Tag Archives: litigation

Author Recommends Medicare Use ‘Procedural Triage’ to Eliminate Backlog of Appeals and Restore Faith in the System

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

IndestIn a recent law journal article being considered for publication, Author Matthew J. B. Lawrence of the Harvard University Petrie-Flom Center, makes some bold recommendations for Medicare. His hypothesis seems to be that the extremely long delay that health care providers now face in getting a Medicare appeal hearing might be negatively affecting these providers’ view of the fundamental fairness of the system. Currently, the backlog in obtaining a Medicare Appeal Hearing before an administrative law judge is up to approximately 27 months. Mr. Lawrence argues “procedural triage” may be in order.

Following is an abstract of this article:

Prior scholarship has assumed that the inherent value of a “day in court” is the same for all claimants, and so that when procedural resources (like a jury trial or a hearing) are scarce, they should be rationed in the same way for all claimants. That is incorrect. This Article shows that the inherent value of a “day in court” can be far greater for some claimants, such as first-time filers, than for others, such as corporate entities, and that it can be both desirable and feasible to take this variation into account in doling out scarce procedural protections. In other words, it introduces and demonstrates the usefulness of procedural triage.

The Article demonstrates the real-world potential of procedural triage by showing how Medicare should use this new tool to address a looming administrative crisis that it is facing. In the methodological tradition of Jerry Mashaw’s seminal studies of the Social Security Administration, the Article uses its in-depth study of Medicare to develop a theoretical framework that can be used to think through where and how other adjudicatory processes should engage in procedural triage. The Article concludes by applying this framework to survey other potential applications for procedural triage, from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Blog Editor’s Comments:

The main point of the justice system is that everyone deserves a “day in court.” In this document, Procedural Triage, Matthew J. B. Lawrence argues that the value of a day is different for all claimants; it can be greater for some, so we shouldn’t treat everyone alike. Lawrence suggests some individuals deserve to have a hearing more than others, but sometimes the system compromises that rule.

One thing this article does is show how useful procedural triage can be. “Procedural triage” being a system that makes all medical institutions who are enrolled in Medicare use statistical tools for peoples to retain their right to a full “day in court.” He suggests Medicare uses the tool to face its current administrative crisis. In the end, it would benefit due process in the entire system.

Comments?

What do you think about procedural triage? Do you agree that Medicare should use it? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced with Medicare and Medicaid Cases.

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

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

Sources:

Lawrence, Matthew J. B. “Procedural Triage.” Social Science Research Network. (June 17, 2015). From: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2619864

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.

KeyWords: procedural triage, defense attorney, defense lawyer, medical lawyer, lawsuit, medical professionals, healthcare professionals, health care attorney, health care lawyer, The Health Law Firm, Medicare, court, litigation, day in court, procedural protections, Social Security Administration, adjudicatory, procedural justice, behavioral economics, adjudication, administrative process, civil procedure, due process, justice system

“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 © 1996-2015 The Health Law firm. All rights reserved.

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Florida Supreme Court Overturns Medical Malpractice Caps

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

Florida’s Supreme Court ruled 5-to-2 in favor of invalidating medical malpractice caps on non-economic damages. The initial legislation was put into place in 2003 by the Florida Legislature due to an alleged medical malpractice crisis. The caps limited payments to patients for non-economic damages at $500,000 in most malpractice cases and $1 million in cases involving deaths. However, on March 13, 2014, the Supreme Court concluded that the cap on wrongful death non-economic damages violates the state Constitution’s equal protection clause.

This decision by Florida’s highest court makes Florida the seventh state to make such a ruling that such limitations are unconstitutional. There are 35 states that currently have some type of cap on medical malpractice awards.

This decision stirs up harsh criticism from doctors, and praise from trial attorneys.

History of the Caps on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits.

The damages caps were initiated in 2003 by former Governor Jeb Bush, backed by doctors, hospitals and insurance companies. Supporters argued that reforms were needed to curb the outbreak of medical malpractice costs. The caps were also initiated in an effort to lower the cost of malpractice insurance rates and to keep doctors from moving out of the state. According to Health News Florida with the caps, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits fell, which was interpreted as a sign that the caps discouraged trivial lawsuits. To read the entire article from Health News Florida, click here.

Harsh Words from Florida Medical Association.

The Florida Medical Association (FMA) President Alan Harmon, M.D., wasted no time in releasing a statement of discontent. In a press release Dr. Harmon stated, “The FMA is extremely disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision. This decision imperils our considerable efforts to make Florida the best state in the nation for physicians to practice medicine and for patients to receive care.”

Dr. Harmon mentions that without caps to help regulate out-of-control litigation, many physicians may move out of the state, and few out-of-state physicians will look to locate to Florida.

To read the full press release from Dr. Harmon, click here.

What This Means for Health Care Professionals.

Now that medical malpractice caps are gone, trial lawyers will be refocusing on lawsuits. Health care professionals need to carefully evaluate each patient before treatment begins, even consulting with specialists when necessary. Detailed documentation is also important. Make sure everything is properly charted in the patient’s medical record. As a health care professional, its important to have an open line of communication with your patient, so that he or she knows and understands his or her medical treatment.

Get Professional Liability Insurance Now.

It is now more important than ever to have good professional liability insurance. The truth of the matter is that all health care professionals should protect themselves by obtaining a personal professional liability insurance policy. A good policy will provide medical malpractice and, very importantly, licensure protection coverage. The cost on these policies varies, but it is generally quite affordable, often costing little more that $10 to $15 a month. If you do not already have it, call Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO), Lloyd’s of London, CPH & Associates Insurance, or another insurance company to discuss obtaining professional liability insurance.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

Our firm regularly represents physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, massage therapists, mental health counselors, registered nurses (RNs), assisted living facilities (ALFs), home health agencies (HHAs), nurse practitioners, lab technicians, occupational therapists, physical therapists (PTs), social workers, physician assistants, psychologists and other health professionals in many different legal matters.
Services we provide include representation before your professional board in Department of Health investigations, in administrative hearings, in civil litigation, in defense of malpractice claims, in professional licensing matters, in defense of allegations concerning HIPAA privacy violations and medical record breaches, in Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) actions, and in many other matters.

In cases in which the health care professional has professional liability insurance or general liability insurance which provides coverage for such matters, we will seek to obtain coverage by your insurance company and will attempt to have your legal fees and expenses covered by your insurance company. If allowed, we will agree to take an assignment of your insurance policy proceeds in order to be able to submit our bills directly to your insurance company.

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 provider, how do you feel about the malpractice caps being thrown out? Will it make you think twice about taking certain cases or treating certain patients? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Gentry, Carol. “FL Malpractice Caps Thrown Out.” Health News Florida. (March 14, 2014). From: http://health.wusf.usf.edu/post/fl-malpractice-caps-thrown-out

Klas, Mary Ellen. “Florida Supreme Court Tosses Out Medical Malpractice Cap on Damages.” Tampa Bay Times. (March 13, 2014). From: http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/florida-supreme-court-tosses-out-medical-malpractice-cap-on-damages/2170030

VanSickle, Erin. “Supreme Court Invalidates Medical Liability Caps.” Florida Medical Association. (March 13, 2014). From: http://www.flmedical.org/Supreme_Court_invalidates_caps.aspx

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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

After Investigation Has Ended, Even Investigator’s “Mental Impressions” Are Subject to Release Under Public Records Act

The foregoing case summary was prepared by Mary F. Smallwood, Esquire, of The Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar.

The City of Avon Park (“City”) terminated Michael Rowan’s employment as Chief of Police. In the subsequent administrative hearing, at issue was Rowan’s investigation of certain city council members and alleged deletion of certain information from his work computer.

An investigator with the State Attorney’s Office was called in to investigate those issues; he prepared a report of his findings. The City subpoenaed the investigator to appear as a witness at the administrative hearing on Rowan’s termination, and to bring his report, which the City wanted to rely on. The State sought a circuit court order quashing the subpoena issued to the investigator. It also sought to prevent disclosure of portions of the report which constituted mental impressions of the investigator. The circuit court granted in part and denied in part the State’s petition. It concluded the investigator’s mental impressions were exempt from the Public Records Act and entered a protective order limiting the investigator’s testimony and protecting the mental-impression portions of the report.

The City appealed, arguing the report should be admissible in full and Rowan’s testimony should not be limited; Rowan cross-appealed, arguing that he should not be required to testify at all. The Second District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision excluding from evidence the portion of the report containing the investigator’s mental impressions. The court pointed to section 119.071(1)(d)1., Florida Statutes, which protects mental impressions from disclosure only until the conclusion of the litigation or adversarial administrative proceedings. In this case, the court concluded that the investigation had ended and no charges had been filed. Therefore, the investigator’s mental impressions were no longer protected.

Source:

City of Avon Park v. State of Florida, 117 So. 3d 470 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013) (Opinion filed July 17, 2013).

About the Author: The foregoing case summary was prepared by Mary F. Smallwood, Esquire, of The Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar. It originally appeared in the Administrative Law Section Newsletter, Col. 36, No. 2 (Dec. 2013).

2010 District Ruling for $44.9 Million in Tuomey Overturned by U.S. Appeals Court

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

Tuomey Reversed

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal district judge’s 2010 decision for Tuomey Healthcare System on March 30, 2012. (U.S. ex rel. Drakeford v. Tuomey Health. Sys., Inc., 4th Cir., No. 10-1819 (Mar. 30, 2012)) The lower court’s decision ordered Toumey Healthcare System to pay $44.9 million for allegedly violating the Stark Law. (42 U.S.C. § 1395nn) The appeals court decided that the 2010 district ruling denied Tuomey its Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial. 

A physician initiated a qui tam or whistle-blower suit against Toumey under the False Claims Act in 2005. The suit was later picked up and prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice. In the False Claims Act complaints filed in the U.S. District Court in Columbia, S.C., the whistle-blower and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) alleged that Tuomey had contracts with physicians that were illegally overpaid by Tuomey. This was alleged to be in exchange for their exclusively referring patients to Tuomey’s hospital, thus violating the Stark Law. Billings for referrals from those physicians allegedly constituted false claims as a result of this.

Novel Theory Used to Obtain Large Recovery

This was a novel theory to pursue in a qui tam or whistle-blower case because it was not based directly on submission of false claims. Instead it put forth the theory that the claims were false because they violated the anti-referral provisions of the Stark Act.

In March 2010, a jury found that Tuomey had not violated the False Claims Act but did find Tuomey guilty of committing Stark Law violations. (Note: The Stark Act does not establish a private cause of action for plaintiff to recover civil damages.) This jury verdict was set aside by the judge and a new trial regarding the False Claims Act allegations was granted. Under the lower court’s decision, Tuomey was still required to repay the government $44.9 million in Medicare payments that were allegedly received through physician contracts that violated the Stark Law.  This was the part of the verdict that was not set aside by the trial court.

However, according to the opinion of the appeals court, when the district court set aside the jury’s verdict, it specifically ordered that the new trial would encompass the whole False Claims Act matter, including whether Tuomey had violated the Stark Law. This nullified the jury’s interrogatory answer (part of the verdict it returned) regarding the Stark Law. Thus, when the district court ordered Tuomey to repay the government for violating the Stark Law, it denied Tuomey of its right to a jury trial.

Two Major Stark Issues Discussed

The appeals court also addressed two major Stark Law issues that were raised on appeal and are likely to recur on remand. The first issue is whether the facility component of the services performed by the physicians, for which Tuomey billed a facility fee to Medicare, constituted a “referral” within the meaning of the Stark Law. The court used the Health Care Financing Administration’s (now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) final rule on referrals (66 Fed. Reg. 856, 941, Jan. 4, 2001) to conclude that the facility/technical component of the physician’s personally performed services does constitute a referral.

The second issue was the correct standard to use. Having decided that the physicians were making referrals to Tuomey, the appeals court then examined if an arrangement that takes into account anticipated referrals violate the Stark Act’s “volume or value standards.” The “volume or value standards” require that compensation must be calculated in a way that does not take into account the volume or value of referrals between the parties.

Fair Market Value Standard

Additionally, Stark Act requires that whatever financial relationship exists reflects “fair market value.” Stark defines “fair market value” as compensation that “has not been determined in any manner that takes into account the volume or value of anticipated or actual referrals”(42 C.F.R. § 411.351). Thus, the court concluded that compensation based on the volume or value of anticipated referrals does implicate the volume or value standard. The court left it to the jury to decide if Tuomey’s contracts violated the fair market value standard.

$50 Million May be Returned to Tuomey

The government has 45 days from the date of the decision to request a rehearing. If it doesn’t, the matter goes back to the South Carolina federal district court where it was originally decided. Tuomey can then request the money that it had set aside to pay the government back, $50 million according to it, to be released to the health system.

Tuomey Issues Press Release

In a press release dated March 31, 2012 (Press Release), signed by Jay Cox, its President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tuomey Healthcare System stated:

The 4th Circuit has issued an opinion in favor of Tuomey on our appeal. We are pleased that the 4th Circuit Court has decided that the District Court’s judgment violated Tuomey’s Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial, and vacated (reversed) the $50 million judgment against Tuomey Healthcare System.

*          *          *

As the Court of Appeals said in the opinion: “The whole case, including the issues of fact at the former trial is open for hearing and determination.” This includes the incorrect finding by the first jury that Tuomey violated the Stark Law. Again, we are pleased with this news and we will keep you posted as we learn more.

Setback to Plaintiff’s Qui Tam Bar?

The original decision in Tuomey had encouraged plaintiff’s attorneys who take whistle-blower cases in health care matters and had alarmed health care systems across the country.  Although this does not eliminate the ability to use Stark Act violations as the basis for False Claims Act recoveries, it does indicate that the courts will require strict pleading, proof and procedural rules before it does allow this.

Sources Include:

Blesch, Gregg, “Appeals Court Overturns Order for S.C. Hospital to Pay $45 Million in Stark Case,” Modern Healthcare (Apr. 1, 2012). From:
http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20120401/NEWS/304019973/appeals-court-overturns-order-for-s-c-hospital-to-pay-45-million-in#

Cheung, Karen M., “Federal Appeals Court Overturns $45M Stark Ruling,” FierceHealthcare (Apr. 2, 2012). From:
http://www.fiercehealthcare.com/story/federal-appeals-court-overturns-45m-stark-ruling/2012-04-02

Cox, Jay, “Federal Case Update,” Tuomey Healthcare System Press Release (Mar. 31, 2012).

Cox, Jay, “Federal Case Update,” Tuomey Healthcare System Press Release (Mar. 31, 2012). From: http://www.tuomey.com/Articles/federal_case_update.aspx

Davis, Caralyn, “Stark Violations: Tuomey Healthcare in South Carolina Ordered to Pay $50 Million,” FierceHealthcare (June 9, 2012). From: http://www.fiercehealthfinance.com/story/stark-violations-tuomey-healthcare-s-c-ordered-pay-50-million/2010-06-09

HHS, “Medicare and Medicaid Programs: Physicians’ Referrals to Health Care Entities With Which They Have Financial Relationships,” 66 Fed. Reg. 856, 941 (Jan. 4, 2001). From:  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2001-01-04/pdf/01-4.pdf

U.S. ex rel. Drakeford v. Tuomey Health.Sys., Inc., 4th Cir., No. 10-1819 (Mar. 30, 2012). From: http://pacer.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinion.pdf/101819.P.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.