Tag Archives: Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA)

Physician Argues Definition of “Peer” at Formal Administrative Hearing

peer reviewFACTS: The Agency for Health Care Administration (“AHCA”) is responsible for administering Florida’s Medicaid program and conducting investigations and audits of paid claims to ascertain if Medicaid providers have been overpaid. With regard to investigations of physicians, section 409.9131, Florida Statutes, provides that AHCA must have a “peer” evaluate Medicaid claims before the initiation of formal proceedings by AHCA to recover overpayments. Section 409.9131(2)(c) defines a “peer” as “a Florida licensed physician who is, to the maximum extent possible, of the same specialty or subspecialty, licensed under the same chapter, and in active practice.” Section “109.9131(2)(a) deems a physician to be in “active practice” if he or she has “regularly provided medical care and treatment to patients within the past two years.”

Alfred Murciano, M.D., treats patients who are hospitalized in Level III neonatal intensive care units and pediatric intensive care units in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County hospitals. His practice is limited to pediatric infectious disease. He has been certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in two areas: General Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases. AHCA initiated a review of Medicaid claims submitted by Dr. Murciano between September 1, 2008, and August 31, 2010, and referred those claims to Richard Keith O’Hern, M.D., for peer review. Dr. O’Hern practiced medicine for 37 years, and was engaged in a private general pediatric practice until he retired in December of 2012. During the course of his career, he was certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in General Pediatrics, completed a one-year infectious disease fellowship at the The University of Florida, and treated approximately 16,000 babies with infectious disease issues. However, he was never board certified in pediatric infectious diseases, and at the time he reviewed Dr. Murciano’s Medicaid claims, Dr. O’Hern would have been ineligible for board certification in pediatric infectious diseases. In addition, Dr. O’Hern would have been unable to treat Dr. Murciano’s hospitalized patients in Level III NICUs and PICUs.

After Dr. O’Hern’s review, AHCA issued a Final Agency Audit Report alleging Dr Murciano had been overpaid by $l,051.992.99, and that he was required to reimburse AHCA for the overpayment. In addition, AHCA stated it was seeking to impose a fine of $210,398.60.

OUTCOME: Dr. Murciano argued at the formal administrative hearing that Dr O’Hern was not a “peer” as that term is defined in section 409.9131(20)(c). The ALJ agreed and issued a Recommended Order on May 22, 2014, recommending that AHCA’s case be dismissed because it failed to satisfy a condition precedent to initiating formal proceedings. While recognizing that AHCA is not required to retain a reviewing physician with the exact credentials as the physician under review, the ALJ concluded Dr. O’Hern was not of the same specialty as Dr. Murciano.

On July 31, 2014, AHCA rendered a Partial Final Order rejecting the ALJ’s conclusion that Dr. O’Hern was not a “peer.” In the course of ruling that it has substantive jurisdiction over such conclusions and that its interpretation of section 409.9131(2)(c), Florida Statutes, is entitled to deference, AHCA stated that it interprets the statute “to mean that the peer must practice in the same area as Respondent, hold the same professional license as Respondent, and be in active practice like Respondent.” AHCA concluded that “Dr. O’Hern is indeed a ‘peer’ of Respondent under the Agency’s interpretation of Section 409.9131(2)(c), Florida Statutes, because he too has a Florida medical license, is a pediatrician and had an active practice at the time he reviewed Respondent’s records. That Dr. O’Hern did not hold the same certification as Respondent, or have a professional practice identical to Respondent in no way means he is not a ‘peer’ of Respondent.” AHCA’s rejection of the ALJ’s conclusion of law regarding Dr. O’Hern’s “peer” status caused AHCA to remand the case back to the ALJ to make the factual findings on the claimed overpayments that were not made in the Recommended Order because of the ALJ’s conclusion that Dr. O’Hern did not qualify as a “peer.”

On August 18, 2014, the ALJ issued an Order respectfully declining AHCA’s remand. AHCA then filed a Petition for writ of Mandamus in the First District Court of Appeal, asking the court to direct the ALA to accept the remand and to enter findings of fact and conclusions of law with regard to each overpayment claim. The court assigned case number 1D14-3836 to AHCA’s Petition, and the case is pending.
Source:

AHCA v. Alfred Murciano, M.D., DOAH Case No. 13-0795MPI (Recommended Order May 22, 2014), AHCA Rendition No. 14-687-FOF-MDO (Partial Final Order July 31, 2014)
About the Author: The forgoing case summary was prepared by and appeared in the DOAH case notes of the Administrative Law Section newsletter, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Dec. 2014), a publication of the Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar.

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Tips for Responding to a Medicaid Audit

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

Should you find yourself, your facility or your health practice the subject of a Medicaid audit by your state Medicaid agency or audit contractor, there are a few things you should know.

The most important thing is that just because you are being audited, it does not mean that you or your business has done anything wrong. State and federal governments conduct audits for many different reasons. Typical reasons include: special audits of high-fraud geographic areas, auditing of particular billing codes, randomly selected provider auditing, and complaints of possible fraud.

Medicaid Audits in Florida.

The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Bureau of Medicaid Program Integrity are the Florida agencies responsible for routine audits of Medicaid health care providers to ensure that the Medicaid Program was properly billed for services. Health care professionals receiving the greatest amounts of Medicaid payments are also the ones most likely to be audited. These include pediatricians, Ob/Gyns, family practice physicians and dentists. The Medicaid audit usually requests information in a questionnaire that the medical practice is required to complete, as well as a request for copies of medical records (including x-rays and other diagnostic studies) on the list of Medicaid patients selected for the audit.

If AHCA determines that Medicaid overpaid for services, it will use a complex mathematical extrapolation formula to determine the repayment amount. The amount of the repayment to the Medicaid Program can be considerably greater than (30 to 100 times as much as) the actual amount of overpayment disclosed by the sample of records audited. Additionally, fines and penalties can be added by the Medicaid Program. However, you can eliminate or reduce the amount of any such repayment by actions taken both before and during the Medicaid audit.

How to Know If You Are the Subject of an Audit.

An audit will usually begin with the provider receiving an initial audit request, usually by letter or fax. This request will serve to notify the recipient that it is the subject of an audit. The initial letter will not always identify the reason for the audit. What it will contain, however, is a list of names and dates of service for which the auditors want to see copies of medical records and other documentation.

This stage of the process is crucial because it is the best opportunity to control the process. Once the records are compiled and sent to the auditor, the process shifts and you are now going to have to dispute the auditor’s findings in order to avoid a finding of overpayment.

The biggest mistake that someone who is the subject of an audit can make is to hastily copy only a portion of the available records and send them off for review. The temptation is to think that since the records make sense to you, they will make sense to the auditor. Remember, the auditor has never worked in your office and has no idea how the records are compiled and organized. This is why it is so important to compile a thorough set of records that are presented in a clearly labeled and organized fashion that provides justification for every service or item billed.

Read the Audit Letter Carefully.

On top of the letter notifying you of the audit, AHCA will also supply you with a list of patients to be sampled. A standard sample will include a list of anywhere from 30 to 150 patient names, depending on the size of the practice. Regular audits routinely request 30 to 50 patient records. The audit letter will also include a questionnaire to be completed (Medicaid Provider Questionnaire) and a “Certification of Completeness of Records” form to complete and return with the copies of the patient records. (Please note: this will be used against you in the future if you attempt to add to or supplement the copies of the records you provided).

Compiling a Response to an Initial Audit Request.

The following are steps that you should take in order to compile and provide a set of records that will best serve to help you avoid any liability at the conclusion of the audit process:

1. Read the audit letter carefully and provide everything that it asks for. It’s always better to send too much documentation than too little.

2. If at all possible, compile the records yourself. If you can’t do this, have a compliance officer, experienced consultant or experienced health attorney compile the records and handle any follow-up requests.

3. Pay attention to the deadlines. If a deadline is approaching and the records are not going to be ready, contact the auditor and request an extension before it is due. Do this by telephone and follow up with a letter (not an e-mail). Send the letter before the deadline.

4. Send a cover letter with the requested documents and records explaining what is included and how it is organized as well as who to contact if the auditors have any questions.

5. Number every page of the records sent from the first page to the last page of documents.

6. Make a copy of everything you send exactly as it is sent. This way there are no valid questions later on whether a particular document was forwarded to the auditors.

7. Send the response package using some form of package tracking or delivery confirmation to arrive before the deadline.

Compiling all of the necessary documentation in a useful manner can be an arduous task. If you find that you cannot do it on your own, or that there are serious deficiencies in your record keeping, it is recommended that you reach out to an attorney with experience in Medicaid auditing to assist you in the process.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid and Medicare Audits.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Have you ever been the subject of a Medicaid audit? What was the process like? 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.

Beware of These Illegal Business Arrangements in Healthcare

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

Florida does not have a corporate practice of medicine prohibition like many other states do.  In other words, a physician is allowed to work as an employee or independent contractor of a corporation or other business entity owned by nonphysicians   However, there are a number of exceptions to this rule.

For dentists, optometrists and chiropractors there are specific statutory prohibitions on any member of that profession practicing his or her specialty while working for a group, practice or organization that is owned or controlled by one who is not a member of that profession.  These laws, a different one for each specialty, make it a felony to do so, as well as grounds for discipline against the professional’s license.  It is considered to be a separate felony offense for each day.

The main exceptions for these prohibitions include, for example, working for a hospital, working for a federal health care clinic, working for a not-for-profit charity health care clinic, and other limited exceptions.

There are All Treated the Same: Revoked License, Licensed in Another State But Not in Florida and Suspended License.

We have seen cases in which a dentist or chiropractor licensed in another state, but not in Florida, owned or operated a dental or chiropractic clinic in Florida.  This would be prohibited, of course.

In other cases, we have seen health professionals who have had their licenses revoked continue to own and operate or even “lease out” their practices to others.  The ownership or control of the practice by one with a revoked license would also be illegal.

We have seen cases in which a spouse or child of a deceased physician has continued to own and operate a clinic after the health professional died, when he or she was not a health professional.  This is illegal from the day the health professional died and there is no “grace period.”

In the Cases of Health Care Clinics and Pain Management Clinics…

In cases in which a member of the profession is allowed to work for a group, practice, clinic, corporation or other business entity that is not owned by health professionals, then that organization (again, with certain exceptions) is required to obtain a health care clinic license from the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).  Professionals other than dentists, chiropractors and optometrists, could work, for example, for a corporation (corp.) or limited liability company (LLC) owned by an accountant and a businessman, as long as it had a valid health care clinic license.  Owning, operating or working for an unlicensed health care clinic which would be required by Florida law to be licensed, is a felony offense.

If you are a physician, nurse practitioner, other licensed health professional, you need to check the business’s licensure status with AHCA to make sure it is current and valid, before going to work there.

Additional situations include pain clinics and other types of health practices which constitute “risky” areas of practice.  If you are not aware of the almost daily occurrences of physicians getting busted, pharmacists getting arrested, and pharmacies and pain clinics being searched, closed and shuttered, you’re not reading the newspapers or watching TV.  Usually pain clinics are required to be licensed as health care clinics by AHCA and as pain medicine clinics by the Department of Health (DOH).  However, a regular medical practice is exempt from those requirements (with certain exceptions, of course).

We have encountered situations where a good physician is recruited into a very questionable practice setting by unscrupulous nonprofessionals who are merely using him or her.  Everything is placed in the physician’s name.  On paper it appears the physician is running a legitimate medical practice.  However, behind the scenes, the physician actually controls nothing.  It is clear that the whole setup is just a shell, a phony medical practice set up to skirt the law and avoid licensure.

We have seen medical practices and dental practices where a nonprofessional business person has control of all of the billings and collections, the employees, the bank accounts and all of the records.  The physician does not have control of anything, not even the practice’s bank account.  We have encountered several situations where the physician does not even have passwords to his/her own computers and software or keys to his/her own office.  We believe that such situations are sham operations set up to avoid statutory requirements.  A physician would be well warned to stay away from such situations.

Beware of Scams to Avoid the Law.

We have seen many cases where individuals, including lawyers and business people, have attempted to get creative to come up with schemes to try to get around the laws.  Often there may be a legal way to create an arrangement between licensed health professionals and unlicensed business people, to accomplish their goals, especially related to financial arrangements.

However, we have also seen many such schemes that were clearly illegal and meant to just put a facade on an obviously illegal arrangement.  When the criminal authorities start to investigate the behind-the-scenes people disappear, leaving the physician to pay the price. A physician or health care provider should have any such business arrangement reviewed in detail by a board certified health lawyer before he or she gets involved with it.  If you are thinking about investing in such a practice or arrangement, then we strongly recommend that you obtain an opinion letter from a board certified health lawyer as to the legality of the situation or arrangement.

Do Not Let Anyone Else Use Your Billing Number or Medicare Provider Number.

We have also been consulted on a number of occasions by physicians who were contacted by business people starting clinics allegedly seeking a “medical director” for their clinic, offering the physician a large amount of money without having to perform any real work.  However, they just need to use the physician’s Medicare number to bill with for a few months until their Medicare number is approved.  Such enterprises usually turn out to be Medicare billing fraud schemes.  The company uses the physician’s Medicare number to bill for hundreds or thousands of physician patient visits in patient’s homes, nursing homes or assisted living facilities (ALFs) that never occur.  When Medicare stops paying and starts investigating, the ones behind the scheme disappear and leave the physician holding the bag.

Avoid such schemes.  Avoid any situation where someone else “needs” to use your Medicare number for services that you are not actually performing yourself.  If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  You will wind up paying a heavy price later on if you fall for it,

There are Many Illegal Situations Which Carry Heavy Consequences.

Many of the above situations can result in criminal prosecutions.  In addition, these are also usually grounds for discipline on a health professional’s license.  In many cases, all fees collected while operating illegally must be refunded.  In the case where pain management is involved, the penalties are much higher than in other situations.  Where Medicare and Medicaid patients or billings may be involved, the risks of criminal prosecution and very large monetary penalties are much greater.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in Negotiating and Evaluating Physician and Health Professional’s Business Transactions.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, durable medical equipment suppliers (DME), medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, preparing contracts, helping employers and employees enforce contracts, advice on setting aside or voiding contracts, litigation of contracts (in start or federal court), business transactions, professional license defense, opinion letters, representation in investigations, fair hearing defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, litigation of restrictive covenant (covenants not to compete), Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings.

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 blog? 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.