Protecting Your Practice’s Brand: Trademark Basics

By: Shobha Lizaso

Building a brand image is extremely important in today’s technology-driven economy.  Because of social media, online advertising, and the availability of online reviews, local healthcare providers need to engage at a higher degree than ever before to attract new patients, retain current patients, and establish themselves as experts in their respective fields.

Patients choose providers based on specializations, reputation, and quality of care, so the first step in branding is selecting and registering the trademarks for your practice.  Trademarks are the names, slogans, tag lines, and/or logos that identify and represent your practice, its services, and mission to the public, and are the foundation for the facility’s overall branding and marketing strategy. In addition to the trademarks associated with your main practice, you may also use trademarks to protect your stake in a specific area or a specific area of expertise. For example, the trademark and logos used for a hospital’s senior services might be different than one used for its cardiac care services.  If you do not protect your trademark, a competitor could use it or something similar, which could confuse your patients and potentially draw business away from your practice. Continue reading

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

Conflicts of Interest Issues Can Poison Your NonProfit

Charity jar

Charity jar

By: Shobha Lizaso

You have a cause that you are passionate about. You have the drive and motivation to put your time and effort behind that cause. You have the dedication to use all of the aforementioned to create a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.  However, once you create the organization, you must also be diligent in protecting your organization’s tax-exempt status.

Like most people who start a non-profit organization, your focus and energy is probably directed towards serving the community rather than performing internal compliance checkups. However, you cannot serve your target community well if your nonprofit is not run in a manner that is compliant with the law.

What happens when the IRS revokes your organization’s nonprofit status? Here are some examples: Continue reading

OIG Opines that Charities Allowed to Help with Patients’ Insurance Obligations

financial hardshipBy: Jacqueline Bain

In the healthcare business, giving a patient a break on a health insurance copay is often viewed as suspicious. The reasoning for the suspicion is that the financial incentive may give one provider a competitive advantage over another, or persuade a patient to seek services that might not be medically necessary.  Moreover, any person who interferes with a patient’s obligations under his/her health insurance contract may be viewed as tortuously interfering with that contract. However, in an advisory opinion issued on December 28, 2016, the OIG opined that, in certain instances, a non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable organization could provide financial assistance with an individual’s co-payment, health insurance premiums and insurance deductibles when a patient exhibits a financial need.

The party requesting the advisory opinion was a non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable organization that did not provide any healthcare services and served one specified disease. The non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable organization is governed by an independent board of directors with no direct or indirect link to any donor. Donors to the non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable organization may be referral sources or persons in a position to financially gain from increased usage of their services, but may not earmark funds and or have any control over where their donation is directed. Continue reading

SHOOT, READY, AIM: Palm Beach County’s Blind Shot at the Addiction Treatment Industry

addiction treatment industryBy: Jeff Cohen

We should all be afraid when there is a “war” declared on anything in our culture because it usually means the complex will be simplified, the innocent will be presumed guilty, details will be ignored and the baby will be thrown out with the bathwater.  Nowhere is that more apparent than the current War on Sober Homes in Palm Beach County.

When we read the stories published by the Palm Beach Post, we learn things like–

  • It is illegal for a sober home to receive payment from an addiction treatment facility for providing so called “case management” services;
  • Addiction treatment providers unethically bill thousands of dollars for urine tests that could be provided for pennies via a cup for sale at Walgreens; and
  • The Patient Brokering Act, a state criminal law, is being broken left and right by sober homes and addiction treatment providers.

Hooey!  It’s completely misleading.  Here’s why:

Case Management Issue.  The arrangement reported In the Post and described in charging documents describes a business arrangement where sober homes are paid by state licensed addiction treatment providers for helping addicts along their path of recovery.  Addiction treatment sees these patients maybe 20 hours a week.  Where are they the rest of the time?  What are they doing?  Addicts seeking treatment often have soft life skills from being off the grid, are often receiving assistance from supportive staff at sober homes who help them get on their feet.  They often come into treatment with no clothes, no money, no food, no job skills and a whole host of medical and psycho social needs.  And addiction treatment facilities want (and sometimes pay for) sober home staff to serve a function in the continuum of care, sometimes want to give them food cards, clothing, cigarettes and whatever they need to accept treatment.  And our sole focus is to do what, focus our regulatory attention on a business relationship that may exist in the treatment industry?  Continue reading

How to Protect Your Practice’s Trade Secrets

dreamstimemaximum_51887081-flipBy: Shobha Lizaso

“Prevention is better than cure” is a maxim that has reigned in the healthcare industry for thousands of years; however, this phrase echoes through the halls of the legal profession as well.

Healthcare practices often neglect to appreciate the value of their confidential information as assets and the need to protect these assets. Although HIPAA and HITECH compliance aids in maintaining the confidentiality of patient records, it does not protect a provider’s trade secrets.

Trade secrets of a healthcare practice may include any of the following: patient lists, financial information, contract rates, contract terms client lists, collection rates, marketing tactics, pricing/discount information, and methods of doing business. If leaked, this information may be used by competitors to secure advantages over a healthcare practice. For example, patient lists could be used to solicit a practice’s patients or contract rates and terms can be used by a competitor to undercut the rates of a practice. Continue reading

The Patient Brokering Act and Addiction Treatment

anti kickbackBy: Jeff CohenFlorida Board Certified Healthcare Lawyer 

Followers of the addiction treatment industry should be on high alert after the arrest of Christopher Hutson of Whole Life Recovery.  The arrest marks the first arrest of any industry provider utilizing the state Patient Brokering Act (PBA).  Relying solely on the allegations, the arrest is based on a business relationship between the provider and sober homes.  Discussion in the “case management agreement” referred to in the arrest affidavit circles around some key allegations that include or imply (1) payment for patient referral, and (2) services by sober homes paid for by Whole Life which were not actually performed.

Serious industry providers absolutely MUST be well educated by lawyers who have years’ experience dealing daily with issues that include the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (and safe harbors), the bona fide employee exception to the AKS, the PBA and how insurers and regulators (inside Florida and outside Florida) interpret and apply such laws.  Any contract (like the sort of agreement referred to in the arrest warrant affidavit) that isn’t preceded by careful client education about the laws, the options and risks of each option is just reckless.  Clients who are well educated will understand things like— Continue reading