Tag Archives: physicians

Doctors’ Medicare Payment Data to be Released Spring 2014

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

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

Data Made Public to Fight Healthcare Fraud.

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

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

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

Data Prohibited From Being Release for Past Thirty Years.

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

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

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

Healthcare Providers Should Prepare for Possible Public Scrutiny.

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Healthcare Fraud Cases.

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

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

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

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

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

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

 

 

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

The American Academy of Family Physicians Releases Third List for Choosing Wisely Campaign

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

On September 24, 2013, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) released its third list of commonly prescribed tests and procedures that may not be necessary. This list is part of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation’s Choosing Wisely campaign.

The Choosing Wisely Campaign was initiated to give patients a catalog of procedures, tests and treatments that have been overused, misused or have been identified as ineffective. Since its launch in April 2012, more than fifty (50) medical specialty societies have created lists of procedures, tests and drug treatments that deserve to be questioned before a physician orders them or patients accept them.

The purpose is to help patients become more discriminating about what care they receive. Physicians and health care providers also need to use this information to review the latest research and use that information to help avoid any litigation.

I’ve previously written about the Choosing Wisely campaign. Click here for part one and here for part two.

AAFP’s Updated List of Commonly Prescribed Tests and Procedures That May Not be Necessary.

1. Do not prescribe antibiotics for otitis media in children aged 2-12 years with non-severe symptoms where the observation option is reasonable.

2. Do not perform voiding cystourethrogram routinely in first febrile urinary tract infection in children aged 2-24 months.

3. Do not routinely screen for prostate cancer using a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test or digital rectal exam. Evidence suggests that PSA-based screening leads to an overdiagnosis of prostate tumors.

4. Do not screen adolescents for scoliosis. Potential harms include unnecessary follow-up visits resulting from false-positive test results.

5. Do not require a pelvic exam or other physical exam to prescribe oral contraceptive medications. Hormonal contraceptives are safe, effective, and well tolerated by most women.

Click here to read the AAFP’s previous recommendations.

Health Care Providers and Professionals’ Responsibility to Patients.

A doctor should have the knowledge, skill, training, and confidence to know when such tests and procedures are not warranted. Also, a health care professional or provider should not be swayed by increasing his/her personal bottom line. Specifically, physicians that work in a fee-for-service setting that rewards doctors for performing more procedures are at risk for ordering unnecessary tests or procedures. If a physician persists in ordering these tests solely for the means of increasing profits, he or she should be penalized. If not, the physician should be able to justify them.

Laws Protect Patients from Unnecessary Testing.

This situation may have the side effect of promoting additional litigation against doctors, healthcare clinics and hospitals that provide the unnecessary tests and procedures. Many states have laws that prohibit unnecessary tests and procedures and sanction those who provide them. For instance, Section 766.111, Florida Statutes, provides a private cause of action by a patient against a health provider who orders or furnishes such “unnecessary” diagnostic tests, but unlike other tort and medical malpractice statutes, it allows the prevailing party in such a case to recover attorney’s fees and costs. This law may by itself promote litigation in the face of the lists of tests produced by the specialty groups in the Choosing Wisely campaign.

Look for More Whistleblower/Qui Tam Cases.

As this list continues to grow, I believe that we will see more qui tam/whistleblower and false claims cases.

Qui tam cases have been brought under the federal False Claims Act for the recovery of Medicare payments from hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, diagnostic testing facilities, clinical laboratories, radiology facilities and many other types of healthcare providers. These cases allege that a false claim was submitted to the government. If the test or procedure was unnecessary, then it seems almost axiomatic that a claim for it is false. The plaintiff bringing such cases receives a percentage of the recovery, which often amounts to millions of dollars in successful cases.

Most states now have similar false claims act or qui tam laws providing similar causes of action and recoveries to individual plaintiffs in the case of state Medicaid payments as well.

Because medical necessity is a requirement for practically every Medicare and Medicaid service, as well as most services paid by private health insurers, the lists provided by the specialty may very well be exhibit one in future lawsuits.

We’ve recently written about a couple of whistleblower/qui tam cases stemming from unnecessary procedures. To read a blog on a group of Florida radiation oncology service providers accused of performing unnecessary and improperly supervised procedures, click here. To read a blog on Winter Park Urology’s settlement over allegations stemming from radiation therapy used to treat cancer patients, click here.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

As a health care professional or provider what do you think of the Choosing Wisely campaign? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Hand, Larry. “AAFP Releases Third Choosing Wisely List.” Medscape. (September 25, 2013). From: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/811638

Carman, Diane. “Useless, Costly Medical Procedures Targeted by Choosing Wisely Campaign.” Health Policy Solutions. (October 15, 2013). From: http://www.healthpolicysolutions.org/2013/10/15/useless-costly-medical-procedures-targeted-by-choosing-wisely-campaign/

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.

Health Care Professionals and Providers Beware: The Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) Is Catching Fire

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

In May 2009, the Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) created the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT). HEAT’s mission is to focus its efforts on preventing and deterring fraud and to enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country. To date, almost 1,400 individuals have been charged in connection with schemes involving more than $4.8 billion in fraudulent billings in these HEAT takedown operations.

To learn more about HEAT, click here to visit the website.

The Success of the HEAT Team.

According to the website, between 2008 and 2011, HEAT actions led to a seventy-five percent (75%) increase in individuals charged with criminal health care fraud. So far there have been six nationwide HEAT sting operations.

In 2011, HEAT agents led the largest-ever federal health care fraud takedown involving $530 million in fraudulent billing. To read more on this sting, click here.

On May 14, 2013, the DOJ announced that more than 400 law enforcement officials with HEAT spread out between eight cities including Miami and Tampa Bay to arrest 89 people accused of false billing. A majority of these arrests were allegedly of health care professionals. Click here to read a blog with more information on this takedown.

HEAT Captures One of Medicare’s Most-Wanted Fugitives.

On June 1, 2013, a former Los Angeles physical therapy clinic owner, and one of Medicare’s most-wanted fugitives, was arrested by HEAT agents at the Los Angeles International Airport on his return flight. According to a Los Angeles Times article, the clinic owner was an acupuncturist who billed Medicare for $2.1 million in false claims and was paid about $1.2 million. To read more from the Los Angeles Times, click here.

Expanding the Medicare Fraud Strike Force Efforts.

HEAT is a multi-agency team of federal, state and local investigators who combat Medicare fraud through the use of Medicare data analysis techniques and an increased focus on community policing.

The Affordable Care Act has given HEAT additional tools to preserve Medicare by expanding the team’s authority to suspend Medicare payments and reimbursements when fraud is suspected.

To better combat fraud, the government has established HEAT in a number of cities, such as Los Angeles, Miami, Tampa Bay, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Brooklyn, Baton Rouge and Detroit.

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 health care 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 HEAT? Do you think the team’s efforts are curbing Medicare fraud around the country? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Medicare Fraud Strike Force Charges 89 Individuals for Approximately $223 Million in False Billing.” Department of Justice. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/May/13-crm-553.html

Terhune, Chad. “One of Medicare’s Most-Wanted Fugitives is Arrested in L.A.” Los Angeles Times. (June 3, 2013). From: http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-medicare-most-wanted-fugitive-arrest-20130603,0,7474342.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.

Strike Force Busts 89 People, Mostly Health Care Professionals, in Nationwide Crackdown on Medicare Fraud

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

In a nationwide takedown nearly 100 people, including doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, in eight cities were all allegedly charged in separate Medicare fraud schemes. These individual scams involved approximately $223 million in false billing, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Humans Services (DHHS). On May 14, 2013, more than 400 law enforcement officials with the Medicare Fraud Strike Force spread out between Miami, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, Houston, Chicago and Tampa to make the arrests of these 89 people, according to the DOJ.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Medicare Schemes Could Not Have Happened Without the Help of Health Professionals.

According to an article in Reuters, one out of every four defendants in this crackdown was some type of health professional. Authorities say most of these allegedly complex scams could not have happened without the participation of a doctor signing off on a bogus service, or a nurse filling out false paperwork.

Click here to read the entire article from Reuters.

Florida Health Professionals Involved.

According to the DOJ, in Miami, a total of 25 people, including two nurses and a paramedic, were allegedly part of numerous Medicare scams, totaling about $44 million in false claims. In one case involving a home health agency, defendants allegedly bribed Medicare beneficiaries for their Medicare information, which was used to bill for home health services that were never rendered or not medically necessary. The DOJ believes the lead defendant spent a majority of the money from the scam on luxury cars.

Phony Health Care Clinics Set Up.

In Tampa, nine individuals were charged in a variety of schemes, ranging from pharmacy fraud to health-care related money laundering. According to the DOJ, in one case four individuals allegedly established four health care clinics. The individuals allegedly used these clinics to steal more than $2.5 million from Medicare for surgical procedures that were never performed.

This Marks the Sixth Time the Medicare Fraud Strike Force Has Executed a Nationwide Crackdown.

This crackdown marks the sixth time the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has taken nationwide action against Medicare fraud. To date, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force is credited with making more than 1,500 arrests on charges related to $5 billion in allegedly false Medicare claims since 2007. According to the DOJ, it’s believed Medicare fraud costs the program between $60 billion and $90 billion each year.

Medicare operates under a pay-and-chase system, but according to the Washington Post, authorities are beginning to use new technology that flags suspicious claims before Medicare makes a payment. To read the entire Washington Post article, click here.

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

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

Comments?

What do you think of these nationwide crackdowns on Medicare fraud? Do you think they work as a deterrent for others committing health care fraud? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Medicare Strike Force Charges 89 Individuals for Approximately $223 Million in False Billing.” Department of Justice. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/May/13-crm-553.html

Kennedy, Kelli. “Doctors and Nurses Among Nearly 100 Charged in $223 Million Medicare Fraud Busts in 8 Cities.” Washington Post. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/health_care/doctors-nurses-among-nearly-100-charged-in-223-million-medicare-fraud-busts-in-8-cities/2013/05/14/fbb0de3a-bcbc-11e2-b537-ab47f0325f7c_story.html

Morgan, David. “U.S. Charges 89 People in $223 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Reuters. (May 14, 2013). From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/14/usa-healthcare-fraud-idUSL2N0DV3GZ20130514

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.

Number of Oxycodone-Related Deaths Down in 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

It looks like Florida’s prescription drug legislation, the statewide prescription drug monitoring database and the prescription drug crackdowns by law enforcement may be working, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The FDLE states in its semi-annual report, oxycodone-related deaths statewide dropped between January and June of 2012, compared to the same period of time in 2011. A look at the national numbers shows that the number of people abusing prescription drugs is also down.

Florida and National Numbers.

In the first half of 2012, there were 759 oxycodone-related deaths in Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel. That number is down from 1,058 during the same time period a year before. The Orlando Sentinel states that nationwide 7 million people abused prescription drugs in 2010. By 2011, that number had dropped to 6.1 million. Studies also show prescription drug use among young adults ages 18 to 25 is also on the decline. The Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation Director believes these numbers are down because young people are realizing these drugs are dangerous and can be deadly.

Click here to read the entire article from the Orlando Sentinel.

Florida Cracks Down on Prescription Drug Abuse.

Previously, Florida was known as a state where drug addicts and dealers could easily find a pill mill or go doctor shopping to get prescription drugs. In the past two years, Florida state leaders and law enforcement officials have stepped up regulations and made serious crackdowns on doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies.

In April 2013, a Lake Mary doctor was sentenced to 25 years in prison for trafficking prescription drugs. Click here to read that story. In December 2012, a fake prescription drug ring was busted in Osceola County. To read that story, click here. In June 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Florida law enforcement announced operation “Pill Street Blues” targeting doctors and clinic owners across Florida. Click here to read more.

Health Care Professional Must Stay Ahead of Patients with Chronic Pain.

Even though the number of people abusing prescription drugs is down, state regulatory boards, private certification boards and federal agencies are not going to ease up. Many physicians in practice today are eschewing multi-disciplinary approaches to treating chronic pain in favor of monotherapies with narcotic medications.

These physicians do this at their own peril. In our practice we see many physicians in trouble with state medical boards and law enforcement officials because of their prescribing practices. If you treat patients with chronic pain it is imperative that you stay ahead of them. Click here to read a blog on legal tips for health care professionals to manage pain patients.

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

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

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

Comments?

Do you think the new legislation, the state prescription drug monitoring database and the crackdowns by law enforcement are making a difference in the war against prescription drugs? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “‘We Can Stop This Epidemic,’ CDC Boss Says at Rx-Drug Abuse Summit in Orlando.” Orlando Sentinel. (April 2, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-prescription-drug-abuse-summit-20130402,0,4693169.story

Pavuk, Amy. “Drug-Related Deaths Plunge in First Half of 2012.” Orlando Sentinel. (March 25, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-drug-deaths-down-20130325,0,6750345.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.

Medical Negligence – An Accidental Overdose of Prescription Pain Pills Can Lead to Lawsuits

GFI Blog LabelBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D., The Health Law Firm

In February 2009, a 30-year-old male patient was prescribed, all together, 180 pills of Dilaudid and Xanax from a South Florida pain clinic. Sometime within the next 24 hours the patient died of what medical examiners ruled an overdose. According to the American Association for Justice, the patient’s family then sued the pain management clinic alleging the clinic’s physician prescribed a lethal overdose of the drugs and the defendant was liable for damages resulting from the patient’s murder. In the lawsuit, the jury awarded the plaintiff more than $5.33 million.

Physicians and Business Owners Liable for Medical Negligence.

According to an article in American Medical News, of the pharmaceutical-related overdoses in 2010, seventy-four percent (74%) were unintentional. As prescription drug overdoses rise across the country, we are seeing some physicians and business owners held liable for medical negligence.

For example, in May 2012, an Alabama jury ruled a widower to receive $500,000 after he sued his wife’s physician. His wife died of an accidental overdose after being prescribed a number of narcotic pain medications. In April 2012, a woman was awarded $1.9 million after she sued her family physician claiming he over prescribed her methadone, which led to brain damage after she stopped breathing, according to American Medical News.

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

Protecting Your Business and License.

Health care professionals need to pay close attention to patients who request pain medication. Being proactive about prescription management can also deter lawsuits or help in doctors’ defense if they are sued. Physicians must make sure their records meet all requirements of state laws and regulations. In cases where a patient has been “doctor-shopping” in order to abuse pain pills, we see state disciplinary investigations initiated against each physician who prescribed that individual medication. In most cases, these physicians were unaware of the other prescribers. Disciplinary actions such as these can often be defended when the physician has taken the proper safeguards.

Click here to read legal tips for physicians to manage pain patients.

Drug Monitoring Programs are Here to Stay.

The growing epidemic has some states developing drug monitoring programs to track drug seekers.

In Florida, a bill that would require doctors to check with the state’s drug database before writing a prescription for addictive medications passed in a House panel on March 19, 2013. Recently, legislators in California, Pennsylvania and Kentucky are contemplating moves to tighten monitoring and prescribing of controlled substances. Click here to read a blog on the possible new actions in these states.

Health professionals should take note, these prescription drug monitoring programs can, and will be, used as a prosecution tool.

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

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

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

Comments?

Do you think physicians and business owners should be held liable for medical negligence in cases of an accidental overdose? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Thirty-Two Indicted in Broward and Palm Beach Counties in Second Coordinated Pill Mill Takedown.” Department of Justice. (August 23, 2011). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/fls/PressReleases/110823-04.html

Gallegos, Alicia. “Physician Liability: When an Overdose Brings a Lawsuit.” American Medical News. (March 4, 2013). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/AMN_Overdose%20Lawsuits.PDF

LaMendola, Bob. “Pain Clinic Boss Jeffrey George Pleads Guilty to Murder.” Sun Sentinel. (August 29, 2011). From: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-08-29/health/fl-hk-jeff-george-pleads-guilty-20110829_1_pain-clinic-cynthia-cadet-george-twins

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

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

 

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

You Must Challenge Overpayment Demands from Medicare and Medicaid Audits

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

We have recently received numerous communications from health care professionals, including physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, mental health counselors, durable medical equipment (DME) providers, assisted living facilities (ALFs), group homes, and psychologists, who have been placed on prepayment review after failing to challenge Medicare or Medicaid audit results. The problem is that these providers, once placed on prepayment review, have their payments held up for many months and are often forced out of business. Sometimes it appears that this may actually be the goal of the auditing contractor or agency.

What Happens on Prepayment Review.

Failing to challenge, follow-up on, and appeal any adverse audit determinations can be very detrimental. An error rate in excess of fifteen percent (15%) will usually result in the provider being placed on prepayment review. While on prepayment review, the provider will be required to submit the documentation for medical records by mail to support each claim submitted and have that claim and its supporting medical records’ documentation audited, prior to any claims being paid. Often the auditing agency will come back to the provider again and again to demand additional information and documentation on claims instead of immediately processing them. This can hold up processing of the claim for months. Often the resulting termination of income flow will force the provider out of business. This saves the government lots of money, because the provider has then provided services to Medicare or Medicaid recipients for many months without ever getting paid for it.

These are some of the reasons why we recommend that physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, podiatrists, optometrists, psychologists, mental health counselors, respiratory therapists, and others always hire the Board Certified Health Law Attorney experienced in audits from the very beginning.

A Real-Life Example of the Trouble Caused by a Medicare Audit.

In one case we know of, a therapist was audited by Medicare. The audit by the Medicare administrative contractor (MAC) requested only 30 records. The therapist provided copies of the records he thought the auditors wanted. He did not number the pages or keep an exact copy of what he provided. The MAC came back and denied one percent (1%) of the claims audited. However, since the amount demanded back by the MAC was only a few thousand dollars, the therapist never hired an attorney and never challenged the results. Instead of retaining legal counsel and appealing the results, the therapist paid the entire amount, thinking that was the easy way out.

Unfortunately, because of the high error rate, the MAC immediately placed the therapist on prepayment review of all claims, assuming the prior audit had disclosed fraud or intentional false coding. Every claim the provider submitted from that point on had to be submitted on paper with supporting medical records sent in by mail. The MAC refused to make a decision on any of the claims, instead, holding them and requesting additional documentation and information from time to time. The therapist currently has most of his claims tied up in prepayment review, some for as long as five months with no decision. No decision means no review or appeal rights.

The therapist conveyed to me that he recently contacted the auditor to attempt to obtain decisions on some of his claims so that he could at least begin the appeal process if the claims are denied. He advised me that the auditor at the MAC expressed surprise that he was still in business.

Challenge Improperly Denied or Reduced Claims.

These situations are very unfair and unjust, especially to smaller health care providers. The reduced cash flow even for a month or two may be enough to drive some small providers out of business. Larger health care providers have vast resources sufficient to handle such audit situations on a routine basis. They may have similar problems but are better equipped and have more resources to promptly handle it. Rather than immediately pay whatever amount is demanded on an audit and waive any appeal/review rights, the provider should review each claim denied or reduced and challenge the ones that have been improperly denied or reduced. Otherwise you may wind up with a high error rate which will cause you to be placed into prepayment review. Once placed in prepayment review, it is difficult to get out of it. Often it takes six months or longer.

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Audit Cycle.

Another reason to challenge overpayment demands as a result of an audit is because the audit contractors will keep you on an audit cycle for a number of future audits if they are successful in obtaining any sort of significant recovery from you on the initial audit. This is similar to what happens if your tax return is audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recovers a significant payment from you because you did not have the documentation to support your deductions, you can expect to be audited for at least the next two years.

The value of competent legal representation at the beginning of an audit cannot be overestimated. It is usually long after the audit is over, and the time to appeal the audit agency’s findings has passed, that the health care provider realizes he should have retained an audit consultation.

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 ever been audited? What was the process like? Did you retain legal counsel to help with the process? Was having legal assistance worth it? 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.

Hydrocodone Combination Drugs Could Be Reclassified to Schedule II Category of Controlled Substances

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm, and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee voted 19 to 10 in favor of moving hydrocodone combination drugs from schedule III into the more restrictive schedule II category of controlled substances. According to a number of different sources, on January 25, 2013, the committee presented this recommendation to the FDA. If approved, hydrocodone combination drugs, such as Vicodin, will be harder for physicians to prescribe.

The advisory committee met because the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is requesting the FDA to approve the reclassification of hydrocodone combination products. The DEA wants to help curb the growing number of people across the country addicted to painkillers.

Click here to read an FDA briefing document given to the advisory committee.

It is now up to the FDA to decide whether or not to implement the advisory committee’s decision as to whether hydrocodone combination drugs will stay labeled as schedule III controlled substances or move to schedule II controlled substances. If medications containing hydrocodone are moved to schedule II, they will be in the same category as the widely abused oxycodone.

Hydrocodone Abuse is Serious.

Currently, hydrocodone products are the most widely prescribed drugs in the U.S., according to an article on MedPage Today. Records show that painkiller abuse kills more people in America than heroin and cocaine combined. The DEA argues that since these drugs are so frequently abused, they should be more tightly controlled.

To read the MedPage Today article, click here.

What You Need to Know as a Health Care Provider.

This change would have wide-spread consequences for health care professionals, especially doctors and pharmacists. Under the schedule II category of controlled substances, physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners would no longer be legally allowed to prescribe hydrocodone combination drugs.

If the recommendation is accepted, it would be more difficult for patients to obtain refills on hydrocodone combination drugs. Refills without a new prescription, faxed prescriptions and prescriptions called in by telephone would all be banned. Only written prescriptions from a doctor would be allowed.

If the recommendation is adopted, much stricter scrutiny on the purchasing, prescribing, retailing and use of these medications can also be expected. Prosecutions and administrative actions can also be expected to follow.

The FDA is also debating the DEA’s request to limit prescriptions of hydrocodone combination pills to a 90-day supply instead of the current regulations which permit five refills within six months.

Arguments Heard Against the Reclassification.

According to an article in The New York Times, many opponents spoke against the recommendation. Advocates for nursing home patients argued that weak and elderly residents with chronic pain would have to make a difficult trip to see a doctor just to get a prescription refilled. Click here to read The New York Times article.

Some committee members questioned if there was another option to consider versus changing the scheduling. They questioned whether greater use of e-prescribing and Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, as well as better education efforts for clinicians and patients would be better solutions for the drug abuse epidemic.

Now it remains to be seen how the FDA will interpret the advisory committee’s recommendation.

Florida’s Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic.

Florida law enforcement including the DEA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Department of Health (DOH) all seem to be having a hard time keeping up with prescription drug abuse in Florida.

We have written a number of blogs on the abuse of narcotics in Florida. See our blog on a fake prescription ring busted in Osceola County, and a Central Florida nurse accused of illegally obtaining prescriptions for painkillers, for example. Check our website for similar blogs.

Pharmacists, pharmacies, legal distributors and physicians are often too caught up in the frenzy to stem prescription drug abuse and to eliminate “pill mills.”

Call Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Your Legal Needs.

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

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

As a health care professional, do you think hydrocodone products should be labeled as a schedule II controlled substance? What are the positive and negative effects of this decision? Please leave any thoughtful comment below.
Sources:

Fiore, Kristina. “FDA Panel Votes for Tighter Controls on Vicodin.” MedPage Today. (January 25, 2013). From: http://bit.ly/X8qlsu

Tavernise, Sabrina. “F.D.A. Likely to Add Limits on Painkillers.” The New York Times. (January 25, 2013). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/health/fda-vote-on-restricting-hydrocodone-products-vicodin.html?_r=0
About the Authors: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

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

VA Physicians and Health Professionals Should Fight Allegations of Substandard Care in Peer Review Matters

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

I have represented physicians, psychologists, nurse practitioners, nurses and other health professionals working in Veterans Administration (VA) medical centers and clinics throughout the United States.  My representation has included personnel and employment issues, disciplinary actions, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions and appeals.

If a complaint involving allegations of lack of clinical competence or skill is made, it is extremely important for the physician or nurse practitioner to retain the services of an experienced health lawyer to represent him or her immediately.  This is not the time to seek the cheapest attorney you can find.  You need skilled representation by an advocate who knows medical terminology, understands medical issues and procedures, knows physicians, and has experience with fair hearings.

You Have Rights.

VA Handbook 1100.19, Credentialing and Privileging, requires that the VA hospital afford you due process of law and fundamental fairness at every step of the process in any clinical privileges action.  This includes timely advance notice of the specific allegations made against you, the evidence that is to be used against you, legal representation, advance notice of witnesses and documents that may be introduced against you, the opportunity to prepare a defense to the allegations, the right to cross examine witnesses, the right to introduce evidence (documents and witnesses, including expert witnesses) in your defense, a neutral and unbiased hearing panel, and other such rights.  Attorneys who are not familiar with such hearings may be unaware of your rights or how to properly exercise and safeguard them.

How to Take Care of Your License.

Don’t seek legal advice from your colleagues, from your accountant or from an attorney who does not specialize in such matters. We don’t recommend shopping around for the cheapest attorney you can find.  Please do not hire a personal injury attorney, a civil litigation attorney, and employment law attorney or any other attorney without health law experience.  Your professional life, career and medical license are at stake.  You are in the fight of your life.  Treat it as such.

If you were diagnosed with a brain tumor, would you attempt to perform your own brain surgery?  Would you shop around to find the cheapest neurosurgeon to perform the surgery?  Or would you look for the best?  Yet, physicians routinely believe they can represent themselves in such matters.  In our experience, this simply is not the case.

Contact an Experienced Health Law Attorney Before You Do Anything.

Far too frequently we are contacted by physicians after the investigation has been completed, after the hearing has been held and after the physician’s clinical privileges have been revoked.  Except for an appeal on narrow grounds, little can be done.

If the VA revokes your clinical privileges, by regulation, this will be reported to the NPDB and to every state in which you have a license.  The NPDB report remains on your file for 50 years.  Any time in the future you apply for clinical privileges, for a medical license or for medical malpractice insurance, this report will come up and cause you serious problems.  It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain employment or to obtain clinical privileges in any hospital or institution with such a NPDB report on your file.  Additionally, any state in which you hold a license will also open an investigation against your medical license.

NPDB reports can be mitigated by filing an explanatory rebuttal (as is your right) or by filing a request for a Secretarial Review (appeal).  We can do this for you.  However, it is best to prevent a NPDB report from being filed to begin with.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Veterans Administration (VA) Physician Representation and Military Physician Representation.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have represented physicians, psychologists, nurse practitioners, nurse and other health professionals working in Veterans Administration medical centers and clinics throughout the United States.  Representation has included personnel and employment issues, disciplinary action, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions and appeals.

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.

“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.

Students Graduating Medical School in Three Years

IMG_5281 fixedBy Danielle M. Murray, J.D.

To combat the nationwide shortage of primary care physicians and the increase in student debt, several medical schools around the country are offering the chance for students to finish school in three years, instead of four. According to a number of news articles, these programs are geared specifically toward medical students looking to practice primary care. The hope is that these programs will be cost less for students and add more primary care physicians to under-served areas.

Schools Across the U.S. Offer Three-Year Degrees.

According to an article in The New York Times, a small number of students are currently participating in the three-year degree program. There are about 16 incoming students in the program at New York University (N.Y.U.), nine students at Texas Tech Health Science Center School of Medicine and an even smaller number are at the Mercer University School of Medicine campus in Georgia. In an interview in The New York Times, the dean at Texas Tech said if this approach works, the schools will open up the program to a larger number of students.

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

Condensed Medical School Not for Everyone.

According to an article in American Medical News, the condensed medical school eliminates breaks and electives and allows students to begin clerkship training in their second year. This is a full year earlier than the traditional four-year curriculums. In the same article, medical experts warn these accelerated programs are not for everyone, saying it takes a mature person to go through rotations earlier and at a quicker pace.

Students are given a chance to opt out if they decide to pursue a different career path. The American Medical News article explains that at Mercer, students who decide that family medicine is not for them are integrated into the traditional four-year program.

Click here to read the article from American Medical News.

Program Developed to Help with Student Debt and Doctor Shortage.

This three-year program is expected to save a quarter of the cost of medical school, which is more than $49,000 a year in tuition and fees at N.Y.U., according to The New York Times. The money saved helps primary care physicians lessen their debt as they go to work in a lower paying field. This program is expected to attract more students to practice in fields such as pediatrics and internal medicine.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the physician shortage is expected to reach 91,500 physicians by 2020. This program, as it grows, can help alleviate the shortage and bring more doctors to areas in need.

Contact a Health Care Attorney that is Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent medical school students in disputes with their medical schools, internship supervisors, and in dismissal hearings. We have represented residents, interns and fellows in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete integral parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), because of discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation and on other matters.

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

Comments?

What do you think of a three-year medical school degree for doctors? Do you think the fourth year of medical school is necessary for primary care physicians? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Hartcocollis, Anemona. “N.Y.U. and Other Medical Schools Offer Shorter Course in Training, for Less Tuition.” The New York Times. (December 23, 2012). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/24/education/nyu-and-others-offer-shorter-courses-through-medical-school.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Krupa, Carolyne. “Med School on the Fast Track: A 3-Year Degree.” American Medical Association. (May 7, 2012). From: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/05/07/prl20507.htm

About the Author: Danielle M. Murray is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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

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