Tag Archives: Florida health care lawyer

More Medicare Audits Now Than Ever Before

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

A Medicare audit, whether it is performed by a contractor of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), or by another organization, can be a daunting process. It is never “routine” and should never be taken lightly.

Because of the efforts to reduce expenditures on entitlement programs and the success that the government has had in recovering large sums of Medicare overpayments, we are seeing a tremendous increase in Medicare fraud initiatives, including but not limited to audits by Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs), audits by Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs), the use of investigative subpoenas to obtain records, and related activities.

Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE now routinely share audit results and information on repayments made by health providers. We had a client who conducted a self-audit and found an overpayment situation. The client made a voluntary disclosure and sent in a voluntary repayment of the amount it had overbilled Medicare. A few weeks later our client received an overpayment demand from the federal TRICARE program. The TRICARE demands were based on the same patients and the same claims for the co-pays and deductibles that had been paid back to Medicare.

Common Errors Found in Medicare Audits.

We often seem some common errors in Medicare audits. Most of the errors relate to improper or incomplete documentation. Such errors include:

1. Failure to obtain the physician’s signature on the order or plan.
2. Failure to have an order signed by a physician.
3. Tests, consults, prescriptions, therapy, or services ordered by a non-Medicare provider.                                                                                                                    4. Failure to document the start time and stop time of each (time-based) procedure.                                                                                                                                                  5. Failure to have complete, unique notes for each patient (use of “cloned” notes).                                                                                                                                                      6. Failure to demonstrate if a client is progressing toward improvement or goal. 7. Lack of medical necessity for procedures performed.                                                 8. Failure to have the care plan signed by the physician within 24 hours.

Locate and Review the Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs) for the Codes You Bill.

All Medicare providers should ensure that they are familiar with the local coverage determinations (LCDs) that are published by MACs for the CPT codes they routinely bill. These are available on the MAC website. Strict compliance with all such guidelines is required.

Make Sure to Obtain the Physician’s Signature Prior to Treatment.

Therapists and others providing services in response to a physician’s order or consult request must ensure that they obtain the proper physician’s signature before treating patients. Make this an ironclad rule in your practice or business. We have heard from some therapists that physicians often ignore their correspondence and documentation, or the physician sits on it for weeks at a time before signing it. If you refuse to touch the patient without the required doctor’s signature you cannot be faulted. The responsibility is on the physician who fails to sign a plan in a timely manner. If you are unable to do this, then just plan on providing the services for free. Guidance on documentation required for a therapist, as well as LCD, and therapy services required for Medicare can be found on the CMS website.

Checklist for Medicare Audits.

These are some of the actions we recommend you take and which we take in medicare blogrepresenting a physician or other health provider in responding to a Medicare audit.

1. All correspondence from Medicare, or the Medicare contractor, should be taken seriously. Avoid the temptation to consider the request from Medicare just another medical records request. Avoid the temptation to delegate this to an administrative employee.

2. Read the audit letter carefully and provide all the information requested. In addition to medical records, auditors often ask for invoices and purchase orders for the drugs and medical supplies dispensed to patients, for which Medicare reimbursed you.

3. Include a copy of the complete record and not just those from the dates of service requested in the audit letter. Include any diagnostic tests and other documents from the chart that support the services provided. Many practices document the medications and immunizations given to the patient in a separate part of the chart and not in the progress notes; all documents, the complete record, should be provided to the auditor. Remember that even other physicians’ records obtained as history, including reports, consultations and records from other physicians or hospitals, should also be included. Consent forms, medical history questionnaires, histories, physicals, other physicians’ orders, all may be a crucial part of the record. If the patient was referred to you by a hospital order, nursing home discharge order or another order, obtain these to provide to the auditor.

4. Make sure all the medical records are legible and legibly copied. If the record is not legible, have the illegible record transcribed and include the transcription along with the hand-written or illegible records. Make sure that any such transcriptions are clearly marked as a transcription with the current date it is actually transcribed. Label it accurately. Do not allow any room for there to be any confusion that the newly transcribed part was part of the original record.

5. If your practice involves taking or interpreting x-rays or other diagnostic studies, include these studies. They are part of the patient’s record. If the x-rays are digital, they can be submitted on a compact disc (CD).

For the complete checklist, click here.

Challenge Overpayment Demands from Medicare and Medicaid Audits.

Recently we have spoken with numerous physicians and other health care professionals who have been placed on prepayment review after failing to challenge Medicare 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.

Comments?

Have you or your practice 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.

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. We also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals, occupation therapists (OTs), physical therapists (PTs), speech therapists (STs), rehabilitation therapists (RTs) and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid program.

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

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 © 1999-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Miami Medical Clinic Owner Pleads Guilty to $20 Million in Medicare Fraud

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

The owner of a Miami-based medical clinic pleaded guilty on January 8, 2014, for her involvement in several health care fraud schemes that allegedly cost the Medicare program around $20 million. The schemes allegedly involved fraudulent billing for home health care services and therapy prescriptions to patients that may not have required them, according to the Associated Press. The owner operated Merfi Corp., a medical clinic that employed physicians, physician assistants and other medical professionals authorized to dispense prescriptions for home health care services.

Click here to read the Associated Press article.

The medical clinic owner faces up to 10 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced in March 2014.

Medicare Fraud Scheme Involved Kickbacks and Brides.

According to an article on Home Health Care News, through Merfi, the owner and her co-conspirators were allegedly given kickbacks and brides for providing fraudulent home health and therapy prescriptions and other medical documentation to owners and operators of other home health agencies and patient recruiters. The fraudulent documents were then used to bill Medicare.

To read the entire article from Home Health Care News, click here.

Case Investigated by Medicare Fraud Strike Task Force.

This case was investigated by the Medicare Fraud Strike Task Force. This task force has charged more than 1,700 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 billion since the agency’s inception in March 2007. To learn more about the Medicare Fraud Strike Force’s anti-fraud efforts, click here to read a previous blog.

What You Need to Know about Medicare and Medicaid Audits.

I previously wrote a two-part blog on the increased number of Medicare and Medicaid audits being initiated against health professionals who treat home health care, assisted living facility (ALF) and skilled nursing facility (SNF) residents. This area of medical practice has been identified as one fraught with fraud and abuse. To learn more on the areas being targeted and how to respond to different types of audits click here for the first blog, and click here for the second.

Physicians, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants Must Check Out Their Employers.

I have previously written blogs warning licensed health practitioners about illegal health care clinics. Often the individuals involved in fraudulent acts will use an unlicensed health clinic as a vehicle to process false claims. Licensed health professionals should jealously protect their Medicare and Medicaid provider numbers and make sure that they do not allow their name or numbers to be used in false billing activities. Check out any company or corporation that employs you to be sure it is properly licensed, as necessary. To read a previous blog I wrote on unlicensed health clinics, 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 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?

Do you think similar schemes are fairly common? Do you think we will see more news stories like this with the increased anti-fraud efforts of the Medicare Fraud Strike Task Force? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Associated Press. “South Florida Woman Guilty in $20M Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Miami Herald. (January 8, 2014.) From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/08/3858269/fla-woman-guilty-in-20m-medicare.html

Oliva, Jason. “Miami Clinic Owner Pleads Guilty to $20 Million Home Health Fraud.” Home Health Care News. (January 8, 2013). From: http://bit.ly/1h87Xv4

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.

Top Medicare Prescribers Collect Speaking Fees from Drug Makers-Coincidence?

LOL Blog Label 2By 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 recent investigation by ProPublica found that certain doctors who prescribed certain drug brands the most, also have financial ties to the companies that manufacture those prescription drugs. Using Medicare payment data, ProPublica and National Public Radio (NPR) researched physicians who prescribed the most heavily promoted drugs of 2010 and 2011. It was discovered that many of the doctors allegedly had financial relationships with prescription drug manufacturers. ProPublica states that they initiated this investigation out of fear that pharmaceutical payments are influencing doctors to prescribe an expensive, brand name drug over a cheaper, generic version.

To read the ProPublica analysis released June 25, 2013, click here.

According to ProPublica, the company is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.

By The Numbers.

The ProPublica analysis looked at a number of drug companies. Until now, doctors’ prescribing practices have not been made public. Disclosure of these records is now mandated in the Affordable Care Act.

According to NPR, at least 17 of the 20 doctors who prescribed the blood pressure medicine Bystolic the most often collected money from the maker, Forest Laboratories. Forest paid those doctors speaking fees for promoting Bystolic at seminars to other doctors. These fees allegedly ranged from $1,250 to $85,750. Additionally, seven of the speakers allegedly received at least $1,000 for meals. Nine of the top 10 prescribers of Exelon, an Alzheimer’s drug, collected speakers’ fees from Novartis. Eight of the top 10 Nucynta prescribers were paid by the painkiller’s manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, for similar services, according to NPR.

Click here to read the entire NPR article.

Drug Makers Shell Out Millions in Fines for Using Illegal Kickbacks.

Federal whistleblower lawsuits against several pharmaceutical companies have alleged that these speaking payments are little more than “thinly veiled kickbacks,” which are illegal. According to NPR, three years ago Forest paid $313 million to the federal government to settle allegations about its marketing of drugs. The lawsuit alleged the company made cash payments disguised as consulting fees to doctors.

Novartis is currently fielding two different lawsuits filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The first lawsuit was filed on April 23, 2013, alleging the company gave illegal kickbacks to pharmacists. A second lawsuit was filed on April 26, 2013, alleging illegal kickbacks were paid by Novartis to health care providers. According to the DOJ, the government’s complaint seeks damages and civil penalties under the False Claims Act, and under the common law for paying kickbacks to doctors to induce them to prescribe Novartis products that were reimbursed by federal health care programs.  Click here to read a previous blog on these lawsuits.

Individual providers are also liable for accepting prohibited remunerations from drug companies. The use of these databases for mining prescribing/promoting practices is likely to lead to increased scrutiny on physicians.

What the Law Says About Using Kickbacks.

For years drug companies have paid doctors to speak about new drugs at educational conferences with other health care professionals. The practice is legal, but considered questionable.

Under the Anti-Kickback Statute, it’s a felony for health care professionals to accept bribes in exchange for recommending a drug or service covered by Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE or the Department of Veterans Affairs health care program.

Relationship Between Physicians and Pharmaceutical Companies Allegedly Does Not Influence Prescribing Practices.

In a survey, doctors said they are not influenced by relationships with pharmaceutical companies, according to a FiercePharma article. The doctors with a relationship to Forest state a number of reasons for prescribing Bystolic versus other blood pressure dugs. None of the reasons for prescribing Bystolic related to the money they received from Forest.

In the same FiercePharma article, drug makers said they do not choose speakers based on a doctor’s prescribing habits. Click here to read the FiercePharma article.

So is this all a coincidence?

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?

Is it a coincidence that top prescribers also collect from drug makers? As a health care professional, would you be influenced to prescribe one drug if you were getting paid by the drug maker? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Staton, Tracy. “Top-Prescribing Docs Collect Cash From Drugmakers.” FiercePharma. (June 25, 2013). From: http://www.fiercepharma.com/story/top-prescribing-docs-collect-cash-drugmakers/2013-06-25

Ornstein, Charles, Weber, Tracy and Lafleur, Jennifer. “Top Medicare Prescibers Rake In Speaking Fees From Drugmakers.” National Public Rado. (June 25, 2013). From: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/06/25/195232541/top-medicare-prescribers-rake-in-speaking-fees-from-drugmakers

Ornstein, Charles, Weber, Tracy and Lafleur, Jennifer. “Top Medicare Prescibers Rake In Speaking Fees From Drugmakers.” ProPublica. (June 25, 2013). From: http://www.propublica.org/article/top-medicare-prescribers-rake-in-speaking-fees-from-drugmakers

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.

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.

Two Separate Lawsuits Against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation Allege Illegal Kickbacks and False Claims

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

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (NPC) is currently fielding two different lawsuits, filed just days apart from each other, by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The first lawsuit was filed on April 23, 2013, alleging the company gave illegal kickbacks to pharmacists. A second lawsuit was filed on April 26, 2013, alleging illegal kickbacks were paid by NPC to health care providers. According to the DOJ, the government’s complaint seeks damages and civil penalties under the False Claims Act, and under the common law for paying kickbacks to doctors to induce them to prescribe NPC products that were reimbursed by federal health care programs.

Click here to read the entire press release from the DOJ.

NPC Accused of Treating Health Care Professionals to Expensive Dinners, Product Discounts and Fishing Trips.

Both lawsuits allege NPC violated the Anti-Kickback Statute. In the April 23, 2013, complaint against NPC the lawsuit alleges the company gave kickbacks, in the form of rebates and discounts to pharmacies in exchange for the pharmacies’ cooperation in switching patients from competitors’ drugs to NPC products.

The April 26, 2013, lawsuit accuses NPC of paying doctors to speak about certain drugs at events that were allegedly social occasions. Many of the programs were allegedly held in circumstances in which it would be impossible to have a presentation. According to the DOJ, this included fishing trips off the Florida coast and meetings in Hooters restaurants. NPC is also accused of treating health care professionals to expensive dinners. The payments and dinners were apparently kickbacks to the doctors for writing prescriptions for NPC drugs.

Florida Doctors Involved.

The lawsuit alleges at least six Florida doctors of participating in the bogus conferences and taking thousands of dollars in kickbacks, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The doctors are not named or charged in the civil lawsuit.

To read the allegations listed in the lawsuit against Florida doctors, click here for the Tampa Bay Times article.

NPC Denies All Claims.

In a press release, NPC disputes all of the government’s allegations. The pharmaceutical company states that discounts and rebates by pharmaceutical companies are a customary and legal procedure, as recognized by the government. It also addresses the physician speaker programs by saying the programs are also acceptable practices designed to inform physicians about the uses of different types of medicines. Click here to read the entire press release from NPC.

The Law Against Using Bribes in Exchange for Selling a Drug or Service.

For years drug companies have paid doctors to speak about new drugs at educational conferences with other health care professionals. The practice is legal, but considered questionable.

Under the Anti-Kickback Statute, it’s a felony for health care professionals to accept bribes in exchange for recommending a drug or service covered by Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE or the Department of Veterans Affairs health care program.

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

The original complaint against NPC was allegedly filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act by a former sales representative.

Individuals working in the health care industry, whether for hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes, medical groups, home health agencies or others, often become aware of questionable activities. Often they are even asked to participate in it. In many cases the activity may amount to fraud on the government.

In a two-part blog series on whistleblower/qui tam lawsuits I explain types of false claims, the reward programs for coming forward with a false claim, who can file a whistleblower/qui tam lawsuit, and more. Click here to read the first part of this blog, and click here for the second part.

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm represent plaintiffs, patients, health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To 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 these lawsuits? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Masow, Julie. “Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation Disputes Allegations in Two US Government Lawsuits and Looks Forward to a Fair Discussion of the Facts.” Novartis Pharmaceuticals. (April 26, 2013). From: http://www.pharma.us.novartis.com/newsroom/pressreleases/137176.shtml

Davis, Brittany Alana. “Lawsuit: Pharmaceutical Company Gave Kickbacks to Florida Doctors.” Tampa Bay Times. (May 3, 2013). From: http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/lawsuit-pharmaceutical-company-gave-kickbacks-to-florida-doctors/2119133

Department of Justice. “United States Files Complaint Against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. for Allegedly Paying Kickbacks to Doctors in Exchange for Prescribing Its Drugs.” Department of Justice. (April 26, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/April/13-civ-481.html

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

 

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

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.