Recovery Residence Law Set to Take Effect in 2016

florida health care attorneyBy: Jacqueline Bain

Several clients have inquired in the past few weeks about the new Florida law regarding recovery residences, or sober living facilities. Implementation of the new law has been slow, leaving a lot of questions unanswered and room for opinions to be taken as facts.

Many have asked us if recovery residences are required by law to obtain certification. It is not mandatory for all sober homes to become certified prior to July 1, 2016. However, as of that date, a DCF-licensed substance abuse treatment facility may not refer a current or discharged patient to a recovery residence unless any of the following applies:

  • the recovery residence holds a valid certificate of compliance or
  • the recovery residence is owned and operated by a licensed service provider or
  • the recovery residence is a licensed service provider’s wholly owned subsidiary.

The term “refer” means to inform a patient by any means about the name, address, or other details of the recovery residence. The effect of the law is to squeeze sober homes into obtaining certification if they are not owned and operated by a DCF-licensed treatment provider. Continue reading

Physicians: Start Preparing for 2016 Changes in Healthcare

By: Jeff Cohen

Stepping into 2016, physicians and medical practices must continue to be vigilant about the changing landscape in healthcare.  Those who adapt quickly and smartly will thrive, while those who don’t will lose.  What can they do?

Stabilize

Stability for medical practices requires two things:  clear analytics and fixes.  Smart medical practices will examine threats outside the practice and within it.  As far as external threats go, the key area to focus on is competition.  Do you know what competitors are doing and how they’re different than you?

Internal threats are general revealed in the form of (a) employees that need better training and communication, (b) employees that just need to go, and (c) creating a succession plan for the practice.  If the practice is top heavy with older physicians, what plan is in place to ensure that “new blood” is brought in?  What recruitment strategies are in place?  Can the practice go it alone or does it need a recruitment arrangement with a hospital that can demonstrate a community need?  How will the older physicians phase out?  Is there a plan in the corporate documents to make sure phase out is slow and planned?  What do departing physicians get?  What about billing and collection?  When was the last time that was analyzed?  And finally, coding analysis.  Is money being left on the table?  Far too many practices actually undercode visits and services out of fear of payer audit.  Apart from constituting a False Claims Act violation (though regulators are not fast to indict providers who are underpaid), the differential can mean the difference between a good year and a bad one.

Finally, in light of the fact that regulatory and recoupment activity has never been higher, practices would do well to ensure compliance via a self-audit and compliance plan.  This is a different animal than a coding audit.  This one looks at all contractual relationships to ensure compliance and augments coding compliance.   Continue reading

The OIG Addresses Free Patient Transportation Issues

vanBy: Jacqueline Bain

The issue of whether a medical provider can provide free patient transport is one that we are asked to look into a few times every year. Aside from the liability issues that it raises, it is one that we have never been able to justify from an Anti-Kickback and Patient Brokering perspective.  The fact is, even given the good intentions of most providers to allow their patients easier access to healthcare, transporting patients to and from your facility or practice is providing them with something of value in return for coming to see you.  However, under slightly different facts than we are usually asked to consider the question, last week, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) came to a different conclusion.

The OIG issued an advisory opinion upon the request of a hospital system who had asked whether it could provide free transportation to persons who had limited access to public transportation to access the hospital’s facilities. The hospital system offered that the town had inadequate and infrequent public transportation services which would act as a barrier to healthcare for local residents.  The hospital system offered the following facts for consideration: Continue reading

Addiction Treatment is a Story in Search of a Villain

healthcare business

Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century, and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press— Alexander Solzhenitsyn

By: Jeff Cohen

I read an article in a local paper the other day.  It was about (a) a guy who owned a treatment center (who has not been charged with committing a crime), (b) a lawsuit filed by a large insurance company against a toxicology lab that the insurer owes millions, and (c) the fact that insurance companies pay a lot for toxicology lab testing.  I scratched my head, wondering how there was anything newsworthy there.  The “story” being sold by the paper, however, created a story with a villain (the providers of services to people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction) and a “victim” (people receiving care for addiction).  I can’t resist responding.

There’s a difference between something that’s interesting and worthy of comment vs. a journalistic attempt to concoct controversy and intrigue that people might buy.  There’s not much of the former, but a lot of the latter.  People in recovery being victimized by horrible, greedy people is an interesting story.  Unfortunately, it’s off the mark and really not helpful to anyone.

There are three pretty safe assumptions we can almost all agree on:  first, there are a lot of people who want to live life without active addiction.  Second, many of them think they need help to create a better life.  Third, some providers of help to people in recovery make a bunch of money providing that service. Continue reading

Governing Boards in Healthcare Organizations – Making Compliance Your Priority

compliance manualBy: Jackie Bain

Does your healthcare entity have a governing Board? How involved is that Board in overseeing your business? Would your Board members be able to respond to questions about your business’ compliance-related activities? Recently, the Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”), in conjunction with a host of non-profit healthcare associations, released guidance on achieving compliance for healthcare governing boards. The guidance is not based on abstract principals of compliance, instead it points to applicable federal law, OIG guidance, case law, and sentencing guidelines.

Each and every healthcare organization, whether or not it accepts reimbursement from government payors, must have in place regulatory compliance measures designed to protect the population it serves, and the persons paying for and providing those services. All levels of a healthcare organization must be cognizant of their roles in the organization’s continuing commitment to compliance. Even Board members, who often do not experience the inner-workings of the entities they represent, have an obligation and duty to the organization to act in a manner that stressed compliance. Applicable federal and state laws, how they apply to an organization, and how the organization reacts to its obligations imposed by those laws, must be of paramount importance to a governing Board.

The OIG compliance guidance for healthcare Boards tracks 4 areas over which boards should have specific oversight: Continue reading

The 7 Essential Elements of an Effective Compliance Plan

020513-Succession-Planning-ChecklistBy: Jackie Bain

When a healthcare provider cares for a patient, many times, the provider will set out directives for the patient to follow in order to live a healthier life.  These changes may include changes in lifestyle, eating habits, and obedience in taking medications.  A patient’s compliance with these directives instructs the provider on how to care for the patient in the future.  A patient who does not follow these directives may suffer health consequences.

Similarly, the government sets out legal regulations for healthcare providers.  The government expects healthcare providers to comply with its regulations, and providers who don’t can suffer consequences as a result.  The regulations governing health care providers are vast and dynamic.  In order to keep abreast of the changes in law, and to evidence an intent to comply with law, healthcare providers should strongly consider instituting compliance programs in their businesses.

Compliance with healthcare laws is important.  Any number of consequences can result in the event that a healthcare provider is out of compliance—the most devastating being that the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) has the authority to exclude healthcare providers from participation in Medicare and other federal health care programs.  Ignorance of the law does not absolve a healthcare provider of liability. Continue reading

The Cost of Inaccurate Medical Records

0607-for-the-record-1690On July 8, 2013 the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida issued a Press Release with the headline “Supervisor of $63 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme Sentenced in Florida To 10 Years in Prison”. The Defendant, a 51 year old employee of the Healthcare Provider was the director of medical records. The employee was a certified medical records technician and was found to have overseen the alteration, fabrication and forgery of documents that were used to support claims submitted to Medicare and Medicaid. In addition, the employee was found to have directed therapists to fabricate documents and forged signatures on documents. The defective medical records were used to support claims to Medicare and Medicaid in excess of 63 million dollars. 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

D.C./M.D. Arrangements Share Legal Issues Nationwide

Chiropractors and medical doctors (or D.O.s) have had a long and somewhat complex relationship. Though they approach healthcare issues differently, there are many instances where they share care or even work together. Such “M.D./D.C.” relationships are legally complex, but often prove to be rewarding in many respects. Properly constructing the arrangements is critical, especially since government regulators and payers tend to view such arrangements with skepticism, alleging that the true reason for the combination is for chiropractors to avoid coverage restrictions.

The core legal issues the parties need to be aware of include: Continue reading