Tag Archives: Department of Health and Human Services

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.

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.

New Hampshire City Auditing Ambulance Service for Allegedly Overbilling

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

On July 16, 2012, a New Hampshire city allegedly launched an audit into its primary ambulance service, American Medical Response (AMR), after the company acknowledged overbilling hundreds of patients since 2011, according to a Union Leader article.

AMR Allegedly Incorrectly Billed More Than 300 Ambulance Trips.

According to the report, an in-house audit by the city showed that 323 ambulance trips out of nearly 5,000 in 2011 and 2012 had been incorrectly billed. This amounts to slightly more than six percent (6%). AMR attributes the overbilling to human error.

After concerns that the billing problems could be more widespread, it was decided the ambulance service should be audited by an independent auditor.

AMR is reported to have forgiven any outstanding incorrect balances and issued $16,000 in refunds to patients who had already paid the incorrect bills.

Patients’ Bills Allegedly Exceeded the Amount AMR was Authorized to Charge.

Residents describe a common bill for ambulance transportation to be more than $1,000 for a single ambulance trip, which is approximately sixty-six percent (66%) more than AMR is authorized to charge under its contract with the city.

The city began its contract with AMR in January 2011, after the city’s previous ambulance service went out of business. The city’s fire chief said that under AMR’s contract, the company cannot charge more than thirty-five (35%) above the Medicare rate.

AMR is allegedly cooperating in the review, but the audit will take about a month to complete.

Ambulance Services Companies Are Easy Targets for Medicare Audits.

Recently, ambulance service companies have become the target of Medicare audits and are frequently accused of billing Medicare for unnecessary services. Medicare and Medicaid audits can result in overpayment demands reaching into hundreds of thousands of dollars and assessment of fines. Ambulance services were included in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) work plan for fiscal year 2012 as an area that would be subject to scrutiny. Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) and Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) are launching audits of ambulance service providers and emergency medical transportation companies.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits.

Medicare fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG). Don’t wait until its too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, ambulance services companies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing 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:

Siefer, Ted. “Independent audit begins on Manchester ambulance service billing.” Union Leader. (July 23, 2012). From: http://www.unionleader.com/article/20120724/NEWS06/707249979

Siefer, Ted. “City will conduct audit ambulance service over overbilling.” New Hampshire.com. (July 28, 2012). From: http://www.newhampshire.com/article/20120729/NEWS0603/707299953/1007

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.

Hospital to Pay $3.59 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations Involving Ambulance Services

By Miles Indest

A hospital located in Columbia, Tennesse, has agreed to pay the federal government over $3.5 million to settle False Claims Act allegations that occurred between 2004 and 2009. The hospital submitted a voluntary self-disclosure to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG).

Hospital Voluntarily Self-Reported After Compliance Program Revealed Billing Errors.

The hospital self-reported after its own compliance program revealed billing problems for ambulance services. The hopsital’s audit of billings reported faulty claims and payment for:

  • Ambulance services that were billed with incorrect mileage units;
  • Ambulance services that were not medically necessary or for which medical necessity was not documented;
  • Ambulance services for which a physician certification statement (PCS) was not obtained;
  • Ambulance services for which the requisite signatures were not obtained; and
  • Ambulance services that were assigned an incorrect transport level.

Hospital Works With U.S. Attorney’s Office to Resolve Billing Errors.

After notifying the U.S. Attorney’s Office that billing issues had been discovered, Maury Regional outlined a plan to determine the scope of these issues. The hospital then worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring the matter to resolution.

Ambulance Services Flagged for Medicare Audits.

In a Medicare audit of a hospital or ambulance company, ambulance services are frequently chosen for review. Ambulance services companies have increasingly become a target for Medicare audits and are often accused of billing Medicare for unnecessary services. Ambulance companies should have a compliance plan in place to assist in detecting any errors. Ambulance companies should also take all measures to prepare for a Medicare audit, before notice of an audit is received. To learn more about preparing for Medicare audits, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Medicare Audits and False Act Claims Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents ambulance companies, emergency transport services, physicians, medical practices, pharmacists, pharmacies, home health agencies, nursing facilities, hospitals, and other health provider in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving government health programs (Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE). The Health Law Firm also represents health providers in False Claims Act cases.

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

Sources Include:

Humbles, Andy. “Maury Regional to Pay $3.5 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations.” Tennessean. (June 29, 2012). From: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120629/NEWS21/306290078/Maury-Regional-pay-3-5-million-settle-False-Claims-Act-allegations

Staff. “Maury Regional Hospital to Pay $3.59 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations.” The Daily Herald. (June 29, 2012). From: http://www.columbiadailyherald.com/sections/news/local/maury-regional-hospital-pay-359-million-settle-false-claims-act-allegations.html

Man Charged with Medicare Fraud in Ambulance Scheme

By Miles Indest

A Pennsylvania man has been charged in a 23-count indictment in relation to an alleged scheme to defraud Medicare by billing for fraudulent ambulance services. The charges were announced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on June 29, 2012.

Man Allegedly “Straw” Owner Used to Start Ambulance Company.

According to the indictment the man allegedly used a “straw” owner (someone who was not actually the owner) to fraudulently open Starcare Ambulance because he was otherwise ineligible to own the company. Between 2006 and 2011, the man allegedly billed Medicare for transporting kidney dialysis patients who did not medically need ambulance service. This indictment seeks forfeiture of over $5 million in cash as well as a GMC Hum-V (“Hummer”) vehicle.

Man Could Face Up To 10 Years in Prison for Each Count of Health Care Fraud.

If convicted of all charges, the defendant faces a statutory maximum sentence of ten years in prison on each of the health care fraud and conspiracy counts. He also faces five years in prison for aiding and abetting in false statements relating to health care fraud, a three year term of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

Ambulance Services Companies Are Target for Medicare Audits.

In recent years, and especially in 2012, ambulance services companies have become the target of Medicare audits and are frequently accused of billing Medicare for unnecessary services. Medicare and Medicaid audits can result in overpayment demands reaching into hundreds of thousands of dollars and assessment of fines. Ambulance services were included in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) work plan for fiscal year 2012 as an area that would be subject to scrutiny. Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) and Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) are launching audits of ambulance service providers and emergency medical transportation companies.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits.

Medicare fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG). Don’t wait until its too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, ambulance services companies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing 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 Include:

“Pennsylvania Man Charged With $5.4 Million Medicare Fraud.” San Francisco Chronicle. (June 29, 2012). From: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Pa-man-charged-with-5-4-million-Medicare-fraud-3674333.php

Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Pennsylvania Man Charged with Fraud in Ambulance Scheme.” Department of Justice. Press Release. (June 29, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/June/12-crm-840.html

Compliance with Conditions of Participation Necessary for Reinstatement of Terminated Medicare Billing Privileges or Revoked Medicare Provider Number and Participation Agreement

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

We have recently experienced an alarming increase in the number of Medicare providers receiving notices that their Medicare billing privileges are being terminated.  These include home health agencies (HHAs), independent diagnostic testing facilities (IDTFs), ambulance and emergency transport providers, physicians, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) providers, medical groups, physical therapists and therapy providers.  In most cases, this is because the health care provider has failed to update its address with the Medicare Program.  To see a prior article we wrote on this, click here.

Most often this occurs when a site visit by the Medicare administrative contractor (MAC) (previously called the carrier or fiscal intermediary) arrives at the business location on file with Medicare and finds the provider’s business location has changed.  Other times the termination is because of a minor technical violation of Medicare rules, such as being closed when a site inspector shows up, failing to have hours of operation posted, failing to have a required insurance policy in place, failing to be open at the time the inspector shows up, or other similar reasons.

If the health provider does nothing to appeal the revocation, then there is a required waiting period of at least one year before it can even reapply to the Medicare Program.  The termination may also have extremely serious consequences regarding participation in the state Medicaid Program, licensure, other contracts, clinical privileges, participation on insurance provider panels and related businesses.

We recommend immediately retaining an experienced health attorney to help you prepare and file a corrective action plan (CAP), request for reconsideration of the decision and an appeal, if necessary.  We recommend that you include proof of currently meeting every required condition of participation (COP) for your health specialty, service or item.  We include copies of written policies adopted, new forms, new procedures, insurance policies, copies of CMS forms 855 that were previously submitted, and other documents that may be required by the COP.  Please see our prior blog/article on submitting CAPs.

For access to each of the conditions of participation (COP) and conditions for coverage (CFC), click on the following link, or cut and paste it into your internet browser:

http://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/CFCsAndCoPs/index.html?redirect=/CFCsAndCoPs/

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.

$24 Million Medicaid Fraud Scheme Alleged by Connecticut Attorney General

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

Connecticut’s Attorney General, George Jepsen, alleges that 28 individuals, dental practices and corporations were involved in a $24 million Medicaid fraud scheme. He filed a civil action  on May 31, 2012. It is the first case the state has initiated under the Connecticut False Claims Act. The Connecticut False Claims Act gives the state the ability to seek compensation for taxpayers from those who submit false claims for reimbursements they are not eligible to receive. To view the Connecticut False Claims Act, click here.

The complaint seeks restitution, treble damages and civil penalties as well as a permanent injunction against the unlawful acts and practices alleged in the complaint. To view the complaint, click here.

Accused Individual Allegedly Found Ways to Bill Medicaid for Services, Despite Being Excluded from Medicare and Medicaid Programs.

According to the complaint, one of the individuals involved in the alleged fraud scheme was previously convicted of a felony in another state for submitting false health care claims. He was then permanently excluded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) from participation in Medicare and Medicaid, as a result of his conviction. Any entity with which he serves as an employee, administrator, operator or in any other capacity, were also excluded from state healthcare programs.

The state alleges that, despite the exclusion, he established a number of dental practices in Connecticut that were operated by practicing dentists who billed Medicaid for services.

Allegedly, the excluded individual was actively involved in managing the practices and received millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements. The dental providers allegedly knew of the exclusion and did not disclose it on enrollment and re-enrollment forms for the Connecticut Medical Assistance Program.

Florida Has Similar False Claims Act.

Florida has a Medicaid False Claims Act similar to the one that Connecticut has. Florida’s Medicaid False Claims Act can be found here. However, in Florida, a separate provision of the state’s Medicaid law provides an award to a whistle-blower of up to 25% of any recovery. This is in Section 409.9203, Florida Statutes. In addition, Florida has a law that allows civil recovery for criminal acts such as Medicaid fraud, which is sometimes used by the Florida Attorney General and private individuals to recover money lost as a result of certain criminal conduct. For the Florida Civil Remedies for Criminal Actions law, click here.

As a general rule state false claims acts are modeled after the federal False Claims Act used to pursue Medicare fraud. For the federal Medicare Fraud False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid and Medicare Fraud Cases.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, nurses, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits, hearings and recovery actions. In addition The Health Law Firm represents health providers in Medicare exclusion actions and in being reinstated to the Medicare Program or being removed from the exclusion list.

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

Sources:

Rees, Nick. “Jepsen alleges $24M Medicaid fraud.” Legal Newsline. (June 4, 2012). From: http://www.legalnewsline.com/news/contentview.asp?c=236342

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.

Alleged HIPAA Privacy Violations at the Center of a Recent Physician Group Settlement with HHS

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

A small physician group has reached a settlement with the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) over alleged Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) violations. The settlement was reached on April 17, 2012 and requires Phoenix Cardiac Surgery (PCS) to pay OCR $100,000 and enter into a one-year corrective action plan (CAP).

The Resolution Agreement and Corrective Action Plan can be viewed here.

HIPAA Complaint Against PCS Stemmed from Internet Calendar Postings

OCR’s investigation of PCS was launched in 2009 after a complaint was received. Click here to view a HIPAA complaint that you can file online. The complaint alleged that PSC had disclosed protected health information (PHI) on patients on the Internet. After investigating the complaint, the OCR alleged that PCS violated the HIPAA privacy and security rules. According to the OCR, PCS posted clinical and surgical appointments on a publicly accessible, Internet calendar. The OCR also alleged that PCS employees e-mailed protected health information to their personal e-mail accounts.

Furthermore, PCS allegedly did not have adequate administrative, physical and technical safeguards in place to protect patient data. The OCR alleged that PCS did not appoint a security officer as required by HIPAA or perform an accurate and thorough risk assessment, also required by HIPAA. The CAP required by the settlement will require PCS to implement policies to ensure full compliance with HIPAA’s privacy and security rules.

Are You In Compliance with HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, sometimes referred to as the Kennedy-Kassenbaum Act, was enacted into law as Public Law (P.L.) 104-191, 110 Stat. 1936. Among its many different provisions, it included basic minimums to ensure the privacy of personal medical information. Its main privacy provisions are codified in federal law in different sections of the U.S. Code.

Medical Practices Should Use Caution When Working With Electronic Health Information

This case provides a good example of the downside of information technology (IT). While electronic health information assists in increasing accessibility and efficiency, it can also increase a practice’s risk of violating HIPAA’s Privacy Rule and Security Rule.

All medical practices that utilize electronic health information need to ensure that they have effective IT security, education, policies and procedures in place to protect themselves from HIPAA’s violations.

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

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

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

Sources Include:

HHS Press Office. “HHS Settles Case with Phoenix Cardiac Surgery for Lack of HIPAA Safeguards.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Apr. 17, 2012). Press Release. From
http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2012pres/04/20120417a.html

Lewis, Nicole. “Online Calendar Mistakes Cost Doctors Group $100,000.” Information Week. (Apr. 23, 2012). From
http://www.informationweek.com/news/healthcare/security-privacy/232900727

Sterling, Robyn. “HHS Settlement for Lack of HIPAA Safeguards.” Proskauer Privacy Law Blog. (Apr. 25, 2012). From
http://www.jdsupra.com/post/documentViewer.aspx?fid=e548966a-d7eb-4f47-a0af-de15db487dbb/

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.

Medicare Fraud Initiative Leads to Arrests of Over 100 Health Professionals

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

A recent Medicare fraud operation conducted between several federal agencies has resulted in the arrest of over 100 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. They have been charged with various crimes relating to Medicare fraud. The arrests were made on May 2, 2012 in seven cities nationwide, but more than half took place in South Florida.

This  multi-agency attack on medical professionals and health care providers was a joint effort between law enforcement agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCU) and other state and local law enforcement agencies. In addition to arresting over 100 medical professionals, these agents also executed 20 search warrants in connection with ongoing Medicare fraud investigations.

Some of the charges against the health care professionals include conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes and money laundering. The charges are based on a variety of alleged Medicare fraud schemes involving medical treatments and services such as home health care, mental health services, physical and occupational therapy, durable medical equipment (DME), mental health counseling and ambulance services. These alleged Medicare fraud schemes resulted in a combined $452 million in false billings.

HHS also took other administrative action against 52 other health providers. These providers were tracked down through data analysis and are also accused of Medicare fraud. Because of the Affordable Care Act, HHS will be able to suspend payments to these providers the entire time until the investigations are completed.

Because of the severe state budget shortfalls and the federal deficit, we are seeing a tremendous increase in both Medicare and Medicaid fraud initiatives. If you are being accused of Medicare or Medicaid fraud, it is extremely important to retain an experienced health attorney immediately.

Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now Before it is Too Late

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm routinely represent physicians and other healthcare professionals in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions. They also represent physicians and health professionals 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.

Sources Include:

Weaver, Jay. “Feds Arrest More Than 100 Medicare Fraud Suspects in South Florida, Nationwide.” Miami Herald. (May 02, 2012). From
http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/02/2779369/feds-arrest-about-100-medicare.html

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Medicare Fraud Strike Force Charges 107 Individuals for Approximately $452 Million in False Billing.” U.S. Department of Justice. Press Release. (May 02, 2012). From http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/May/12-ag-568.html

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