Tag Archives: pain management clinics

Beware of These Illegal Business Arrangements in Healthcare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beware of Scams to Avoid the Law.

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

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

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

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

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

There are Many Illegal Situations Which Carry Heavy Consequences.

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

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

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

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

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


What do you think about this blog? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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

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

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

From the DOH: Attention Pain-Management Clinics

From the Florida Department of Health:

Florida law requires pain-management clinics report specific data to the Board of Medicine.  The designated physician shall report on a quarterly basis the following data:

a.  The number of new and repeat patients seen and treated at the clinic who are prescribed controlled substance medications for the treatment of chronic, nonmalignant pain.

b.  The number of patients discharged due to drug abuse.

c.  The number of patients discharged due to drug diversion.

d.  The number of patients treated at the pain clinic whose domicile is located somewhere other

Your next reporting period is the month of October and you will be reporting for the period July 1, 2011 – September 30, 2011.

Your first reporting period is the month of October and you will be reporting for the period July 1, 2011 – September 30, 2011.
New Service Available for Data Reporting

We have now made data reporting easy for you with an online service.  Simply follow these steps:

  • Go to http://www.doh.state.fl.us/mqa/index.html
  • Click on Login on the right side of the screen
  • The Designated Physician will login under his/her user id and pass code (same one used to renew medical license).  If the physician does not remember the user name or password, have him/her go to the login web page.  From there, the physician will select Get Login Help.  If the physician is still unable to get logged in, then have him/her call (850) 488-0595 for assistance.
  • Once logged in, select the clinic data will be reported for and follow the online instructions to input the data.
  • Be sure to print your submission when prompted.

Recent changes to Section 458.3265 and Section 459.0137(2)(e), Florida Statutes, which became effective July 1,2011, require Medical and Osteopathic physicians to advise the Board of Medicine within 10 calendar days of beginning or ending practice at a pain-management clinic.

We have made this easy for your physicians.  By going to www.doh.state.fl.us/mqa physicians can login to Medical Quality Assurance Online Services and create a relationship with your clinic.

Simply have the physician login using his/her user name and password (same one used to renew the medical license ).  If the physician does not remember the user name or password, have him/her go to the login web page.  From there, the physician will select Get Login Help.  If the physician is still unable to get logged in, then have him/her call (850) 488-0595 for assistance.

Once logged in, follow these instructions to establish the relationship between the physician and the pain-management clinic:

  • Select Maintain Related Licenses from the list on the left hand side of the screen
  • Complete the online instructions for adding (or deleting) relationships
  • Be sure to print the page when you are done for your records

At any time, the physician may use the View Relationship Summary located on the same web page to see a list of all relationships.

In Brief: Florida Pain Management Clinic Laws

Every health profession has its own set of rules and regulations. This week, we’re examining Florida laws under which pain management clinics operate.

Because Florida has one of the worst drug trafficking problems in the country, law enforcement is making sure that punishments for any violations are severe. For example, if a patient dies of drug overdose and the prescriber is found to be responsible, he or she can be charged with homicide, which was the case for a Palm Beach County pain management physician (see this New York Times article).

The DEA, Florida Department of Health and Florida law enforcement are watching pain management clinics very closely in order to keep Florida’s drug trafficking problem under control. Make sure that your clinic abides by the following legislation, in order to prevent any interference with your practice.

The 2011 Florida Statutes

Section 458.3265, F.S.:

Definition of Pain Management Clinic:

Pain-management clinic” or “clinic” means any publicly or privately owned facility:
(I) That advertises in any medium for any type of pain-management services; or
(II) Where in any month a majority of patients are prescribed opioids, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, or carisoprodol for the treatment of chronic nonmalignant pain.


Every pain-management clinic must register with the Florida Department of Health UNLESS:

1. That clinic is licensed as a facility pursuant to chapter 395;

2. The majority of the physicians who provide services in the clinic primarily provide surgical services;

3. The clinic is owned by a publicly held corporation whose shares are traded on a national exchange or on the over-the-counter market and whose total assets at the end of the corporation’s most recent fiscal quarter exceeded $50 million;

4. The clinic is affiliated with an accredited medical school at which training is provided for medical students, residents, or fellows;

5. The clinic does not prescribe controlled substances for the treatment of pain;

6. The clinic is owned by a corporate entity exempt from federal taxation under 26 U.S.C. s. 501(c)(3);

7. The clinic is wholly owned and operated by one or more board-certified anesthesiologists, physiatrists, or neurologists; or

8. The clinic is wholly owned and operated by one or more board-certified medical specialists who have also completed fellowships in pain medicine approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, or who are also board-certified in pain medicine by a board approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties and perform interventional pain procedures of the type routinely billed using surgical codes.

Physician Responsibilities:

1. A physician may not practice medicine in a pain-management clinic, if the pain-management clinic is not registered with the department. Any physician who qualifies to practice medicine in a pain-management clinic pursuant to rules adopted by the Board of Medicine as of July 1, 2012, may continue to practice medicine in a pain-management clinic as long as the physician continues to meet the qualifications set forth in the board rules. A physician who violates this paragraph is subject to disciplinary action by his or her appropriate medical regulatory board.

2. A person may not dispense any medication on the premises of a registered pain-management clinic unless he or she is a physician licensed under this chapter or chapter 459.

3. A physician, a physician assistant, or an advanced registered nurse practitioner must perform a physical examination of a patient on the same day that the physician prescribes a controlled substance to a patient at a pain-management clinic. If the physician prescribes more than a 72-hour dose of controlled substances for the treatment of chronic nonmalignant pain, the physician must document in the patient’s record the reason for prescribing that quantity.

4. A physician authorized to prescribe controlled substances who practices at a pain-management clinic is responsible for maintaining the control and security of his or her prescription blanks and any other method used for prescribing controlled substance pain medication. The physician shall comply with the requirements for counterfeit-resistant prescription blanks in s. 893.065 and the rules adopted pursuant to that section. The physician shall notify, in writing, the department within 24 hours following any theft or loss of a prescription blank or breach of any other method for prescribing pain medication.

5. The designated physician of a pain-management clinic shall notify the applicable board in writing of the date of termination of employment within 10 days after terminating his or her employment with a pain-management clinic that is required to be registered. Each physician practicing in a pain-management clinic shall advise the Board of Medicine, in writing, within 10 calendar days after beginning or ending his or her practice at a pain-management clinic.

6. Each physician practicing in a pain-management clinic is responsible for ensuring compliance with facility and physical operations requirements


1. The department shall inspect the pain-management clinic annually, including a review of the patient records, to ensure that it complies with this section and the rules of the Board of Medicine.

2. During an onsite inspection, the department shall make a reasonable attempt to discuss each violation with the owner or designated physician of the pain-management clinic before issuing a formal written notification.

3. Any action taken to correct a violation shall be documented in writing by the owner or designated physician of the pain-management clinic and verified by followup visits by departmental personnel.

Penalties and Enforcement:

1. The department may impose an administrative fine on the clinic of up to $5,000 per violation for violating the requirements of this section; chapter 499, the Florida Drug and Cosmetic Act; 21 U.S.C. ss. 301-392, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; 21 U.S.C. ss. 821 et seq., the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act; chapter 893, the Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act; or the rules of the department. In determining whether a penalty is to be imposed, and in fixing the amount of the fine, the department shall consider the following factors:

  • The gravity of the violation, including the probability that death or serious physical or emotional harm to a patient has resulted, or could have resulted, from the pain-management clinic’s actions or the actions of the physician, the severity of the action or potential harm, and the extent to which the provisions of the applicable laws or rules were violated.
  • What actions, if any, the owner or designated physician took to correct the violations.
  • Whether there were any previous violations at the pain-management clinic.
  • The financial benefits that the pain-management clinic derived from committing or continuing to commit the violation.

2. Each day a violation continues after the date fixed for termination of the violation as ordered by the department constitutes an additional, separate, and distinct violation.

3. The department may impose a fine and, in the case of an owner-operated pain-management clinic, revoke or deny a pain-management clinic’s registration, if the clinic’s designated physician knowingly and intentionally misrepresents actions taken to correct a violation.

4. An owner or designated physician of a pain-management clinic who concurrently operates an unregistered pain-management clinic is subject to an administrative fine of $5,000 per day.

5. If the owner of a pain-management clinic that requires registration fails to apply to register the clinic upon a change of ownership and operates the clinic under the new ownership, the owner is subject to a fine of $5,000.

For more information about Florida pain management clinics, visit www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

New Florida Drug Database Aimed at Preventing Drug Abuse

Recently, Florida pharmacists, physicians and pain management clinics have received negative attention over frequent Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids. Now, Florida is once again in the spotlight as the state has launched a drug database in an attempt to reduce drug abuse perpetuated by visits to the doctor.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, this database will allow physicians and pharmacists to review a patient’s prescription history before issuing prescriptions for painkillers like OxyContin and other powerful drugs.

These preventative measures are not new to Florida health care providers. After garnering a reputation for frequent drug trafficking, proliferated by pain management clinics, the state passed legislation banning many doctors from dispensing dangerous controlled substances in their offices.

Currently, use of the database is not mandatory, but legislators are hoping to make it a requirement in the future. Both the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association are urging members to retrieve information from the database before writing prescriptions.

With this new database, physicians, pharmacists and pain management clinics can help prevent visits from the DEA and Department of Health (DOH). Instead of writing prescriptions for powerful painkillers every time a patient comes calling, doctors can now judge whether a patient is really in need or abusing drugs. Being able to see every instance that a patient has filled a prescription for drugs like OxyContin and Valium will allow physicians and pharmacists to understand the whole picture If a patient is shopping around for drugs, it will be made apparent.

Keep the DEA from your practice by taking every precaution, including querying the database before writing or administering a prescription. For more information on DEA cases see this article about defending yourself in the event of an investigation. Pharmacists can learn about more legal matters concerning their profession here.