HMO Patient Emergency Care Reimbursement

By: Bradley M. Seldin, C0-counsel Guest Contributor

Prohibitions against balance billing Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) patients have been around for more than a decade, but many non-contracted providers to HMO patients still don’t fully understand their rights to payment when it comes to collecting monies from patients and HMO’s.

HMO’s often have predetermined rates they pay to non-contracted healthcare providers; sometimes they are artificially low, do not reflect what is written in the member’s contract, or do not abide by what is required by applicable law.  As a result, these providers may end up being underpaid if they don’t have a written contract with the payor and they do not understand the payment methodology being applied to them.  This is of particular significance to emergency care providers. ER doctors and hospitals must, by law, provide emergency care without regard to whether the patient has an ability to pay for the treatment received.

Following their provision of emergency care, medical providers often question the payment obligations under the patient’s Health Maintenance Organization contract. If the emergency medical provider has a direct written contract, the reimbursement is governed by that participating provider contract’s reimbursement terms.   Continue reading

The EMTALA Primer

EMTALABy: Dave Davidson

In 1986 President Ronald Reagan signed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) into law.  Since then, the application of the law has been expanded and refined.  It was one of the first laws giving the government the authority to dictate certain operations of a hospital.  While other laws and regulations such as the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law have become more of a focus for health care providers, EMTALA remains an area of active enforcement.  All providers with hospital privileges should therefore be aware of its application.

The policy behind the law is fairly straightforward.  Hospitals with emergency departments should not be able to turn away patients needing care because of their inability to pay (no more “wallet biopsies” as part of triage).  Likewise, hospitals should not be able to “dump” patients on other facilities for reasons other than for advanced care.

The requirements of the law are also very basic.  If a patient comes to an emergency department and requests an examination or treatment for a medical condition, the hospital must provide an appropriate medical screening exam, within its capability, to determine whether or not the patient has an emergency medical condition.  The screening provided goes beyond simple triage, and must be performed by a clinical provider such as a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant. Continue reading

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

The Government Is No Friend to Investigated Physicians

Healthcare reform aside, physicians are increasingly buried under the weight of nonstop regulatory scrutiny and compliance requirements.  Even the most compliant physician will find, however, that the government is no gentleman when it comes to efforts to ferret out wrongdoing.

Physicians are most commonly confronted with the regulatory process by a phone call from an investigator or perhaps a written request for information.  Board of Medicine issues usually begin with the so called “45 day letter,” which invites a physician suspected of wrongdoing to submit a written response to an allegation of wrongdoing.  EMTALA violations are reported to the Department of Health and the Office of Inspector General, both of which will initiate contact with the physician in writing.

Though physicians may think a simple explanation will convince an investigator or attorney to back off, that is seldom the case.  Physicians wrongly think that the point of such investigations is to determine the truth.  They must instead accept that, once investigators and prosecuting lawyers have contacted them, there is already a belief that wrong doing has occurred.  Physicians would do well to understand that the job of the investigator and prosecutor involves just two things:  (1)  Seeing if the physician’s response is so convincing as to cause them to reevaluate their suspicion (it seldom is); and (2) to see if they think they have enough to justify a prosecution.  The investigator and prosecutor have a job, to find wrongdoing and to punish it!  They are not philosophers or social workers.  They are not counselors to have a really nice conversation with.  They are not to be trusted because their job is at odds with physicians who are the targets (or even witnesses) of their investigations.  If physicians can remember one thing, it is that they need the support of lawyers and others who know their way over this unfriendly terrain.

Innocent physicians caught in the investigative/prosecutorial process may feel impatient and frustrated.  “I’ve done nothing wrong, so surely if I just tell the truth everything will be ok.”  It’s just not that way; and it’s just not that simple!  Discussions with the government will take time and will require patience.  What physicians have to keep in mind is that, though they are innocent until proven guilty, if they are targets of an investigation, the investigator and prosecutor already suspect them of wrongdoing.  It’s a bit of an uphill climb!

Remarkably, even the best legal representation will not necessarily resolve matters quickly.  By the time physicians are aware they are being investigated, in many instances months have been spent working that case, and prosecutors are simply not inclined to immediately walk away from all that hard work.

Surprising still is that prosecutors will try to get a settlement, even when your lawyer tells you there is no wrongdoing.   Recall that the prosecutor has a job—find the bad guy and win the case.  If the prosecutor can get you to settle, particularly by paying money, they will call it a “win” and move on to the next case.  It is nauseating but true that sometimes it makes sense to settle, even when there is no wrongdoing, given the legal and related expenses.  But when settling is not an option because it causes a cascade of unacceptable consequences (e.g. a Board of Medicine investigation, a medical malpractice suit, becoming sanctioned by Medicare and perhaps even losing medical staff membership and managed care contracts), physicians have no option but to fight.

Probably most surprising, physicians who vigorously defend themselves may find that they never “win.”  That is, they are never told by a prosecuting lawyer that the government is giving up.  Physicians who have been the targets of government investigations will find that the sound of victory is often silence.  Government prosecutors simply get quiet!  You just stop hearing from them.

The best physician defendant is one well armed with guidance to traverse an inherently adversarial environment.