Tag Archives: pediatrician

Physician Argues Definition of “Peer” at Formal Administrative Hearing

peer reviewFACTS: The Agency for Health Care Administration (“AHCA”) is responsible for administering Florida’s Medicaid program and conducting investigations and audits of paid claims to ascertain if Medicaid providers have been overpaid. With regard to investigations of physicians, section 409.9131, Florida Statutes, provides that AHCA must have a “peer” evaluate Medicaid claims before the initiation of formal proceedings by AHCA to recover overpayments. Section 409.9131(2)(c) defines a “peer” as “a Florida licensed physician who is, to the maximum extent possible, of the same specialty or subspecialty, licensed under the same chapter, and in active practice.” Section “109.9131(2)(a) deems a physician to be in “active practice” if he or she has “regularly provided medical care and treatment to patients within the past two years.”

Alfred Murciano, M.D., treats patients who are hospitalized in Level III neonatal intensive care units and pediatric intensive care units in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County hospitals. His practice is limited to pediatric infectious disease. He has been certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in two areas: General Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases. AHCA initiated a review of Medicaid claims submitted by Dr. Murciano between September 1, 2008, and August 31, 2010, and referred those claims to Richard Keith O’Hern, M.D., for peer review. Dr. O’Hern practiced medicine for 37 years, and was engaged in a private general pediatric practice until he retired in December of 2012. During the course of his career, he was certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in General Pediatrics, completed a one-year infectious disease fellowship at the The University of Florida, and treated approximately 16,000 babies with infectious disease issues. However, he was never board certified in pediatric infectious diseases, and at the time he reviewed Dr. Murciano’s Medicaid claims, Dr. O’Hern would have been ineligible for board certification in pediatric infectious diseases. In addition, Dr. O’Hern would have been unable to treat Dr. Murciano’s hospitalized patients in Level III NICUs and PICUs.

After Dr. O’Hern’s review, AHCA issued a Final Agency Audit Report alleging Dr Murciano had been overpaid by $l,051.992.99, and that he was required to reimburse AHCA for the overpayment. In addition, AHCA stated it was seeking to impose a fine of $210,398.60.

OUTCOME: Dr. Murciano argued at the formal administrative hearing that Dr O’Hern was not a “peer” as that term is defined in section 409.9131(20)(c). The ALJ agreed and issued a Recommended Order on May 22, 2014, recommending that AHCA’s case be dismissed because it failed to satisfy a condition precedent to initiating formal proceedings. While recognizing that AHCA is not required to retain a reviewing physician with the exact credentials as the physician under review, the ALJ concluded Dr. O’Hern was not of the same specialty as Dr. Murciano.

On July 31, 2014, AHCA rendered a Partial Final Order rejecting the ALJ’s conclusion that Dr. O’Hern was not a “peer.” In the course of ruling that it has substantive jurisdiction over such conclusions and that its interpretation of section 409.9131(2)(c), Florida Statutes, is entitled to deference, AHCA stated that it interprets the statute “to mean that the peer must practice in the same area as Respondent, hold the same professional license as Respondent, and be in active practice like Respondent.” AHCA concluded that “Dr. O’Hern is indeed a ‘peer’ of Respondent under the Agency’s interpretation of Section 409.9131(2)(c), Florida Statutes, because he too has a Florida medical license, is a pediatrician and had an active practice at the time he reviewed Respondent’s records. That Dr. O’Hern did not hold the same certification as Respondent, or have a professional practice identical to Respondent in no way means he is not a ‘peer’ of Respondent.” AHCA’s rejection of the ALJ’s conclusion of law regarding Dr. O’Hern’s “peer” status caused AHCA to remand the case back to the ALJ to make the factual findings on the claimed overpayments that were not made in the Recommended Order because of the ALJ’s conclusion that Dr. O’Hern did not qualify as a “peer.”

On August 18, 2014, the ALJ issued an Order respectfully declining AHCA’s remand. AHCA then filed a Petition for writ of Mandamus in the First District Court of Appeal, asking the court to direct the ALA to accept the remand and to enter findings of fact and conclusions of law with regard to each overpayment claim. The court assigned case number 1D14-3836 to AHCA’s Petition, and the case is pending.

AHCA v. Alfred Murciano, M.D., DOAH Case No. 13-0795MPI (Recommended Order May 22, 2014), AHCA Rendition No. 14-687-FOF-MDO (Partial Final Order July 31, 2014)
About the Author: The forgoing case summary was prepared by and appeared in the DOAH case notes of the Administrative Law Section newsletter, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Dec. 2014), a publication of the Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar.

Pediatricians Who Are Targets of Medicaid Audits Should Request Hearings on the Final Audit Report Results

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

We have recently been contacted by several pediatric practices that were subject to Medicaid audits. In several cases, the pediatricians received the final audit reports (FARs) stating that they owed Medicaid refunds, because of overbillings, in the tens of thousands of dollars.

With such demands for repayment of the alleged overpayments also come:

  1. Fines;
2. Penalties;
3. Requirements to sign agreements to refrain from such practices in the future;
4. Requirements to have personnel retrained; and
5. The specter of future audits.

In many cases, Medicare and Medicaid auditors may swiftly review supporting medical records and overlook key components that support the level of services (or CPT codes) that were billed, erroneously downgrading the code or disallowing the charge completely. Other times the pediatric or medical practice may have only provided partial records and have left out some key records that would support the codes billed.

Challenging the Determination.

Unfortunately, after receipt of the FAR, the only hope of challenging the determination would come by filing a written request or petition for a formal hearing in, specifically, a Medicaid case. In Medicare cases, other interim reviews or appeals are available.

If you have additional records you failed to provide, or if after a thorough review of the records you did provide show that all of the elements of a CPT code you billed (e.g., 99204 or 99205) were documented, then we recommend that you immediately retain the services of a board certified health lawyer experienced with Medicare and Medicaid audits to file a petition for you. Be sure a written request or petition for a formal hearing is filed within the time stated in the letter you receive, even if you must retain an attorney afterwards. Remember that the request must be in writing and must be received by the agency at the address specified before the date in the letter has passed.

You can always work out a settlement agreement, repayment agreement, or agreement for a different resolution of the situation. What you can’t do is to go back and get back your hearing rights after they have expired.

Steps to Take if you Receive Notice of an Audit.

What you should do immediately upon receiving notice of an audit:

 1. Retain the services of a board certified health lawyer who is experienced with such audits.

 2.  In a timely manner, provide all relevant documents pertaining to the audit, properly labeled and pages numbered (note:  in many instances, this may include more than just the minimum documents the audit requested).

 3. Watch for any interim, initial or preliminary audit reports (PARs), and be prepared to rebut it in detail if it requests a refund.

 4. If you receive a FAR demanding a repayment, be prepared to hire a board certified health lawyer who is experienced with such audits, if you have not already done so.

 5. If you disagree with the findings in the FAR, be sure the agency receives your request for a formal hearing to challenge the determination, prior to the date given in the FAR or demand letter.

For additional details, pointers and tips on this subject you may click here to read the prior blog we have published.

For information, details, pointers and tips on the subject of Medicare audits, you may click here to read the prior blog we have published on this.


Do you know what to do if you are the target of a Medicaid audit? Did you know about requesting a hearing on the final audit report results? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys 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.

Our attorneys also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. 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. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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

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

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

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