Health law is the federal, state, and local law, rules, regulations and other jurisprudence among providers, payers and vendors to the healthcare industry and its patient and delivery of health care services; all with an emphasis on operations, regulatory and transactional legal issues.
You do everything right. You’re careful to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Compliance is hard-wired because you’re in an industry that’s highly regulated and you’ve built into your operations a series of compliance checks and balances. However, even with strong controls in place, compliance efforts sometimes fall short– and whether you’re a physician group, a pharmacy, a durable medical equipment company, a home health agency, or any other health care provider, someday you might find yourself face-to-face with law enforcement officials or regulatory enforcement authorities. What do you do? How do you assure the most successful outcome with minimal business disruption?
Compliance is the foundation to mitigating the risks inherent in any health care operation. Compliance can reduce the likelihood that regulators or law enforcement suddenly appear on your doorstep. But preparation for emergencies and uncertainties is the key to reducing the risk that non-compliance leads to lengthy business interruption. Although you may be saying “if”, you really should be thinking and acting more like “when”. It costs everything to be ill-prepared and it costs very little to be well-prepared. The following preparation can prevent much of the uncertainty that arises in these cases.
POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
First and foremost, make sure you have well-developed policies and procedures for what to do in such instances. You should review these policies and procedures with your employees regularly, focusing on the importance of compliance. Out of fear and uncertainty, employees can do things that create unnecessary challenges. Educating them as to what their rights and responsibilities are will mitigate those risks. Make sure your policies and procedures include the designation of who is in charge (“person in charge”) when the government does show up. read more
Pharmacies and their pharmacists are in a very tough spot in the current regulatory enforcement environment. This is particularly true with dispensing controlled substances. Headlines like the below are commonplace:
DEA RAIDS PHARMACY AS PART OF LOCAL DRUG SWEEP
PHARMACY PAYS $500,000 IN PENALTIES FOR CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT VIOLATIONS
MAN ARRESTED USING DOCTOR’S PRESCRIPTION PAD TO WRITE FRAUDULENT RX’S
So, how do you avoid filling a fraudulent prescription for controlled substances? Before getting into the nitty gritty, it is important to lay the foundation of standard of care and the corresponding responsibility so pharmacies and pharmacists can evaluate what steps are most likely to mitigate these risks.
As background, federal law states that the primary responsibility for prescribing controlled substances rests with the prescriber. However, that same law places a “corresponding responsibility” on the pharmacist to assure each prescription is written for a legitimate medical purpose pursuant to a valid patient-prescriber relationship. 21 CFR §1306.04(a).
Under Florida law:
A pharmacist may not dispense a Schedule II-IV controlled substance to any patient or patient’s agent without first determining, in the exercise of her or his professional judgment, that the prescription is valid. F.S. §893.04 (2)(a).
A prescriber or dispenser must consult the prescription drug monitoring system, eForce, to review a patient’s controlled substance dispensing history before prescribing or dispensing a controlled substance.S. §893.055
Once you have a clear understanding of a pharmacist’s liability, you can then consider ways to mitigate the inherent risks in filling controlled substance prescriptions. read more
Laboratory buyers and sellers considering a sale or purchase should have knowledge of issues that can affect the transaction. Due diligence requires conducting measures that provide a buyer confidence that the laboratory for sale is being accurately represented by the seller.
The transaction requires consideration, communication and planning between all parties and their representatives. A thorough knowledge of laboratory compliance and rules and regulations is imperative as documentation and information that is provided and reviewed will more than likely change the pricing, value and terms of the deal.
Due diligence is required in any healthcare transaction and is performed so that both the buyer and seller fully understand the transaction. An effective and necessary tool regarding laboratory transactions is a due diligence checklist. The checklist will allow both sides to identify and address issues that may be neglected or overlooked. The categories that compromise a laboratory checklist should include, but are not limited to: read more
Laboratories nationwide are overwhelmed with increased diagnostic testing volume while simultaneously managing regulatory changes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is more essential than ever for clinical laboratories to enforce regulation, have a compliance plan in place and develop or enhance operational policies. Our firm has expert lab lawyers with ‘insider’ healthcare business knowledge to help keep your business compliant while adapting to the rapidly changing healthcare landscape.
Download the laboratory compliance image as a PDF here.
A recent Department of Justice $500,000 settlement with a cardiology practice underscores the need for ensuring tighter compliance by medical practices. There, the practice billed Medicare for cardiology procedures for which interpretive reports were also required. Medicare paid for the procedures, but upon audit, CMS could not find the requisite interpretive reports. The False Claims Act case settled for $500,000, but it’s likely that (1) the reimbursement by Medicare was far less, and (b) the legal fees behind the settlement weren’t too far behind the settlement amount! Had the practice self-audited each year, would they have found the discrepancy?
Medical practices have felt the weight of price compression and regulatory load more than probably any segment in the healthcare sector. They are doing far more for far less. And regulations expand faster than viruses! Hence, many have a strategy of regulatory compliance that can best be characterized as a combination of facial compliance (“We bought the manual and put it on the shelf”) and hope (“They’re not really serious about this, are they?”). Unless you’re part of a practice of more than 20 doctors, it’s likely that you can do more to ensure regulatory compliance.
Inspired by many medical integration consultants and coaching organizations, chiropractors have vigorously pursued medically integrating their practices in the past handful of years. Led by both the desire to provide effective healthcare solutions and to capture more of the healthcare dollar that their patients are already spending (elsewhere), chiropractors are smart to consider it…slowly!
Too often, there are stories of chiropractors who felt both excited and pushed to sign on the dotted line at integration seminars, only to find later on that (1) the advice they got upset their lawyers, (2) they didn’t understand the complexities and risks that accompanied their practice expansion, and (3) it didn’t work! What are some of the greatest areas of disappointment for those where the integration didn’t go smoothly?
A. Using integration to fix an underlying business problem. For instance, if you’re medically integrating your chiropractic practice because your chiropractic patient volume has fallen off, first try to understand why your core business is down. For instance, do you actively pursue marketing? Is it effective? What about someone inside your organization who is responsible for sales? Do you have someone comfortable offering what you provide and talking money? Since it’s typical for medical integration patients to come from your core chiropractic business, a down chiropractic business will not deliver the patients needed to support a robust medical integration line of services and products; and
Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic many healthcare businesses are exploring various ways to increase their referrals, and although exchanging fees and gifts in return for referrals may sound like an easy way to obtain additional business, there are state and federal laws that strictly prohibit such activities that are discussed in greater detail below.
Two of the most important laws that all physical therapists should be aware of are the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law which are used to ensure that medical decisions are not made based on financial incentives. However, each of the laws do have distinctions that you need to be aware of. read more
On October 6, 2020, the Unites States Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Louisiana announced that George M “Trey” Fluitt III of Monroe, Louisiana was indicted. The federal grand jury indicted the lab owner for paying bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute, resulting in improper Medicare billing of approximately $117 million. Fluitt was the owner and operator of Specialty Drug Testing, LLC and is alleged to have solicited paid kickbacks and bribes in return for patient DNA specimens and physicians’ orders for cancer genetic and pharmacogenetic testing. Medicare allegedly paid Specialty Drug Testing, LLC $28,726,299 as a result of the fraudulent claims. If convicted, the defendant faces up to five years in prison for each count of conspiracy to defraud a healthcare program. Fluitt also faces 10 years in prison for illegal kickbacks, a $250,00 fine, forfeiture and restitution.
Florida Healthcare Law Firm in Delray Beach, FL has exceeded their 2020 growth plans with the fourth hire this year, seasoned attorney Dean Viskovich, aka “The Lab Guy”. Dean will play an essential role representing healthcare businesses and providers with respect to regulatory compliance matters and is uniquely experienced on issues pertaining to laboratory compliance, as well as laboratory operations. Dean has over 25 years’ experience in the health law space and is licensed in both Florida and New York.
Florida Healthcare Law Firm has announced that they have added Dean Viskovich, “The Lab Guy,” to the team. Dean brings a wealth of healthcare business expertise working on the inside in settings such as laboratories and health insurance companies. Dean has served as a trial attorney on behalf of insurance companies and healthcare providers. He specializes in laboratory compliance and offers education and training programs geared at OIG compliance. Dean’s extensive experience in laboratory compliance and operations includes Stark, Anti-Kickback, Fraudulent Claims Act, Safe Harbor and State regulatory provisions. Additional areas of expertise include billing, reimbursement, charge-master review, CPT, ICD-10, HCPC coding and audits.