Tag Archives: D.O.

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

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

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

Click here to the entire Los Angeles Times article.

What is Balance Billing?

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

Doctor Plans to Appeal.

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

Court Previously Entered Injunction Prohibiting Illegal Billing.

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

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

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

Balanced Billing Could be Considered a Matter of Contract Law.

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

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

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Doctors.

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

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

Florida Doctor Faces Administrative Hearing Over Allegations of Torturing Patient

2 Indest-2009-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A Lake Worth, Florida, doctor accused of “punishment therapy” that included the use of whips, blindfolds, handcuffs and other instruments of torture could have his license revoked by the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine. At the meeting on November 15, 2013, the Board rejected a settlement that the Florida Department of Health (DOH) had negotiated with the doctor’s attorney. The settlement option included a $10,000 fine and two (2) years of probation. The doctor was not arrested or charged with a crime, but admitted to having an unusual and sexual relationship with his patient.

By rejecting the proposed settlement, the Board indicated that it was not satisfied with the agreed upon discipline. Instead , the Board stated that it wanted a revocation of the physician’s license.

The Florida DOH filed an administrative complaint against the doctor in July 2013, alleging inappropriate sexual conduct with a patient.

Click here to read the complete administrative complaint made against the physician.

According to the doctor’s attorney, it appears the case will head to an administrative hearing.

Punishment Therapy Allegedly Used to Help Patient’s Depression.

According to the Sun Sentinel, the doctor’s relationship with his patient was first reported in 2011. The patient told investigators that the doctor allegedly used “punishment therapy” on her to help her remedy depression. She reportedly told detectives she did not like the “therapy” which would usually take place in the doctor’s office after normal business hours. The patient claims she was repeatedly choked, whipped and tied up in a closet, according to the Sun Sentinel. The patient also alleges she never paid money for these sessions, but the doctor would give her free samples of medication.

The doctor alleges that he and his patient had a consensual sexual relationship that began after she was no longer a patient. However, according to the Sun Sentinel, investigators found evidence that the doctor prescribed medicine to the patient while they were in engaging in the “torture therapy” sessions.

Click here to read the Sun Sentinel article.

What Florida Law Says About Sexual Relationships Between Health Care Providers and Patients.

Sexual misconduct in the practice of health care is considered to be a violation of the doctor-patient relationship. This violation is grounds for discipline. The Board takes it seriously and can impose discipline up to and including revocation.

Florida law bans doctors and other health care providers from turning their patients into sexual partners because it is considered an abuse of power. Also, patients are presumed to be incapable of giving consent to a relationship with a health care provider.

To watch a short video on why a patient cannot consent to a sexual relationship with a health care provider, click here.

Don’t Wait Too Late; Consult with an Experienced Health Law Attorney.

Do not wait until action has been taken against you to consult with an experienced attorney in these matters. Few cases are won on appeal. It is much easier to win your case when there is proper time to prepare and you have requested a formal hearing so that you may actually dispute the facts being alleged against you.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians in investigations and at Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine hearings. We represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, in patient complaints and in Department of Health investigations. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Do you think this physician should have his license revoked? Do you think the settlement agreement would have been a sufficient punishment? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Gentry, Carol. “Doctor Accused of Torturing Patient.” Health News Florida. (November 15, 2013). From: http://health.wusf.usf.edu/post/doctor-accused-torturing-patient

Department of Health v. David Simon, D.O. Case Number 2012-00680. Administrative Complaint. July 11, 2013. From: http://ww2.doh.state.fl.us/DocServiceMngr/displayDocument.aspx

Clarkson, Brett. “Doctor Used Whips, Choked Female Patient in ‘Punishment Therapy,’ Deputies Say.” Sun Sentinel. (November 20, 2013). From: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/palm-beach/fl-lake-worth-kinky-doctor-20131120,0,3297599.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.

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

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

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

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

Investigators are NOT There to Help You.

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

Protect Your License and Your Livelihood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why are You Being Investigated?

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

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

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

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

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

Talking to the Investigator May Make It Worse.

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

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

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

Talk to a Lawyer Prior to Making a Statement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

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

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