Selling Tobacco Can Get You Penalized By Insurance Panels

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

Beware: selling cigarettes could burn a hole in your pocket.

The CVS Health Corporation (CVS), the nation’s second-largest drug store, is currently in the midst of launching a tobacco-free prescription-drug network. The company announced in October 2014, that it will begin offering a tobacco-free pharmacy plan to employers, unions, and insurance companies for which its Caremark arm manages prescription benefits. CVS is slapping patients with an extra co-payment “penalty” if they purchase their medications from pharmacies that sell tobacco products, regardless of whether the patient is a tobacco user.

According to US News, by adding a variable co-payment of up to $15, CVS hopes that this new strategy, comparable to a narrow network insurance design, will perpetuate the company’s health-and-wellness based initiatives.

The new network will start in 2015. Customers will receive a list of participating pharmacies before any network change will take place.

Click here to read more from US News.

The Tobacco-Free Retail Trend.

Target and CVS have become the poster children for tobacco-free retailers. In 1996, Target spearheaded the fight against tobacco by eliminating all sales of the toxic substance. In September 2014, the CVS Corporation followed suit and completed its tobacco-free overhaul by removing all tobacco products from store shelves across the nation.

The tobacco-free pharmacy networks would include CVS and Target nationally, as well as local or regional pharmacies such as independent pharmacies that abstain from tobacco sales. Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies, two large-scale rival drug chains that sell tobacco, as well as any other grocery or community pharmacy, should expect patient penalties and negative impacts on prescription-drug revenue.

Those Participating in the Tobacco-Free Network.

According to Yahoo! Finance, CVS representatives said the network was created in a response to pharmacy benefit management (PBM) clients that indicated interest in tobacco-free pharmacies. The tobacco-free network will only be used by the PBM customers that voluntarily participate.

The first employer to sign on is the city of Philadelphia, as it promotes a tobacco-free workforce. Philadelphia officials estimate that between 150 and 200 CVS pharmacies will participate in the Philadelphia network.

To read more on this topic from Yahoo! Finance, click here.

Sincere Motives or a Monopoly in the Making?

There are a myriad of arguments regarding CVS’ genuine motive behind the tobacco-free network. Health benefit analysts argue that the network is a disguised anti-competition scheme. With the announcement of the new network plan, CVS opens itself up to criticism for appearing to steer patients to CVS pharmacies, or strong arm the competition into giving up lucrative tobacco revenue. Although the corporation denies these claims of ulterior motives, Dave Balto, a former policy director at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission argued that “…It’s really another effort to limit the ability of their rivals to effectively compete.”

Independent pharmacies are also questioning the industry benefits of such a plan. Small, local pharmacies that have not carried tobacco products for years may be overlooked by the consumers knowingly aware of CVS as a tobacco-free drug store. These mom-and-pop pharmacies will be forced to spend a pretty penny on increased marketing to stand on their own two feet against these mass retail chains.

The Narrow Network Comparison.

Many critics argue that the new CVS plan could be considered a narrow network strategy. A narrow network applies to any health insurance plan that places constraints on doctors and hospitals that are available to their beneficiaries. Typically plans will not cover medical services received out-of-network or they will increase co-payments.

These designs are becoming more common for insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers. By limiting the choices, insurers say they can better focus on the quality of medical care that is delivered to plan customers.

Comments?

What is your opinion of the new CVS tobacco-free network plan? Do you think it will be beneficial for overall community health or more detrimental to the livelihood of small pharmacies? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Sources:

Silverman, Ed and Ziobro, Paul. “CVS Plays Hardball with Rival Drug Chains.” (October 20, 2014). From: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/cvs-plays-hardball-rival-drug-231400764.html

Murphy, Tom. “CVS Health Stretches Anti-tobacco Push to New Prescription Drug Network.” (October 21, 2014). From: http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2014/10/21/cvs-develops-tobacco-free-prescription-network

About the Author: Lance O. Leider 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 Ave., Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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Central Florida Doctor’s Home and Offices Raided Over Alleged Improper Prescribing Practices

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 a joint operation, law enforcement officials raided the home and two offices of a Central Florida physician on November 8, 2013, according to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office alleges that the doctor is being investigated for improper prescribing practices. According to the press release, this is not the first time the physician has been under investigation.

The raid was a collective effort between the Osceola County Investigative Bureau (OCIB), Florida Department of Health (DOH), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), and the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI).

Physician Not Arrested After Raid.

On November 8, 2013, law enforcement agents searched the physician’s home and his offices in Kissimmee, Florida and Orlando, Florida. The Florida DOH also issued an emergency order restricting the doctor’s privilege to prescribe narcotics. The physician was not arrested.

The physician was allegedly the target of two separate Florida DOH complaints in June 2013. Both complaints alleged the physician wrote prescriptions for painkillers to patients who did not have a medical need for the drugs. Click here to read the two previous complaints.

Doctor Previously Blacklisted by CVS.

According to an Orlando Sentinel article, this physician was previously placed on a CVS document referred to as the “blacklist.” This list identifies Central Florida’s top physicians prescribing oxycodone. When the list was released, the pharmacy chain notified the physicians that CVS pharmacists would no longer fill their patients’ prescriptions. This blacklist was an effort by CVS to step up internal efforts to combat the nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic. So far, CVS has released two blacklists, one was released in November 2011, and the second list was released in August 2013. You can read more about the two lists on our blog. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

To read the Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

Florida Losing War on Prescription Drug Abuse.

Despite the aggressive “war on prescription drugs” the Sunshine State reportedly ranks eleventh highest nationally in drug overdose deaths.

I have represented a number of physicians who have been accused of “overprescribing.” Some of these were criminal investigations by local law enforcement authorities, such as a county sheriff’s office. Some were investigations by the DEA. Some were investigations by the state licensing agency such as the Florida DOH. To read a previous blog, “Legal Tips for Physicians to Manage Pain Patients,” click here.

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 Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Comments?

Do you think Florida’s war on prescription drug abuse is working? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Lizasuain, Twis. “Dr. Ibem Borges Investigated for Over Prescribing Drugs.” Osceola County Sheriff’s Public and Medica Relations. (November 8, 2013).

Pavuk, Amy. “Agents Raid Home, Offices of Central Florida Physician Suspected of Improper Prescribing Practices.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 8, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-doctor-ibem-borges-raid-20131108,0,735835.story

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

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

CVS Blacklists Second Set of Doctors Accused of Overprescribing Painkillers

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

CVS is again stepping up its own internal efforts to combat the nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic. According to Reuters, the second largest retail pharmacy chain announced it is cutting off access to the most powerful painkillers for more than 36 doctors and health care providers around the country. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been keeping a close eye on CVS over the past few years. According to Reuters, CVS began revoking the dispensing privileges of certain providers back in 2011. CVS disclosed this round of suspensions on August 21, 2013.

To read the article from Reuters, click here.

CVS Closely Analyzed Prescription Practices of Health Care Providers Before Suspending Dispensing Privileges.

CVS said the suspension followed an analysis of prescriptions brought to its drugstores from March 2010 through January 2012, for painkillers such as oxycondone, hydrocodone, and methadone, according to Reuters. CVS said it first identified several dozen health care providers, from its database of nearly one million, with “extreme” patters of prescribing high-risk drugs. CVS allegedly compared their prescription rates to other providers in the same specialty and geographic region, the ages of the patients, and the number of patients paying with cash for the drugs.

After analyzing the results, CVS said the company’s stores and mail-order pharmacy will no longer dispense controlled substances for 36 providers who it said could not justify their prescribing habits, according to the Orlando Sentinel. CVS did not disclose the names or location of the physicians blacklisted this time around.

Click here to read the Orlando Sentinel article.

Second Time CVS Has Blacked Listed Specific Doctors.

In November 2011, at least 22 Central Florida doctors received an unsigned letter from CVS telling them that the company’s pharmacists would no longer fill prescriptions they write for painkillers and other powerful drugs. The letter was called a “blacklist” and was criticized as discriminatory. One Orlando doctor tried to fight back with legal action, claiming that CVS basically called him a criminal. To read more on the previous blacklist, click here to read my blog.

So far, we have not heard of any legal action pending against CVS from providers recently added to the blacklist.

DEA Previously Pulled Controlled Substance Licenses from Two Sanford, Florida, CVS Pharmacies.

As previously stated, the DEA has had its eyes on CVS for a while. You may remember that in September 2012, the DEA revoked the registrations (controlled substance licenses) from two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. I previously wrote about this, click here to read that blog.

Who is Responsible for the Prescription Drug Epidemic?

The act of prescribing powerful, and sometimes deadly, addictive drugs inappropriately for a health care provider’s personal gain has grown. It’s argued that pharmacies have a role to play in the oversight of controlled substance prescriptions. Pharmacists, as well as physicians and all health care providers, have an ethical (and legal duty) to ensure that a prescription for a controlled substance is appropriate.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents physicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies.
If you are aware of an investigation of you or your practice, or if you have been contacted by the DEA or DOH, contact an experienced health law attorney immediately.

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

Comments?

What do you think of CVS’ ban on filling controlled substance prescriptions from certain doctors? Do you think this will help with the national prescription drug abuse epidemic? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “CVS Cracks Down on Doctors with ‘Extreme Patters’ of Prescribing High-Risk Drugs.” Orlando Sentinel. (August 29, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-cvs-crackdown-doctors-20130829,0,5193527.story?dssReturn

Wohl, Jessica. “CVS Cuts Access to Opiod Pain-Killers for Suspect Doctors.” Reuters. (August 21, 2013). From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/21/us-cvscaremark-painkillers-idUSBRE97K17120130821

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.

CVS Has Allegedly Been Refilling Prescriptions and Submitting Insurance Claims Without Patients’ Permission

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

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has reportedly launched an investigation into CVS’ practice for refilling prescriptions. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, authorities are looking into reports that CVS has been refilling prescriptions and submitting insurance claims without patients’ permission. The Los Angeles Times article, released October 12, 2012, names an official with knowledge of this matter as the source.

We want to emphasize that this is from an unconfirmed news story. The government rarely announces investigations of specific subjects ahead of time.

Click here to read the entire article from the Los Angeles Times.

CVS Has Not Been Notified of Prescription Refill Investigation.

A related article in Reuters states that CVS said it has not been contacted by the government about the investigation. The pharmacy also said, as a policy, the company does not condone unauthorized refills. Officials said to allow unauthorized prescription refills could be considered insurance fraud, especially if insurers weren’t refunded for any drugs rejected by patients.

The probe might be, in part, related to the programs offered by many drugstores that allows a pharmacy to refill prescriptions even before a refill request has been made by the patient.

Click here to read the entire article from Reuters.

So far there is no news from the OIG for the HHS officially confirming this investigation.

Tempest in a Teapot?

It is unclear to me why there would be any cause to investigate CVS, if Medicare was not being billed until the customer actually picked up the prescription. If the customer fails to pickup the prescription, every drug store I know of restocks the medication after a short period and no one is ever billed for it. It seems that it would be a quick and simple matter for the OIG to check this.

Furthermore, it could also be argued that CVS actually is promoting good health by this practice. Patients may forget to renew or refill their prescriptions or may fail to notice they are running low.

Two Central Florida CVS Stores Get Controlled Substance Licenses Revoked by DEA.

On September 12, 2012, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) revoked the registrations (controlled substance licenses) from two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. The two pharmacies are no longer able to fill prescriptions for drugs such as oxycodone, Dilaudid, Vicodin, Ritalin and Xanax. This decision was in response to a government crackdown on the distribution of painkillers. Click here to read a blog on this story.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Comments?

What do you think of this story? Do you think CVS is doing anything wrong? How is this any different from the practice of many managed care plans mailing out 90 days of medications to its patients at a time? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Lazarus, David. “CVS Caremark Prescription Refills Under Scrutiny, Source Says.” Los Angeles Times. (October 12, 2012). From: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lazarus-20121012,0,1032269.column

Alawadhi, Neha, Wohl, Jessica, and Morgan, David. “CVS Unaware of Any Government Prescription Refill Probe.” Reuters. (October 12, 2012). From: http://www.reuters.com/assets/print?aid=USBRE89B19520121012

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

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

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