Wanna know how often we’re asked whether the laws re healthcare marketing are really enforced? How often we hear “Everyone is doing it.” “Surely they [regulators] understand that every healthcare business has to market its services and item,” we’re told. And when we start to educate people re the state and federal laws that pertain to marketing healthcare items and services (INCLUDING those for which payment isn’t made by a state or federal healthcare program), their impatience and intolerance is palpable.
Take a look at the latest report from the Department of Justice guilty plea from someone who marketed the services of a genetic testing lab. He admitted being guilty of receiving over $300K in kickback money (presumably in the form of marketing fees) and now faces (1) a $250K fine, (2) returning all the money he received, and (3) five years in prison!
Marketing any healthcare service or item is at the tip of the sword in terms of regulatory investigation and enforcement. It’s that simple. And so when your lawyers drag you through laws like the Anti-Kickback Statute, the Florida Patient Brokering Act, the federal health insurance fraud law, the bona fide employee exception, the personal services arrangement and management contract safe harbor and EKRA, thank them! And expect nothing less. If you do ANYTHING at all in the neighborhood of marketing a healthcare item or services, the first place to start is: meet with a very experienced healthcare lawyer who is not learning on your dime. And have them take a couple hours to educate you about the laws, the options and the risks of each one. And once you’ve done that, ask them what more you can do to reduce your risk, for instance—
The issue of scope of practice is front and center in Florida right now with the expansion of what nurse practitioners (and nurse midwives) are legally permitted to do. The newly enacted 464.0123 allows for qualified APRNs (there is specific criteria) to practice independent of a supervising physician in the following areas of medicine–primary care, family medicine, general pediatrics, and general internal medicine.
Even more, assuming they meet the membership criteria for admission to a healthcare facility medical staff, they may admit patients, manage patient care, and discharge patients. One of the only preserved connections with a physician established by the law is if the APRN practices at a healthcare facility, a transfer agreement including a physician is required. Additionally, the new law establishes a Council On Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Autonomous Practice, two members of which are appointed by the Board of Medicine and an additional two appointed by the Board of Osteopathic Medicine.
Has your attorney ever told you to do your best to comply with certain safe harbors to the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute, and you’ll be likely to survive scrutiny under the Florida Patient Brokering Act (the PBA)? If you’ve heard that, it’s time to re-examine that relationship. In the last month, the Patient Brokering Act has been amended, and then interpreted by a court of law in a way that affects all healthcare providers.
The Patient Brokering Act has been used in recent years to prosecute abuses in the addiction treatment industry. Other healthcare providers subject to the act have largely been uninvolved in these prosecutions. However, the PBA has been remolded 4 times in the past 5 years as a means to tailor it to allow for prosecutions of bad actors in healthcare, including addiction treatment. One item should be made clear: the PBA applies to any facility at all that is licensed by the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) or practitioner licensed by the Department of Health (DOH), including physicians, surgery centers, home health agencies, skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, DME providers, diagnostic imaging facilities, clinical laboratories, pharmacies and many other. During the legislative process, barely any healthcare industry representatives (from any provider group) showed up to any legislative workshops or produced counterbalancing input or language proposals that reflected a broader perspective.
As you may have heard, the State Hemp Plan, SB 1020, has passed the Florida House and Senate and is waiting for Governor DeSantis’ action (approval or veto) or inaction (no veto). The Governor’s approval or failure to veto SB 1020 means SB 1020 will become law. So what does this mean for Florida?
SB 1020 is meant to bring Florida’s laws regarding the cultivation and processing of hemp in line with the Federal Farm Bill of 2018 which removed hemp from the DEA’s list of controlled substances and legalized the industrial use of hemp. Currently, hemp is listed as a controlled substance under Florida law. SB 1020 will change that and allow cultivation of hemp and distribution and retail sale of hemp extract.
Most everyone knows that laws are being implementing in federal and state government to address the opioid crisis in the US. One such law is the Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (“SUPPORT Act”) signed into law in October 2018 by President Trump. While the SUPPORT Act seeks to increase access to treatment for substance use disorders and prevention of substance use disorders, it also contains language to prevent abuse of the process to increase treatment access. Specifically, incorporated into the SUPPORT Act is the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act (“EKRA”) which directly targets unlawful referrals to recovery homes, clinical treatment facilities, and laboratories.
EKRA is similar to prohibited kickbacks and patient brokering pursuant to Sections 456.054 and 817.505, Florida Statutes, using similar language as both Florida statutes. EKRA makes it unlawful…
Imagine running a successful business: inventory is growing and flourishing, staff is happy, operations are smooth, and all of a sudden – a notification arrives that a bank foreclosed on the property the business rents from the landlord, with no advance notice.
In the blink of an eye, the location is gone, the risk of losing of inventory is imminent, and cash flow is impacted during the transition to find another cultivation space. This type of situation can, and has, happened. But what could have been done differently before establishing operations?
Pursuant to Section 456.44(3)(a), Florida Statutes, and Rule 64B-9.013(3)(a), Florida Administrative Code, a practitioner must evaluate a patient by taking a complete medical history and performing a physical examination prior to prescribing a controlled substance to a patient. The aforementioned statute and rule do not specifically rule out a patient evaluation taking place via a telemedicine visit. However, under current Florida law, only controlled substances used to treat psychiatric disorders may be prescribed using telemedicine technology, that is audio and video technology commonly referred to as telepsychiatry. Specifically, Rule 64B8-9.0141(4) states, “controlled substances shall not be prescribed through the use of telemedicine except for the treatment of psychiatric disorders.” Psychiatric disorders include Substance Use Disorders since the DSM-V classifies addiction as a mental health condition. Although the Standards for Telemedicine Practice under Rule 64B-9.0141, Florida Administrative Code, allows licensed practitioners to prescribe controlled substances for psychiatric disorders via telehealth technology, the federal law has lagged somewhat behind.
On November 29, 2018, Florida Representative Chuck Clemons proposed house bill 65 (“HB 65”) that would significantly tighten regulation on the use of stem cells. If the stem cell bill is signed into law, Florida will join other states (e.g. California, Texas and Washington) in passing some type of stem cell regulation. While some bills around the country have centered the regulation on informing prospective customers of the risks associated with these treatments, HB 65 takes a more stringent approach with the threat of criminal exposure and includes certain protections for providers in the form of a “right-to-try” law.
Attorneys Susan St. John and Michael Silverman of the Florida Healthcare Law Firm will present this live lunch n’ learn webinar for providers interested in learning more about the direct patient care model. They will discuss the recent legislative updates that have brought this issue to the forefront in Florida.
Further reading per AAFP.org – The direct primary care (DPC) model gives providers a meaningful alternative to fee-for-service insurance billing, typically by charging patients a monthly, quarterly, or annual fee (i.e., a retainer) that covers all or most primary care services including clinical, laboratory, and consultative services, and care coordination and comprehensive care management. Because some services are not covered by a retainer, DPC practices often suggest that patients acquire a high-deductible wraparound policy to cover emergencies. Direct primary care and concierge care are not synonymous. In practices offering concierge care, the patient typically pays a high retainer fee in addition to insurance premiums and other plan obligations (e.g., copays, out-of-pocket expenditures), and the practice continues to bill the patient’s insurance carrier.
In giving consideration to whether healthcare regulations apply to a proposed course of conduct it’s absolutely vital for a pharmacy to know its payor! This is especially so in the context of patient marketing and the various regulatory prohibitions on paying for healthcare referrals. Unfortunately, some pharmacy owners remain a bit mixed up about who the ultimate payor is for the medications they dispense, and, depending on that pharmacy’s billing operations, such mistakes can have devastating consequences.
A large part of this confusion might be attributed to the fact that in most instances, a pharmacy is not billing the ultimate payor directly (unlike a DMEPOS provider that may be directly submitting claims to Medicare Part B), but rather, the pharmacy is billing an intermediary entity called a Pharmacy Benefit Manager (“PBM”), which is usually a commercially run entity (non-government owned) that manages and adjudicates claims on behalf of health insurance plans that cover pharmacy benefits.
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.