Docs, You’ve Been Hacked. What’s Next?

HIPAABy: Jacqueline Bain

Healthcare providers have heard the HIPAA disaster stories: a laptop containing patient information is left on the counter at the coffee shop; a thumb drive with patient files goes missing; a rogue employee accesses patient information she has no business accessing; hackers get into a practice’s server and hold the patient information for ransom.

HIPAA is a federal law designed for safe disclosure of patient’s protected health information.  The news headlines showcase giant penalties for violations.  However, Florida health care providers should also know that Florida has its own consumer protection statute, called the Florida Information Protection Act.  So while you’re busy worrying about your HIPAA exposure in any of these situations, remember that there is potential State exposure as well.

So what should a healthcare provider do if it believes there has been a hack or some other unauthorized disclosure?  Responses vary based on the situation presented, but below is a good jumping off point: Continue reading

The Reality of the “Economic Realities Test”

contractBy: Valerie Shahriari & Jacqueline Bain

Across the healthcare industry, providers and healthcare businesses are consistently faced with the decision of whether to employ or contract with their workers.  Whether it’s a physician working with a group practice, or a marketer on behalf of a healthcare service, correctly structuring relationships between healthcare businesses and their workers is important.  For tax reasons, many workers strongly prefer to enter into independent contractor relationships.  However, simply calling oneself an independent contractor is not enough to solidify the relationship.  Many times, workers who call themselves independent contractors are actually employees in the minds of the government.  And sometimes, so-called “employees” with several part-time positions are actually viewed as independent contractors.

On July 15, 2015 the Administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) provided additional guidance regarding the application of the standards for determining who is an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The goal of the guidance is to help the regulated community in classifying workers and decreasing misclassification.  The Administrator’s Interpretation reviews the pertinent FLSA definitions and the breadth of employment relationships covered by the FLSA.  The Administrator’s Interpretation then addresses each of the factors of the “economic realities test”.

According to the Administrator, when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor, the application of the economic realities factors should be guided by the FLSA’s statutory directive that the scope of the employment is very broad.  The FLSA’s definitions establish the scope of the employment relationship under the Act and provide the basis for distinguishing between employees and independent contractor.

The Supreme Court and Circuit Court of Appeals have developed a multi-factorial “economic realities” test to make the determination whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the FLSA.  The test focuses on whether the worker is economically dependent on the employer or in business for him or herself.  The factors include: Continue reading

Protecting Your Practice Through Restrictive Covenants

Contract CWBy: Charlene Wilkinson

The beginning of a new year is a great time to evaluate your medical practice and determine ways to protect its healthy growth for the future.  The time, effort and dedication that it may take to build a successful practice may be quickly undermined without certain contractual protections in place.   As you seek to establish or expand your practice, it is essential to protect your hard earned efforts from employees and consultants taking a portion of your patient base, employees and valuable proprietary business processes to compete against you.

One of the ways physicians seek to protect the investment that they have made in their practice is through the use of restrictive covenants. Restrictive covenant is an all-inclusive term used to refer to all contractual restrictions upon competitive practices; nonsolicitation; confidential information and use of trade practices.  Restrictive covenants may be found in a number of documents related to your practice. A restrictive covenant may be found in your practice governing documents, such as the shareholder agreement, the partnership agreement of a partnership or the operating agreement of a limited liability company. A restrictive covenant is often included in an employment contract where it prevents an employee from engaging in certain competitive practices while they are an employee and for a period of time after their employment ends. There may be a restrictive covenant provision in a contract for the sale of a party’s interest in the practice. Continue reading

Kill H.R. 2914

Background

H.R. 2914 is a bill filed by Congresswoman Speier that is intended (among other things) to prohibit medical practices providing the following sorts of medical services (“Non-ancillary Services”) to their own patients—

*The technical or professional component of (i) surgical pathology, (ii) cytopathology, (iii) hematology, (iv) blood banking, or (v) pathology consultation and clinical lab interpretation services

*Radiation therapy services and supplies

*Advanced diagnostic imaging studies (which include for instance MR and CT)

*Physical therapy services

Continue reading

Gift Giving and the Anti Kickback Law

Even though the holiday season is long gone Healthcare Providers need to pay attention to the value of gifts they give or receive to avoid violating the Anti Kickback Laws. Providers may not accept any one gift with a value of more than approximately $30.00 or gifts worth more than $350.00 annually. The Government is concerned that gifts may cause billing for unnecessary services or may affect the referral of patients. Providers as well as their employees must not solicit gifts either. When a gift is given or received it must not be based upon either the volume or value of any referrals. Gifts that are given frequently after referrals or after any specific successful referral are red flags for violations of the law. In fact the Sunshine Act now requires pharmaceutical companies and durable medical equipment companies to report gifts to providers with a value over $25.00. Continue reading

The Stark Law Regulations: A Review

The Stark Regs (1) forbid doctors and their immediate family members from referring their patients to businesses they own which provide “designated health services,” and (2) contains a long list of permitted financial relationships between health care providers.  The list of what constitutes a “designated health service” (DHS) includes PT, rehab, diagnostic imaging, clinical lab, DME, and home health.  A “physician” means an M.D., D.O., chiropractor, podiatrist, optometrist or dentist.  An “immediate family member” is a husband or wife; birth or adoptive parent, child, or sibling; stepparent, stepchild, stepbrother, or stepsister; father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law; grandparent or grandchild; and spouse of a grandparent or grandchild.  In short, if you or your family member owns a DHS, don’t refer to it.  Unless of course your situation falls within one or more of the gazillion exceptions.

A few key changes from the third set of revisions (so called Stark III) which affect physicians are helpful to keep in mind.  For instance, the way fair market value of physician compensation is determined  in the Stark II regs has been simplified and now depends on an amorphous consideration of the transaction, its location and other factors.  The clear formulas contained in Stark II was dropped and this makes the need for an expert FMV study even more compelling. Continue reading

Split-Fee Soup: A Recipe for Disaster

Cauldron-psd74325By: David Hirshfeld

When people ask me what I do, I used to say “I’m a transactional health care attorney.  I represent health care practitioners in their business deals.  I don’t do malpractice.”  That response does little to wipe the blank stare off my questioner’s face, and even I have to stifle the urge to yawn.  My new and improved response is that “I spend a lot of time advising health care practitioners how they can share fees with people who refer them patients.”  Now I get invited to all sorts of cocktail parties !!!

Practitioners split fees with one another for a variety of reasons; and they very often do not realize that a particular arrangement involves a split-fee arrangement, or that split-fee arrangements are often illegal in Florida.  The purpose of this article is to provide practitioners with a general overview of the concepts underlying the prohibition against split-fee arrangements in Florida, in the context of three common business arrangements. Continue reading