for those treatments, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). For more than two years the oncologist allegedly billed Medicare for $35 million in fraudulent claims. The oncologist was charged on August 19, 2013, with one count of Medicare fraud, according to the DOJ.

On top of submitting false claims to Medicare, a criminal complaint alleges a number of other serious charges. These include hiring doctors who may not have been properly licensed to practice medicine, administering controlled substances to patients at dangerous levels, and delaying hospital care for a patient with serious injuries, among others.

The complaint is allegedly based on interviews with several nurse practitioners, medical assistants and another doctor who worked for the oncologist at Michigan Hematology Oncology Centers (MHO), according to the DOJ. These whistleblowers allegedly approached federal authorities with this information.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

We are aware of similar stories regarding dermatologists misdiagnosing lesions as cancer. Some of these have been widely publicized in media reports, television news and magazine stories, such as “American Greed.”

Whistleblowers Come Forward with Serious Charges Against Oncologist.

The oncologist’s employees allege the doctor submitted fraudulent claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary services, including chemotherapy treatments, Positron Emission Tomograph (PET) scans, and a variety of cancer and hematology treatments for patients who did not need them. According to an article in Time, the complaint also alleges the oncologist administered unnecessary chemotherapy to patients in remission, deliberately misdiagnosed patients as having cancer to justify unnecessary cancer treatment, and administered chemotherapy to end-of-life patients who would not have benefitted from the treatment.

The criminal complaint also alleges, according to Time, that the oncologist distributed controlled substances to patients without medical necessity and employed foreign doctors who might have been unlicensed to practice medicine in the U.S.

According to Time, the complaint also cited one case in which the oncologist’s patient fell and hit his head at the oncologist’s office, and was told he needed chemotherapy before he could be taken to the hospital. The patient allegedly later died from the head injury.

Click here to read the entire Time article.

Oncologist Faces Prison Time and Fine.

According to Detroit News, the oncologist could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 criminal fine if convicted. The oncologist has entered a not guilty plea in this case. At this point, these accusations are just that, allegations. A check of the oncologist’s license status from the Michigan Department of Health (DOH) shows that his license is active.

To read the Detroit News article, click here.

Most Qui Tams Filed by Doctors, Nurses and Employees.

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 hospital staff employees who have some knowledge of false billing or inappropriate coding taking place. Normally the government will want to see some actual documentation of the claims submitted by the hospital or other institution. Usually physicians, nurses or staff employees have access to such documentation.

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. “Oakland County Doctor and Owner of Michigan Hemotology and Oncology Centers Charged in $35 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice. (August 6, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/August/13-crm-885.html

Pickert, Kate. “Medicare Fraud Horror: Cancer Doctor Indicted for Billing Unnecessary Chemo.” Time U.S. (August 15, 2013). From: http://nation.time.com/2013/08/15/medicare-fraud-horror-cancer-doctor-indicted-for-billing-unnecessary-chemo/

Hunter, George. “Michigan Cancer Doctor Formally Charged in Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Detroit News. (August 19, 2013). From: http://bit.ly/14T8A2A

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.

Orlando Health’s Restructuring Efforts Might Mean Pay Cuts and Layoffs for Employees

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Many employees at Orlando Health might be getting hit hard in the wallet with pay cuts schedule for later this year. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the eight-hospital health system notified its night-shift workers that their differential pay would be trimmed by several dollars an hour. For some employees that could be a twenty percent (20%) reduction in salary. The differential pay cuts are scheduled to take effect on September 8, 2013.

Meanwhile the hospital allegedly raised prices in the cafeteria, reduced the tuition reimbursement benefit, cut some workers hours and made a number of layoffs, according to the Orlando Sentinel. According to Orlando Health officials, this is all part of a restructuring effort that began in November 2012. The cutbacks will affect all eight hospitals and all departments.

Anyone who has eaten in the cafeteria at Orlando Regional knows what a bargain the food was. Now this will be the subject of reminiscence as when us old codgers fondly think back on 5 cent Coca Colas and 10 cent loaves of bread.

To read the Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

Night-Shift Workers Feel Under Paid and Under Appreciated.

Some Orlando Hospital employees spoke to the Orlando Sentinel about the pay cuts. According to the Orlando Sentinel, night-shift workers receive incentive pay on top of their base salary for their willingness to work night shifts. One worker interviewed explained the incentive pay is given to them because no one wants to work the overnight shift. Workers also get differential pay for weekend and holiday hours.

On top of the pay cuts, workers are seeing their hours drop, as well as layoffs around the hospital. In the November 2012, restructuring announcement, Orlando Health said 300 to 400 employees’ jobs were on the chopping block, according to WFTV. Some people were previously let go, while more layoffs will be coming. Hospital officials would not say how many people have been laid off so far.

To read more from WFTV, click here.

Orlando Health’s Statement.

Orlando Health reported an $8.1 million loss last quarter. That’s on top of losing money for the last four out of five quarters, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Hospital officials said the change in differential pay puts Orlando Health in line with the pay of other hospitals in the Southeast. On August 13, 2013, Orlando Health sent out an official statement, click here to read the full statement.

Petition to Block Pay Cuts Gaining Momentum.

A petition filed on August 9, 2013, on Change.org, is requesting the Orlando Health CEO block the pay cuts to the night shift workers. The petition was started by a registered nurse at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies and is quickly picking up steam. As of August 15, 2013, the petition had more than 2,700 signatures, although not all are local. To view the petition, click here.

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

The Health Law Firm routinely 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 of the cutbacks at Orlando Health? Are these steps necessary? If you are an Orlando Health employee, how will these changes affect you? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Jameson, Marni. “Orlando Health Workers Concerned by Cutbacks in Hours and Pay.” Orlando Sentinel. (August 9, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/os-orlando-health-cutbacks-20130809,0,5234963.story?dssReturn

Hughes, Ryan. “Orlando Health Confirms Second Round of Layoffs.” WFTV. (August 2, 2013). From: http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/orlando-health-confirms-second-round-layoffs/nZCjC/

Lewis, Kena. Orlando Health Statement. Orlando Business Journal. (August 13, 2013). From: http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/blog/2013/08/orlando-health-pay-cuts-to-save-18m.html?page=all

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

“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.

CMS Fights Medicare Fraud With Ban on New Home Health Agencies and Ambulance Suppliers in Three Cities

LOL Blog Label 2

By Lance O. Leider, 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 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it will temporarily ban new home health providers and ambulance suppliers from enrolling in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in three fraud “hot spots.” According to CMS, the six-month moratorium begins July 30, 2013. It applies to newly enrolling home health agencies (HHAs) in Miami, Florida, and Chicago, Illinois. It also applies to newly enrolling ambulance suppliers in Houston, Texas. Existing providers and suppliers can continue to deliver and bill for services. The goal of the ban is to fight healthcare fraud.

Click here to read the press release from CMS.

Authority to impose a moratorium was included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). According to a summary of the anti-fraud provisions in the Affordable Care Act, the Act allows CMS to prohibit new providers from joining the program where necessary to prevent or fight fraud, waste or abuse in certain geographic areas or for certain categories of services. This is the first time CMS is exercising its authority.

Why Moratorium Was Imposed in These Areas.

According to CMS, the decision to impose the moratorium was based on a number of factors, including a disproportional number of providers and suppliers relative to beneficiaries, a quick increase in enrollment applications from providers and suppliers, and extremely high utilization in these areas.

Miami Area a Hot Bed for Healthcare Fraud and Abuse.

The Miami area has stood out as one of the nation’s hubs of Medicare fraud, according to CMS. For example, in May 2013, a Miami patient recruiter for an HHA was sentenced to 37 months in prison for participating in a $20 million Medicare fraud scheme. Click here to read a previous blog. In that same month, workers from a Miami-area HHA were accused of bribing Medicare beneficiaries for their Medicare information, which was used to bill for home health services that were never rendered or not medically necessary. To read more, click here.

According to the Miami Herald, with a large number of elderly Medicare beneficiaries living in Miami, it’s not a surprise that healthcare fraud is so prevalent. South Florida allegedly accounts for one-third (1/3) of all healthcare fraud prosecutions in the nation. Click here to read the entire Miami Herald article.

The Affordable Care Act Offers the Government New Tools to Fight Healthcare Fraud.

In 2011 and 2012, the government reported recovery of $14.9 billion in healthcare fraud judgments, settlements and administrative impositions, according to CMS. In addition, CMS has revoked 14,663 providers and suppliers’ ability to bill the Medicare Program since 2011. The Affordable Care Act seeks to improve anti-fraud and abuse measures by focusing on prevention rather than the traditional “pay-and-chase” model of catching crooks after they have committed fraud. Click here to read a blog on the Affordable Care Act’s other fraud fighting tools.

What This Means for Health Care Professionals and Providers.

By knowing the government is beefing up measures to fight healthcare fraud, providers can attempt to avoid practices that are likely to lead to Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) or Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) audits. Additionally, a provider can be prepared for potential audits by increasing its documentation and compliance efforts.

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

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.
For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

What do you think of CMS’ decision to invoke the moratorium? Do you think this should have been done sooner? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “CMS Imposes First Affordable Care Act Enrollment Moratoria to Combat Fraud.” CMS.gov. (July 26, 2013). From: http://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Press-Releases/2013-Press-Releases-Items/2013-07-26.html

Chang, Daniel. “Feds Ban New Home Healthcare Agencies in Miami to Fight Medicare Fraud.” Miami Herald. (July 26, 2013). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/26/3524612/feds-ban-new-home-healthcare-agencies.html

Beasley, Deena. “U.S. Bans New Home Health, Ambulance Providers in Three Regions.” Miami Herald. (July 26, 2013). From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/26/us-medicare-moratoria-idUSBRE96P14P20130726

About the Authors: 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.

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.

Fifty-Five Hospitals Around the Country to Pay the Government $34 Million Settlement for False Claims Allegations

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

Fifty-five (55) hospitals in twenty-one (21) states have agreed to pay the Department of Justice (DOJ) more than $34 million to settle allegations of Medicare fraud in a whistleblower case, according to the DOJ on July 2, 2013. The false claims allegations involve a back procedure called a kyphoplasty. The kyphoplasty can be performed safely and effectively as an outpatient procedure. However, it is alleged that hospitals were using more expensive, inpatient procedures to increase Medicare billings.

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

A kyphoplasty is used to treat spinal fractures usually caused by osteoporosis.

Fourteen (14) Florida Hospitals to Pay $11 Million to Government.

According to an article on Health News Florida, fourteen (14) Florida hospitals have agreed to pay around $11 million to settle the DOJ’s false claims charges.

One of the Florida hospitals was Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami, which will pay $1.84 million. A number of HCA hospitals in Florida were included in the settlement. These hospitals will pay $7.14 million collectively. Another group that settled was the hospitals in the Morton Plant Mease group, which is part of the Baycare Health System in Tampa Bay. This settlement was listed at $2.37 million.

To see all of the Florida hospitals allegedly involved, click here to read the Health News Florida article.

Whistleblower Lawsuit Filed by Two Former Employees.

According to the DOJ, all but four of the settling facilities were named as defendants in a whistleblower lawsuit brought under the False Claims Act. The lawsuits were filed by a former reimbursement manager for Kyphon and a former regional sales manager for Kyphon. The DOJ stated that Kyphon is the company that allegedly advised hospitals to do kyphoplasty procedures as inpatient instead of outpatient procedures. These two will receive a total of about $5.5 million from the settlements.

If you want to know more about whistleblower/qui tam lawsuits, click here to read the first part of a two-part blog, and click here for the second part.

Previous Settlements from Kyphoplasty Procedures.

A similar settlement was reached in 2012, when 14 hospitals agreed to pay a settlement of more than $12 million to the government for allegedly inflating their profits based on unnecessary hospital admissions, according to the Washington Post. Click here to read that article.

The DOJ stated that it has now reached settlements with more than 100 hospitals, for a total of about $75 million resolving allegations that the facilities fraudulently billed Medicare for kyphoplasty procedures.

The Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) is on Fire.

These settlements are a part of the government’s fight against health care fraud and another win for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT). HEAT’s mission is to focus its efforts on preventing and deterring fraud and to enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. It was created in 2009, by the Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) and the DOJ. To date, the DOJ’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009, are more than $14.7 billion. To learn more about HEAT, click here.

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. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To 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 of these settlements? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Fifty-Five Hospitals to Pay U.S. More Than $34 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations Related to Kyphoplasty.” Department of Justice. (July 2, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/July/13-civ-745.html

Associated Press. “Justice Department, 55 Hospitals Reach $34 Million Settlement Over Medicare Fraud Claims.” Washington Post. (July 2, 2013). From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/justice-department-55-hospitals-reach-34-million-settlement-over-medicare-fraud-claims/2013/07/02/3d3d2356-e34e-11e2-bffd-37a36ddab820_story.html

Health News Florida Staff. “14 FL Hospitals to Pay $11 Million.” Health News Florida. (July 2, 2013). From: http://health.wusf.usf.edu/post/14-fl-hospitals-pay-11-million

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.

New Details Released on Drug Enforcement Administration’s Investigation of Central Florida Pain Management Clinic

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) investigation into a Longwood, Florida, pain management clinic continues. More details are being revealed about the case. DEA agents along with local police and sheriffs’ deputies raided the pain management clinic on June 14, 2013. Agents believe the evidence they have gathered suggests the clinic was operating as a “pill mill,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. Officials allegedly seized evidence at the clinic associated with at least ten (10) doctors and other clinic employees. No one has been arrested yet, but documents filed in federal court in Orlando suggest charges could be coming.

I previously blogged about this raid. Click here to read that blog.

Details of the Investigation.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the DEA began surveying the alleged pill mill in January 2011, while investigating a doctor shopper. From July 2011 through May 2013, agents monitored the clinic. During the investigation, agents observed long lines outside the clinic, out-of-state license plates and groups of “patients” arriving at the clinic together. All of this behavior, according to authorities, is associated with pain clinics.

More concrete evidence against the pain management clinic, according to police officials, includes:

-  Patients stating that employees discussed selling pain pills and fake MRIs;

-  DEA agents observing drug deals made by patients coming from the clinic, in the vicinity of the clinic;

-  Used needles were found in nearby parking lots; and

-  Two of the clinic’s patients allegedly died from overdoses during the investigation.

Pain Management Clinic Physicians Made Millions.

It’s reported that the pain management clinic hired ten (10) doctors to write illegal prescriptions and employed others to falsify documents. For their willingness to participate in the illegal activity, the physicians allegedly made millions of dollars.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the bank accounts of the clinic managers were analyzed as part of the investigation. From 2011 to 2013, more than $5.5 million in cash was deposited into the bank accounts of the clinic managers and physicians.

To read the entire article from the Orlando Sentinel, click here.

Keep in mind, at this point, these are just allegations made against the clinic and its employees and nothing has been proven by the state or federal government.

Be Mindful of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Database.

DEA agents used Florida’s prescription drug monitoring database to find out what types of pills and how many pills physicians at the Longwood pain clinic were prescribing. The prescription database was not intended to be used for criminal prosecution or law enforcement purposes. Yet it is routinely being used to prosecute physicians, pharmacists and pharmacies among others.

If You are a Health Care Professional Involved with Pain Management, Keep These Tips Handy.

The raid on the Longwood clinic is just one of the many we’ve recently seen in Florida. DEA agents and local law enforcement officials are not slowing down in their fight against illegal pill mills, and illegal prescribing and dispensing practices. I have represented a number of physicians who have been accused of “overprescribing.”  Some of these were criminal investigations by local law enforcement authorities, such as a county sheriff’s office. Some were investigations by the DEA. Some were investigations by the state licensing agency, such as the Florida Department of Health (DOH).

It is important physicians know how to protect themselves and their licenses from drug-seeking patients.  Click here to read tips I give to physicians I advise on this issue.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases and Licensing Actions.

The Health Law Firm represents physicians, 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.
If you are aware of an investigation of you or your practice, or if you have been contacted by the DEA or DOH, contact an experienced health law attorney immediately.

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 all of these raids on pharmacies and pain clinics? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “Rx for Danger: Pain Clinic Owners Made Millions, Hired 10 Doctors to Write Illegal Scripts, Feds Say.” Orlando Sentinel. (June 24, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/os-professional-pain-care-longwood-20130624,0,1172890.story

Indest, George. “Drug Enforcement Administration Agents Raid Central Florida Pain Management Clinic.” The Health Law Fir. (June 17, 2013). From: http://thehealthlawfirmblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/drug-enforcement-administration-agents-raid-central-florida-pain-management-clinic/

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.