Category Archives: Physician

PHYSICIAN COMPENSATION UNDER OIG REVIEW

Physician Compensation Arrangements Under Scrutiny

On June 9, 2015, the Office of Inspector General issued a special Fraud Alert warning physicians that compensation arrangements (such as medical directorships) must ensure that the arrangement reflects fair market value. Such arrangements “may violate the anti-kickback statute even if one purpose of the arrangement is to compensation a physician for his or her past or future referrals of Federal health care program business.”

California statures and rules can be even stricter.

In this era of merger and consolidation, medical providers must be careful to create appropriate compensation arrangements. They must carefully document attempts at establishing fair market value, or be subject to regulatory prosecution.

This alert comes after the OIG recently reached settlements with 12 physicians who entered into medical directorships and other arrangements, which the OIG concluded violated the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute. In those cases, the arrangements appeared to be illegal for one or more of the following reasons:

• The payments to the physicians took into account the physicians’ volume or value of referrals.

• The payments did not reflect fair market value for the physicians’ services.

• The physicians did not actually provide the services required under the agreements.

• The entities contracting the physicians paid the salaries of the physicians’ front office staff.

Certain physician compensation arrangements – and particularly medical director arrangements – are perceived as risk areas for Anti-Kickback Statute violations. Facilities and physicians entering into such arrangements should review existing and new arrangements for compliance in light of this Fraud Alert and should seek the expertise of health care legal counsel.

By Matt Kinley,Esq., LLM, CHC

562.715.5557

TELEMEDICINE IN CALIFORNIA

DOES THE LAW STRANGLE ATTEMPTS TO SAVE COSTS THROUGH TELEHEALTH?

Telehealth can take different forms.  It’s one thing to offer consultations and second opinions.  But once this useful tool is utilized for diagnosis and treatment, the rules change.

How can a compnay offer telemedicine, including diagnosis, treatment and prescriptions in California?  Does the physician have to be licensed?  How does a telemedicine company avoid the corporate practice of medicine doctrine?

THE PHYSICIAN MUST BE LICENSED IN CALIFORNIA

California’s Medical Board describes telehealth as: “Telehealth (previously called telemedicine) is seen as a tool in medical practice, not a separate form of medicine. There are no legal prohibitions to using technology in the practice of medicine, as long as the practice is done by a California licensed physician.”

Telehealth is not a telephone conversation, email/instant messaging conversation, or fax; it typically involves the application of videoconferencing or store and forward technology to provide or support health care delivery.” One statute states: Any law allowing telehealth shall not be construed to alter the scope of practice of any health care provider.

THE CORPORATE MEDICINE DOCTRINE

California prohibits the corporate practice of medicine, which among other things, requires that business or management decisions and activities resulting in control over a physician’ practice of medicine, be made by a licensed California physician and not by an unlicensed person or entity. In order to avoid the direct violation of state prohibitions on the corporate practice of medicine.  While there are legal structures that may promote non-physician investment in telehealth, (many companies use the so-called “friendly PC” model).

Enforcement by the medical board regarding the prohibition against the corporate practice of medicine generally is inconsistent.
Although there is no hard and fast rule as to when a given arrangement may be deemed to constitute corporate practice, the focus in any enforcement action likely will be on the level of control a physician exercises over the operation of the medical practice, specifically the professional judgment of licensed health care professionals. Where a high level of control exists, the arrangement may be found to be a sham intended to disguise the de facto practice of medicine by an unlicensed entity.

By Matt Kinley, Esq.

Reporting Physician Office Controlled Substance or Prescription Abuse

Physician offices often are hit with an internal crime:  employees utilize the office, its forms, the doctors DEA Number, or even the computers to write unauthorized prescriptions. The physician’s office has the obligation to make sure that forms, computers, and other tools utilized to write prescriptions are carefully safeguards.  Attorneys and malpractice carriers can be consulted for the best practices.

Health and Safety Code Section 11368 states that anyone who forges or alters a prescription or who obtains any narcotic drug by a forged, fictitious, or altered prescription may be punished by imprisonment in the county jail or state prison for not less than six months or more than one year. Since prescription forgery is considered a criminal offense, it is recommended that a report be made to the local law enforcement.

The California Medical Board provides some specific advice:

Federal law requires physicians to report theft or loss of controlled substances and official Federal Order Forms (Form 222) to a regional office of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA has offices located in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco and the office addresses and phone number are available through their website. In addition, the DEA has their reporting forms available online at the following link: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/21cfr_reports/theft/index.html.

While neither the Medical Board nor state law requires that a report of stolen or illegal use of the physician’s DEA number be made to the Board, it is our recommendation that physicians provide the Medical Board with a written narrative of the circumstances and the actions taken by the physician so we may have this information on file. When the written narrative is received, this valuable information will be input into the Medical Board’s internal database for reference, as it is not unusual to receive complaints from pharmacists or law enforcement officers regarding concerns about physicians’ prescribing practices. If a physician has already reported that he/she has experienced a problem related to the illegal use of his/her DEA number, the Board has already been provided with background information on the problem. The written narrative should be forwarded to the Medical Board of California, Central Complaint Unit, 2005 Evergreen Street, Suite 1200, Sacramento, CA 95815.

Once the information has been processed, the physician will receive correspondence from the Central Complaint Unit containing their assigned “Conl Number,” which should be maintained for their records. A carbon copy of this correspondence will also be forwarded to the California Board of Pharmacy so they may notify pharmacies in the physician’s surrounding area of the incident. The notified pharmacies will then contact the physician to verify any prescriptions they receive on the physician’s prescription pad or using the physician’s DEA number. For additional questions or concerns regarding this issue, please contact the Central Complaint Unit through the Medical Board’s toll-free number, 1-800-633-2322.

In addition to the above, if the physician is aware of the theft or loss of the tamper-resistant prescription forms, the State Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement must be notified. To report the theft or loss of the new tamper-resistant prescription forms, Form JUS MUST be completed. Please complete all applicable fields on the form and forward the form to: California Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, CURES Program, P.O. Box 160447, Sacramento, California, 95816, FAX: (916) 319-9448. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding lost or stolen tamper-resistant prescriptions forms, please contact the CURES Program at (916) 319-9062.

Matt Kinley, Esq. 

Fraudulent Claims Act: Could they investigate your office?

Physician offices sometimes feel immune to the regulatory pressures imposed by federal and state authorities. I’ve heard expressions such as “we are such a small office” or ” we deal with such small dollars” to excuse lax or ill-informed billing practices. The solution is to create an office compliance plan, to make sure your office completes all billing correctly.

Here, from the Office of Inspector General, is a report of one small physician’s office that the OIG did investigate, resulting in a $650,000 settlement. Note the investigation arose from another investigation where a doctor was banned from all federal healthcare programs for 15-years.

“12-18-2014 OIG Enforcement Case
A Medical Practice, Doctor in New York Settle False and Fraudulent Claims Case
Jennan Comprehensive Medical, P.C. (Jennan) – a medical group practice in New York – and its owner, Henry Chen, M.D., entered into a $694,887.02 settlement agreement with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, effective December 18, 2014. The settlement resolves allegations that from May 15, 2008 to December 31, 2013, Jennan and Dr. Chen knowingly submitted or caused to be submitted false and/or fraudulent claims to Medicare for physical therapy services. Specifically, OIG alleged that these claims were false and/or fraudulent for one or more of the following reasons: 1) physical therapy services were not provided or supervised by the rendering provider; 2) group services were billed as one-on-one provider-patient physical therapy services; 3) services were performed by unqualified individuals; and/or 4) claims for time-based physical therapy services did not accurately reflect the actual time spent performing the services. Senior Counsels David M. Blank, Tamara T. Forys, and Lauren E. Marziani, along with Paralegal Specialist Mariel Filtz, represented OIG.

This case developed as a result of OIG’s prior investigation of Joseph A. Raia, M.D., a former Jennan employee. Dr. Raia entered into a settlement with OIG on February 11, 2014 for $1.5 million and agreed to be excluded from participating in Federal health care program for a minimum of 15 years.”

 

Posted by Matt Kinley, Esq.

TLD Partner Matthew Kinley Speaks with Healthcare Risk Management on Corporate Negligence

As my firms healthcare practice chair,  I had the chance to share my insights with American Society for Healthcare Risk Management on the role of corporate negligence in medical malpractice cases.

You can read the full article posted by Healthcare Risk Management here:  TLD – Healthcare Risk Management 11-2014

Source: Healthcare Risk Management, published by AHC Media, Atlanta. Phone: (800) 688-2421. Email: customerservice@ahcmedia.com. Web

 

GO GREEN TO ATTRACT MARKET SHARE

Physicians Need to Stand Out

Physicians who are completing new construction should consider designating their development as green construction. While there is not legislative guidance in for green development in the healthcare arena, there is the Green Guide for Healthcare.

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According to the guide, it is “healthcare sector’s first quantifiable, sustainable design toolkit integrating enhanced environmental and health principles and practices into the planning, design, construction and maintenance of facilities….[it] provides the healthcare sector with a voluntary, self-certifying metric toolkit of best practices that designers, owners, and operators can use to guide and evaluate their progress towards high performance healing environments.performance healing environments.

The guide is a project of the non-profit organizations Health Care Without Harm  and Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems.

Posted by Matt Kinley, Esq.