On January 15, 2013, Richard Behnan, DPM., a 56 year old podiatrist from Fenton, MI was sentenced by a federal judge to 55 months in prison and ordered to pay over $1.4 million in restitution to Medicare and nearly $200,000 to BCBSM for his participation in a $1.6 million fraudulent medical billing scheme. Dr.Behnan previously pleaded guilty on November 21, 2011 to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. According to the plea documents, from approximately 2000 through 2010, Dr. Behnan, provided services to patients at various senior centers and assisted living facilities in Bay City, Flint, Detroit, and Lansing submitting claims to BCBSM and Medicare for nail avulsion procedures when he had merely trimmed and polished the patients' toenails. At times, Dr. Behnan submitted claims for nail avulsion procedures when he was traveling outside of the United States.
Recently in Staff Privileges and Licensing Category
It seems like every ten years or so the pendulum swings towards or away from physicians seeking employment from hospitals as opposed to heading off on their own or joining existing private physician practices. Over the last few years, the pendulum has swung towards hospital employment. A number of factors have arguably led to this trend including the desire by many physicians to focus their attention on practicing medicine and shifting the burden of billing, third party payor audits, EMR and compliance with the new myriad of federal healthcare regulations (e.g., Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act a/k/a "Obama Care") to the hospitals that have the resources to employ administrative staff to address such matters. A recent study published this month in the Archives of Surgery confirms this shift for surgeons. According to the study, from 2006 to 2011, the number of surgeons in a full-time hospital employment arrangement increased by 32%. Moreover, according to the American Medical News,by the end of 2013, only 36% of the nation's projected 792,594 practicing doctors will have a practice ownership stake.
In November 2012, the American Medical Association ("AMA") House of Delegates issued new guiding principles for physicians entering into employment and contractual arrangements. The Principles expressly urge both the employer and the employee to "obtain the advice of legal counsel experienced in physician employment matters when negotiating employment contracts." All too often, well-respected attorneys who do not specialize in the field of healthcare fail to address important issues specifically related to physician employment due to their lack of expertise on the subject. Typically, the review of a proposed employment contract only involves a handful of billable hours, and the benefit of having such a review is immeasurable when considering the duration of a physician's career.
On May 5, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published in the Federal Register its final rule for telemedicine credentialing and privileging for hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs). Beginning July 5, 2011, hospitals and CAHs, will have the option of proxy credentialing distant-site physicians and practitioners pursuant to a written agreement. Currently, hospitals and CAHs must credential distant-site physicians and practitioners in the same manner as their on-site staff.
According to the Associated Press (March 6, 2011), an Indiana pharmacist, John D. Love (owner of the Terre Haute Prescription Shop) "faces a possible 10-year prison sentence if convicted of health care fraud and money laundering in a scheme that netted him more than $3.57 million, federal prosecutors say." The amount of the case qualifies it as the largest case of health care fraud and money laundering ever discovered in the Southern District of Indiana.
- Transferring the Bureau of Health Professions, the Bureau of Health Systems and the Controlled Substances Advisory Commission from the Department of Community Health to the DLRA;
- Creating an Office of Regulatory Reinvention tasked with reviewing all existing and proposed rules to ensure economic growth; and
- Creating the MI Administrative Hearing System, which is an independent agency that will centralize the state's administrative hearings.
Both executive orders are set to go into effect April 24, 2011.
Over $225 million in false billing, 111 defendants, and 9 cities across the country. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force charged doctors, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, healthcare company owners and executives and others in the largest Medicare fraud takedown ever. The defendants are accused of various healthcare fraud-related crimes, including conspiracy to defraud Medicare, criminal false claims, anti-kickback statute violations, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. According to the Department of Justice, the defendants allegedly submitted claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary services and for services that were not provided. Furthermore, the defendants allegedly paid patient recruiters kickbacks for supplying beneficiary information to providers to submit fraudulent billing to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary or never provided. The charges are based on a number of alleged fraud schemes involving home health agencies, physical and occupational therapy, nerve conduction tests and durable medical equipment.
Among the nine cities that were included in the scheme were Detroit and Brooklyn. In Detroit 21 defendants were named--including three doctors, three physical therapists and one occupational therapist--charged with defrauding Medicare for more than $23 million and in Brooklyn 10 defendants were named--including three doctors and one physical therapist--charged with defrauding Medicare for $90 million in false claims billings for physical therapy, proctology services and nerve conduction tests.
Over the last two years, the number of anti-fraud Strike Force teams operating in fraud "hot spots" increased from two to nine, with Chicago and Dallas being the most recent additions. Since its inception in 2007, the Strike Force teams have charged nearly 1000 individuals who have falsely billed Medicare for over $2.3 billion.
Elizabeth L. Johnson, a former New York pharmacist was charged with grand larceny, offering a false instrument for filing and unauthorized practice for her allegations that she defrauded Medicaid out of approximately $191,000. While Johnson's license to practice as a pharmacist was suspended and she was excluded from participating in Medicaid, she allegedly continued to dispense prescriptions to Medicaid recipients for months. She was scheduled to appear in court on February 17.