Tag Archives: legal representation

Use Caution in USMLE Step Exam Preparation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know the Rules.

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

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

Click here to read our previous blog about irregular behavior.

Irregular Behavior Has Serious Potential Consequences.

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

Appropriate Test Preparation.

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals.

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

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Duke University Health System Pays $1 Million to Settle Allegations of False Claims in Whistleblower Lawsuit

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

On March 21, 2014, Duke University Health System in Raleigh, North Carolina, settled a whistleblower/qui tam lawsuit, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The lawsuit, filed in 2012, stated that the three-hospital academic medical center is alleged to have fraudulently inflated its Medicare bills by unbundling a number of cardiac services and billing for physician assistants’ (PAs) time illegally. Duke University Health System agreed to pay $1 million to resolve these allegations.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Duke University Health System Accused of Submitting False Claims to Federal Health Care Programs.

According to the complaint, the lawsuit was originally filed by a former health care bill coder and quality-control auditor for Duke’s revenue-cycle subsidiary, Duke Patient Revenue Management Organization. The former employee accused Duke University Health System of allegedly making false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE by billing the government for services provided by PAs during coronary artery bypass surgeries when the PAs were acting as surgical assistants, which is not allowed. The whistleblower also alleged the medical center increased billing by unbundling claims when the unbundling was not appropriate. These unbundled claims were associated with cardiac and anesthesia services, according to the complaint.

To read the whistleblower’s complaint filed in December of 2012, click here.

According to the DOJ, the claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Whistleblowers Who Report Fraud and False Claims Against the Government Are Usually Employees.

Doctors, nurses or staff employees working for hospitals, nursing homes, medical groups, home health agencies or others, often become aware of questionable activities. They are sometimes even asked to participate in it. In many cases the activity may amount to health care fraud.

It does not matter who you are. You may even be actively involved in the wrongdoing. This does not disqualify you from reporting the false claims activity or receiving a reward for doing so. In order to encourage employees with knowledge of fraudulent activity to come forward, the government will usually not seek to prosecute or punish that person in any way.

Normally the government will want to see some actual documentation of the claims submitted by the hospital or other institution. Usually physicians, nurses or staff employees have access to such documentation. Whistleblowers are urged to come forward as soon as possible. In many circumstances, documentation that shows the fraud “disappears” or cannot be located once it is known that a company is under investigation.

Of course, the larger the amount of money the government has been defrauded the more likely it will be that the government will be interested in pursuing the case and the larger the reward the whistleblower will receive if there is a recovery.

To read more on whistleblower cases, read my previous blogs. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

Comments?

What do you think of this settlement? Do you think whistleblower lawsuits are becoming more common? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Carlson, Joe. “Duke Pays $1 Million to Settle Whistle-Blower Case.” Modern Healthcare. (March 25, 2014). From: http://bit.ly/1g3W7yw

Department of Justice. “Duke University Health System, Inc. Agrees to Pay $1 Million For Alleged False Claims Submitted to Federal Health Care Programs.” Department of Justice. (March 21, 2014). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/nce/press/2014/2014-mar-21.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. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Adventist Health System Settles Whistleblower Lawsuit

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

On December 18, 2013, Adventist Health System/Sunbelt Inc., the parent company of Orlando-based Florida Hospital, settled a whistleblower lawsuit, according to court documents. The whistleblower lawsuit, filed in 2010, stated that seven Adventist hospitals in Florida overbilled the federal government between 1995 and 2009, allegedly resulting in tens of millions of dollars in false claims, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel and other sources.

Click here to read the Order of Dismissal.

Previous reports from the Orlando Sentinel stated that the lawsuit could have damages of more than $100 million, but the details of the settlement are not yet available.

Alleged Details in the Case Against Adventist Health System.

The lawsuit claims that seven Adventist hospitals in Florida allegedly used improper coding to overbill Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare. In addition, the lawsuit alleges the hospitals also overbilled for a drug used in MRI scans and billed for computer analyses that were never performed.

The plaintiffs are a bill-coding and compliance officer, and a radiologist that were either employed or affiliated with Florida Hospital Orlando between 1995 and 2009. They allege the discrepancies occurred during those years.

To read the entire False Claims Act complaint filed, click here.

Hospitals that allegedly partook in the overbilling include: Florida Hospital Orlando, Florida Hospital Altamonte, Florida Hospital East Orlando, Florida Hospital Apopka, Florida Hospital Celebration Health, Florida Hospital Kissimmee and Winter Park Memorial Hospital.

This case was scheduled to go to trial in December 2013.

Click here to read more on this case from my previous blog.

Most Qui Tam Claims Filed by Employees.

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

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

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

Aboraya, Abraham. “Adventist Health Whistleblower Lawsuit Settled.” Orlando Business Journal. (December 19, 2013). From: http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/blog/2013/12/adventist-health-whistleblower-lawsuit.html

United States of America and State of Florida ex rel., Amanda Dittman and charlotte Elenberger, M.D. vs Adventist Health System/Sunbelt, Inc. Case No. 6:10-cv-1062-Orl-28GJK. Order of Dismissal. (December 18, 2013). From: http://assets.bizjournals.com/orlando/pdf/document.pdf

Jameson, Marni. “Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges Florida Hospital Filed Millions in False Claims.” Orlando Sentinel. (August 8, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-08-08/health/os-whistleblower-lawsuit-florida-hospital-20120808_1_adventist-health-suit-claims-whistleblower-lawsuit

Amanda Dittman and Charlotte Elenberger, M.D. v. Adventist Health Systems/Sunbelt, Inc. No. 6:10-cv-01062-JA-GJK. False Claims Act Complaint. (July 15, 2010). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/whistleblower-lawsuit-adventist.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. 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.

ZPICs Seek “Voluntary” Agreements from Physicians for Auto-Denial Edits for Home Health Services

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

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the primary purpose of Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) is to investigate instances of suspected fraud, waste, and abuse.  The specific actions employed by ZPICs to fulfil this mission include:

-  Investigating potential fraud and abuse for CMS administrative action or referral to law enforcement;
-  Conducting investigations in accordance with the priorities established by Center for Program Integrity’s (CPI) Fraud Prevention System;
-  Performing medical review, as appropriate;
-  Performing data analysis in coordination with CPI’s Fraud Prevention System;
-  Identifying the need for administrative actions such as payment suspensions and prepayment or auto-denial edits; and,
-  Referring cases to law enforcement for consideration and initiation of civil or criminal prosecution.

However, it appears that some of the ZPICs have been overly proactive in identifying the need for payments suspensions and are asking providers to voluntarily agree to payment suspensions for certain claims.

Click here to read more on ZPICs from CMS.

Physicians Being Targeted by ZPICs for Auto-Denial Edits.

Recently, physicians have been approached by ZPICs and asked to voluntarily agree to a payment edit on their National Provider Identifier (NPI) that would automatically deny any claim for payment for home health services that listed the physician as the ordering, attending, or referring physician.  A ZPIC requesting a specific physician to voluntarily cease ordering any home health services appears to go further than identifying the need for administrative action including a payment suspension.

The activities a ZPIC may use to fulfil its obligations to CMS are:

-  Request medical records and documentation;
-  Conduct interviews;
-  Conduct onsite visits;
-  Identify the need for a prepayment or auto-denial edits and refer these edits to the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MAC) for installation;
-  Withhold payments; and,
-  Refer cases to law enforcement.

The following functions are reserved for the MACs and not functions of the ZPICs.

-  Provider outreach and education;
-  Recouping monies lost to the Trust Fund (the ZPICs identify these         situations and refer them to the MACs for the recoupment);
-  Medical review not
-  Complaint screening; for benefit integrity purposes;
-  Claims appeals of ZPIC decisions;
-  Claim payment determination;
-  Claims pricing; and
-  Auditing provider cost reports.

While a ZPIC may refer a provider to the MAC for the imposition of an auto-denial edit, some ZPICs seem to have taken this process a step further and are attempting to have physicians voluntarily agree to the auto-denial edits.

Issues with Agreeing to an Auto-Denial Edit.

A physician who voluntarily agrees to an auto-denial edit could create significant problems for his or her patients and practice.  A physician agreeing to an auto-denial edit would need to cease ordering home health services and would need to refer the patients that need home health services to another physician.  Any physician that has been approached by a ZPIC seeking a voluntary auto-denial edit should consult competent legal counsel before agreeing to the auto-denial edit.

We have heard if ZPIC representatives allegedly intimidating or attempting to intimidate physicians who routinely order home health services for patients into agreeing to such auto-denial edits.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

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

Comments?

Have you heard of these auto-denial edit requests from ZPICs? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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. 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.

Hawaii Hospital to Pay More Than $451,000 to Resolve Whistleblower/Qui Tam Allegation of Improper Claims

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

Wahiawa General Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, agreed to pay $451,428 to settle two lawsuits alleging that the hospital improperly billed Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare. The settlement stemmed from a civil whistleblower/qui tam lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by a doctor who allegedly worked at an outpatient clinic operated by Wahiawa General Hospital, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Wahiawa General Hospital signed the settlement agreement on August 29, 2013.

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

Whistleblower Receives Money in Settlement and Attorneys’ Fees Paid by Hospital.

According to the DOJ, the federal and state governments alleged that Wahiawa General Hospital wrongfully submitted claims to Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare from April 2008 through March 2011. The investigation was initiated after a doctor alleged the hospital submitted bills for services provided by resident doctors without the level of supervision required by law.

On top of the more than $451,000 settlement, Wahiawa General Hospital agreed to pay $75,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs to the attorneys who represented the doctor. The doctor will also receive more than $84,600 as part of the settlement, under the False Claims Act. To learn more on whistleblower/qui tam cases, read our two-part blog. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

Most Qui Tams Filed by Doctors, Nurses and Employees.

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

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

Associated Press. “Wahiawa General Hospital to Pay $450K Settlement.” Star Advertiser. (August 30, 2013). From: http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/breaking/221856781.html

Department of Justice. “Community Hospital Pays $451,428 to Resolve Allegation of Improper Claims.” Department of Justice. (August 30, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/hi/news/1308wgh.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.

“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 York-Based MRI Company to Pay $3.57 Million Settlement to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations in Whistleblower/Qui Tam Case

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

On August 27, 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a settlement between the government and New York-based Imagimed LLC, its former owners and its former chief radiologist. This $3.57 million settlement resolves whistleblower/qui tam allegations of false reimbursement claims for radiology scans. The payment also settles accusations that the company violated the Stark Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Imagimed owns and operates 15 magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) facilities under the name Open MRI.

MRI Company Accused of Not Following Proper Safety Precautions and Committing Health Care Fraud.

According to the DOJ, from July 2001 through April 2008, Imagimed, the company’s former owners and the former chief radiologist submitted claims to Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE for MRI scans performed with a contrast dye without the direct supervision of a qualified doctor, as required by federal regulations.

The DOJ also alleges that from July 2005 to April 2008, Imagimed also had sham on-call arrangements with, and gave improper gifts to referring physicians, which is in violation of the Stark Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute.

Local Radiologist Blew Whistle and Receives a Cut of the Settlement.

According to the Associated Press, a local radiologist filed the lawsuit against Imagimed under the False Claims Act. The radiologist will receive $565,500 for coming forward. To read the Associated Press article, click here.

Whistleblowers stand to gain substantial amounts, sometimes as much as thirty percent (30%), of the amount the government recovers under the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. Section 3730). Such awards encourage employees and contractors to come forward and report fraud. To learn more on whistleblower cases, read our two-part blog. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

Most Qui Tams Filed by Doctors, Nurses and Employees.

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

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

Department of Justice. “MRI Diagnostic Testing Company, Imagimed LLC, and Its Former Owners and Chief Radiologist to Pay $3.57 Million to Resolve False Claims Allegations.” Department of Justice. (August 27, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/August/13-civ-958.html

Associated Press. “Federal Authorities Settle MRI Case for $3.75M.” The Wall Street Journal. (August 29, 2013). From: http://online.wsj.com/article/APcf5d7d677786468bb9d446b6c3082e5d.html?KEYWORDS=medicare

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

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

Whistleblowers Come Forward with Serious Charges Against Oncologist.

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

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

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

Click here to read the entire Time article.

Oncologist Faces Prison Time and Fine.

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

To read the Detroit News article, click here.

Most Qui Tams Filed by Doctors, Nurses and Employees.

From our review of qui tam cases that have been unsealed by the government, it appears most of these are filed by physicians, nurses or hospital staff employees who have some knowledge of false billing or inappropriate coding taking place. Normally the government will want to see some actual documentation of the claims submitted by the hospital or other institution. Usually physicians, nurses or staff employees have access to such documentation.

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

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Hospice to Pay $1 Million to Settle Whistleblower Lawsuit Over False Billing Claims

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

The Hernando-Pasco Hospice (HPH Hospice) in Hudson, Florida, agreed to pay $1 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by submitting false claims for services to the Medicare and Medicaid Programs. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, the hospice allegedly admitted patients that did not meet the requirements for end-of-life care. This lawsuit was originally filed in 2010, by two former hospice employees. The announcement was made on July 22, 2013.

Click here to read the entire press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

Hospice Accused of Admitting Ineligible Patients to Meet Targets.

HPH Hospice is accused of admitting ineligible patients in order to meet targets imposed by the management team, according to federal authorities. The settlement also resolves allegations that the hospice billed the government at higher rates than it was entitled to receive. It’s also accused of providing illegal kickbacks by giving services to skilled nursing facilities at no cost, in exchange for patient referrals.

Two former employees of the hospice first stepped forward with these allegations. The employees were longtime social workers at HPH Hospice. They filed a lawsuit alleging the facility’s management instructed the staff to make false or misleading statements in patients’ medical records to make them appear eligible for hospice care. The two former employees will share $250,000 of the settlement.

HPH Hospices Claims No Wrongdoing.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the HPH Hospice spokesperson said the allegations were completely false. The organization stated that the settlement was the better option for patients and staff. As a result of these allegations, HPH Hospice said that it has hired three registered nurses to review and monitor all admission documentation, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

To read the entire Tampa Bay Times article, click here.

Under the False Claims Act, Whistleblowers Can Come Out on Top.

Whistleblowers stand to gain substantial amounts, sometimes as much as thirty percent (30%), of the award under the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. Sect. 3730). Such awards encourage employees to come forward and report fraud.

You can learn more read our two part blog on whistleblowers. Click here for part 1, and click here for part 2.

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

In addition to our other experience in Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare cases, attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblowers cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To learn more on our experience with Medicaid and Medicare quit tam or whistleblower cases, visit our website. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think about this settlement agreement? Do you think settling was a better option for the hospice? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “HPH Hospice to Pay $1 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations.” Department of Justice. (July 22, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/flm/press/2013/july/20130722_HPH.html

Tillman, Jodie. “Hernando-Pasco Hospice Agrees to Pay $1 Million to Settle False Billing Cliams.” Tampa Bay Times. (July 22, 2013). From: http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/hernando-pasco-hospice-agrees-to-pay-1-million-to-settle-false-billing/2132592?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

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.

Medical Students and Residents Must Fight Allegations of “Irregular Behavior” on the USMLE Step Exams

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

I am constantly taking calls from medical students and residents (or future residents) relating to allegations brought against them of “irregular behavior” in connection with the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) exams. Although the term “irregular behavior” is equated by many with the word “cheating,” it is actually defined by the USMLE to mean:

Irregular behavior includes any action by applicants, examinees, potential applicants, or others when solicited by an applicant and/or examinee that subverts or attempts to subvert the examination process.

The notice that a person has been accused of irregular behavior may come in a letter from the USMLE, National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), or Examination Committee for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). In serious cases, one might be approached by a private investigator or law enforcement authority, for example in the case of an alleged theft of an examination or illegal use of examination questions.

Regardless, any notice that you are suspected or accused of irregular behavior should be treated as an extremely serious matter that can suspend your medical education or residency and place your medical career on hold. You should immediately contact an attorney familiar with health and medical law and, especially, one familiar with USMLE, NBME and ECFMG proceedings.

Examples of What Not To Do.

A few examples of irregular behavior we have consulted on include:

1.  A student soliciting information about the contents of a USMLE step examination in an online blog.

2.  Individuals blogging online regarding a certain step exam preparation course they took when the course instructor allegedly used actual examination questions to teach it.

3.  An individual allegedly using an iPhone during a step examination.

4.  Someone setting a fire in a bathroom in the testing center where the examination was given.

5.  An individual who allegedly had written notes on his arm to use during the exam.

6.  Someone who wrote down notes about the exam on a piece of tissue paper after the exam was over.

No matter how trivial the matter may initially seem, it can have devastating effects. The reporting of your test results will be held up until the matter is completely resolved, thereby delaying entry into or continuation of a residency program or, in some cases, medical school graduation. Choice residencies can be lost and a promising medical career can be placed on hold.

If irregular behavior is confirmed, test scores will be voided, your transcript of USMLE tests will be annotated with the fact that you were found to have committed irregular behavior and you may not be allowed to retake the exams for a period of time. This can really screw up your life.

Ask for a Hearing and Be Prepared.

If you are accused of irregular behavior, you will be given the right to have a hearing before a committee of the USMLE which will hear evidence on the matter. Ask for the hearing! Do not waive it.

You will have the right to submit documents on your own behalf. Do this. Use any favorable document that supports your side of the story, shows your good character, shows your academic and clinical performance and mitigates from the seriousness of the alleged conduct.

Attend the hearing in person and with your attorney. You have this right. Do not expect to win a hearing if you do not attend it yourself to answer any questions the committee may have. These committee hearings are all held at MBE headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, so it may be a challenge to attend. But you must do so; this may be the most important hearing of your life.

Retain expert witnesses to support you if appropriate. In matters where a statistical extrapolation is used against you, a statistics expert can be a valuable asset.

Many times the facts of the situation turn out to be far different from what the USMLE secretarial has initially reported. But you must avail yourself to the procedures and opportunity to prove this.

Don’t delay. At your first notice, contact an experienced attorney to represent you. The stakes are too high to gamble on handling it yourself.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys Today.

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

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

Comments?

Have you faced the Committee? What was the experience like? Did you retain experienced legal counsel? 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.

Department of Justice Seeks up to $600 Million in Whistleblower Case Against Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, Florida

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 U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is asking for between $350 million and $600 million in damages and penalties from Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal. A Halifax employee filed the whistleblower lawsuit in 2009, accusing the hospital of illegal kickbacks to doctors, improper admissions and unnecessary spinal surgeries. The DOJ joined the case in 2011. Click here to read a previous blog on the DOJ joining the lawsuit.

If the government wins this case, it would amount to the largest whistleblower case of its kind in the nation.

Claims Against Halifax.

Halifax is accused of overbilling Medicare by inappropriately admitting patients and having financial arrangements with some of its doctors that violated a federal anti-kickback law.

The federal Stark Law prohibits Medicare and Medicaid payments for hospital services that are prescribed by doctors who have profit-sharing agreements with the hospital. The law was made to ensure that referrals are made for medical reasons only, without financial motives. However, according to the lawsuit, Halifax had agreements with its doctors that gave them a financial incentive to generate hospital revenues.

The whistleblower was recently interviewed in an Orlando Sentinel article. She claims neurosurgeons at Halifax allegedly received illegal kickbacks tied to their performance. The whistleblower claims a similar pattern existed with six of the hospital’s oncologists. The suit also alleges one surgeon performed spinal fusion surgeries that were not medically necessary.

To read more from the whistleblower in an Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

Halifax Denies All Claims.

Halifax denies all of the DOJ’s allegations. The hospital has filed two motions to dismiss the case. However, both have been denied. According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, the case is set for trial in November 2013. Click here to read the entire article from The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Whistleblowers Who Report Fraud and False Claims Against the Government Stand to Receive Large Rewards.

Since the Halifax whistleblower filed her action under a federal law, she is entitled to recoup fifteen percent (15%) to twenty-five percent (25%) of the damages. Similarly, individuals working in the health care industry, whether for hospitals, nursing homes, medical groups, home health agencies or others, often become aware of questionable activities. Often they are even asked to participate in it. In many cases the activity may amount to fraud on the government.

In a two-part blog, I explain types of false claims, the reward programs for coming forward with a false claim, who can file a whistleblower/qui tam lawsuit and what is needed to be a successful whistleblower. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

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

In addition to our other experience in Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare cases, attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To learn more on our experience with Medicaid and Medicare quit tam or whistleblower cases, visit our website.

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 qui tam/whistleblower lawsuit? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Swisher, Skyler. “Justice Department Seeks up to $600 Million in Lawsuit Against Halifax.” The Daytona Beach News Journal. (June 3, 2013). From: http://www.news-journalonline.com/article/20130603/NEWS/306039975/1040?p=1&tc=pg

Jameson, Marni. “Halifax Hospial Whistleblower at Forefront of $200M Alleged Fraud.” Orlando Sentinel. (April 15, 2013). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-04-15/news/os-halifax-hospital-whistleblower-20130415_1_marlan-wilbanks-illegal-kickbacks-halifax-health

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.