Tag Archives: Florida health law attorney

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.

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.

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.

It’s the End to the Eyeball Wars-Optometrists and Ophthalmologists Come to an Agreement: Optometrists Allowed to Prescribe

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

On April 4, 2013, the Florida Senate passed Florida Governor Rick Scott a hard-fought bill that would expand the drug-prescribing practices of optometrists, according to the Associated Press. House Bill 239 has pitted optometrists against ophthalmologists for years in what was called the “eyeball wars.” (Click here to read House Bill 239.) The Senate sent a measure to the governor that would allow optometrists to prescribe some medications, while adding new patient protections.

To read the article from the Associated Press, click here.

I previously blogged about this topic when the bill was still being voted on in the House. Click here to read what supporters and opponents of House Bill 239 had to say about it.

The Final Bill-Optometrists to be Allowed to Prescribe.

According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, the final bill was an agreement between the Florida Society of Ophthalmologists and the Florida Optometric Association. Optometrists wanted to ability to prescribe medications other than ointments and creams. Ophthalmologists argued optometrists are not doctors and did not receive the proper training to prescribe medicine.

The compromise under the final bill says optometrists would be allowed to prescribe 14 oral drugs, including antibiotics. However, optometrists will not be allowed to prescribe controlled substances. The measure clarifies that optometrists cannot perform surgeries and requires them to report any bad medical outcomes to the state, as ophthalmologists are required to do.

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

Hopes for House Bill 239.

State Senators voted 40-0 to pass the bill. Optometrists believed that House Bill 239 will help Floridians get the most appropriate eye treatment. This bill will also allegedly help cut down on duplicate services, and in return, reduce costs for patients.

If Governor Scott signs the bill, it will officially put an end this turf war over eyes.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Optometrists and Ophthalmologists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to optometrists, ophthalmologists 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?

What do you think of the new bill? Do you think optometrists prescribing medication is a good idea or a bad idea? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Associated Press. “Bill Expands Prescribing Powers for Optometrists.” The Tampa Bay Tribune. (April 4, 2013). From: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/F/FL_XGR_OPTOMETRISTS_FLOL-?SITE=FLTAM&SECTION=STATE&TEMPLATE=

Haughney, Kathleen. “Eyeball Wars Comes to an End.” Orlando Sentinel. (April 4, 2013). From: http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_politics/?p=42985

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.

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.

Optometrists and Ophthalmologists Not Seeing Eye to Eye Over Proposed Law Allowing Prescribing

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

This year Florida House Bill 239 and Florida Senate Bill 278 has been reignited in the Florida Legislature. This legislation is pitting optometrists and ophthalmologists against each other in what is being called the “eyeball wars,” according to the Fort Myers News-Press. These bills would expand the authority of optometrists to prescribe certain medications and treat some eye conditions. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are both trying to gain support for their respective viewpoints.

Click here to read the article from Fort Myers News-Press.

Florida House Bill 239 and Florida Senate Bill 278.

Most notably, the bills would expand the scope of practice for optometrists. Optometrists would have prescribing authority of oral medications. However, they would not have the ability to prescribe Schedule I and II narcotics. Optometrists would also be allowed to perform clinical laboratory studies.

Click here to read Florida House Bill 239, and click here to read Florida Senate Bill 278.

Supporters Believe This Law Would Reduce Health Care Costs and Increase Access to Eye Care.

The backers of expanding prescribing authority to optometrists say it will help reduce health care costs and make treatment more available to communities short on ophthalmologists. According to a statement by the Florida Optometric Association, expanding the ability for optometrists to prescribe oral medications saves money, increases access to eye care, and saves people from losing vision due to treatment delays. According to the Fort Myers News-Press, this authority has been granted to optometrists in 48 states.

Ophthalmologists Say Patients’ Safety is at Stake.

According to the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, allowing an expansion of prescribing authority is a dangerous move for patients. A letter from the American Academy of Ophthalmology states that the language in the legislature is vague, broad and misleading. It also states that the training ophthalmologists receive provides them with not only technical skills, but instills the judgment one needs to determine when (and when not) to prescribe specific medications. To read the entire letter, click here.

Other associations opposed to the bill include Florida Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, Florida Society of Rheumatology, Florida Society of Anesthesiologists, Hillsborough County Medical Association. Letters written by each of these societies can be read by clicking here.

Progression of the Bill. 

Florida House Bill 239 was passed by the House Health and Human Services Committee on March 7, 2013, and is now ready for the House Floor. On March 6, 2013, a Florida Senate panel voted 10-3 to approve Senate Bill 278. The bill has now been handed over to the Appropriation Committee.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Optometrists and Ophthalmologists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to optometrists, ophthalmologists 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?

What do you think of optometrists being able to prescribe oral medication? Are you for or against this legislature? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Gluck, Frank. “Not Seeing Eye to Eye: Optometrists, Ophthalmologists Differ on Bills.” Fort Myers News-Press. (March 7, 2013). From: http://www.news-press.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013303070027&nclick_check=1

Corcoran, Richard. Letter Opposing HB 239 and SB 278. American Academy of Ophthalmology. (February 4, 2013). From: http://www.mdeye.org/pdfs/AAOHB239OppositionLetter.pdf

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

 

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

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

Massage Therapists Needs Good Professional Liability Insurance, Too

00011_RT8By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Whether you’re an independent contractor, an employee of a chiropractor, physician or spa, or you travel to clients’ homes, insurance is essential for all massage therapists. Not only can professional liability insurance protect you in the event of a lawsuit, but it may also pay your legal defenses in the event of a complaint against your license to practice or for other legal problems. In Florida, it is not mandatory for a massage therapist to have professional liability insurance. However, since it is so cheap, we always recommend buying coverage. It’s a small price to pay to protect your livelihood. But be sure it covers the investigation of your license.

It is now common to be able to find professional liability insurance that provides excellent coverage and excellent benefits, but costs less than a dollar a day. One policy I recently reviewed for a massage therapist included payment of all attorney’s fees and costs for defense of HIPAA privacy complaints, for defense of any complaints or investigations of the therapist’s license and for legal representation at any deposition.

The Most Important Reason to Buy Insurance: To Provide Legal Protection for a Massage Therapist’s License.

The primary reason a professional liability policy should be purchased is that this type of insurance usually includes coverage for legal defense of licensing and disciplinary action commenced against a massage therapist. It’s important to note that many massage therapists’ liability insurance includes this coverage automatically, but some policies may not. Some companies may offer this type of coverage separately to be purchased for a small additional premium.

License defense coverage pays the legal fees associated with defending a massage therapist when an investigation is initiated that may result in action against the massage therapist’s license or in administrative disciplinary action. Coverage is usually available from the time the massage therapist receives written notice that an investigation by a state agency has been initiated. It will also cover formal administrative hearings before an administrative law judge.

You should buy this coverage now, when you don’t need it. Otherwise, when you do need it, it will be too late after the problem arises.

Please Think About These Points When Buying Liability Protection.

When deciding on which professional liability insurance plan to purchase, the massage therapist should inquire as to the extent of coverage for licensing and disciplinary defense coverage. Some professional liability insurers have a “broad form” of coverage which may provide legal defense for the massage therapist in almost any type of administrative action. Other companies limit coverage to only actions that may result in disciplinary action against the massage therapist’s license. Still others provide no coverage at all except for lawsuits in professional negligence cases. The massage therapist should always attempt to get the broadest coverage available and be sure it covers disciplinary defense and licensure defense expenses.

The massage therapist should also question as to whether or not he or she will be allowed to select his or her own attorney. Many insurance companies have contracts with certain law firms to provide legal services for a reduced fee. The insurance company may require you to use one of its own contracted attorneys or in-house attorneys which it employs directly. Given the limited number of attorneys with experience in handling massage therapy law issues, it is advised to obtain coverage through a company which allows the massage therapist to choose his or her own attorney, especially for license defense.

The most important reason to purchase professional liability insurance is for the licensure defense coverage. A massage therapist does not want to risk losing his/her license because he/she was unsuccessful at defending in an investigation or did not have the resources to do so.

Question Your Coverage – Get Answers in Writing.

Since there are many different insurance companies out there selling professional liability insurance, it is important to be sure of exactly what is covered and what is not covered. Some companies provide “broad form” coverage, providing coverage for everything I discussed above, automatically. See Healthcare Provider’s Service Organization (HPSO) Insurance for example.

Other companies will provide this coverage as a “rider” for a small additional premium. Some insurers do not sell it at all, so you will have to buy it elsewhere. If you are in doubt as to your coverage, ask and get the answer in writing.

Insurance agents typically deal with a number of insurance companies. If you are using an insurance agent, be sure to specify exactly what you want. A good agent will be able to find it for you.

It’s Expensive to Defend Your License, Insurance Helps.

Legal representation is costly. To defend a simple case involving a complaint made against you, whether valid or not, can range from $3,000 to $25,000 or more. A case involving a formal hearing (similar to a trial) can cost much more than you imagine. If you are not independently wealthy and cannot afford a legal defense, you may be forced to accept discipline from the Board of Massage Therapy, even if you are completely innocent.

The rules and procedures in administrative licensing cases are not the same as cases in civil and criminal courts. An insurance policy that provides licensure defense will help the massage therapist to have the financial resources to seek out a health law attorney experienced in disciplinary cases and to obtain a fair hearing.

More Than 100 Massage Therapists’ Licenses Were Suspended in Florida.

You may remember in September of 2012, the Florida Secretary of Health signed 161 emergency suspension orders (ESOs) for massage therapists in Florida. The suspension orders were aimed at massage therapists who allegedly obtained their licenses to practice through a transcript-buying scandal at the Florida College of Natural Health. Many of these massage therapists are still fighting to keep their licenses. This is just one instance where having professional liability insurance can help save a health care professional’s livelihood. You can read more on the suspension of the 161 massage therapists’ licenses by clicking here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Massage Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensing matters 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?

As a massage therapist, do you have professional liability insurance? Why or why not? 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.

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