Massachusetts Mental Health Centers Submitted False Claims According to Suit

7 Indest-2008-4By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On January 5, 2018, the state of Massachusetts lodged a False Claims Act (FCA) suit in federal court against the operators of a number of mental health centers. In the suit, it is alleged that they improperly billed the state Medicaid program for services provided by unlicensed, unqualified and unsupervised employees.

The complaint seeks to recover MassHealth’s payments to South Bay Mental Health Center Inc. and its subsequent owners for claims they knew were false. Allegedly, they billed for services provided by unlicensed social workers who weren’t properly supervised even though it violated statutory and regulatory requirements.

The Complaint.

The complaint alleges that from at least August 2009 to the present, defendant South Bay failed to comply with applicable statutes and regulations regarding licensure and supervision requirements for staff. Additionally, the centers allegedly employ a number of staff therapists and clinic directors who aren’t licensed as social workers or mental health counselors. Unlicensed social workers can provide mental health services to MassHealth members as long as they are supervised by an independently licensed clinical social worker. This was not the case for the vast majority of South Bay’s unlicensed therapists, the complaint alleges.

The filing continues, “As a result of the noncompliance, from at least August 2009 to the present, defendant South Bay, either with actual knowledge or deliberate ignorance of or reckless disregard for the truth, submitted or caused to be submitted false claims for services to the MassHealth program in violation of [the Massachusetts False Claims Act].”

According to the suit, South Bay could have ensured that the staff at each center was properly credentialed during the hiring process and made sure that workers who needed supervision had it, but the company declined to do so.

The suit was originally brought forth in 2015 by relator Christine Martino-Fleming, who served as coordinator of staff development and training at South Bay. South Bay fired her in September 2014 after she raised concerns about the company’s regulatory violations, according to court documents.

Here is the complaint in full for Christine Martino-Fleming v South Bay Mental Health Centers, et al.

There have been an increasing number of Medicare and Medicaid audits being initiated against psychologists and other mental health professionals.
To gain more insight on these types of audits click the link above to read one of my prior blogs.

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm represent physicians, nurses and other health professionals who desire to file a False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) case. This case just shows that even physicians can and should bring such claims and be rewarded for their whistle blowing activities. However, the attorneys of The Health Law Firm also defend physicians, medical groups and health facilities who have been sued in False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) cases or have had administrative or civil complaints filed against them to recover civil monetary penalties. 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 whistle blower 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.

Sources:

Posses, Shayna. “Mental Health Centers Submitted False Claims, Mass. Says.” Law360. (January 5, 2017). Web.

Foley, Elizabeth. “Supreme Court to Decide What Qualifies as “False” under the False Claims Act.” Barrett and Singal Law Firm. (January 8, 2018). Web.

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.

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Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved

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Mentally Ill Inmate Gouges Out Own Eyes, Sues County for Negligence

7 Indest-2008-4By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 7, 2017, a mentally ill inmate in the Boulder, Colorado, jail sued a sheriff in federal court, claiming that the jail staff failed to stop the man from using his fingers to gouge out his own eyes after several prior attempts to do so. The inmate sued the sheriff and 21 other jail employees in U.S. District Court in Denver. He claimed that he blinded himself because they failed to heed warning signs to treat his mental illness, according to the civil lawsuit filed by his Denver civil rights attorneys.

Inmate Negligence.

The inmate, who is now blind and suffers from deep, severe schizophrenic psychosis, is seeking monetary awards for negligence, including compensatory damages for physical and psychological injuries including pain and emotional distress and humiliation. He suffers from auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions and paranoia, according to the lawsuit.

On December 17, 2016, the inmate curled up in a ball in his cell with fingernails that hadn’t been cut for six weeks and plucked both of his eyes “completely out of his head,” the lawsuit says. The lawsuit also says jailers failed to respond to a series of precursor events in which the inmate said he would gouge his eyes out. In early 2016, he banged his head into his toilet, breaking seven teeth, the lawsuit says. Additionally, there were several prior attempts by the inmate to committed suicide.

Shane McGurk, the jail’s mental health program director, sought an emergency court order to get him psychiatric treatment. The judge ordered deputies to immediately take him to get psychiatric treatment. However, according to the lawsuit, the orders were ignored and the “Defendants’ willful and deliberate indifference to the inmate’s serious medical needs directly led to his self-mutilation, head and vertebrae injury, broken teeth and ultimately, to his permanent blindness.”

The jail failed to properly train officers in how to care for a mentally ill inmate, the lawsuit said.

This is not the first time an inmate or their families have sued for improper care during incarceration. Click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar case.

It is an unfortunate reality that our society today tends to ignore citizens with true and severe mental health illnesses, choosing to treat them as criminals, instead. Instead of allocating funds for treatment, acting in a preventative manner, it prefers to spend the money for prisons and paying for incarceration. This is a complete shame. This poor, mentally ill individual suffers the consequences. Unfortunately, the officials who run our jails and prisons also suffer by being the treater of last resort, which is grossly unfair to them, as well. Our jail and prison officials should have a “safety relief valve” available to them where they can divert individuals who have been incarcerated because of their mental illnesses and obtain appropriate treatment for them.

Providing Representation For All Health Care Professionals.

Our firm has represented a number of nurses, physicians and other health care professionals who provide care in jails and prisons, as well as in other government facilities and institutions. We routinely represent physicians, nurses and advance practice nurses who work for the VA, the Department of Health, the county, the military, the Indian Health Service and other government agencies. Although government employees may have personal immunity from civil suits, they are not protected against termination and other employment actions, complaints against their professional license, National Practitioner Data Bank reports, and other types of administrative actions; our firm represents them in all of these. The government is not going to represent you in these. Call us at the first sign of a legal problem.

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

Sources:

Mitchell, Kirk. “Mentally Ill inmate sues for negligence.” The Denver Post. (December 8, 2017). Web.

Mitchell, Kirk. “Psychotic Boulder jail inmate gouges out own eyes, sues county for negligence.” The Denver Post. (December 7, 2017). Web.

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: Legal representation for government physicians, legal representation for government nurses, legal representation for mental health professionals, mental health defense attorney, legal representation of mental health counselors, mental health counselor defense attorney, legal defense of professional licensure cases, legal representation for Board of Nursing cases, legal representation for Board of Medicine cases, Board of Nursing investigation defense attorney, legal representation for peer review, legal representation for administrative actions, legal representation for health care professionals, legal representation for psychiatrists, psychiatrists defense attorney, defense counsel for mental health professionals, health care lawyer, The Health Law Firm reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Pennsylvania Nursing Home Settles Wrongful Death Suit, Agrees to Pay $800,000

7 Indest-2008-4By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 21, 2017, the Devereux Foundation in Philadelphia, agreed to pay $800,000 to end a wrongful death suit against staff at The Devereux Pocono Center. The suit accused staff at the organization’s residential behavioral health facility in northeast Pennsylvania of failing to recognize symptoms of an infection in a developmentally disabled resident.

Details of the Wrongful Death Suit.

The family of Megan Ramsey, who died in the care of the Devereux Pocono Center in July 2014, asked a Pennsylvania federal judge to sign off on the settlement to end allegations that staff failed to detect symptoms of a perforated bowel and infection. According to court records, the patient had suffered from a rare genetic disorder known as Cornelia de Lange syndrome. Her symptoms included slow growth, small stature, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and issues with behavior and communication.

In July 2014, Ramsey complained of shoulder pain, a symptom of bowel perforation, according to the complaint. She was administered a pain reliever and observed to be uncharacteristically irritable and aggressive and was treated with doses of an anti-anxiety medication, the suit said. Ramsey asked staff members to be taken to the hospital. A residential manager at the facility, however, said only to monitor her closely, offer her fluids, and advise nursing staff of any worsening of her symptoms.

She was found dead the next morning.

The Settlement.

The patient’s family filed a pretrial memorandum in September 2017, in which investigations by state agencies resulted in findings of neglect, intentional or reckless failure to provide treatment, and intentional use of a chemical restraint or isolation.

The settlement of $800,000 includes fees for the plaintiff’s counsel of just under $267,000, the filing said. Click here to read the settlement in full.

To read one of my prior blogs about a similar case involving 14 deaths at a Florida nursing home, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Nursing Home Cases.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent nursing homes, nursing home employees, mental health facilities and mental health professionals, including psychologists, social workers and mental health counselors, in a number of different matters including incorporation, preparing contracts, defending the facility against malpractice claims, licensing and regulatory matters, administrative hearings, and routine legal advice.

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

Sources:

Fair, Matt. “Pa. Nursing Home Settles Patient Death Suit.” Law360. (December 21, 2017). Web.

The Meyer Law Firm. “Wrongful Death in Nursing Homes.” NursingHomeAbuseGuide.org. (December 22, 2017). Web.

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: Legal representation for nursing home, nursing home defense attorney, legal representation for home health care facilities, home health care defense attorney, legal representation for health care facilities, health care facilities defense attorney, legal representation for American Health Care Association (AHCA) investigations, legal representation for nurses, legal representation for physicians, legal representation for licensure issues, legal representation for U.S. Department of Health (DOH) investigations, employment law defense attorney, legal representation for employment issues, legal representation for patient negligence, legal representation for health care negligence, legal representation for wrongful death suits, legal representation for wrongful death allegations, wrongful death suit defense attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, health law defense attorney, mental health facility defense counsel, mental health professional defense attorney, psychologist defense counsel and legal representation, social worker legal counsel and mental health counselor defense attorney

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

The 20 Major Mistakes Physicians Make After Being Notified of a Department of Health Investigation

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

The investigation of a complaint which could lead to the revocation of a physician’s license to practice, usually starts with a simple letter from the Department of Health (DOH). This is a very serious legal matter and it should be treated as such by the physician who receives it. Yet, in many cases, attorneys are consulted by physicians after the entire investigation is over and the damage is already done. Often, the mistakes that have been made severely compromise an attorney’s ability to achieve a favorable result for the physician.

These are the ten biggest mistakes we see in the physician cases we are called upon to defend after a Department of Health investigation of them is commenced:

1. Contacting the Department of Health (DOH) investigator and providing him/her an oral statement or oral interview.

2. Making a written statement in response to the “invitation” extended by the DOH investigator to do so.

3. Providing a copy of their curriculum vitae (CV) or resume to the investigator because the investigator requested them to do so.

4. Believing that if they “just explain it” the investigation will be closed and the case dropped.

5. Failing to submit a timely objection to a DOH subpoena, when there is a subpoena, and there are valid grounds to do so (e.g., patient does not want records released, patient privacy).

6. Failing to forward a complete copy of the patient medical record when subpoenaed by the DOH investigator as part of the investigation, when no objection is going to be filed.

7. Delegating the task of providing a complete copy of the patient medical record to office staff, resulting in an incomplete or partial copy being provided.

8. Failing to keep an exact copy of any document, letter or statement provided to the investigator.

9. Believing that the investigator has knowledge or experience in the medical or health care matters being investigated.

10. Believing that the investigator is merely attempting to ascertain the truth of the matter and, if the truth is known, this will result in the matter being dismissed.

11. Failing to check to see if their medical malpractice insurance carrier will pay the legal fees to defend them in this investigation.

12. Believing that because they haven’t heard anything for six or eight months (or even years in some instances) that the matter has “gone away.”

13. Believing that the case is indefensible so there is no reason to even try to advocate for getting it dismissed.

14. Failing to submit a written request to the investigator at the beginning of the investigation for a copy of the complete investigation report and file and then following up with additional requests until it is received.

15. Failing to exercise the right of submitting documents, statements, and expert opinions to rebut the findings made in the investigation report before the case is submitted to the Probable Cause Panel of the Board of Medicine for a decision.

16. Taking legal advice from their non-lawyer colleagues regarding what they should do in defending themselves in the investigation.

17. Attempting to defend themselves without the assistance of an attorney.

18. Believing that, because they know someone on (or previously on) the Board of Medicine, with the Department of Health or a state legislator, that influence can be exerted to have the case dismissed.

19. Providing copies of medical records to the DOH Investigator and signing a “Certificate of Completeness” so that the DOH can use these against them in its future disciplinary proceedings against them.

20. Failing to immediately retain the services of a health care attorney who is experienced in such matters to represent them and to communicate with the DOH investigator for them.

The key to a successful outcome in all of these cases is to obtain the assistance of a health care lawyer who is experienced in appearing before the Board of Medicine in such cases and does so on a regular basis.

To learn more about how The Health Law Firm can assist you if you are being investigated by the DOH, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Investigations of Physicians.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to osteopathic physicians in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.  To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or 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.

KeyWords: Legal representation for Department of Health (DOH) investigations, DOH attorney, DOH investigation attorney, DOH defense attorney, Legal representation for DOH complaints, legal representation for licensure issues, legal representation for health care professionals, DOH complaint attorney, legal representation for Board of Medicine investigations, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine investigation attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, legal representation for Board of Medicine complaints, legal representation for licensure issues, legal representation for physicians, Board of Medicine complaint attorney, health law attorney, health law defense attorney, legal representation for physicians, doctor attorney, legal representation for complaints against physicians, The Health Law Firm, Florida health law defense attorney, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Recommendations For Physicians Who Receive Notice of Investigation From the ABIM

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

In 2010, the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) sanctioned 139 physicians for seeking out and sharing board examination questions with a testing preparation company. For the physicians involved in that cheating scandal, disciplinary action taken by the ABIM included revocation of board certification or suspension of certification for one to five years, depending on the severity of the offense. The ABIM also reported these actions to state medical boards.  The ABIM routinely takes such actions against physicians, investigating any similar type of “misconduct” or “irregular behavior” which it comes across.

Recommendations to the individual physician (“Physician”)who finds himself or herself in receipt of a letter notifying of investigation or possible disciplinary action from the ABIM:

1. Retain the services of an experienced healthcare attorney who is familiar with such matters, immediately.  The American Health Lawyers Association or your state bar association are good sources.  Ask for a referral of a health lawyer who represents physicians.

2. Avoid e-mailing or discussing your situation on any listservs or blogs.  You do not know how many places such communications may wind up and your complete identity will be easily determinable.

3. Be completely candid with your attorney and reveal all facts, documents and prior communications that have occurred.  Your attorney cannot effectively represent you otherwise.

4. Do not let any deadlines go by without requesting, in writing, via a verifiable method (not e-mail) that you have requested a review, hearing, appeal or other due process rights.  “Verifiable” means sent by a method that can be tracked and receipt of which is documented (e.g., U.S. express mail with a return receipt requested, Federal Express, etc.).  It does not hurt to send by two or three different methods.

5. If there is documented proof that you have actually been involved in a compromise of the examination, sometimes it will be advisable to admit this to the committee, produce any mitigating factors, apologize and propose a less harsh sanction (note:  this will be contrary to what most defense attorneys would ordinarily recommend.)  In the face of convincing evidence that you breached the rules, this may be the most reasonable and least damaging course to pursue.  Discuss this with an experienced health care attorney first, though.

6. Review any employment contracts, independent contractor agreements, provider agreements with third-party payers and medical staff bylaws (for hospitals at which you have privilege) with your attorney to determine if you are required to report this event.

7. Advise your employer (or prospective employer) of the situation and offer to do whatever is required to help alleviate any problems this causes to your employer.

8. See if your employer (or prospective employer) would be amenable to negotiating an amendment to the terms of your employment, including different duties, more supervisory, administrative or managerial duties, lower salary, etc., if necessary.  Also consider requesting a postponement of starting date, leave of absence, sabbatical or other alternatives to full-time employment.

9. Explore charitable work and community service opportunities, such as service in community health clinics, volunteering in free/charity clinics and hospices, volunteering for overseas medical organizations such as Physicians without Borders, service in medically under served areas, and similar opportunities.  This might also serve as a basis to convince ABIM to reduce the period for retaking the exam or becoming certified.

10. Every individual, every case and every situation is unique.  You should consult with your attorney on every issue and follow his or her advice.

Recommendations to the employer or prospective employer of a Physician who has received notice from ABIM that he or she will not be certified:

1. Consult your health care attorney regarding the matter immediately.

2. If your contract with the Physician requires him or her to be board certified (as almost any well-written contract will require) and it does not appear he or she will be able to meet this requirement, this will most likely be grounds to terminate or void the contract.

3. Attempt to obtain complete information from the Physician on what his or her exact circumstances are and whether or not he or she is likely to become certified in the near future.

4. The easiest and least expensive resolution may be to terminate the Physician’s contract, if the contract provides for this.  A voluntary agreement from both parties or voluntary resignation by the employee may be the least harmful way out.  The more complex and more expensive resolution may be to negotiate an amendment to the Physician’s contract and to try to find alternative duties for the Physician.

5. If it looks like you will be terminating or voiding the contract, start looking for a replacement physician right away.  (The law requires you to mitigate your damages.)

6. If you have a medical group, use group numbers to bill third-party payers, and the physician is a member of your group or is a participating physician on the panel of the payer, review your provider contracts to determine if you must report this or take action to avoid having the payers patients treated by the physician.

To read further on the cheating scandal in 2010, click here to read my prior blog.

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, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in investigations and hearings of all types.  This includes board certification hearings, medical board hearings, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hearings, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hearings, medical staff peer review and clinical privileges hearings, FBI Investigations, DOJ Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, Medicare and Medicaid overpayment demands and hearings, and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.  We also undertake civil litigation in the same types of cases.

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.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), legal representation for ABIM investigations, legal representation for ABIM discipline, legal representation for ABIM certification, legal representation for Board representation, legal representation for Board investigations, defense attorney for Board investigations, attorney for Board representation, legal representation for medical students, legal representation for medical residents, legal representation for medical fellows, legal representation for physician employment agreement, physician employment contract attorney, legal representation for physician license revocation, licensure defense attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, health law defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews board certification hearings, medical board hearings, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hearings, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hearings, medical staff peer review and clinical privileges hearings, FBI Investigations, DOJ Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, Medicare and Medicaid overpayment demands and hearings, and other types of investigations of health professionals

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

CMS Woes: Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) Criticized for Oversight in Fraud Investigations

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

Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPIC) are private companies or business entities, that have contracted with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Their purpose is to carry out certain functions related to auditing for possible fraud, that Medicare regional carriers (now called Medicare Administrative Contractors or “MACs”) performed in the past. They are specifically charged by CMS to data mine, identify, and investigate potentially fraudulent behavior in Medicare providers.

Because of this, health care providers that receive a letter from the ZPIC often see it as a potential death sentence, and certainly an eye-opening event, because it involves investigating for fraudulent activity. However, in recent years CMS has been criticized about its oversight (actually, lack of oversight) of these fraud-detection contractors.

Taking a Closer Look at the ZPIC.

ZPIC audit letters are required to comply with regulations and guidelines established by CMS when it comes to making additional documentation requests (ADRs) for pre-payment and post-payment reviews, initiation of Medicare suspension of payments and other areas for which they have authority to investigate under the direction of CMS.

Studies have found many failures of their obligations to comply with guidelines and regulations adopted by CMS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). There has been so much concern over their borderline “unethical behavior” and violations of Medicare regulations that the United States Senate Committee on Finance, as well as the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of HHS, have both issued scathing reports on them. These reports often warn against what they see as destructive and harmful behavior toward physician practices and smaller medical businesses.

In 2012 a report was issued at the request of the Senate Finance Committee and included the following quote: “CMS and its contractors often cultivate an environment of mistrust and suspicion that all providers of certain services are inherently fraudulent. The sentiment is widely shared by anyone that has worked with CMS contractors in the area of program integrity and a similar environment is probable within the CMS Program Integrity Group. This type of environment leads investigators, contractors, and CMS to pursue providers in an aggressive manner, sometimes unfairly, based on little evidence or collaboration of any wrongdoing.”

According to the OIG: “Often the ZPIC contractors have had no experience in the areas of fraud and abuse for which they should be accountable. The result is a loss to CMS of fraud and abuse funds and providers, many of which are small – medium sized businesses, are forced to spend thousands of dollars to address unfounded audits and investigations.”

To read the OIG report to Congress in full, click here.

Make sure to visit our website’s ZPIC articles and documents section to learn more.

What To Do If You Are Notified of a ZPIC Audit.

When a physician, medical group or other health care provider receives a notice of an audit and site visit from a ZPIC, things happen fast with little opportunity to prepare. A ZPIC will routinely fax a letter to the practice shortly before the end of a business day the day before a site visit/audit to that practice. Auditors will request to inspect the premises, will photograph all rooms, equipment, furniture, and diplomas on walls. They will usually request copies of several patient records to review later. They will request copies of practice policies and procedures, treatment protocols, all staff licenses and certifications, drug formularies, medications prescribed, and medications used in the office. ZPIC auditors will inspect any medication/narcotic lockers or storage cabinets and will request drug/medication invoices and inventories. You will usually be contacted for follow-up information and documentation after the audit and will eventually be provided a report and, possibly, a demand for repayment of any detected overpayments.

For a checklist on what to do after you receive initial notification of a ZPIC audit, read our two-part blog. Click here for part one and click here for part two.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

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

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Additional Sources:

Waesch, Amanda; Cohen, Frank and Weiss, Sean. “The Truth about ZPICs – Why Oversight is Needed.” Brennan Manna & Diamond Law firm. (August 29, 2017). Web.

Carlson, Joe. “Review notes ZPIC oversight woes.” Modern Healthcare. (November 14, 2011). Web.

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.

Key Words: Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), ZPIC audit defense attorney, ZPIC defense lawyer, Medicare audit defense legal counsel, Medicare audit attorney, legal representation for ZPIC letters, legal representation for ZPIC audits, Medicare and Medicaid audits, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid audits, health care fraud defense attorney, preparing for ZPIC audit, legal representation for health care fraud, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), legal representation for CMS investigations, Office of Inspector General (OIG), health care professional defense attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, legal representation for fraud investigations, reviews for The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, additional documentation requests (ADRs) for pre-payment and post-payment reviews, initiation of Medicare suspension of payments lawyer

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

First Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Hawaii Gets Green Light From DOH

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On August 8, 2017, after waiting 17 years, Hawaii will begin dispensary sales of medical marijuana to patients. Maui Grown Therapies got the green light from the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) to begin selling medical cannabis. I know (from reliable sources, that is) that Hawaiian grown marijuana has always been a favorite with the connoisseur.

Maui Grown Therapies.

The Maui dispensary has been pre-registering patients and will begin selling medical cannabis to patients by appointment only, said Freitas Gorman, director of community relations and patient affairs. Walk-in sales will start in about a week.

In 2000, Hawaii was among the first states to legalize medical marijuana. But the state didn’t legalize dispensaries until 2015, so the state’s 18,000 patients had to grow or obtain the drug on their own.

“This is an important day for qualified patients and caregivers on Maui who now have assurance the medical cannabis they purchase at Maui Grown Therapies has been thoroughly tested and is safe for them to use,” said Virginia Pressler, director of the state Department of Health, in a statement. “Implementing a new health program is always challenging, and the dispensary program was no exception.”

To read the press release from the DOH, click here.

To read more on the status of medical marijuana in Florida, click here to read my prior blog.

To learn more about how the attorneys of The Health Law Firm can assist you in legal matters involving medical marijuana, click here.

To stay on top of medical marijuana issues, be sure to check out our Medical Marijuana Law Blog regularly.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

Sources:

Bussewitz, Cathy. “FIRST MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARY OPENING IN HAWAII.” The Associated Press. (August 8, 2017). Web.

Department of Health. “First dispensary receives approval from Department of Health to
begin sales of medical cannabis for Hawai‘i patients.” State of Hawaii, DOH. (August 8, 2017). Web.

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

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