Tag Archives: investigation

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

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

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

Click here to the entire Los Angeles Times article.

What is Balance Billing?

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

Doctor Plans to Appeal.

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

Court Previously Entered Injunction Prohibiting Illegal Billing.

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

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

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

Balanced Billing Could be Considered a Matter of Contract Law.

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

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

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Doctors.

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

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

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

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

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

About the Authors: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

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

Massage Therapists Needs Good Professional Liability Insurance, Too

00011_RT8By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Whether you’re an independent contractor, an employee of a chiropractor, physician or spa, or you travel to clients’ homes, insurance is essential for all massage therapists. Not only can professional liability insurance protect you in the event of a lawsuit, but it may also pay your legal defenses in the event of a complaint against your license to practice or for other legal problems. In Florida, it is not mandatory for a massage therapist to have professional liability insurance. However, since it is so cheap, we always recommend buying coverage. It’s a small price to pay to protect your livelihood. But be sure it covers the investigation of your license.

It is now common to be able to find professional liability insurance that provides excellent coverage and excellent benefits, but costs less than a dollar a day. One policy I recently reviewed for a massage therapist included payment of all attorney’s fees and costs for defense of HIPAA privacy complaints, for defense of any complaints or investigations of the therapist’s license and for legal representation at any deposition.

The Most Important Reason to Buy Insurance: To Provide Legal Protection for a Massage Therapist’s License.

The primary reason a professional liability policy should be purchased is that this type of insurance usually includes coverage for legal defense of licensing and disciplinary action commenced against a massage therapist. It’s important to note that many massage therapists’ liability insurance includes this coverage automatically, but some policies may not. Some companies may offer this type of coverage separately to be purchased for a small additional premium.

License defense coverage pays the legal fees associated with defending a massage therapist when an investigation is initiated that may result in action against the massage therapist’s license or in administrative disciplinary action. Coverage is usually available from the time the massage therapist receives written notice that an investigation by a state agency has been initiated. It will also cover formal administrative hearings before an administrative law judge.

You should buy this coverage now, when you don’t need it. Otherwise, when you do need it, it will be too late after the problem arises.

Please Think About These Points When Buying Liability Protection.

When deciding on which professional liability insurance plan to purchase, the massage therapist should inquire as to the extent of coverage for licensing and disciplinary defense coverage. Some professional liability insurers have a “broad form” of coverage which may provide legal defense for the massage therapist in almost any type of administrative action. Other companies limit coverage to only actions that may result in disciplinary action against the massage therapist’s license. Still others provide no coverage at all except for lawsuits in professional negligence cases. The massage therapist should always attempt to get the broadest coverage available and be sure it covers disciplinary defense and licensure defense expenses.

The massage therapist should also question as to whether or not he or she will be allowed to select his or her own attorney. Many insurance companies have contracts with certain law firms to provide legal services for a reduced fee. The insurance company may require you to use one of its own contracted attorneys or in-house attorneys which it employs directly. Given the limited number of attorneys with experience in handling massage therapy law issues, it is advised to obtain coverage through a company which allows the massage therapist to choose his or her own attorney, especially for license defense.

The most important reason to purchase professional liability insurance is for the licensure defense coverage. A massage therapist does not want to risk losing his/her license because he/she was unsuccessful at defending in an investigation or did not have the resources to do so.

Question Your Coverage – Get Answers in Writing.

Since there are many different insurance companies out there selling professional liability insurance, it is important to be sure of exactly what is covered and what is not covered. Some companies provide “broad form” coverage, providing coverage for everything I discussed above, automatically. See Healthcare Provider’s Service Organization (HPSO) Insurance for example.

Other companies will provide this coverage as a “rider” for a small additional premium. Some insurers do not sell it at all, so you will have to buy it elsewhere. If you are in doubt as to your coverage, ask and get the answer in writing.

Insurance agents typically deal with a number of insurance companies. If you are using an insurance agent, be sure to specify exactly what you want. A good agent will be able to find it for you.

It’s Expensive to Defend Your License, Insurance Helps.

Legal representation is costly. To defend a simple case involving a complaint made against you, whether valid or not, can range from $3,000 to $25,000 or more. A case involving a formal hearing (similar to a trial) can cost much more than you imagine. If you are not independently wealthy and cannot afford a legal defense, you may be forced to accept discipline from the Board of Massage Therapy, even if you are completely innocent.

The rules and procedures in administrative licensing cases are not the same as cases in civil and criminal courts. An insurance policy that provides licensure defense will help the massage therapist to have the financial resources to seek out a health law attorney experienced in disciplinary cases and to obtain a fair hearing.

More Than 100 Massage Therapists’ Licenses Were Suspended in Florida.

You may remember in September of 2012, the Florida Secretary of Health signed 161 emergency suspension orders (ESOs) for massage therapists in Florida. The suspension orders were aimed at massage therapists who allegedly obtained their licenses to practice through a transcript-buying scandal at the Florida College of Natural Health. Many of these massage therapists are still fighting to keep their licenses. This is just one instance where having professional liability insurance can help save a health care professional’s livelihood. You can read more on the suspension of the 161 massage therapists’ licenses by clicking here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Massage Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensing matters 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 www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

As a massage therapist, do you have professional liability insurance? Why or why not? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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.

Dentists, Talk to an Attorney Before You Talk to an Investigator

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

In Florida, You DO NOT Have to Speak to an Investigator!

Despite mailing out hundreds of thousands of postcards and letters to dentists, throughout Florida, we continue to receive calls from new clients and from potential clients, after they have already spoken to and made critical harmful admissions against their own interests to investigators. In Florida, you do not have any duty to cooperate with any investigator who is investigating you. This extends to Department of Health (DOH) investigators (who are sometimes titled “Medical Quality Assurance Investigators” or “Medical Malpractice Investigators”), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agents, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, or criminal investigators of any type.

Investigators are NOT There to Help You.

Let me state this as succinctly and clearly as possible. If you are being investigated, you will not be better off making a statement. You will not be better off explaining your side of the story. The investigator is not your friend. The investigator is not on your side. All you are doing is falling for a trick and helping the government to make a case against you.

Protect Your License and Your Livelihood.

You have a right under the U.S. Constitution to not make any statement that may be used against you. This is so important that in criminal cases government investigators are required to advise you of this by reciting to you your Miranda rights.

However, in cases where you might have your dental license revoked or have your DEA number revoked or lose your Medicare provider status or your Medicaid provider status, the investigator is not required to advise you of your rights.

In a criminal case, there may be ways to have your statement thrown out. However, in a professional licensing case or other administrative case, it may be too late to avoid the damage. You may be the best witness the government has and you may be the only witness the government needs to prove ths case against you.

In the case where you could receive a $100 criminal fine, the investigators are required to read you your constitutional Miranda rights and to be sure that you understand them before you make a statement. However, in a case where you can lose your dental license, where you could lose your livelihood and ability to make a living, where you could lose everything you have worked so hard to obtain, they are not required to do this. You must protect yourself.

Many dentists, when confronted by an investigator, who will usually call at a very inconvenient time (to catch you by surprise) and will usually flash a badge (to intimidate you), will refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter and will fall for the bait to “tell their side of the story.” This can be fatal to your defense and fatal to your license.

If You Anything You Run the Risk of Ruining Your Defense.

In the absence of a statement by the suspect (in this case, let’s assume this is YOU), the government may have a very difficult time of proving that you have committed any offense. It may have other witnesses (who may not be around at the time of any hearing or trial). It may have a lot of physical evidence or documents. But it may be impossible for the government investigators to make any link between you and the evidence, unless you help the investigators do this. You would be surprised at how many dentists believe that they can just talk their way out of the situation; in reality, they are just giving evidence that is used to make the case against them.

Any evidence at all, just admitting that you were there, admitting that the documents are yours, admitting that the patient was yours, admitting that you worked at the clinic, admitting that you wrote the prescription, admitting that the property is yours, admitting that you were on duty at the time, admitting that you have taken a drug, admitting that you signed the form, can be a crucial piece of evidence that could not otherwise be proven without your own testimony.

Remember, this is the investigators’ job and profession. This is what they do full time, every day. And they are very good at it. They are 1,000 times better at getting you to admit the crucial elements of a disciplinary infraction than you are in “talking your way out of it.” They will not be convinced by any excuses you make. They do not have to be. They will not be the ones making the final decision against you. Theirs is the job of putting together the case against you. You will help them by talking to them, explaining why your decisions are correct, explaining why what you did is excusable, etc. It will not work. You will merely be giving them enough rope to hang you with.

Why are You Being Investigated?

Hint: If it is a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) special agent (investigator), you are probably under investigation for Medicaid fraud.

Hint: If it is an “auditor,” “surveyor” or “investigator” from an agency or company with “integrity” or “program integrity” in its name, they are probably investigating you for “lack of integrity,” i.e., false claims or fraud.

Hint: If it is a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent (investigator) they are probably investigating you to prosecute you or to revoke your DEA registration for drug or prescribing violations.

Hint: If it is an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) special agent (investigator), you are probably under investigation for Medicare fraud or Medicare false claims.

Hint: If it is a Department of Health Quality Assurance Investigator or Medical Malpractice Investigator, they are probably only investigating possible disciplinary action against your license that could result in large administrative fines or revocation of your license.

Talking to the Investigator May Make It Worse.

Do not believe for a second that you are smarter than the investigator. Do not believe for a second that you will convince the investigator (or anyone else) that there is a legal or medical justification for what you did or what they allege. If it were as simple as that, then why would there be an investigation and why would you be the one being investigated?

Additionally, do not believe for a second that you can lie your way out of it, either. Remember, if the government cannot prove the basic offense that it is investigating against you, it may be able to prove that you have committed perjury or lied to an investigator. In the case of a federal official or a federal investigation, merely making a false statement (oral or written) to an investigator is a criminal act. This is what Martha Stewart and many others have served time for in federal prisons.

These investigators are lied to all the time. They are usually better at detecting lies than a polygraph expert is. Furthermore, in most cases, you will be the very last person to be interviewed. Therefore, they will already know just about everything that can be used against you. If your statement contradicts in any way what others have told them, they will know you are the one who is lying. However, knowing something or suspecting something does not mean it will be something that can be proven in court or in an administrative hearing.

Talk to a Lawyer Prior to Making a Statement.

It is much better to make no statement at all. Blame it on your attorney. Tell the investigator that your attorney will kill you if you were to talk to the investigator without your attorney being there ahead of time. “Speak to my attorney.” “My attorney can help you, I can’t.”

All you have to do is state “I must talk to my lawyer before I say anything.” “I will have my lawyer contact you.” “I cannot say anything until I talk to my lawyer.” “I want a lawyer.”

If you are not the one being investigated, then there is no good reason why the investigator would want you to make a statement before you consulted with your attorney. What is the rush?

Then you must also avoid the old trick of the investigator telling you “If you don’t have anything to hide, why would you need a lawyer?” Please don’t fall for this trick, either. This is America. Smart people and rich people spend a lot of money on attorneys and other professionals to represent them and advise them. There is a good reason why they do this.

Far too often the doctor only calls us after he has given a statement. This is usually too late to avoid much of the damage that will have been be caused.

Everything above applies to oral statements or written statements. Do not make either. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible, preferably before making any statement, no matter how simple, defensive, self-serving or innocuous you may think it to be.

Think of this as an intelligence test. Are you smart enough to follow this guidance and avoid this type of mistake?

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists 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 www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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.

 

Osceola County Authorities Nab 29 People in Phony Prescription Ring

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

A sting on a prescription fraud ring netted 29 arrests in Osceola County, Florida. On December 13, 2012. Osceola County Investigative Bureau (OCIB) agents, along with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, Kissimmee Police Department and St. Cloud Police Department conducted an operation nicknamed “Rx Printshop,” according to a press release from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department.

Click here to read the entire press release from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department.

Alleged Criminals Getting Phony Prescriptions Filled at Legitimate Pharmacies.

According to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department, operation “Rx Printshop” targeted a group of people who printed fake prescriptions for painkillers, including oxycodone. The individuals involved would fill the prescriptions at legitimate pharmacies. The pills would then be sold illegally on the streets, according to the sheriff’s department. The people filling the phony prescriptions would be paid with the fraudulently obtained pills for their roles in pretending to be patients.

Those filling the prescriptions are nicknamed “smurfs.” They are usually hired by a drug ring. They return the pills from the prescriptions they get filled back to the ring-leaders. To read a blog on a similar raid in Polk County, click here.

29 People Arrested – More to Come.

According to CF News 13, the phony prescriptions were written using the DEA numbers of unknowing physicians. The physicians apparently have nothing to do with the scheme.

Agents allegedly arrested 29 suspects on felony warrants. Most of them will be charged with conspiracy to traffic drugs, in addition to obtaining prescriptions by fraud, according to CF News 13. Agents are still looking for four suspects who have similar arrest warrants outstanding.

Click here to see a list of those arrested in operation “Rx Printshop,” and those suspects still on the run.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Representing Pharmacists and Pharmacies.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, pharmacists and pharmacies in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, administrative hearings and other actions involving health professionals and providers.

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 pharmacist, how do you verify prescriptions you receive are legitimate? As a physician, how do you keep your DEA number safe? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

CF News 13. “29 People Busted in Fake Prescription Sting.” CF News 13. (December 14, 2012). From: http://www.cfnews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2012/12/14/_29_people_busted_in.html

Weiner, Jeff. “Fake-Prescription Ring Busted in Sting.” Orlando Sentinel. (December 15, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-12-14/news/os-prescription-sting-arrests-osceola-20121214_1_prescription-fraud-fraudulent-prescriptions-oxycodone-and-other-drugs

Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. “OCIB Arrests 29 in Operation Rx Printshop.” Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. (December 14, 2012). From: http://www.osceolasheriff.org/sheriff/113-22016-0/ocib_arrests_29_in_operation_rx_printshop.cfm

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.

Advice for All Massage Therapists: Please Talk to a Lawyer Before You Talk to the Department of Health (DOH) Investigator

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

Massage therapists, I beseech you: please do not talk to a Department of Health (DOH) investigator until you have talked to a health lawyer who is experienced with DOH investigations and board licensing complaints.  Do not answer or respond to even the most basic questions about where you work now, what your address is or if you know patient x, until consulting with counsel.

Admitting to Anything May Hurt Your Case.

We are routinely consulted by massage therapists and other healthcare providers for representation after they have discussed the case and after it is too late to undo the damage they have caused to themselves. Often they do not understand the seriousness of the matter or the possible consequences, until it is too late. Admitting to even the most basic facts causes damage to any possible defense.

Administrative Licensure Investigations are “Semi-Criminal.”

The vast majority of massage therapists and even most attorneys do not realize that DOH investigations concerning complaints against a massage therapist’s license are considered to be “penal” or “quasi-criminal” proceedings.  This means the same laws and constitutional rights apply to them as apply to criminal investigations.  However, since they are also administrative proceedings and not strictly criminal proceedings, investigators do not need to advise you of your Miranda rights or tell you you have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, etc.

In any criminal investigation a good criminal defense attorney would always tell you “Do not talk to the investigator” and “Tell the investigator you have a lawyer.”

How Investigators Try to Get You to Not Talk to an Attorney.

DOH investigators, police investigators, FBI investigators and other law enforcement officers, are well trained in investigative techniques and how to get information out of suspects.  Often the approach used is to catch you by surprise before you even know there is an investigation and the investigation is of you.  Another technique used is to lull you into a false sense of security that the investigation is about someone or something else and not you.  Another investigative technique is to convince you that you need to “Tell your side of the story” so that the investigation is accurate.  Yet another is that “Things will go much better for you if you cooperate.”  None of these things are true.

However, if it is truly in your best interest to cooperate or to make a statement, after you consult with your attorney, your legal counsel will surely advise you to do this.  The investigator should not mind waiting until you consult your attorney.  However, many will go to extremes to convince you that you don’t need an attorney and shouldn’t get an attorney.

Consult an Experienced Health Law Attorney.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in dealing with DOH investigators, AHCA surveyors, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, FBI agents, police and sheriff’s office investigators, OIG special agents (S/As) and Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) investigators. 

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

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.

Disclaimer: Please note that this article represents our opinions based on our many years of practice and experience in this area of health law. You may have a different opinion; you are welcome to it. This one is mine.

Note: This article is for informational purposes only; it is not legal advice.

“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 Pharmacist Sentenced to Prison for Working in Central Florida Pharmacies

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

On November 2, 2012, a former Altamonte Springs resident was sentenced to three and a half years in federal prison for fraudulently working as a Central Florida pharmacist from 2000 to 2009, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

I previously blogged about this story when the fake pharmacist pleaded guilty. Click here to read that blog.

Phony Pharmacist Worked at Central Florida Pharmacies Including CVS and Walgreens.

According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, the man worked at pharmacies throughout Central Florida, including a CVS and a Walgreens. While working at one of the pharmacies, he allegedly gave a customer the incorrect medication, causing that person to suffer a stroke.

Man Will Spend Time in Prison and Must Change His Name.

Allegedly, the man fraudulently obtained a pharmacy license in September of 2000

from the Florida Department of Health (DOH) by using the name, date of birth, Social Security number and pharmacy education information of a licensed pharmacist in Arizona. In 2004 the man actually changed his legal name by fraud to the name of the licensed pharmacist.

Along with his prison sentence, the fake pharmacist was ordered to change his name back to his legal name.

Fun with Alliteration.

Pardon my alliteration, but I just love all of those “F” sounds like I used in the title for this blog. For comparison, see my blog on Franck’s Pharmacy fungus case.

Look for More Stories on Phony and Fraudulent Health Professionals to Come.

In the near future on this blog we will include additional articles on fake doctors and health professionals, some old, some new.

To see a recent 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 Representing Pharmacists and Pharmacies.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to pharmacists and pharmacies in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI 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 www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of all the fake health provider stories? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

FBI.gov. “Pharmacist Impersonator Sentenced to Prison and Ordered to Change His Name.” FBI, Tampa Division. (November 1, 2012). From Press Release: http://www.fbi.gov/tampa/press-releases/2012/pharmacist-impersonator-sentenced-to-prison-and-ordered-to-change-his-name

Pavuk, Amy. “Fake Pharmacist Sentenced to Federal Prison.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 1, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-fake-pharmacist-prison-20121101,0,4565731.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.  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.

CVS Possibly Under Investigation for Medicare Fraud

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

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has reportedly launched an investigation into CVS’ practice for refilling prescriptions. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, authorities are looking into reports that CVS has been refilling prescriptions and submitting insurance claims without patients’ permission. The Los Angeles Times article, released October 12, 2012, names an official with knowledge of this matter as the source.

We want to emphasize that this is from an unconfirmed news story. The government rarely announces investigations of specific subjects ahead of time.

Click here to read the entire article from the Los Angeles Times.

CVS Has Not Been Contacted By the Government About an Investigation.

A related article in Reuters states that CVS said it has not been contacted by the government about the investigation. The pharmacy also said, as a policy, the company does not condone unauthorized refills. Officials said to allow unauthorized prescription refills could be considered insurance fraud, especially if insurers were not refunded for any drugs rejected by patients.

The probe might be, in part, related to the programs offered by many drugstores that allows a pharmacy to refill prescriptions even before a refill request has been made by the patient.

Click here to read the entire article from Reuters.

So far there is no news from the OIG for the HHS officially confirming this investigation.

Cause for Investigation?

It is unclear to me why there would be any cause to investigate CVS, if Medicare was not being billed until the customer actually picked up the prescription. If the customer fails to pickup the prescription, every drug store I know of restocks the medication after a short period and no one is ever billed for it. It seems that it would be a quick and simple matter for the OIG to check this.

Furthermore, it could also be argued that CVS  is actually promoting good health by this practice. Patients may forget to renew or refill their prescriptions or may fail to notice they are running low.

Two Sanford, Fla., CVS Stores Make Headlines.

On September 12, 2012, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) revoked the registrations (controlled substance licenses) from two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. The two pharmacies are no longer able to fill prescriptions for drugs such as oxycodone, Dilaudid, Vicodin, Ritalin and Xanax. This decision was in response to a government crackdown on the distribution of painkillers. Click here to read a blog on this story.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s 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 this story? Do you think CVS is doing anything wrong? How is this any different from the practice of many managed care plans mailing out 90 days of medications to its patients at a time? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Lazarus, David. “CVS Caremark Prescription Refills Under Scrutiny, Source Says.” Los Angeles Times. (October 12, 2012). From: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lazarus-20121012,0,1032269.column

Alawadhi, Neha, Wohl, Jessica, and Morgan, David. “CVS Unaware of Any Government Prescription Refill Probe.” Reuters. (October 12, 2012). From: http://www.reuters.com/assets/print?aid=USBRE89B19520121012

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.

Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Blocks Shipping of Controlled Substances at Walgreens Distribution Center in Florida

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

On September 14, 2012, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) blocked the Walgreens distribution center in Jupiter, Florida, from shipping oxycodone and other controlled drugs to its pharmacies in Florida and the East Coast with an immediate suspension order, according to the DEA. In the press release, the DEA called the Walgreens distribution facility an “imminent danger” to the public.

To see the entire press release from the DEA, click here.

Back in April 2012, the DEA served an administrative inspection warrant at the same facility, as well as its six top retail Walgreens pharmacies in Florida. To see my blog post on that story, click here.

DEA Suspension Order Only Stops the Distribution of Controlled Substances.

The DEA said the Jupiter distribution center has been “the single largest distributor of oxycodone products in Florida” since 2009. The DEA issued the suspension order because it believes Walgreens failed to maintain proper controls to ensure its retailers didn’t dispense drugs to addicts and drug dealers.

The order only applies to the Jupiter distribution center and only suspends the distribution of controlled substances.

Whether or not bath salts fall into this category is unclear. The Florida Legislature recently banned the sale of bath salts and 90 other substances to help stop the big face-eating zombie outbreak in Florida. See my blog on bath salts and the zombie outbreak in Florida.

Recently, the DEA revoked the controlled substance licenses from two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. The two stores are accused of dispensing an inappropriate number of prescriptions for oxycodone and had a suspicious number of sales of other controlled substances. There is a blog on this story on our website, click here to read it.

Millions of Oxycodone Pills Purchased by Walgreens Stores.

According to a USA Today article, six of Walgreens’ Florida pharmacies allegedly ordered more than a million oxycodone pills a year. One pharmacy in Oviedo, Florida, went from ordering more than 80,000 oxycodone pills in 2009, to nearly 1.7 million in 2011.

Click here to read the USA Today article
.

Continued War on Prescription Drug Abuse.

According to the DEA, this is an effort to curb Florida’s prescription drug epidemic. Special Agent Mark Trouville, with the DEA’s Miami Division, said all DEA licensees “have an obligation to ensure that medications are getting into the hands of legitimate patients. When they choose to look the other way, patients suffer and drug dealers prosper.”

Neither Agent Trouville nor the DEA was, apparently, requested to comment on the bath salts ban and its effect on the zombie outbreak, however.

Oxycodone Numbers Published for Shock Value.

I really do not see why the public or our elected representatives are shocked and awed by the meaningless numbers and statistics used in connection with these matters. The fact that Walgreens, the biggest pharmacy retailer in Florida, might distribute over a million oxycodone pills in a year, is a meaningless statistic by itself. If a doctor prescribes a pain management patient a prescription for three (3) pills a day, that is approximately 90 pills per month or 1,080 pills per year. If Walgreens has only 1,000 patients with such a prescription in a year throughout the entire state of Florida, that is in excess of one million (1,000,000) pills per year. I would venture to guess that many single Walgreens retail stores have more than 1,000 customers per day, much less all Walgreens stores throughout Florida.

My point is that any such statistics are meaningless out of context and are only meant to sound huge of one doesn’t stop and think about it.

Another concern is that many, if not the vast majority of the Walgreens customers who now will not be able to get their prescriptions filled, are legitimate pain management patients with legitimate prescriptions written by legitimate physicians.

Where Do Legitimate Chronic-Pain Patients Turn?

I am constantly being contacted by patients who are in dire straits, suffering because they cannot locate a pharmacy to fill their legitimate pain medicine prescriptions. These include injured military veterans, patients who are 100% disabled and on disability or social security, patients injured in automobile accidents and job-related accidents (whose medications are paid for by insurance, if they can find a pharmacy to fill it) and others with real chronic pain issues.

If the largest legitimate chains of pharmacies in the state and nation are not allowed to fill these prescriptions, where will these suffering patients turn? Are these actions driving our citizens into the hands of shady independent pharmacies that have fewer safeguards and less accountability? Are these actions driving our citizens to seek out illegal drug dealers and turn to illegal drugs to cope with their legitimate medical problems? I hope not.

Thank you. I will get off my soapbox now.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s 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:

Leinwand, Donna. “DEA Inspects Walgreens for Oxycodone Probe.” USA Today. (September 15, 2012). From: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012/09/14/walgreens-and-oxycodone/57782912/1

Pavuk, Amy. “DEA Blocks Controlled-Substance Distribution at Florida Walgreens Facility.” Orlando Sentinel. (September 14, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-09-14/news/os-walgreens-dea-suspension-20120914_1_distribution-center-dea-miami-field-division

DEA. “DEA Serves a Suspension Order on Walgreens Distribution Center in Jupiter, Florida.” DEA.gov. (September 14, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/dea/divisions/mia/2012/mia091412.shtml

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. He does not own stock in Walgreens or any other pharmacy.

“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.

More than 30 People Charged with Pharmaceutical Drug Trafficking in Central Florida

By Dr. Thu Pham, O.D., Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm

Attorney General Pam Bondi along with special agent Mark R. Trouville of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Longwood Police Chief Troy Hickson announced, on June 20, 2012, the execution of 37 arrest warrants stemming from state drug charges.  The defendants all reside in Central Florida.

Click here to read the entire press release from the Florida Attorney General.

Charges are Being Handed Down to the Defendants.

The charges for the defendants ranged from first degree to third degree felonies.  The defendants have been charged with acts such as conspiracy to traffic Oxycodone, solicitation to deliver Oxycodone, and possession of Hydromorphone with intent to sell or deliver. 

Law enforcement authorities have been able to apprehend 33 of the 37 charged.

Click here to see our experience representing pharmacists and pharmacies.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Representing Pharmacists and Pharmacies.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to pharmacists and pharmacies in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI 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 www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

myfloridalegal.com. “DEA: 37 Charged in Longwood Local Impact Drug Trafficking Conspiracy.” AG. (June 20, 2012).  From Press Release:

http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/9E8D06F29BCB233B85257A230072572A.

Justice.gov. “Law Enforcement Dethrones “Queen” of Longwood, Florida.” DEA, Domestic Field Division. (June 20, 2012).  From Press Release:

http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/states/newsrel/2012/mia062012.html

About the Author: Dr. Thu Pham, O.D., is a law clerk with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

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

South Florida Man Admits to a $42 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

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

The owner and operator of a Miami home health care agency pleaded guilty for his part in a $42 million home health Medicare fraud scheme, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The 43 year-old man pleaded guilty before a U.S. district court judge to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud on August 2, 2012.

To see the entire press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ), click here.

First Part of the Fraud Operation Involved Kickbacks and Bribes.

The Miami man was the owner of a Florida home health agency that claimed to provide home health care and physical therapy services to eligible Medicare recipients.

In the first part of the scheme, he allegedly would pay kickbacks and bribes to recruiters. In return, the recruiters would provide patients to the home health care agency. His patients, who received Medicare, were used to bill Medicare for $42 million in unnecessary home health care and therapy services, the government alleged.

The plea documents show that patients’ files were falsified to make it appear that these Medicare recipients qualified for the services when many actually did not.

Second Part of the Fraud Operation Included Paying off Doctors.

The second part of this operation involved the owner of the home health agency and his accomplices allegedly paying off doctors. In this exchange, the doctors would allegedly provide the schemers home health and therapy prescriptions, and medical certifications.

The Opertation Busted by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.

In the end, the crimes resulted in $42 million in false and fraudulent Medicare claims that were filed between January 2006 and November 2009, according to the government. Medicare paid approximately $27 million on those false claims, according to plea documents.

As part of his plea agreement, the home health agency owner has agreed to forfeit two residential properties and cash proceeds of the fraud over to the government.

This case was investigated as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. The Strike Force is a joint effort of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) designed to combat fraud through the use of Medicare data analysis techniques.

To learn more on the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits.

Medicare fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the FBI, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Often other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), state Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs) and other law enforcement agencies participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, 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:

Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Miami Home Health Care Agency Owner Pleads Guilty in $42 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice. Press Release. (August 2, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/August/12-crm-965.html

CBS Miami “Health Care Agency Owner Pleads Guilty In $42M Medicare Scheme.” Miami CBS 4 Local. (August 2, 2012). From: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2012/08/02/health-care-agency-owner-pleads-guilty-in-42m-medicare-scheme/

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.