6 Charged In Florida Chiropractic PIP Insurance Fraud Scheme

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

On October 4, 2017, federal prosecutors charged six Florida residents with running a multi-million dollar insurance fraud scheme through a dozen chiropractic clinics. The alleged scheme involved paying kickbacks to chiropractors and tow truck companies to refer accident victims and then fraudulently billing insurers for services the victims did not need.
An indictment unsealed in Fort Lauderdale charges three of the individuals involved with racketeering, conspiracy to commit fraud and making false statements relating to health care matters.  Three additional people were also charged with conspiracy to commit fraud.


Insurance Fraud Scheme.

Prosecutors claim that beginning in 2010, two of the individuals charged, ran a scheme through chiropractic clinics in South Florida that were used to commit automobile insurance fraud.  They are alleged to have set up the clinics using licensed chiropractors as fake owners and then paid illegal kickbacks of between $500 and $2,100.  Those who received the illegal kickbacks included tow truck drivers, who could solicit car crash victims for the clinics, according to the indictment. Unnamed tow truck drivers and others were paid $2,100 to visit either Yonover’s clinics or Dalley’s law office after they were involved in car accidents.

The accident victims were encouraged to visit the clinics at least 30 times so the clinic owners could receive the largest personal injury protection (PIP) insurance reimbursement, prosecutors said.  Prosecutors also claim that two of those charged told employees to falsely inflate the pain levels of accident victims in order to get the insurance companies to pay for the treatments.

If convicted, those involved could receive sentences of up to 80 years in prison in addition to massive fines.

Florida is Serious in Combating PIP Fraud.

Physicians, especially dentists, chiropractors, and optometrists, should always be extremely wary about working for a clinic or medical group owned in any part by someone who is not a licensed health professional.  If the clinic, practice or group is owned in any part, even one percent (1%) by a person or business entity that is not a Florida licenced health professional, it may be operating illegally. This includes someone licensed in another state or who has a revoked or inactive Florida license. Dentists, optometrists and chiropractors in Florida have even more restrictions placed on their practices than other health professionals and most other states.

Florida specifically prohibits the corporate practice of dentistry. The key provision in Florida law that establishes this is Section 466.028, Florida Statutes, but the Florida Board of Dentistry has also adopted administrative rules on this topic as well.
Chiropractors have a statutory provision, Section 460.4167, Florida Statutes, that places stringent limits on who may own or control a clinic that involves the delivery of chiropractic services. As a general rule, it prohibits anyone who is not a Florida licensed chiropractor, M.D., D.O. or podiatrist from owning in any part a clinic that employs a chiropractor.

Physicians who are “partners,” “shareholders” or “co-owners” with unlicensed personnel need to ensure they are in full compliance with the Florida HCCLA and all other applicable Florida laws and regulations. Consult with an experienced health lawyer before making an expensive mistake.

To read a prior blog I wrote on a very similar case involving PIP fraud, click here.

Clinics Setting up Phoney Physician Owners Violate the Laws.

We have been consulted by many different dentists, medical doctors and chiropractors who have found themselves involved in clinics owned by or controlled by individuals who do not have any license or any Florida license.  Often these situations result in complaints, investigations and prosecutions being initiated against the physician who is unwittingly involved.  In one case we were called upon by a radiologist who was sued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for over six million dollars ($6,000,000) in civil monetary penalties because the real unlicensed owners of an independent diagnostic treatment facility (IDTF) had falsely listed him as the owner to illegally avoid obtaining the correct licensed they needed.

Licensed physicians, chiropractors, dentists and other health professionals must be diligent and make sure that a dental or health care clinic or practice does not list her or him as an “owner” (including a shareholder or member) or officer (including “president” or “managing member”) of a corporation, limited liability company or other business entity unless he or she actually is one.  Allowing your name to be used as the owner “for paperwork reasons only” or “for licensure reasons only” or “for insurance purposes only” is just an indication that you are actually aware of and involved in the fraud.  An owner “in name only” is merely a “phony owner” or a “straw man owner,” all terms meaning the same thing:  for the purpose of defrauding someone.

How can you tell if you are a real owner (shareholder or member), and not merely a “straw man” or “phony owner”?  Here are some indicators:

1. You actually paid money to obtain the ownership interest (shares or membership interest).

2. You have a written, signed, dated shareholders agreement or membership agreement.

3. You have stock certificates or membership certificates showing your ownership interest in the business interests.

4. You receive a shareholders or members distribution each year that is reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

5. You receive a tax document (usually a form K-1 or Form 1099-DIV) annually as a result of the corporate or limited liability company income tax return that shows your percentage interest in the corporation or company and what percentage of the income was paid to you.

6. You will have access to and some control over the books, records and accounts of the business.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys in Matters of Fraud.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses, chiropractors and other health providers in fraud investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, denials and demands for repayment from insurance companies, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. It also represents shareholders, members and business entities in corporate and business litigation in state or federal court.  Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Sources:

Musgrave, Jane. “Delray lawyer, Boca man charged in million-dollar PIP fraud scheme.” The Palm Beach Post. (October 4, 2017). Web.

Bolado, Carolina. “6 Charged In Florida Chiropractic Insurance Fraud Scheme.” Law360. (October 4, 2017). Web.

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.

KeyWords: Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud, legal representation for PIP claims, legal representation for PIP fraud, legal representation for chiropractors, chiropractor defense attorney, legal representation for licensed health care professionals, “straw man owner,” “phony owner of health care clinic,” medical practice legal representation for health care clinic owners, health fraud defense lawyer, legal representation for health care fraud, health care clinic attorney, litigation over ownership of clinic, corporate practice of medicine, health fraud defense attorney, false claims lawyer, insurance fraud defense attorney, Florida Division of Insurance Fraud, legal representation for allegations of false claims, legal representation for submitting false claims to the government, false claims defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, attorney for health care clinic license, medical business dispute attorney, proprietorship of dental practice attorney, proprietorship of chiropractic practice attorney

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

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Responding to a Medicaid Audit: Important Tips You Should Know

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), Office of Inspector General (OIG), Bureau of Medicaid Program Integrity, is the Florida agency responsible for routine audits of Medicaid health care providers. Each state has a similar state agency, though it may have a different name.  The agency’s job is to ensure that the Medicaid Program was properly billed for services. Health care professionals receiving large payments from Medicaid or who practice in areas that typically see the most abuse or fraudulent billings, are the ones most likely to be audited.  These include pediatricians, Ob/Gyns, family practice physicians and pediatric dentists.

A different state agency that may also conduct Medicaid audits is the state Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).  However, by definition, the MFCU is investigating allegations that there is substantial fraud going on.  You should know that if you are contacted by the MFCU, this is a very serious matter.  This is not a routine audit.
However, on the “routine” audits conducted by the Medica agency, the Medicaid audit usually requests information in a questionnaire that the medical practice is required to complete. Additionally, copies of medical records (including x-rays and other diagnostic studies) on the list of Medicaid patients selected for the audit.

If AHCA (or the state Medicaid agency) determines that Medicaid overpaid for services, it will use a complex mathematical extrapolation formula to determine the repayment amount. The amount of the repayment to the Medicaid Program can be considerably greater than (30 to 100 times as much as) the actual amount of overpayment disclosed by the sample of records audited. Additionally, fines and penalties can be added by the Medicaid Program. However, you can eliminate or reduce the amount of any such repayment by actions taken both before and during the Medicaid audit.

 

General Practice Tips:
There are various ways to manage your practice that will help you in the event that you are selected for a Medicaid Audit.

1. Every patient record entry should be clearly dated and signed or initialed by the provider. Make sure this is always done.

2. When documenting in the patient’s record, make sure that you document exactly what services were needed and completed in order to support what was billed to Medicaid.

3. Communicate with the person responsible for your billing so that the actual services provided are billed for. Do not bill in advance for anticipated services needed as indicated in the appointment calendar or on a treatment plan.

4. Keep the patient records organized and ready for copying if necessary. Use only one sided documents and securely fasten small forms (prescriptions, telephone memos, small sticky notes) onto 8-1/2″ by 11″ paper. Scan all such documents into the patient record if using an electronic health record (EHR).

5. Services provided by a physician who is not enrolled in the Medicaid Program to a Medicaid patient may not be billed to or paid by the Medicaid Program. Therefore, never allow any other physician associated with your practice who is not enrolled as a Medicaid provider to provide services to Medicaid patients. Do not allow a new physician coming into your practice to treat Medicaid patients until he or she actually has received his or her Medicaid provider number. The group may not bill for the services nor may another physician bill for the services.

6. Ensure that all health care professionals’ licenses and permits are kept up to date. Ensure that all x-ray, clinical, lab and diagnostic equipment is permitted and kept up to date. Ensure that any CLIA license or exemption certificate is correct and kept up to date. Services billed by unlicensed personnel or services provided by improperly licensed facilities may not be paid by the Medicaid Program.

7. Use only standard abbreviations in your medical records, documentation, orders, and reports. While an abbreviation may seem common to you or your practice, if it is not a universally accepted abbreviation, the auditors may not recognize it.

8. Make sure all records are timely made, accurate and legible. Safeguard them and never let the original leave your office. Illegible records are treated as a non-record, and payment completely disallowed for an illegible note or order. A missing record, x-ray or chart entry will result in a complete repayment being directed for those services.

The Medicaid Audit:

If you are being audited, AHCA will send you a letter notifying you of the audit. AHCA will also supply you with a list of patients to be sampled a standard sample will include a list of anywhere from 30 to 150 patient names, depending on the size of the practice. Regular audits routinely request 30 to 50 patient records. The audit letter will also include a questionnaire to be completed (Medicaid Provider Questionnaire) and a “Certification of Completeness of Records” form to complete and return with the copies of the patient records. (Please note: this will be used against you in the future if you attempt to add to or supplement the copies of the records you provided).

It is crucial that you retain the services of an expert consultant or experienced health care attorney in correctly and accurately completing the questionnaire. The letter will also request that you provide copies of the patient records for the list of patients included with the letter. You will only be given a short time to provide these documents.

1. When receiving a notice of a Medicaid audit, time is of the essence. Be sure to calendar the date that the records need to be in the AHCA office and have the records there by that date. Note: the due date is not the last date on which you can mail the records but rather is the date that the records must be received at AHCA.

2. Obtain and review a copy of the claims you submitted and what Medicaid has paid on each of the patients being audited. This information can be found in the Medicaid portal, in your billing system, or in the Explanation of Benefits. Compare this information to the medical records to see if any issues may arise when AHCA reviews the records. (Keep this for your use, do not provide it as part of the audit records).

3. Provide a complete copy of the entire record, not just the parts from the period of time covered by the audit. Remember that other physician records obtained as history, including reports and consultations should be included. Consent forms, medical history questionnaires, histories, physicals, and other physicians’ orders, may be a crucial part of the record.

4. If you suspect that an issue may arise with a particular patient, prepare a separate explanation to submit with the patient’s file. AHCA will have an expert review the records, so an explanation in advance will help the expert to assess if there is in fact an issue. Any explanatory notes or other explanations should be clearly labeled as such and dated as of the date actually prepared, so there is no confusion as to whether or not it was part of the original record.

5. If your practice involves taking x-rays or using other diagnostic studies, these procedures are part of the patient’s record. If the x-rays are digital, they can be submitted on a compact disc. Be sure to include the number of x-rays on the compact discs in the Certification of Completeness of Records.
6. Complete the Medicaid Provider Questionnaire in its entirety to send with the patient records. Do not leave any section blank. Use “not applicable” or “none” if necessary. Attach all required documents. Consult with an experienced health law attorney to assist in completing the form.

To learn more about the Medicaid audit process and how The Health Law Firm can assist you, click here to watch our short video blog.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late, Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid and Medicare Audits.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.
If you or your practice has been sent notice of a Medicaid or Medicare audit, please contact us at (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 or visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com for more information.

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.

KeyWords: Legal representation for Medicaid audits, Medicaid audit defense attorney, health care fraud defense attorney, health care fraud investigation defense attorney, legal representation for health care fraud investigation, legal representation for health care fraud, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation for Medicaid fraud, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for submitting false claims to the government, legal representation for overbilling, health care fraud attorney, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, reviews of The Health Law Firm
“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.