Medical Marijuana in Florida: One Big Pot Hole

pot hole article

By: Jeff Cohen

“Shoot, ready, aim” might be the right approach in many situations—like in war or when your kid runs into the street.  But the approach never makes much sense in the context of law making.  The best law making involves careful analysis, ensuring public protection and basically doing the best for the most (people).  The issue of medical marijuana seems, however, to be driven by self interest and seems lacking in balanced and serious concern for the public.  Reader caution:  this article isn’t intended to subliminally advertise this law firm.  It’s just venting, plain and simple.

On August 29, 2013, the Federal Department of Justice issued a memorandum stating it will continue to rely on state and local authorities to address marijuana activity through enforcement of state narcotics laws.  Nevertheless, in light of new state laws allowing for possession of a small amounts of marijuana and regulating production, processing and sale of marijuana, the Department designated eight criteria to guide state law enforcement.  States must (1) prevent the distribution of marijuana to minors; (2) prevent revenue from the sale of marijuana from flowing to criminal enterprises; (3) prevent the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to states where it is illegal; (4) prevent marijuana activity from being used as a cover for the trafficking of other illegal drugs; (5) prevent violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana; (6) prevent drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use; (7) prevent the growth of marijuana on public lands; and (8) prevent marijuana possession or use on federal property.  In the event that the Federal Government determines that States are not adhering to such criteria, the Federal Government reserves its right to challenge State laws.  The Feds didn’t say how any of that was to be done.  They simply said the states should do that.  But Florida has apparently been looking the other way. Continue reading

Physicians in the Middle of the Marijuana Battle

medical marijHow physicians became the gatekeepers between cannabis and the public and how physicians should approach cannabis as a form of treatment

By: Jacqueline Bain

The Federal Government lists marijuana as a “Schedule I” controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use.  21 USC § 812(b)(1).  Because there is no current accepted medical use, Federal law prohibits physician from issuing prescriptions for marijuana.  21 CFR § 1306.04(a).  However, the Federal Government has traditionally deferred to the States to prosecute small-scale marijuana violations.  This lack of Federal enforcement has encouraged the States to enact less stringent controls on the marijuana industry. Continue reading

Why Compliance Plans Make Sense

Clipboard with Checklist and Red PenHas your practice implemented a compliance program or considered improving an existing one?  Is it really necessary?  Prior to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the necessity for physician practices to develop compliance plans was merely voluntary.  However, the ACA will now require physician practices to have a fraud and abuse compliance plan in place as a condition of continuing to participate in Medicare or Medicaid programs.  Because the government first published guidelines in the year 2000 for the voluntary use of compliance plans in physician practices and has subsequently enacted a mandate in the ACA for compliance plans, many physician practices are proactively implementing them.  While this compliance plan mandate may be viewed by physicians as yet another administrative burden and expense to the practice, it can have many benefits as well.  Implementing an effective compliance program can have the result of not only reducing liability risks, but can also allow a practice to reap monetary benefits.  In fact, it could be more costly for the practice not to have one! Continue reading

South Florida Drug, Alcohol & Rehab Business: Big Business, Bigger Rules

The drug and alcohol rehab business is especially abundant in South Florida, yet few entrepreneurs are aware of the many laws that apply.  The recovery business is a highly regulated one, with great intricacy in terms of the options and also the applicable laws.

Substance abuse services in Florida are broadly regulated by Chapter 397, Florida Statutes.  The applicable regulations, however, drill down with remarkable granularity.  For instance—

The broadly crafted Client Rights listed in Section 397.501, like the ones applied to nursing home residents, are very open ended (requiring things like the “Right to Individual Dignity”) and yet create the basis of a lawsuit!  That said, people acting “in good faith, and without negligence” can rest assured they will not be found liable.

Though some may intuitively understand the specificity and seriousness of the regulations dealing with medical detox, residential treatment and Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs), including the staffing, service and supervision requirements, it may not be as readily apparent with the lower intensity of service options, like Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs).

Even PHP requirements can, however, be confusing.  For instance, it is well known that PHPs are not for people who require 24/7 residential treatment.  They stand somewhere between residential inpatient and intensive outpatient programs.  What is less known is that the staffing requirements are particularly detailed.  For instance, each PHP has to have a paid, awake employee on premises at all times when even one client is on the premises and also must have a paid employee on call when clients are at the community housing location.

Intensive inpatient programs are required to provide detailed services, to include 14 hours of counseling each week and 20 hours of “other structured activities.”  Like IOPs, staff coverage is very specific.  Nursing coverage must be available 24/7.  More specifically, an RN must supervise all nursing staff and an RN or LPN has to be physically present on site.  Finally, a physician has to be on call 24/7.

Outpatient programs have similarly detailed requirements, including the minimum counseling requirements and staffing client ratios.  Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) of course have far greater service requirements (at least nine hours of services each week) and yet share the same staffing ratio as regular outpatient (50 clients per counselor).

One of the more vexing issues the recovery industry faces deals with marketing.  The industry is flush with commission based marketing professionals, and yet there are very detailed state and federal regulations that threaten that practice.  At the federal level, the Anti Kickback Statute, a criminal statute that criminalizes remuneration for patient referral, threatens these percentage based arrangements.  State laws also strike them hard.  For instance, the Florida Patient Brokering Act (PBA) is a criminal statute with serious consequences for violations.  While the PBA does have an exception for federal law compliance, many entrepreneurs may find themselves hard pressed to comply.

Though the term “recovery business” may seem like an oxymoron to some, it is an area of significant business opportunity that many have dug into.  Knowing the regulatory minefields of the industry is, however, an important step forward in both a successful business and a stable platform of care.

The Florida Healthcare Law Firm Goes National

Followers & Friends – BIG Announcement coming out today! If you haven’t seen our new NATIONAL platform, check it out here at http://www.nationalhealthcarelawfirm.com and stay tuned for our #healthcare #legal news at 2pm EST !!!

Supreme Court upholds Obama health care law

Via @USAToday

The Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s health care law today in a splintered, complex opinion that gives Obama a major election-year victory.

Basically. the justices said that the individual mandate — the requirement that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine — is constitutional as a tax.

Chief Justice John Roberts — a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush — provided the key vote to preserve the landmark health care law, which figures to be a major issue in Obama’s re-election bid against Republican opponent Mitt Romney.

The government had argued that Congress had the authority to pass the individual mandate as part of its power to regulate interstate commerce; the court disagreed with that analysis, but preserved the mandate because the fine amounts to a tax that is within Congress’ constitutional taxing powers.

The announcement will have a major impact on the nation’s health care system, the actions of both federal and state governments, and the course of the November presidential and congressional elections.

A key question for the high court: The law’s individual mandate, the requirement that nearly all Americans buy health insurance, or pay a penalty.

Critics call the requirement an unconstitutional overreach by Congress and the Obama administration; supporters say it is necessary to finance the health care plan, and well within the government’s powers under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

While the individual mandate remained 18 months away from implementation, many other provisions already have gone into effect, such as free wellness exams for seniors and allowing children up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies. Some of those provisions are likely to be retained by some insurance companies.

Other impacts will sort themselves out, once the court rules:

– Health care millions of Americans will be affected – coverage for some, premiums for others. Doctors, hospitals, drug makers, insurers, and employers large and small all will feel the impact.

– States — some of which have moved ahead with the health care overhaul while others have held back — now have decisions to make. A deeply divided Congress could decide to re-enter the debate with legislation.

– The presidential race between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is sure to feel the repercussions. Obama’s health care law has proven to be slightly more unpopular than popular among Americans.

Full Story Here: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2012/06/Supreme-Court-rules-on-Obama-health-care-plan-718037/1#.T-xqPhd5F9E

The Florida Healthcare Law Firm Announces National Expansion

(Delray Beach, FL) June 21st, 2012 – The Florida Healthcare Law Firm, one of Florida’s leading healthcare law firms, today announced a major increase in their legal practice capabilities with the official launch of the National Healthcare Law Firm, a d/b/a and new portal of the firm. The expansion to a national platform providing healthcare legal services to physicians and healthcare businesses is one that significantly increases resources for clients who lack qualified local healthcare counsel. While the Florida Healthcare Law Firm has for years assisted clients outside the state of Florida*, this new development further cements the firm’s commitment to providing ethical legal counsel in the healthcare industry.

“We are very excited about it. The fact that we serve clients all over the country has been a small secret for a while but we realized there’s a huge demand and decided to just go for it,” said Jeffrey L. Cohen, Esq. Founder and President of Florida Healthcare Law Firm.

According to Cohen, “It’s just a strange area of the law.  Nearly everything in healthcare business is regulated; leases, employment agreements, compensation.  Things you wouldn’t think are regulated are strongly regulated.  And there are large fines and criminal penalties for getting it wrong!  Our clients understand that healthcare business of any kind has serious legal risks and that they need uniquely qualified help.”

To request a service list or for any other firm information, call Autumn Piccolo at 888-455-7702 or visit the firm’s website at www.nationalhealthcarelawfirm.com or www.floridahealthcarelawfirm.com

*     *     *

Acknowledged throughout the country for its service and excellence, Florida Healthcare Law Firm is one of the nation’s leading providers of healthcare legal services. Founded by Jeffrey L. Cohen, Esq and headquartered in South Florida, FHLF provides legal services to physicians and healthcare businesses with the right pricing responsiveness and ethics. From healthcare clinic regulation, home health agency representation and physician contracting to medical practice formation/representation and federal and state compliance matters, the Florida Healthcare Law Firm is committed to bringing knowledge and experience to a diverse group of clients.

#FHLF October 2011 Newsletter

Click Here to view our October 2011 Newsletter:
http://conta.cc/qFxblP

Pain Management Regulations Affect More Than Pain Management Specialists

The recently passed House Bill 7095 affects more than just pain management specialists.  Practitioners who prescribe controlled substances for individuals with “chronic nonmalignant pain” also are required to comply with new state regulations, including designation “as a controlled substance prescribing practitioner on the physician’s practitioner profile”“with the state Board of Medicine by January 1, 2012. What follows is a bulleted summary of the new regulations.

Prescription s for controlled substances must be either written or electronic.  Telephone prescriptions no longer are allowed.

Written Prescriptions for Controlled Substances

  • Must have quantity in textual and numerical format
  • Must be dated with the abbreviated month written out
  • Must be written on a standardized counterfeit-proof prescription pad produced by a DOH approved vendor

Physicians who prescribe any controlled substance for the treatment of “chronic nonmalignant pain” must designate him or herself as a controlled substance prescribing physician on the physician’s practitioner profile and must comply with statutory requirements and applicable board rules

  • “Chronic  nonmalignant pain “ is defined as pain unrelated to cancer or rheumatoid arthritis which persists beyond the usual course of disease or the injury that is the cause of the pain or more than 90 days after surgery .

A complete medical history and physical exam must be documented in the medical record

The exact nature of the examination is not dictated, but it must be proportionate to the diagnosis that justifies treatment and must minimally document:

  • The pain’s nature and intensity
  • Current and past treatment for pain
  • Underlying or coexisting diseases or conditions
  • The effect of the pain on physical and psychological functions
  • A review of previous medical records and previous diagnostic studies
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
    • Notably, patients with such a history require referral to, or consultation with, a phsyiatrist or addictionologist
  • The presence of one or more recognized indications for the use of a controlled substance

Florida Lifts Prescription Drug State of Emergency

via Florida Tribune 8-29-11

Just days before a new drug database is set to start operation, the state of Florida announced that it was lifting the statewide public health emergency it declared due to Florida’s prescription drug crisis.

State officials first declared the emergency back in early July and then swept through clinics across the state for inspections that yielded in the seizure of hundreds of thousands of prescription drugs.

“While the statewide public health declaration may no longer be in effect, the efforts of the Florida Department of Health, law enforcement partners and other state agencies remain strong,” said Gov. Rick Scott in a statement.

Scott had set up a task force to go after pain clinics back in March. Scott initially was opposed to keeping intact the proposed drug database – which is meant to track prescriptions issued by doctors for drugs such as OxyContin, Valium and Xanax.

But Scott, lawmakers and Attorney General Pam Bondi reached a compromise that kept the database which is scheduled to become operational this Thursday. A bill passed this past session also requires physicians to submit their prescription information within seven days.

Dr. Frank Farmer, the Department of Health secretary, also announced along with lifting the state of emergency he was also lifting a moratorium on a part of HB 7095 that had been put on hold.

Two months ago Farmer put on hold a requirement that as many as 50,000 Florida-licensed physicians use counterfeit-resistant prescription pads. The move was taken in the wake of phone calls from patients and doctors saying that pharmacies around the state had begun to refuse to fill prescriptions for controlled substances because the prescriptions were not written on the approved pads.

“Allowing the practitioners who are approved to prescribe controlled substances more time to order the prescription pads was necessary to ensure public safety over the long term,” Farmer said. “Now is the time to start using them.”