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State Court Ruling on Patient Brokering Act Threatens Healthcare Facilities and Providers

July 25th, 2018 by

patient brokering actA recent ruling by a state trial court handling the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force prosecutions against providers of addiction treatment and sober home services is creating lots of confusion and alarm around the state and could have very far reaching consequences for the entire healthcare industry well beyond addiction treatment.

The issue presented by the prosecution focuses on whether a person charged with violating the state’s Patient Brokering Act (PBA) can be found guilty even if he/she didn’t know what he was doing was unlawful. The PBA broadly prohibits paying someone for patient referrals, very much like the federal Anti-Kickback statute.  If allowed, the client would have gotten legal advice, paid for it, followed it, and still not be able to show a judge or jury that, despite all their best efforts, they simply followed the law as instructed.

Can a healthcare facility or provider be guilty of violating a criminal law [the PBA] if they’d gotten legal advice and followed it?  Traditionally, the answer would be a clear “no.”  The argument against the State’s position would be something like “How can someone intend to violate a criminal law if they got legal advice regarding how to comply with it and then followed that advice?”  The argument of the state might look something like “We don’t even think the judge or jury ought to be able to hear that the person got legal advice and followed it.”  The court punted the issue to the appellate court. read more

Healthcare Marketing Lesson: Compound Pharmacy Kickback Scheme

February 13th, 2018 by

healthcare marketingBy: Jacqueline Bain

Monty Ray Grow was a defensive back on the Florida Gators’ football team from 1990 until 1993. He contracted to play for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1994 and then for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995 and 1996. On February 5, 2018, he was convicted by a federal jury in Miami for his chief role in a massive healthcare marketing scheme designed to defraud Tricare.

Tricare is a health benefit program that provides civilian benefits for U.S Armed Forces military personnel, retirees, their dependents, and some military reservists. Tricare is a Department of Defense Program.

In September 2014, Grow entered into an agreement with a compounding pharmacy in Pompano Beach, Florida, wherein the pharmacy would pay Grow’s marketing company a commission equal to fifty percent (50%) of what the pharmacy netted in Tricare reimbursement from Grow’s referral of Tricare beneficiaries to the pharmacy. (Later on, Grow became an employee of the pharmacy.) Grow then used his commission to offer and pay recruiters to convince Tricare beneficiaries to use this pharmacy. Additionally, Grow offered and paid Tricare beneficiaries themselves to use this pharmacy. read more

Is Your Substance Abuse Marketing Service Licensed? Check Here

November 28th, 2017 by

addiction marketingBefore doing business in Florida, an entity providing substance abuse marketing services must be licensed by Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection. This includes includes either telephone solicitation from a location in Florida or solicitation from other states or nations for substance abuse and addiction treatment centers located in Florida.

As of November 27, 2017, only the following entities are licensed by the State of Florida to provide marketing services to substance abuse and addiction treatment centers:

  • A Way and a Means, LLC (Delray Beach, Florida)
  • Addiction International Holdings, LLC d/b/a The Addiction Advisor d/b/a The Recovery Miracle (Boca Raton, Florida)
  • Advanced Recovery Systems, LLC (Winter Park, Florida)
  • Bandwidth Interactive Company d/b/a Local Management (Boca Raton, Florida)
  • Delphi Behavioral Health Group, LLC (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
  • Freedom From Addiction, LLC (Miami Beach, Florida)
  • Infoworx Direct, LLC d/b/a Addiction Hope and Help Line (Boca Raton, Florida)
  • Invigorate Solutions, LLC d/b/a Local Management (Boca Raton, Florida)
  • Meridian Treatment Solutions, LLC (Lauderdale by the Sea, Florida)
  • NPA Consulting Group, LLC (Pompano Beach, Florida)
  • Palm Partners, LLC (Palm Springs, Florida)
  • Parent Team, LLC (Santa Rosa, California)
  • Pryme Time Media, LLC (Sunrise, Florida)
  • R360, LLC (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
  • Redwood Recovery Solutions, LLC d/b/a com (Riviera Beach, Florida)
  • Ring2Media, LLC (Westport, Connecticut)
  • Rybchinskiy Inc. (Boynton Beach, Florida)
  • Sober Network, Inc. (Delray Beach, Florida)
  • The Addiction Network, LLC (North Miami, Florida)
  • True Choice Health Group Limited Liability Company (Pompano Beach, Florida)
  • United Addiction Specialists, LLC (Hollywood, Florida)
  • USR Holdings, LLC (Coconut Creek, Florida)

It is a third degree felony for: any person to work for an entity that does not have a current and valid license; or for any entity to invite telephone calls or other communications with a substance abuse marketer who is soliciting clients without a current and valid substance abuse marketing license; or for any person or entity to solicit without a license; or for any person who otherwise violates the law requiring licensure either directly or indirectly. Any person who is convicted of a second or subsequent violation commits a felony of the second degree.

Recovery Business Marketing 2.0

April 17th, 2017 by

By: Jeff Cohen

Concepts that drive sober home relationships like Anti-Kickback Statute, Patient Brokering Act and Safe Harbor have become ingrained in the minds of nearly every addiction treatment provider’s thought process, especially in Florida with the development of the Sober Home Task Force.  Providers now seem to fully embrace ideas like–

  • There’s a federal law (the Anti-Kickback Statute, the “AKS”) that can bring criminal liability for marketing done incorrectly;
  • There’s a state law, the Florida Patient Brokering Act (“PBA”), that can do the same;
  • Complying with the federal safe harbors and the bona fide employee exception is important, even when there are no state or federal healthcare program dollars involved;
  • Paying anyone for marketing, not just on a commission based sales model, without fully appreciate the applicable laws is dangerous, costly and invites criminal inquiries and liability; and
  • Achieving compliance with applicable federal law should be part of any recovery business’ overall compliance plan.

Recovery providers must become familiar with not only the AKS and state restrictions like the PBA, but also the law’s permitted examples, so called “Safe Harbors,” which specify specifically permitted arrangements (42 CFR 1001.952).  The “personal services arrangement and management contract” Safe Harbor, for instance, has particular application in the area of marketing, as does the AKS exception for “bona fide employment arrangements,” which apply to “bona fide” W-2 employees (entailing direction, supervision and control), but not independent contractor relationships. read more

Managing Medical Device Anti Kickback Risks for Physicians

April 6th, 2017 by

By: Shobha Lizaso

Less than a year ago that medical device developer, Olympus Corp, agreed to pay a $646 million settlement to resolve claims of illegal kickbacks to physicians and hospitals. This is considered to be the largest settlement amount in the history of violations to the Anti-kickback Statute. The federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“Anti-Kickback Statute”) is a criminal statute that prohibits the exchange (or offer to exchange), of anything of value, in an effort to induce or reward the referral of federal health care program business.  Conviction for a single violation under the Anti-Kickback Statute may result in a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to five (5) years.  In addition, a conviction will result in mandatory exclusion from participation in federal health care programs. The government may also assess civil money penalties, which could result in treble damages plus $50,000 for each violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute.

Between 2006 and 2011, Olympus offered consulting deals among many other bribes to influence physicians to order and prescribe Olympus medical devices. These consulting agreements provided for large up-front payments to physicians under the guise of medical device development. Olympus failed to focus on compliance and didn’t have policies and procedures in place to prevent illegal arrangements such as these. These physicians were retained as consultants, but most provided very little consulting services; they were utilized as device promoters. Physicians have a duty to order medical devices solely on the traditional standards of quality, price, and appropriateness for the medical conditions treated. Moreover, the ordering of medical devices by a physician must never be influenced by personal financial gain. read more

Healthcare Marketing: It Ain’t What It Used to Be

August 29th, 2016 by

By: Jeff Cohen

When it comes to healthcare marketing there is no shortage of people who claim to be able to generate business for healthcare professionals and businesses.  The business of healthcare is like none other in its abhorrence of anything that even smells like payment for patient referrals, so professionals and businesses alike have to be extremely cautious and well advised in crafting marketing and related business-enhancing relationships.

The key here is to realize that, while the laws haven’t changed, what regulators are doing with them has!  The environment of healthcare marketing has never been more treacherous than it is today.  So what’s changed?  How about:

  1. Commission based marketing and sales involving federal or state payers, even those that arguably comply with the personal services arrangement and management contract safe harbor, are detested by federal regulators;
  2. The regulators will look to pierce any enterprise, including those consisting of multiple tax ID entities, in hopes of making the case that commercial based marketing payments were in exchange for even one drop of federal/state payer money;
  3. Both health insurers and large providers (e.g. labs, pharmacies) work hand in hand with federal regulators to pursue suspicious activity, the result of which is to support the large provider; and
  4. Targets of enforcement activity who have obtained good legal advice often pay just to put an end to the enforcement because there’s a risk of losing and “winning” can feel like losing when one considers the enormous defense costs.

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