Dangerous Dentistry: What One Connecticut Dentist Did That Got His License Suspended

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Connecticut officials have suspended the license of an Enfield, Connecticut, dentist after a patient apparently died in the dentist’s chair on February 17, 2014. In a single visit the dentist allegedly attempted to extract 20 teeth from a 64-year-old woman who had prior health issues on record. One of the dental assistants reportedly begged for the procedure to be cut short after the patient began gurgling and lost consciousness. CPR was performed on the unresponsive patient before she was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

According to WGGB ABC40, the dentist faces a hearing before the Connecticut State Dental Board on June 18, 2014.

To read the article from WGGB ABC40, click here.

A Repeat Offender.

The state of Connecticut alleges that in addition to the botched extraction, the dentist also failed to properly respond when the patient’s oxygen levels dramatically dropped. According to New York Daily News, state records show a four-count petition claiming that the dentist “deviated from the standard of care in that he did not timely and/or properly respond to (the patient’s)… respiratory distress and/or cardiopulmonary distress.” The patient’s official cause of death is yet to be formally determined.

The dentist’s license, issued by the state of Connecticut in 2003, was suspended April 21, 2014, pending the hearing. This is not the first legal run-in for the dentist. According to New York Daily News, in December 2014 the dentist was performing a procedure when his patient began to “aspirate the throat pack” and was rushed to a nearby hospital. The patient in this case spent six days in the hospital with heart and lung damage.

The dentist was also sued for malpractice by a former employee in 2009. Shoddy dental work was cited as the claim. The ruling ended in an out-of-court settlement. To read more from the New York Daily News article, click here.

Take ESOs Seriously.

An emergency suspension order (ESO) can be issued when a healthcare professional is posing a threat to the public. In this case, the dentist had a lengthy past of legal issues that would inevitably draw attention to his practice as a hazard. It is important to note that when a practitioner exhibits a pattern of reckless behavior numerous times, an ESO commonly follows thereafter. When an ESO is issued, a practitioner must immediately cease all practice until the suspension is lifted. Even an alleged case of malpractice can deem a healthcare practitioner an ESO. Receiving an ESO is a very serious matter. Many healthcare practitioners tend to overlook the severity of this action. You need to consistently practice proper ethics and install a system of checks and balances within your office to ensure the protection of your practice and license.

As a professional, you should take any and all necessary precautions to protect your license and reputation. Proactively avoid any irregular behaviors or fraudulent actions that could put your license at risk. If you find yourself in a situation where you are served an ESO it is vital that you immediately hire a professional and experienced healthcare attorney to represent you. If it’s a matter of not being able to afford the expenses in hiring an attorney, look at it this way: your livelihood is on the line, you can’t afford NOT to.

Anytime you suspect a claim or a complaint may be filed against you, immediately hire an attorney experienced in such matters.

Comments?

Emergency suspension orders are a common concern for healthcare professionals and their careers. What types of regulations, guidelines or practices do you mandate in your office in order to avoid a potential crisis such as an ESO? Do you have any personal experiences in dealing with ESOs? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Emergency Suspension Orders and Other Licensure Actions.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling licensure and disciplinary cases, including emergency suspension orders, administrative complaints, investigations, administrative hearings, investigations, licensing issues, settlements and more. If you are currently facing adverse action by the DOH contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“Conn. Suspends Enfield Dentist’s License After Patient Death.” WGGB ABC40. (May 19, 2014). From: http://www.wggb.com/2014/05/19/conn-suspends-enfield-denists-license-after-patient-death/

Goldstein, Sasha. “Connecticut Dentist Suspended After Patient Dies While Having 20 Teeth Pulled in One Visit.” New York Daily News. (May 27, 2014). From: http://on.flatoday.com/1vBJZAd

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.

“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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

Florida Board of Dentistry Warns About Responding to or Consulting with Individuals Over Internet About Dental Issues

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

At the Florida Board of Dentistry meeting held on November 15, 2013, one of the committee chairs discussed an issue that has arisen nationally that is causing dentists legal problems. The issue arises when individuals contact a dentist over the internet seeking “information” on a dental condition or problem, and possible actions or procedures that can resolve these issues.

The concern with this is that the dentist may actually be diagnosing a dental condition or problem the individual has. The bigger concern is that if the individual contacting the dentist for information is in a different state from the one in which the dentist is licensed. Then the dentist is actually practicing dentistry in the state in which the individual is located.

In this blog I will discuss some of the issues a dentist can encounter when diagnosing a condition or problem over the internet. I will also talk about ways a dentist can reduce his or her risk.

Issues Dentists Can Face When Diagnosing a Condition Over the Web.

This can cause a myriad of different problems for the dentist involved in these situations:

1.  By diagnosing in a state in which the dentist is not licensed, he or she is engaging in the unlicensed practice of dentistry in that state. This can lead to criminal charges in that state and disciplinary actions in the state where the dentist is licensed.

2.  Cases have arisen where incorrect diagnoses have been rendered because the individual failed to provide complete information and the dentist failed to physically examine the individual or follow other procedures normally followed.

3.  There have been instances where such individuals have filed complaints or claims against dentists for providing them information upon which they relied.

4.  In most cases, a dentist’s professional liability (dental malpractice) insurance will not cover professional negligence in another state.

Recommendations to Reduce Risk.

I recommend that dentists take the following steps to help reduce risk if involved in providing information to non-patients over the internet or in the media (radio, television, newspaper, etc.):

1.  Make sure that you have proper warnings and disclaimers that are included in every such e-mail communication or listserv communication you make. Include:

A.  Include the state in which the dentist is licensed/practicing and state that the communication is not considered to be diagnosing, prescribing, treating or practicing any profession in any other state or jurisdiction.

B.  Include a disclaimer or statement in every e-mail listserv or other communication with non-patients that you are providing general information for educational purposes only and the individual must see and follow the advice of a dentist in his or her geographic area to make any diagnoses.

C.  Include that the person receiving the information cannot rely on it for treatment purposes since an actual physical examination must take place before any reliable information/recommendations can be made in any individual’s case.

2.  Inquire with your professional liability insurer or agent to ask about “broad form coverage” and attempt to obtain coverage that includes educational activities, marketing activities and other similar activities. Make sure the broad form coverage also covers these activities in different states.

3.  Make sure your professional liability insurance provides coverage for legal expenses involved in defending against administrative complaints and investigations initiated by any state or federal agency that could result in disciplinary action against you or your license. You probably need at least $25,000 in coverage for this. However, $50,000 or $75,000 in coverage for such matters is preferred. Buy this coverage separately if necessary. Lloyd’s of London provides such coverage separately.

4.  Find out where the individual contacting you resides or is communicating from. Require complete information, including complete name, address and telephone numbers.

5.  Be extremely reluctant to criticize care, services, procedures, materials or appliances used or prescribed by other dentists.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Board of Dentistry 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 http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Have you ever been asked to consult with a patient over the internet? Did you know all of these issues could up? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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.  http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Connecticut Dentist Gets Drilled in Huge Medicaid Fraud Case

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

A dentist and owner of a number of clinics in Connecticut is feeling the pain of justice. According to a number of news sources, Gary Anusavice will spend the next eight (8) years in prison for targeting poor patients, performing unnecessary dental procedures and collecting $21 million in fraudulent Medicaid claims. He was sentenced on October 9, 2013.

To read an article on the dentist’s sentencing from The Hartford Courant, click here.

Dentist Must Forfeit Luxury Items.

On top of prison time, the dentist will have to pay $3.3 million in restitution and $1.9 million to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a result of his Medicaid fraud scheme, according to The Hartford Courant. He was also ordered to forfeit his mansion, a 2008 Mercedes-Benz, a yacht and more than $91,000 in cash that was found in his home.

According to news reports, this is far from the first time he has been accused of defrauding the Medicaid program.

Dentist Previously Barred from Practicing in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According to an article in the Connecticut Post, the dentist had previous run-ins with authorities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island involving health care fraud. Both states allegedly stripped him of his dental licenses. He was also allegedly barred from participating in Medicaid in those states.

Since the dentist could no longer practice in those states, in 2008, he opened three dental groups in Connecticut, according to the Connecticut Post. In these new practices, it’s alleged he hired other dentists and offered them commissions for performing expensive procedures, paid patient recruiters to solicit poor neighborhoods, and provided shuttle services for patients. In two years, his Connecticut clinics received $21 million in Medicaid payments, according to the Connecticut Post.

Click here to read the Connecticut Post article.

In June 2013, the dentist pleaded guilty to health care fraud and tax evasion.

Being Barred from the Medicare and Medicaid Program Can have Devastating Effects.

Few health care practitioners really understand the significance of being excluded from the Medicare or Medicaid programs. Exclusion usually occurs as a direct result of disciplinary action being taken by the state board of medicine, board of nursing, board of dentistry, board of pharmacy or other health care licensing entity. To read more on the effects of exclusion from the Medicare or Medicaid programs, click here.

Take Fraud Charges Seriously.

If you are accused of Medicare or Medicaid fraud, realize that you are in the fight of your life. Your liberty, life and profession are at stake. You need to sell everything you own, borrow everything you can and hire the absolute best criminal defense attorney available who has experience in defending such cases to represent you.

If you win and are acquitted, at least you still have a professional license and can start over. However, if you lose, you will most probably be in prison for years. You will lose your license. You will be excluded from Medicare. You will be a convicted felon. You will have nothing and will have no way of starting over successfully.

Do not delude yourself. This is extremely serious. Be prepared to give up whatever you have if you can avoid a conviction.

Often Fraud Claims Can Give Rise to Large Rewards Paid to Whistleblowers.

Practically every state now has statues which allow a monetary recovery to be a person bringing a claim on behalf of the state for false Medicaid payments. These are modeled after the federal False Claims Act, used to reward whistleblowers or qui tam relators for recovers in Medicaid fraud cases.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits, Investigations and other Legal Proceedings.

Medicaid fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the state MFCU, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), the FBI, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Often other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and other law enforcement agencies participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today. Often Medicaid fraud criminal charges arise out of routine Medicaid audits, probe audits, or patient complaints.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Why was it so simple for the dentist to move to another state and continue to defraud Medicaid after being previously reprimanded for the same crime? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Mahony, Edmund. “Dentist in Massive Medicaid Fraud Case Sentenced to 8 Years.” The Hartford Courant. (October 9, 2013). From: http://www.courant.com/health/connecticut/hc-medicaid-fraud-1010-20131009,0,1388813.story

Mayko, Michael. “Fraudulent Dentel-Group Owner Sentenced.” Connecticut Post. (October 9, 2013). From: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Fraudulent-dental-group-owner-sentenced-4883112.php
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.

“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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Dentists Must Be Certain to Maintain Continuing Education Requirements

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Those who are licensed by the Department of Health (DOH) must be sure they are maintaining their continuing education requirements by taking the required courses in a timely manner. We have attended at least one professional board meeting recently where there was concern expressed about licensees failing to meet their continuing education requirements. One estimate was that approximately sixty percent (60%) were deficient in one profession.

Failing to obtain the required courses during the time period set forth by statute and by board regulation can result in disciplinary action being taken against a licensee. Disciplinary action in one state can lead to disciplinary action commenced against a license held in another state, if the licensee holds multiple licenses.

Issues We See Among Dentists Arising Out of Continuing Education Include:

1. Failure to take courses from a continuing education provider properly approved by the state board. When in doubt, ask, in writing.

2. Failure to take and complete all required courses and hours within the period of time established by the board.

3. Failure to take the exact subject matter courses required by law (such as HIV awareness, domestic violence, prevention of medical errors, etc.).

4. Failing to maintain documents proving that the provider took the courses (such as registration, payment receipt, course attendance certificate, etc.).

5. Failing to apply for or request an exemption from continuing education requirements at the time the grounds for them first arise (e.g. hardship, medical problems, not practicing).

6. Failing to respond to an audit of continuing education completion requirements (you will then be assumed to have not completed them and a DOH investigation will be opened).

7. Failing to respond in a succinct, organized manner, by letter, with proper documentation, sent to the correct address that auditor states, via certified mail, return receipt requested.

8. Assuming that the office manager, practice manager or administrative secretary is going to take care of such matters so you do not have to be concerned with them.

9. Arguing with or being demeaning to the auditor who requests information or who advises you that you are short of hours or courses.

10. Failing to immediately make up any missing hours or courses from prior periods, in addition to fully meeting all current continuing education requirements.

11. Failing to respond to citations, complaints or letters sent to you by the DOH regarding this matter.

Often consulting an experienced health law attorney on such matters can save a great deal of turmoil, mental anguish, cost and damage to your professional license and professional reputation.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Investigations of Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI 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.

Comments?

Are you guilty of failing to meet your continuing education requirements? Do you think the continuing education classes are worth the time invested in them? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Overcoming License Suspension and Revocation Pending Appeal

By: Lance O. Leider, J.D.

If you are a dentist or other licensed health professional whose license has been recently revoked or suspended, there may still be hope. Ordinarily, you must immediately stop practicing or you risk being prosecuted for unlicensed practice, a felony. Although this blog deals with Florida law, similar relief may be available in other states, too.

One of the hardest things about having a license suspended or revoked is that it immediately cuts off the licensee’s sole source of income. If you have a thriving practice, this will usually destroy any value your business has. Without income, paying your bills will be a challenge, much less the cost to fight the legal action or to appeal.

Even if you appeal the decision and win the appeal, you will be out of practice for many months, often more than a year, before your license is reinstated. You still have all the lost income and business, and you never get this time and money back.

Fortunately, Florida law provides an avenue for temporary relief from the adverse decision, so that you may retain your license and practice your profession pending appeal of your case. This legal process is called a writ of supersedeas.

What is Supersedeas Relief?

Supersedeas relief is a form of relief granted by a reviewing court (court of appeal) that suspends the enforcement of the judgement of the lower court (or agency) while the underlying issues are decided on appeal. What this means is that you can have the action to revoke or suspend your license put on hold while you appeal the decision of the Department of Health (DOH).

This relief is authorized in two separate places in Florida law: Section 120.68(3), Florida Statutes, and Rule 9.190(e)(2)(C), Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. Both of these provisions state that a reviewing court can grant a stay of enforcement of the revocation or suspension of a license pending review.

The relief is not automatic, however. Both provisions specifically prevent supersedeas from being granted if the licensee poses a probable threat to the health, safety or welfare of the state. Fortunately, it is the burden of the agency whose order is being reviewed to prove that there is a danger to the public.

Additionally, the Appellate Rule permits you to ask for expedited review. (Which of course is recommended because you want to be back to work as quickly as possible, right?) This means that the agency only has ten (10) days to file its opposition. This shortened time period may make it difficult for an overworked government attorney to file on time or to produce quality opposition.

Steps to Seeking Supersedeas Relief.

1. File an appeal of the Final Order revoking or suspending your license with the appropriate agency and a copy to the appellate court. Be sure to follow all appellate rules and instructions.

2. File a Petition for Expedited Supersedeas Relief with the appellate court at the same time.

3. If you receive a favorable ruling from the court, deliver that order to the licensing agency (in this case, the DOH) and request that your license be reinstated immediately.

Other Considerations.

It is important to note that this form of relief will not make the underlying action disappear. Your return to practice will only be temporary, unless you win the appeal. You will still have to show the licensing agency did something contrary to law when it imposed the discipline in order for the appellate court to overturn the decision. This is not often an easy task. Furthermore, the law only permits a thirty (30) day window in which to appeal the agency’s decision, after which your rights are lost and you are very likely stuck with the decision.

Appeals Are Very Technical and Require a Thorough, Specialized Knowledge of the Law.

What few people understand is that appeals are very technical and have complex, procedural rules that you must follow. An appeal of an agency final order is not the place to argue about the facts of your case or to try to prove different facts.

An appeal is all about the law and the court cases that have interpreted the law. Unless the agency (in this case your board) made a legal error and violated the law, you won’t win.

For an appeal, a person needs an attorney. To prevail on an appeal, you must have a detailed knowledge of the correct, relevant court cases and you must be able to argue these in the proper form in legal briefs.

There are many other procedural steps you must follow in an appeal that only a good appellate attorney will know. To attempt to do this yourself is not advisable.
Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.

If you have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, it is imperative that you contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career. Remember, your license is your livelihood, it is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, dentists, nurses, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues.

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: Lance O. Leider 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.

“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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Dentists: Please, Please, Please Talk to an Attorney Before You Talk to an Investigator

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

Listen up, In Florida You DO NOT Have to Speak to an Investigator!

Despite mailing out hundreds of thousands of postcards and letters to dentists, throughout Florida, we continue to receive calls from new clients and from potential clients, after they have already spoken to and made critical harmful admissions against their own interests to investigators. In Florida, you do not have any duty to cooperate with any investigator who is investigating you. This extends to Department of Health (DOH) investigators (who are sometimes titled “Medical Quality Assurance Investigators” or “Medical Malpractice Investigators”), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agents, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, or criminal investigators of any type.

Heed This Warning – Investigators are NOT on Your Side.

Let me state this as succinctly and clearly as possible. If you are being investigated, you will not be better off making a statement. You will not be better off explaining your side of the story. The investigator is not your friend. The investigator is not on your side. All you are doing is falling for a trick and helping the government to make a case against you.

Protect Yourself, Your License and Your Reputation.

You have a right under the U.S. Constitution to not make any statement that may be used against you. This is so important that in criminal cases government investigators are required to advise you of this by reciting to you your Miranda rights.

However, in cases where you might have your dental license revoked or have your DEA number revoked or lose your Medicare provider status or your Medicaid provider status, the investigator is not required to advise you of your rights.

In a criminal case, there may be ways to have your statement thrown out. However, in a professional licensing case or other administrative case, it may be too late to avoid the damage. You may be the best witness the government has and you may be the only witness the government needs to prove ths case against you.

In the case where you could receive a $100 criminal fine, the investigators are required to read you your constitutional Miranda rights and to be sure that you understand them before you make a statement. However, in a case where you can lose your dental license, where you could lose your livelihood and ability to make a living, where you could lose everything you have worked so hard to obtain, they are not required to do this. You must protect yourself.

Many dentists, when confronted by an investigator, who will usually call at a very inconvenient time (to catch you by surprise) and will usually flash a badge (to intimidate you), will refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter and will fall for the bait to “tell their side of the story.” This can be fatal to your defense and fatal to your license.

Do NOT Admit to Anything; It May Ruin Your Defense.

In the absence of a statement by the suspect (in this case, let’s assume this is YOU), the government may have a very difficult time of proving that you have committed any offense. It may have other witnesses (who may not be around at the time of any hearing or trial). It may have a lot of physical evidence or documents. But it may be impossible for the government investigators to make any link between you and the evidence, unless you help the investigators do this. You would be surprised at how many dentists believe that they can just talk their way out of the situation; in reality, they are just giving evidence that is used to make the case against them.

Any evidence at all, just admitting that you were there, admitting that the documents are yours, admitting that the patient was yours, admitting that you worked at the clinic, admitting that you wrote the prescription, admitting that the property is yours, admitting that you were on duty at the time, admitting that you have taken a drug, admitting that you signed the form, can be a crucial piece of evidence that could not otherwise be proven without your own testimony.

Remember, this is the investigators’ job and profession. This is what they do full time, every day. And they are very good at it. They are 1,000 times better at getting you to admit the crucial elements of a disciplinary infraction than you are in “talking your way out of it.” They will not be convinced by any excuses you make. They do not have to be. They will not be the ones making the final decision against you. Theirs is the job of putting together the case against you. You will help them by talking to them, explaining why your decisions are correct, explaining why what you did is excusable, etc. It will not work. You will merely be giving them enough rope to hang you with.

How to Determine the Reason Behind the Investigation.

Hint: If it is a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) special agent (investigator), you are probably under investigation for Medicaid fraud.

Hint: If it is an “auditor,” “surveyor” or “investigator” from an agency or company with “integrity” or “program integrity” in its name, they are probably investigating you for “lack of integrity,” i.e., false claims or fraud.

Hint: If it is a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent (investigator) they are probably investigating you to prosecute you or to revoke your DEA registration for drug or prescribing violations.

Hint: If it is an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) special agent (investigator), you are probably under investigation for Medicare fraud or Medicare false claims.

Hint: If it is a Department of Health Quality Assurance Investigator or Medical Malpractice Investigator, they are probably only investigating possible disciplinary action against your license that could result in large administrative fines or revocation of your license.

Do Not Try to Talk Your Way Out; It Will NOT Work.

Do not believe for a second that you are smarter than the investigator. Do not believe for a second that you will convince the investigator (or anyone else) that there is a legal or medical justification for what you did or what they allege. If it were as simple as that, then why would there be an investigation and why would you be the one being investigated?

Additionally, do not believe for a second that you can lie your way out of it, either. Remember, if the government cannot prove the basic offense that it is investigating against you, it may be able to prove that you have committed perjury or lied to an investigator. In the case of a federal official or a federal investigation, merely making a false statement (oral or written) to an investigator is a criminal act. This is what Martha Stewart and many others have served time for in federal prisons.

These investigators are lied to all the time. They are usually better at detecting lies than a polygraph expert is. Furthermore, in most cases, you will be the very last person to be interviewed. Therefore, they will already know just about everything that can be used against you. If your statement contradicts in any way what others have told them, they will know you are the one who is lying. However, knowing something or suspecting something does not mean it will be something that can be proven in court or in an administrative hearing.

Consult an Attorney Before You Do or Say ANYTHING.

It is much better to make no statement at all. Blame it on your attorney. Tell the investigator that your attorney will kill you if you were to talk to the investigator without your attorney being there ahead of time. “Speak to my attorney.” “My attorney can help you, I can’t.”

All you have to do is state “I must talk to my lawyer before I say anything.” “I will have my lawyer contact you.” “I cannot say anything until I talk to my lawyer.” “I want a lawyer.”

If you are not the one being investigated, then there is no good reason why the investigator would want you to make a statement before you consulted with your attorney. What is the rush?

Then you must also avoid the old trick of the investigator telling you “If you don’t have anything to hide, why would you need a lawyer?” Please don’t fall for this trick, either. This is America. Smart people and rich people spend a lot of money on attorneys and other professionals to represent them and advise them. There is a good reason why they do this.

Far too often the doctor only calls us after he has given a statement. This is usually too late to avoid much of the damage that will have been be caused.

Everything above applies to oral statements or written statements. Do not make either. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible, preferably before making any statement, no matter how simple, defensive, self-serving or innocuous you may think it to be.

Think of this as an intelligence test. Are you smart enough to follow this guidance and avoid this type of mistake?

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists 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 http://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. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Preserve Your Dental License – Pretrial Intervention and Drug Court as Alternatives to Conviction, Nolo Contendere, or Adjudication Withheld

By Lance O. Leider, J.D., and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

As if being faced with the consequences of criminal charges wasn’t frightening enough, physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists and other health professionals have the added danger of having their licenses disciplined or revoked if they plead nolo contendere or guilty to a criminal charge

Whether you are applying for a new license to practice or have been practicing for years you are under an obligation to report “convictions” and “pleas” to the board that governs your profession.  The normal definition of a “conviction” is not the same as the Department of Health (DOH) and the various professional boards use.

Pursuant to Section 456.072, Florida Statutes, licensed healthcare providers can be disciplined for all of the following dispositions of a criminal case:

- Actual conviction (by a judge or jury)

- Entering a plea of guilty

- Entering a plea of nolo contendere 

- Adjudication Withheld

Click here to see Section 456.072, F.S.

That’s right, adjudication withheld and nolo contendere pleas are all treated the same as a conviction as far as your professional license is concerned.

While these alternative means of disposing of a criminal case may be beneficial or expedient for the average citizen, healthcare practitioners have to think of what those dispositions mean for their license.

Don’t give up hope yet though, there is an alternative that will permit your criminal case to be favorably disposed of and allow you to potentially avoid discipline to your professional license.  That alternative is pretrial intervention (PTI) programs, sometimes referred ti as “PTI” or “PTIO.”

What Is Pretrial Intervention?

PTI is a diversion program for those accused of certain types of crimes that, if successfully completed, results in the criminal charges being dismissed.  The best part of this option is that it does not require the defendant to enter any plea.

Individuals who are enrolled in PTI programs are on a sort of quasi-probation.  The criminal case against them is continued (put on hold) while the PTI program is running.  Typical conditions of PTI supervision require periodic reporting, drug screening, mental health or substance abuse counseling, community service, and payment of supervision fees.

Who Is Eligible For Pretrial Intervention?

Eligibility for entry into PTI programs is governed by Sections 948.08 and 948.16, Florida Statutes.

To see Section 948.08, F.S., or Section 948.16, F.S., click the links.

Generally, any first time offender, or any person who has previously been convicted of not more than one nonviolent misdemeanor or third-degree felony is eligible for PTI so long as the following requirements are met:

1. The defendant has voluntarily agreed to participate in PTI,

2. Consent of the victim,

3. Consent of the prosecutor, and

4. Consent of the judge who presided at the initial appearance.

Should the offense for which the practitioner is facing charges be related to controlled substances, the statute offers additional eligibility criteria:

1. Those charged with nonviolent felonies and are identified as having a substance abuse problem; or,

2. Those who are charged with felonies of the second or third degree for purchase or possession of a controlled substance, or obtaining a prescription by fraud; and

3. Who have not been previously convicted of a felony, nor admitted to a felony PTI program.

Similar programs are available for those having substance abuse problems who are charged with nonviolent misdemeanor offenses, or those who are charged with misdemeanor possession of drugs or alcohol, prostitution, or possession without a prescription.

Conclusion.

PTI may seem like more of a hassle for minor offenses than simply accepting a plea or adjudication withheld.  This may be true for the average person, but licensed health professionals have to take into account the professional consequences that come from a conviction, or other similar dispositions of the case. These include actions against their license, reports to certification bodies, reports to health facilities in which they are licensed and reports to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) or other data banks.

The most important thing to remember about PTI is successful completion of the program results in the charges being dismissed!

This means you don’t have to report anything to your board and there will be no discipline on your license.  Furthermore, you can later apply to have the arrest expunged (if you are otherwise eligible).

The benefits of entry into a PTI program by a healthcare practitioner cannot really be overstated.  The disciplinary process is often long and extremely costly.  The effects of discipline on your license can follow you for the remainder of your career and is publicly available to anyone who cares to look.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Licensure Matters.

If you have been arrested, it is strongly recommended that you retain an experienced healthcare attorney who can advise you and your criminal counsel as to the effects a potential outcome could have on your license.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners in licensure matters.  We frequently consult with criminal defense attorneys regarding defense strategies tailored to minimizing criminal sanctions while at the same time preserving the practitioner’s license.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Section 948.08, Florida Statutes

Section 948.16, Florida Statutes

Section 456.072, Florida Statutes

About the Authors: Lance O. Leider 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.

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.

“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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.