A 2018 Department of Justice civil settlement involving a Florida interventional pain physician was a cliff hanger when it surfaced, especially vis a vis the issue of the so-called Company Model, where anesthesiologists and referring physicians jointly owned an anesthesia provider. The Daitch settlement involved interventional pain specialists who settled the case for $2.8 Million. There, the government claimed that a mass of urine drug tests weren’t reasonable or medically necessary. But the issue buried in the settlement call the issue of intertwined medical businesses and the Company Model into question.
The so-called Company Model involves the formation of a company that provides anesthesia services. It’s jointly owned by anesthesiologists and referring physicians. Theoretically, on a Monday, the anesthesiologists own the anesthesia practice and bill for all anesthesia services performed at a GI lab or ASC. On a Tuesday, however, the new company (jointly owned by the same anesthesiologists and the referring physicians) steps in and starts billing for the anesthesia services, thus indirectly sharing a part of the profits with the physicians who are generating the anesthesia referrals.
The year 2020 is one for the history books from the start of a global pandemic, COVID-19 shutdowns of “non-essential” businesses to a rise in telemedicine fraud schemes. Join Board certified healthcare attorney Jeff Cohen for insight on 2021 healthcare business preparation topics and lessons from 2020.
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.
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—
In another article, we provided an update to the autonomous practice law for Nurse Practitioners in Florida. For NP’s that qualify, that means they can open a primary care practice without a supervising physician. For most, that means learning about opening and operating a company. Here’s what that entails:
DOES YOUR BUSINESS NEED A MANDATORY VACCINE POLICY?
Given the above, does a mandatory vaccine policy make sense for your organization? This may depend on several factors, including the following:
Are your employees in direct contact with clients/customers/patients?
Is that contact prolonged and in indoor spaces where air circulation may be limited?
If one or more of your employees become ill, does that jeopardize continuity of your business?
If you answer “YES” to one or more of these questions, you may want to consider implementing a mandatory flu vaccine.
In order to effectively implement a mandatory vaccination policy, you must develop both the policy and the process to manage exceptions (i.e. requests for accommodations). The process generally involves the submission of an employer-developed form along with any additional supporting documentation. The accommodations process should include review of information submitted by the employee in support of the accommodation, request for additional information as and when appropriate, an interactive process between the employer and employee in evaluating any potential accommodation, and ultimately a determination if the requested accommodation poses an undue burden that is more than de minimis on the employer.
For some reason, wearing or refusing to wear masks has become a point of personal expression and a topic charged with much emotion. We hear stories every day about confrontations with consumers in the retail industry. But what about when a patient refuses to wear a mask?
In many states and counties, face coverings are still mandated in public. Failure to wear a mask can result in civil or criminal fines or penalties. In a medical practice, even where not required by local authorities, masks may be required. In fact, some of the state Boards of Medicine have adopted minimum standards for safe practice. Those standards frequently include the requirement for both provider and patient to wear masks during all health care encounters. Where the regulations or Board of Medicine standards require all individuals to wear face coverings, a health care provider is well within his/her right to enforce those regulations within the office where health care services are being provided and to discharge a patient who refuses to comply. However, caution must be exercised when discharging a patient from a medical practice.
In general, the state Boards of Medicine do not require physicians to treat patients who are physically and mentally capable of wearing face coverings but refuse to do so. But there are circumstances where a physician may have a duty to provide care and, in such instances, exceptions to the general rule may apply.
Thinking about joining an integrated or group practice? The average employment contract exceeds twenty pages, not including exhibits. While some parts might seem simple and non-legalistic, many simply do not contemplate important terms that have serious impacts on Acupuncturists daily lives. An employment contract is the most significant financial decision of an Acupuncturists lifetime. The same can be said for each subsequent contract, which means that understanding, and negotiating, your contract is the most valuable investment you can make prior to entering into a contract.
To understand what’s in your employment contract, simply read it over a few times. To understand not only how those terms affect you, but also what isn’t in your contract, hire an experienced health care lawyer. While it’s important to understand what is in your employment contract, it’s equally as important to know what is missing from the contract and what to ask in regards to what is included. The below list considers terms that are important both during and after employment.
The following are nine items you should consider including in or asking about your contract:
CMS has announced that it will resume Medicare Fee-For-Service (FFS) medical reviews August 3, 2020 regardless of the status of the COVID-19 public health emergency. These audits have been suspended since March 30 as a result of the crisis and applied to prepayment reviews and post-payment reviews conducted by Medicare Administrative Contractors (MAC).
Investing in a healthcare related business involves significant time and money. Building a brand takes even more and is extremely important in today’s society. Having the ability to build a recognizable brand, scale, and potentially sell, is the goal of many healthcare business entrepreneurs. With the ever-booming impact of social media, online advertising, and online reviews, healthcare businesses seek to engage at a higher degree than ever before to attract new patients, retain current patients, and establish themselves as experts in their respective fields.
Building a brand is part of it, while protecting that brand is far more important. A well-recognized word or logo can be worth everything to your business. Obtaining ownership and protection over a name or mark is a fairly simply task with significant rewards. Trademarks are the names, slogans, tag lines, and/or logos that identify and represent your business, its services, and mission to the public, and are the foundation for the business’s overall branding and marketing. Trademarks can also be used to protect your business in a specific area or a specific area of expertise. If you do not protect your brand, a competitor could use it (or something similar, which could confuse the public and your patients and therefore potentially draw business away from your brand.
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.