Little Known Facts About State and DOH Investigations That Could Save Your Professional License

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

The notice that you are under investigation may seem nonthreatening. It may come in the mail, be delivered personally by an investigator or you may receive a telephone call from the investigator. This is a very serious matter for you.

Our attorneys include those who are board certified in health law by The Florida Bar, those who are nurses, and those who are themselves licensed health professionals.  Our attorneys represent health care professionals and providers at formal administrative hearings at the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH), in defense of administrative complaints and in informal hearings before the Department of Health (DOH).
The Following is a list of little known facts about state investigations (including DOH investigations) that could save your license:

1. You do not have to make any statement at all to an investigator.  The Fifth Amendment applies to administrative investigations that can affect your license in Florida.  We recommend you never speak to an investigator or make any statement.  Let your attorney do this for you.

2. You do not have to sign an affidavit that your health records are complete.  In fact, we strongly recommend against doing this.  Consult an experienced health lawyer in who has experience in litigating your type of case before signing anything.

3. If you receive a DOH subpoena for records, you do not necessarily have to provide them.  You may file an objection to producing them based on an invasion of the privacy of the patient, lack of relevance to the investigation, super-confidential medical information (including HIV/AIDS testing or information, drug or alcohol counseling or testing information, or mental health information) or other proper grounds.  In one case, our client received a subpoena for copies of her professional school records and when we checked the case number for the case in which it was issued, the case did not exist.

4. The Surgeon General (formerly known as the Secretary of the Department of Health) does not have the authority to enforce a subpoena or to issue a final order to you compelling you to respond to the subpoena.  Only a court of law with jurisdiction has the legal authority to compel you to produce records in response to a DOH subpoena.

5. If you have filed an objection to an administrative procedure, you cannot be legally charged with violating an order from the head of the agency to produce those records.  The Surgeon General (formerly known as the Secretary of the Department of Health) does not have the legal authority to enforce such subpoenas.

6. If you are facing an emergency suspension order (ESO) for certain types of misconduct (e.g., drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct, mental impairment) you may be able to submit a voluntary request/agreement to refrain from practice in the state of Florida.  This may avoid having an ESO issued, which is a public record and is published through the media.  If you have a license in another state, you may still practice in that state.

7. A voluntary relinquishment of your professional license after an investigation has begun is treated the same as a revocation of your license.  This may result in a report being made to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) or the Healthcare Integrity Procurement Data Bank (HIPDB) just the same as a revocation of your license would be (even for LPN, R.N., or ARNP).  This will then result in your exclusion from the Medicare and Medicaid Programs, and you debarment/exclusion from all government contracting or employment.

8. You do not have to report a pending DOH investigation against you to anyone.  A DOH investigation is and remains completely confidential until at least ten (10) days after there is a finding of probable cause.

9. Until there is a suspension or other final action taken against you, there is no indication on your license or in your licensure file that you are being investigated.
If you receive notice that the Department of Health (DOH) has opened an investigation against you, contact The Health Law Firm immediately, before you talk to an investigator.

To learn more about how The Health Law Firm can assist you if you find yourself in this situation, click here.

To learn more on how to protect your medical license, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals Today.

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.

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 Department of Health (DOH) investigations, legal representation for DOH complaints, licensure defense attorney, DOH defense attorney, health law defense attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, legal representation for disciplinary actions against your license, legal representation for license revocation, licensure defense attorney, administrative complaint attorney, legal representation for administrative complaints, Board of Medicine representation, legal counsel for Board representation, The Health Law Firm, health law defense attorney, Florida health law attorney, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorneys review

“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.

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Little Known Facts About State and DOH Investigations That Could Save Your Professional License

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

The notice that you are under investigation may seem nonthreatening. It may come in the mail, be delivered personally by an investigator or you may receive a telephone call from the investigator. This is a very serious matter for you.

Our attorneys include those who are board certified in health law by The Florida Bar, those who are nurses, and those who are themselves licensed health professionals.  Our attorneys represent health care professionals and providers at formal administrative hearings at the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH), in defense of administrative complaints and in informal hearings before the Department of Health (DOH).
The Following is a list of little known facts about state investigations (including DOH investigations) that could save your license:

1. You do not have to make any statement at all to an investigator.  The Fifth Amendment applies to administrative investigations that can affect your license in Florida.  We recommend you never speak to an investigator or make any statement.  Let your attorney do this for you.

2. You do not have to sign an affidavit that your health records are complete.  In fact, we strongly recommend against doing this.  Consult an experienced health lawyer in who has experience in litigating your type of case before signing anything.

3. If you receive a DOH subpoena for records, you do not necessarily have to provide them.  You may file an objection to producing them based on an invasion of the privacy of the patient, lack of relevance to the investigation, super-confidential medical information (including HIV/AIDS testing or information, drug or alcohol counseling or testing information, or mental health information) or other proper grounds.  In one case, our client received a subpoena for copies of her professional school records and when we checked the case number for the case in which it was issued, the case did not exist.

4. The Surgeon General (formerly known as the Secretary of the Department of Health) does not have the authority to enforce a subpoena or to issue a final order to you compelling you to respond to the subpoena.  Only a court of law with jurisdiction has the legal authority to compel you to produce records in response to a DOH subpoena.

5. If you have filed an objection to an administrative procedure, you cannot be legally charged with violating an order from the head of the agency to produce those records.  The Surgeon General (formerly known as the Secretary of the Department of Health) does not have the legal authority to enforce such subpoenas.

6. If you are facing an emergency suspension order (ESO) for certain types of misconduct (e.g., drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct, mental impairment) you may be able to submit a voluntary request/agreement to refrain from practice in the state of Florida.  This may avoid having an ESO issued, which is a public record and is published through the media.  If you have a license in another state, you may still practice in that state.

7. A voluntary relinquishment of your professional license after an investigation has begun is treated the same as a revocation of your license.  This may result in a report being made to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) or the Healthcare Integrity Procurement Data Bank (HIPDB) just the same as a revocation of your license would be (even for LPN, R.N., or ARNP).  This will then result in your exclusion from the Medicare and Medicaid Programs, and you debarment/exclusion from all government contracting or employment.

8. You do not have to report a pending DOH investigation against you to anyone.  A DOH investigation is and remains completely confidential until at least ten (10) days after there is a finding of probable cause.

9. Until there is a suspension or other final action taken against you, there is no indication on your license or in your licensure file that you are being investigated.
If you receive notice that the Department of Health (DOH) has opened an investigation against you, contact The Health Law Firm immediately, before you talk to an investigator.

To learn more about how The Health Law Firm can assist you if you find yourself in this situation, click here.

To learn more on how to protect your medical license, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals Today.

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.

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 Department of Health (DOH) investigations, legal representation for DOH complaints, licensure defense attorney, DOH defense attorney, health law defense attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, legal representation for disciplinary actions against your license, legal representation for license revocation, licensure defense attorney, administrative complaint attorney, legal representation for administrative complaints, Board of Medicine representation, legal counsel for Board representation, The Health Law Firm, health law defense attorney, Florida health law attorney, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorneys review

“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.

Federal Judge Dismisses Former NFL Player’s Marijuana Decriminalization Suit

3-indest-2009-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On February 26, 2018, a New York federal judge dismissed a former NFL star’s suit demanding decriminalization of medical marijuana. U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said the Second Circuit has already determined that Congress had a rational basis to classify marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

Schedule I drugs are those drugs that allegedly have no known currently accepted medicinal use and have a high potential for abuse. Marijuana is right up there with LSD and heroin (15,466 heroin overdose deaths in 2016).

The Fight to Decriminalize Marijuana.

The suit brought by Super Bowl winner and now weed entrepreneur Marvin Washington and others, seeks to challenge aspects of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) through the court when remedies are available through federal agencies, like the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Along with Washington, the action was brought on behalf of two young children, an American military veteran and the Cannabis Cultural Association organization, all of whom have suffered harm and are continuously threatened, by reason of the provisions of the CSA.

Washington, a former Jets football player, is hoping to force the hand of Congress and the White House by arguing that current federal policy is unconstitutional given marijuana’s health benefits. The complaint filed in September of 2017, argued the 1970 federal law classifying marijuana as a dangerous drug violates patients’ rights.
Click here to read the complaint in full.

At a hearing in early February 2018, Judge Hellerstein did acknowledge that marijuana’s health benefits are beyond question, but also warned Washington and the advocates that the district court was not an appropriate forum for the suit.

In his new ruling, he dismissed the suit because the Second Circuit found, in its 1973 United States v. Kiffer decision, that the Controlled Substances Act is constitutional.

Additional Ammo.

Judge Hellerstein said it’s clear that Congress had a rational basis for classifying marijuana in Schedule I, and executive officials in different administrations have consistently retained its placement there. In an example, he said the DEA’s most recent denial of a petition to reclassify marijuana listed a number of public health and safety justifications for keeping marijuana in Schedule I.

To read the judge’s order in full, click here.

To learn more about the status of marijuana, click here to read one of my prior blogs and be sure to check our Marijuana Law Blog regularly for updates.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical and Recreational 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.

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

The Hypocrisy of Marijuana Prohibition Must End.

One must ask when people who are supposed to be rationale are going to demand an end to this marijuana abuse hypocrisy. One day our children we will look back on this century of prohibition and scratch our heads and ask “Why?” just as we currently do for the alcohol prohibition of the 1920′ and 1930s. All it would take is an administrative agency decision to move marijuana form a Schedule 1 to a different schedule and all the current criminal law problems would go away.

Does marijuana have an accepted medical use? There are many cancer victims who think so. There are many doctors who are writing orders for medical marijuana in states where it is legal who think so. It is known to be a relaxant, to depress pain, to encourage sleep and to stimulate appetite (or so I am told).

As far as it having a high potential for abuse, is it as high as cigarettes? As high as sodas containing caffeine and sugar? As high as chewing gum?

And how many deaths each year are attributable to marijuana overdoses? In 2015 there were zero. Probably more people choked on chewing gum overdoses. Compare this to legal, prescription opiods and other similar drugs–over 19,000 deaths in 2015. Legal alcohol, available without a prescription–over 30,000 in 2015. [I apologize because I do not have more rent statistics.] And yet marijuana is somehow seen as a villain? If anything, cigarettes and tobacco products should be placed on Schedule 1. Again, one day our children will look back and, as many countries have done already, say “what a crock of s**t that was.”

Sources:

Simpson, Dave. “Ex-Jets Player Loses Pot Decriminalization Suit.” Law360. (February 27, 2018). Web.

Brush, Pete. “Ex-NFLer’s Pot Decriminalization Suit Hits Possible Snag.” Law360. (February 27, 2018). Web.

Bellware, Kim. “Here’s How Many People Fatally Overdosed On Marijuana Last Year.” (12/28/15)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/marijuana-deaths-2014_us_56816417e4b06fa68880a217

Welch, Ashley. “Drug Overdoses Killed More Americans Last Year than the Viet Nam War.” (Oct. 17, 2017)
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/opioids-drug-overdose-killed-more-americans-last-year-than-the-vietnam-war/

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: Marijuana defense attorney, medical marijuana defense attorney, lawyer for medical marijuana growers and distributors, health lawyers for marijuana distributors, legal counsel for marijuana growers and distributors, medical marijuana laws, marijuana laws, medical marijuana legalization, recreational marijuana laws and regulations, legal representation for recreational marijuana in a business, legal counsel for marijuana law, marijuana law attorney, Controlled Substances Act (CSA) , U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) investigation representation, legal representation for DEA matters, DEA investigation defense attorney, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, The Health Law Firm

“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.

 

Federal Judge Refuses to Dismiss Florida Compounding Pharmacy’s FCA Suit

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

On December 4, 2017, a Florida federal judge refused to dismiss the federal government’s False Claims Act (FCA) suit against a compounding pharmacy. RS Compounding LLC and its owner, Renier Gobea, are accused of overbilling Tricare for prescriptions. The federal judge refused the dismissal on the grounds that the government had sufficiently backed its allegations against both the company and its owner.

Judge Finds Claims Are Sufficiently Stated.

According to U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington, the government adequately pled its claims that RS and Gobea had knowingly charged Tricare prices well in excess of what it charged cash payors for substantially the same drugs. “The United States’ amended complaint in partial intervention sufficiently states claims for unjust enrichment and violation of the FCA,” the judge said.

The government had also adequately backed its allegations that RS knew it had been overpaid but had made no attempt to refund the difference to Tricare, according to the judge.

Additionally, Judge Covington rejected the owner’s argument that claims against him personally should be dropped from the case pointing to his “extensive involvement” in RS’s operations and his profit-taking from the company.

The Relator’s FCA Suit.

The relator McKenzie Stepe, a former RS sales representative, originally filed her complaint in December 2013. She accused RS and Gobea of charging Tricare, Medicare and Medicaid excessively high rates for certain compounded drugs. Those drugs, all mixtures containing the anesthetic ketamine, were charged to the government at prices of between $400 and $3,000 per bottle when the equivalent rate for an uninsured cash payer was between $15 and $45 a bottle.

The relator’s complaint was dismissed in November 2017, based on what Judge Covington said was a lack of firsthand knowledge to support her claims, but with leave to file an amended complaint by December 7, 2017.

To read the court’s order in full, click here.

To learn about a similar case involving a Florida compounding pharmacy, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

 

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, 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 www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Wilson, Daniel. “Fla. Compounding Pharmacy Can’t Escape Tricare FCA Suit.” Law360. (December 4, 2017). Web.

Raymond, Nate. “Florida compounding pharmacy must face U.S. fraud suit – judge.” Reuters. (December 4, 2017). Web.

KeyWords: False Claims Act defense attorney, FCA legal counsel, TRICARE false claims legal defense attorney, TRICARE physician representation, legal representation violating False Claims Act, pharmaceutical fraud lawyer, compounding pharmacy attorney, fraudulent practices of pharmaceutical companies, whistle blower lawyer, FCA violations, fraud detection, financial interest in physician referrals, TRICARE fraud attorney, health attorney, defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, health law firm, fraud investigations, consumer reports of health care fraud, conflict of interest in physician referrals, compound medication prescriptions, compounding pharmacy lawyer, prescription reimbursement, legal defense of military physicians, legal defense of TRICARE providers, attorney reviews of The Health Law Firm, Veterans Administration (VA) physician defense attorney, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, legal representation for pharmacies, legal representation for pharmacists, health law defense attorney, legal representation for health care 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 © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Florida Senate Health Committee Approves Change In Optometrist Certification

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

On December 5, 2017, the Florida Senate Health Policy Committee approved a bill that would allow the Florida Board of Optometry to offer practical and written “certification” examinations to applicants. The bill would assist optometrists who were licensed before July 1993 and, therefore, were not required to be “certified.”

Certified vs. Licensed.

In Florida, the law allows certified optometrists to prescribe pharmaceuticals for the treatment of glaucoma. However, licensed optometrists who aren’t certified cannot prescribe those drugs. They are required to make the public aware by posting in their offices a sign that states, “I am a Licensed Practitioner, not a Certified Optometrist, and I am not able to prescribe ocular pharmaceutical agents.”

Applicants are required to submit proof to the Department of Health (DOH) that she or he meets certain requirements and pass an exam within a specified time frame if they wish to be certified.

The Senate Health Policy Committee unanimously approved the bill (SB 520). To read more on SB 520, click here.
To stay on top of news and regulations for optometrists, check our Vision Law Blog regularly.

 

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Optometrists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to optometrists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, contract matters, business law matters, business litigation 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.

Sources:

Miller, Daylina. “Panel Approves Change In Optometrist Certification.” Health News Florida. (December 6, 2017). Web.

“Panel Approves Change In Optometrist Certification.” WLRN TV. (December 6, 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.

KeyWords: Legal representation for optometrists, optometrist defense attorney, ophthalmologist defense attorney, legal representation for eye doctors, medical license defense attorney, optometry license defense attorney, legal representation for optometry licensure issues, Board of Optometry investigation defense attorney, legal counsel for Board of Optometry investigations and hearings, Board of Medicine investigation defense attorney, legal counsel for Board of Medicine investigations and hearings, Department of Health investigation defense attorney, legal counsel for Department of Health investigations and hearings health care professional defense attorney, legal representation for medical professionals, Florida health law attorney, informal administrative hearing defense attorney, informal administrative hearing defense lawyer, informal administrative hearing defense legal counsel, complaint against professional license defense attorney, complaint against professional license defense lawyer, legal representation for Optometrists in Florida, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, health law defense attorney, legal representation for health care professionals, complex health litigation defense attorney, complex health care litigation legal counsel

“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.

Florida Woman Lands Herself 6.5 Years in Prison, Owes $45 Million for Medicare Fraud Scheme

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

On November 22, 2017, a Florida woman who was accused of a $45 million Medicare fraud, received a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence, following a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in her case holding that the government could not freeze untainted assets.

Sila Luis received an 80-month prison sentence in addition to being ordered to pay $45 million in restitution.  This came after a 2016 guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Her case continued in 2017 following a 5-3 ruling by the Supreme Court holding that the government could not freeze assets belonging to her that were not tied to the alleged fraud scheme.  This decision has the effect of making it more difficult for law enforcement authorities to swoop in and seize all assets of a suspect, effectively depriving them of the resources to even hire an attorney (which is a common tactic in such cases).

“Innocent” Property Can’t Be Seized.

In the 2016 Supreme Court decision, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, voted to overturn the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the government could freeze Luis’ “innocent” assets as well as the ones directly traceable to the Medicaid fraud funds.  Justice Clarence Thomas concurred in a separate opinion.

“We conclude that the defendant in this case has a Sixth Amendment right to use her own ‘innocent’ property to pay a reasonable fee for the assistance of counsel,” Justice Breyer wrote for the plurality. “On the assumptions made here, the district court’s order prevents Luis from exercising that right.”

Under federal statute, the government is allowed to freeze some assets before trial in criminal cases alleging federal health care or banking violations, according to the ruling. However, the Justices agreed with the defendant that the freeze o f all her assets kept her from paying her attorney.  This by itself will usually force a guilty plea even from someone who may be innocent.

Prior to her guilty plea, she was accused of Medicare fraud and Anti-Kickback Statute violations allegedly through paying patients.  She allegedly paid the patients to use one of her home health companies so that she could bill the government for unnecessary or unprovided services.  To read more on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, click here.

To read the judgement of the case in full, click here.

To read about another case of Medicare fraud in Florida, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

My Observations on this Case.

The power of pretrial seizure of assets is a very heavy handed tactic that I have seen used a number of times by law enforcement authorities, often, in my opinion, completely wrongfully.  In some cases it is used as a hammer to try to bludgeon the suspect to death.  In others it may be motivated by something as simple as a sheriff’s deputy deciding he really liked the defendant’s car and wanted to seize it.  I have seen the bank accounts of minor children sized when all they contained was what the child had worked for at a part time job to help pay for college.  I have seen an annuity fund seized which had been paid for ten years before any of the criminal activity allegedly took place.  I have seen cash taken from a mother (the wife of the alleged suspect) going into the delivery room at a hospital to give birth, when the cash had just been given to her by her mother to pay the hospital bill. I have seen law enforcement hold out in negotiations to return wrongfully seized property because what they really wanted was the suspect’s new Cadillac to use. Pre-trial seizure is an extremely powerful tool that can be easily misused.

So I can understand the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in this case. On a slightly different topic however, I never cease to wonder at the small (relatively speaking) sentences that are given to the largest crooks.  I have seen poor people who could not feed their families sentenced to similar prison terms for merely a few thousand dollars in Medicaid or food stamp fraud.  Yet here someone bilks us, the taxpayers, out of $45 million and only gets only 80 months?  Let’s see.  That’s getting paid $562,500 per month for every month in jail.  Gosh, I bet there are some pretty rich people around who don’t make $562,500 a month. Typically, we find out that these people have their millions stashed overseas in secret foreign bank accounts.  Do several years in prison, get out, and then vanish overseas to Cuba or elsewhere and live like a king (or queen) for the rest of their lives.  The story seems to happen over and over again.

Maybe the key should be to make the sentencing guidelines give one month of prison times for every one hundred thousand dollars stolen.  Then reduce that prison time by one month for every one hundred thousand dollars that is paid back in restitution.  This promotes prompt restitution while ensuring that the convicted defendant does not get out only to flee somewhere to enjoy their stash of hidden funds.  This means, of course, that the Bernie Maddofs never get out (as should be the case), but at least the smaller offenders are nor being punished disproportionately to the larger ones.

Health Care Fraud Should Not Be Taken Lightly.

We have been consulted by many individuals, both before and after criminal convictions for fraud or related offenses.  In many cases, those subject to Medicare fraud audits and investigations refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter.  Some may even decide not to spend the money required for a highly experienced health attorney to defend them.

Click here to read one of my previous blog posts regarding Medicare audits.

The government is serious about combating health care fraud.  It created a Medicare Fraud Strike Force in March of 2007, in an effort to further prevent and eliminate fraud and abuse of government health care programs.  False claims are a growing problem in the program, costing the government billions of dollars each year.  Accordingly, punishments for defrauding the system can be quite severe.

If you have assets seized by state or federal law enforcement authorities, you must act immediately to start the proceedings to have them released or you may forfeit them.  There are often a number of valid defenses to have your property released.  The Health Law Firm represents individuals, spouses and families in obtaining the release of “forfeitures” and seized property and funds.

If you are accused of Medicare or Medicaid fraud, realize that you are in a fight for your life.  Your liberty, property/possessions and profession are all at stake.  Often it is possible to settle allegations of Medicare fraud by agreeing to pay civil monetary penalties and fines.  If given such an opportunity, the Medicare provider should consider whether it is worth the risk of facing decades in prison.  Be prepared to give up whatever you need to in order to avoid a conviction and preserve your liberty.

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

Sources:

Macagnone, Michael. “Fla. Woman Gets 6.5 Years, Owes $45M For Medicare Fraud.” Law360. (November 22, 2017). Web.

Koenig, Bryan. “High Court Determines ‘Untainted’ Assets Can’t Be Frozen.” Law360. (March 30, 2016). 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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“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 © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

State of Florida Sued as DOH Fails to Grant New Pot Licenses

3-indest-2009-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 22, 2017, a plant nursery and a man who has epilepsy, filed suit alleging that it’s “high time” for the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to comply with a Florida constitutional amendment and its implementing legislation. The constitutional amendment requires the DOH to license more medical marijuana treatment centers. According to the suit that has been filed, DOH’s failure to do so is depriving patients of medication that they really need.

The Number of Licenced Treatment Centers.

Bill’s Nursery, Inc., and Michael Bowen filed suit accusing the DOH of failing to meet an October 2017 deadline to expand the number of licensed treatment centers in the state by an additional ten as it is being argued, is required by The Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The initiative, known as Amendment 2, was passed in November 2016. Click here to learn more.

Bill’s Nursery previously applied unsuccessfully to become a medical marijuana dispensary in the state of Florida and now wants to apply to be a medical marijuana treatment center. In his suit Bowen claims he relies on medical marijuana to prevent and treat his epileptic seizures.

Treatment Center Licenses.

Despite passage of Amendment 2, the DOH has only given licenses to six additional treatment centers and is refusing to accept and consider additional applications. According to the complaint, this defies the Florida Legislature and threatens the ability of patients to access lifesaving medication. Patients and advocates for medical marijuana claim that the few that have been approved are simply not enough to provide what is needed. During a late October 2017 hearing before the Florida Senate Health Committee, Christian Bax, director of the DOH’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, made it clear that the agency wouldn’t issue the additional licenses until pending litigation challenging a provision of the law is resolved.

According to the suit, the DOH’s refusal to license more businesses is harming competition, preventing companies like Bill’s Nursery from entering the market and strengthening the monopoly hold enjoyed by the seven current treatment centers. Additionally, in the process, the agency and officials are harming patients like Bowen, who says his life is at risk without adequate access to medicinal marijuana, the complaint says.

Click here to read the complaint in full.

To read a previous blog I wrote on the current legislation of Florida’s medical marijuana, click here.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can assist in preparing and completing applications for registration, permitting and or licensing. We can also represent doctors, dispensaries, pharmacies, and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Posses, Shayna. “Florida Sued For Dragging Feet On Medical Pot Licenses.” Law360. (November 22, 2017). Web.

Kam, Dara. “Medical marijuana license delays challenged in lawsuit.” Sun Sentinel. (November 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.

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“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.