What is the corporate practice of optometry and what does it prohibit?

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

The legal doctrine called the “corporate practice of medicine or optometry” actually refers to the legal prohibition that prevents a doctor or an optometrist from working for a corporation (or other business entity) that is owned, operated or controlled by non-physicians or, in the case of optometrists, non-optometrists.

In the context of such laws, the term “non-physician” or “non-optometrist” almost always refers to one who is not licensed in the same state as the practice. Such prohibitions are entirely subject to each state’s laws. Some states have statutes that prohibit the corporate practice of a profession. Others have case law that has developed over the decades. So it depends on what state you are in whether or not the law prohibits the relationship.

The principle behind having such a prohibition is to prevent a business from controlling a medical or optometry practices. The idea is that decisions involving patient care should be made solely and completely in the best interest of the patient, based on the patient’s actual medical needs, by the physician providing the services. Fears are that business people or corporations might scrimp on supplies and equipment, purchase inferior grade products to use, or order unnecessary tests and procedures to increase income.

Florida has no corporate practice of medicine prohibition for medical doctors (MDs) or osteopathic physicians (DOs). However, it does have prohibitions that apply to optometrists, dentists and chiropractors. The optometry statute, Section 463.014, Florida Statutes, is similar to the ones for dentistry, Section 466.0285, Florida Statutes, and for chiropractors, Section 460.4167, Florida Statutes, perhaps being more similar to the latter. Although the optometry statute does not provide the strict consequences for violation that the latter two statutes above provide, nevertheless, it does prohibit the corporate practice of optometry, except if the corporation or business entity is owned and controlled by other licensed health professionals. The statutes prohibiting the corporate practice of dentistry and chiropractic, both make it a felony to violate the prohibition, a very serious matter.

Section 463.014(1)(a), Florida Statutes, does conclude with “Nothing in this section shall be deemed to prohibit the association of a licensed practitioner [meaning “optometrist”] with a multidisciplinary group of licensed health care professionals, the primary objective of which is the diagnosis and treatment of the human body.” To me, this language specifically authorizes an optometrist to “associate with” (meaning be employed by, contract with, form a partnership with, be a member with, be a shareholder with, etc.) a group or entity composed of other licensed health professionals (e.g., MDs, DOs, ARNPs, etc.). Therefore the optometrist could join with or be employed by any type of “group” of other licensed health professionals, whether that group is a P.A., Inc., LLC, etc.

Under Florida law, unless the licensed health professionals are the same profession (i.e., licensed by the same board) then they cannot form a “professional association” (a misnomer, actually it is a “professional service corporation” or “professional corporation” which the Florida Statutes allow to be shown by the abbreviation “P.A.;” see, Section 621.12(2), Florida Statute) nor a professional limited liability company (PLLC). See Section 621.03(2), Florida Statutes. So, for example, an MD could not legally form a P.A. (meaning a professional association or professional service corporation) with an advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) as a shareholder (different professions). A chiropractor (DC) cannot legally be in a P.A. with a dentist (different professions).
However, I don’t believe there is any prohibition in Florida on licensed health professionals forming a non-professional service corporation (i.e., a “business corporation”) or other types of business entities, with other licensed health professionals. Except, of course, the prohibition that applies to optometrists, chiropractors and dentists, discussed above.

Despite the absence of teeth from the optometry statute, Section 463.014, Florida Statutes, I would never recommend to a client ignoring it. You risk having someone sue to have any contracts or arrangements made that violate it declared void and unenforceable. I have been involved in a number of these cases with medical doctors and with dentists.

Before entering into any business venture in Florida (or any state, for that matter) involving a medical business, dental practice, optometry practice, or chiropractic practice, be sure to consult with a board certified health lawyer or other experienced attorney knowledgeable in health law and corporate law. Be sure to conduct adequate due diligence to know and understand the entire business arrangement. Obtain a written opinion letter to advise you and protect you from the consequences of a poor decision.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Optometrists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to optometrists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, contract matters, business law matters, business litigation 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.

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

KeyWords: Legal representation for optometrists, corporate practice attorney, corporate practice defense attorney, Board of Optometry investigation defense attorney, Optometrist defense attorney, legal counsel for Board of Optometry investigations and hearings, health care professional defense attorney, legal representation for medical professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Florida health law attorney, legal representation for administrative hearings, legal representation for complaints against a professional license, licensure defense attorney, legal representation for a complaint made for violation of HIPAA or patient privacy, legal representation for Optometrists in Florida, legal representation for Optometrists in Colorado, legal representation for Optometrists in Louisiana, legal representation for Optometrists in Virginia and legal representation for Optometrists in the District of Columbia

“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

What You Need to Know About Preparing and Responding to an Initial Medicaid Audit Request

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Health care providers in Florida who service Medicaid patients are at a higher risk for audits than anywhere else in the country. The unfortunate truth is that Florida has become synonymous with health care fraud. As a result, auditing and subsequent overpayment demands are very real possibilities.

The Health Law Firm and its legal professionals represent health care providers in virtually every aspect of Medicaid program audits, investigations and litigation. These include physicians, medical groups, mental health professionals, pharmacies, nursing homes, home health agencies, hospitals and other health facilities.

Facts You Should Know About the Medicaid Audit Process.

Should you find yourself, your facility or your health practice the subject of a Medicaid audit by your state Medicaid agency or audit contractor, there are a few things you should know. The most important thing to remember is that just because you are being audited, it does not mean that you or your business have done anything wrong. State and federal governments conduct audits for several different reasons. Typical ones include: special audits of high-fraud geographic areas, auditing of particular billing codes, randomly selected provider auditing and complaints of possible fraud.

If You Are the Subject of an Audit.

A Medicaid audit will usually begin with the provider receiving an initial audit request, usually by letter or fax. This request will serve to notify the recipient that it is the subject of an audit. The initial letter will not always identify the reason for the audit. It will, however, contain a list of names and dates of service for which the auditors want to see copies of medical records and other documentation.

Once the records are compiled and sent to the auditor, the process shifts and you are now going to have to dispute the auditor’s findings in order to avoid overpayment.

The biggest mistake that someone who is the subject of an audit can make is to hastily copy only a portion of the available records and send them off for review. The temptation is to think that because the records make sense to you, they will make sense to the auditor. Remember, the auditor has never worked in your office and has no idea how the records are compiled and organized. This is why it is so important to compile a thorough set of records. The records should be presented in a clearly labeled and organized fashion that provide justification for every service or item billed.

Compiling a Response to an Initial Audit Request.

The following are steps that you should take in order to compile and provide a set of records that will best serve to help you avoid any liability at the conclusion of the audit process:

1. Read the audit letter carefully and provide everything that it asks for. It’s always better to send too much documentation than too little.

2. If at all possible, compile the records yourself. If you can’t do this, have a compliance officer, experienced consultant, or experienced health attorney compile the records and handle any follow-up requests.

3. Pay attention to the deadlines. If a deadline is approaching and the records are not going to be ready, contact the auditor and request an extension before it is due. Do this by telephone and follow up with a letter (not an email). Send the letter before the deadline.

4. Send a cover letter with the requested documents and records explaining what is included and how it is organized as well as who to contact if the auditors have any questions.

5. Number every page of the records sent from the first page to the last page of documents.

6. Make a copy of everything you send exactly as it is sent. This way there are no valid questions later on as to whether a particular document was forwarded to the auditors.

7. Send the response package using some form of package tracking or delivery confirmation to arrive before the deadline.

Compiling all of the necessary documentation in a useful manner can be an arduous task. If you find that you cannot do it on your own, or that there are serious deficiencies in record keeping, it is recommended that you reach out to an attorney with experience in Medicaid auditing to assist you in the process.

To learn how The Health Law Firm can assist you with a Medicaid audit, click here.

If you have been accused of Medicaid fraud and need to prepare for an audit, click here to watch our informational video blog.

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.

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., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law 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.
KeyWords: Medicaid fraud defense attorney, Medicaid audit defense attorney, legal representation for false billing, legal representation for Medicaid overpayment, legal representation for Medicaid audit, legal representation for Medicaid investigation, health care fraud defense attorney, Medicaid fraud attorney, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) , legal representation for allegations of overbilling, audit defense attorney, ZPIC audit defense attorney, legal counsel for responding to Medicaid audits, legal representation for Medicaid fraud allegations, legal counsel for Medicaid audits, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“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.

Arizona Appeals Court Affirms Dentist’s Suspension Over Questionable Prescriptions

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 13, 2016, an Arizona appeals court affirmed the suspension of a dentist who allegedly had a history of opioid addiction and who also allegedly wrote dozens of questionable prescriptions. The Arizona appeals court held that the state dental board didn’t violate his due process rights and had substantial evidence backing its decision that it wasn’t safe for him to practice.

The Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One, concluded that the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners had acted within its authority by suspending Dr. Michael Wassef’s license to practice dentistry in the state. This was following Dr. Wassef’s refusal to submit to the dental board’s requests after it discovered evidence suggesting he had relapsed. The appeals court decision upheld a lower court’s decision affirming the dental board’s order.

History of Opioid Abuse?

Dr. Wassef’s possible relapse into opioid addiction reportedly first came to the attention of authorities in March 2014. This allegedly occurred when a pharmacist contacted the dental board to raise concerns about Dr. Wassef’s prescription-writing practices, according to the court’s decision. The board discovered that he had received prescriptions for controlled substances in increasing amounts over a six-year time period. Additionally, Dr. Wassef allegedly wrote 44 prescriptions in two years for the muscle relaxant Soma for his wife, his assistant and his assistant’s daughter, the opinion said.

After he tested positive for Soma and another medication, Dr. Wassef refused to submit to an assessment. As a result, the dental board issued an interim order that he obtain an inpatient substance-abuse evaluation, according to the opinion. He refused, and the dental board suspended his license in April 2014.

Arizona State Court Sides With Board.

Dr. Wassef contended that the board denied him due process by suspending his license without allowing him the opportunity to defend himself. Despite Wassef’s claims, the appeals court wasn’t swayed, explaining that the board didn’t have to give him a hearing before entering the interim order and can summarily suspend a licensee when it concludes.

The state board had more than enough evidence to conclude that Dr. Wassef was unsafe to practice dentistry, the appeals court panel held. “Under these circumstances, the board was not required to accept Dr. Wassef’s explanations and Dr. Wassef did not disprove the board’s suspicions,” the panel held. “Thus, the dental board had reasonable grounds to take emergency action to prevent harm to the public.”

To read the decision on this matter, click here.

To read more on the repercussions of choices such as this, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Serious Allegations Need Serious Legal Representation.

When a dentist, physician, nurse, psychologist, pharmacist, or other licensed health professional is accused of drug abuse or alcohol abuse, this is a very serious matter. As happened in this case, your license can be suspended putting you out of work and terminating your ability to pay for a legal defense.

Several things are a must. You must have good professional liability insurance that pays for the legal defense of complaints filed against your license, preferable with $50,000 or more of coverage for this type of event. Second, you must immediately retain experience health care legal counsel who deals with these types of cases routinely. Often there are options to such a harsh remedy as a suspension. Additionally, all the time spent from initial notification of the complaint, should be used in obtaining evidence to show that the dentist is not currently impaired. This can be routine random urinalysis testing, treatment with psychiatrist and certified addictions professionals, evaluation by special physicians health programs and other actions.

Usually, suspension is only appropriate when the physicians condition makes him an immediate threat to patient safety. Being able to prove that the physician is not a threat is te key to preventing a suspension. Also, using the time and money in appealing such a decision may, in may cases, be better used in requesting an emergency hearing and getting the evidence needed for that hearing.

Consult With An Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Dentists and Other Health Professionals.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents dentists, dental technicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. 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.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing dentists and dental hygienists and other health professionals in investigations and at Board of dentistry hearings and other legal matters. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Posses, Shayna. “Ariz. Court Backs Dentist’s Suspension Over Dubious Scripts.” Law360. (December 13, 2016). Web.

“Arizona Court Backs Dentist’s Suspension.” Lexis Nexis. (December 13, 2016). Web.

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

KeyWords: Legal representation for dentists, defense attorney for dentists, legal counsel for dentists and dental assistants, defense attorney for health care professionals, DEA investigation defense attorney, legal representation for DEA investigations, legal representation for board investigations, defense attorney for board of dentistry matters, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, dental board defense work, dental board investigations, impaired dentists, impaired professionals, physician health programs, administrative hearings, complaint investigation defense attorney for dentists, appeals (and variations on appeal ) of adverse license action, license revocation, emergency suspension orders, appeals of emergency suspension orders, Professionals Resources Network (PRN) attorney, Florida dentist defense attorney, Virginia dentist defense lawyer, Louisiana dentist defense legal counsel, Colorado dentist defense lawyer, Kentucky legal dentist defense counsel, District of Columbia dentist legal representation

“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 © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.