CMS Asks Federal Officials to Enforce Penalties on Nursing Home Employees Using Social Media to Violate the Privacy of Nursing Home Residents

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On August 8, 2016, federal health regulators announced plans to crack down on nursing home employees who take “demeaning” photographs and videos of residents and post them on social media. Patient advocates want the federal agency to more explicitly outline the penalties for the growing number of nursing home employees who are abusing patients in this extremely public way.

“Patient Abuse” Using Social Media Platforms.

The move follows a series of reports that have documented alleged abuses in nursing homes and assisted living facilities (ALFs) arising from use of social media platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. These reports of abuse include photos and videos of residents who were naked, covered in feces or even deceased. They also include other images of abuse.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees nursing homes, said in a memo to state health departments issued on August 5, 2016, that all nursing homes should be checked to make sure they have policies prohibiting their staff from taking demeaning photographs of residents. The memo also calls on state officials to quickly investigate such complaints and report offending workers to state licensing agencies for investigation and possible discipline. State health departments (such as the Agency for Health Care Administration or “AHCA” in Florida)help enforce nursing home rules for the federal government. To read the memo in full, click here.

The new document also guides nursing homes on protocols that should be followed if one of their employees abuses a patient in this way. Those steps include staffing changes, increased supervision and follow-up counseling for the residents. The facility must implement corrective actions to prevent recurrence.

The CMS states that nursing home employees must report cases of abuse to “at least one law enforcement agency,” and that anyone who fails to report incidents is subject to “various penalties, including civil monetary penalties.”

Patient Advocates Think The Document Doesn’t Go Far Enough.

Several industry stakeholders say that CMS’s document only supports what many facilities are already enforcing in their nursing home facilities. In 2015 it was reported in that since 2012 there have been 35 documented cases in which nursing home staffers have used social media to share photos or videos of residents. Some showed residents who were partly or completely naked.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not penalize any facilities for violations regarding federal privacy laws, though many were fired and banned from ever working at nursing homes. Some states charged the offenders with elder abuse, voyeurism and invasion of privacy.

While the efforts from CMS are helping to thwart social media abuse in nursing homes, it’s not an issue that is conquered overnight. To read more on the issue of patient abuse in nursing homes, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses and Nurse Aides.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses and nurse aides in Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) complaints, investigations and hearings. They represented skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), assisted living facilities (ALFs), adult homes, group homes, nurse registries, home health agencies (HHAs) and other types of health facilities. They also represent individual nurses and other licensed health professionals in investigations and defense of their licenses before state boards. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida. To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Huseman, Jessica. “Federal Officials Seek To Stop Social Media Abuse Of Nursing Home Residents.” NPR. (August 8, 2016). Web.

Dickson, Virgil. “CMS puts the onus on states to stop invasive videos and photos of nursing home residents.” Modern Healthcare. (August 8, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Nursing home patient abuse investigation, defense attorney, nursing home defense, assisted living facility legal counsel, regulatory attorneys, administrative complaint and hearing defense, nursing disciplinary actions, nursing home abuse investigations, patient privacy abuse attorney, HIPAA attorney, invasion of patient privacy attorney, Department of Health investigation defense, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) hearing defense attorney, Board of Nursing complaint defense, The Health Law Firm reviews, legal representation for nursing home facilities, legal representation for assisted living facilities (ALFs), reviews for The Health Law Firm attorneys, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) survey and investigation defense, Healthcare Provider Service Organization (HPSO) defense attorney, Nursing Service Organization (NSO) defense lawyer, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Illinois Hospital Chain Pays Record $5.5 Million HIPAA Settlement For Privacy Breaches

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On August 4, 2016, one of Illinois’ largest hospital chains agreed to pay $5.5 million in settlement for lax data security and breaches of protected health information for millions of patients. This deal is a record payout under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), federal regulators said.

Advocate Health Care Network (Advocate), which operates 12 hospitals and hundreds of satellite locations in Illinois, agreed to the payout in connection with three separate data breaches that compromised the records of 4 million individuals at a medical group subsidiary. The affected private patient data included clinical information, health insurance information, credit card numbers and dates of birth, according to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Investigation.

Investigations of those privacy and data breaches turned up additional problems for the large hospital chain. The OCR found Advocate did not adequately assess risks to so-called electronic protected health information, or ePHI. The hospital system also failed to properly limit access to electronic systems and failed to obtain an agreement with a business associate to safeguard ePHI.

“We hope this settlement sends a strong message to covered entities that they must engage in a comprehensive risk analysis and risk management to ensure that individuals’ ePHI is secure,” OCR Director Jocelyn Samuels said.


The HIPAA Settlement.

This recent settlement brings HIPAA payouts to $20.4 million so far in 2016. That far outpaces the previous annual record of $7.9 million total for all of 2014. The stiffer penalties come as the OCR is launching a wave of audits to measure HIPAA compliance, potentially giving even more backing to enforcement.

In a statement, Advocate said that it has since strengthened its data encryption efforts in response to the “ever-evolving digital landscape” in hopes of preventing further problems.  “While there continues to be no indication that the information was misused, we deeply regret any inconvenience this incident has caused our patients,” Advocate said.

According to the resolution agreement, the three privacy and data breaches occurred in 2013. One breach involved the theft of four laptop computers from an office building. A second involved unauthorized access onto a business associate’s computer network and a third stemmed from the theft of an unencrypted laptop computer from an Advocate employee’s unlocked vehicle. The majority of the 4 million individuals were affected by the first data breach.

Under the resolution agreement, Advocate committed to a number of security improvements, including a risk analysis of ePHI, a plan for managing security risks and an expanded program of HIPAA compliance training.

Click here to read the resolution agreement in full.

To read more on the importance of HIPAA and how to avoid violations, click here to read one of my prior blogs.


No Private Cause of Action (Right to Sue ) under HIPAA.

It is important to remember that neither the federal law itself, HIPAA (the abbreviation for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), nor the federal regulations which implement it, give an individual the right to sue for its violation.  Complaints on violations cane be filed with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) which investigates such cases and issues fines, penalties, and takes other actions.  If an individual sues for a breach of his/her medical confidentiality, it is usually under the state’s law for the state in which it occurs.

If the facility is a federal facility (such as Veterans Administration (VA), Public Health Service (PHS), military hospitals and clinics, Indian Health Service (IHS)), then the federal Privacy Act of 1974 also provides the right to sue.  The Privacy Act contains provisions that set a minimum statutory damages as well as awards attorney’s fees and costs.  Recent cases in several states have allowed HIPAA to be used as a statute which establishes an affirmative duty the violation of which can then be pursued under state negligence law.


Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Defending HIPAA Complaints and Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in investigating and defending alleged HIPAA complaints and violations and in preparing Corrective Action Plans (CAPs).  They also represent patients and plaintiffs in the case of major data breaches and individual breaches of medical privacy which result in damages or losses to the patient.

For more information about HIPAA violations, electronic health records or corrective action plans (CAPs) please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Source:

Overley, Jeff. “Ill. Hospital Chain Inks Record $5.5M HIPAA Deal.” Law360. (August 4, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawfirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone; (407) 331-6620.


KeyWords: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), legal defense for HIPAA violations, HIPAA defense attorney, HIPAA plaintiff’s attorney, breach of medical privacy attorney, patient data breach legal counsel, Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) attorney, suit for HIPAA violation, federal Privacy Act violation attorney, HIPAA compliance counsel, OCR HIPAA investigation defense attorney, HIPAA audit attorney, legal counsel for HIPAA compliance, health law defense lawyer, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Decision Paves the Way for Graduate Student Unionization

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On August 24, 2016, the National Labor Relation’s Board (NLRB) ruled that graduate students who teach at private universities are employees with full rights to join unions. In a sweeping decision for Columbia University graduate students, the labor board’s decision paves the way for student unionization on campuses nationwide. The same rule may very well apply to medical residents and fellows.

 

Graduate Students Earn Union Protections.

In a 3-1 decision, the NLRB announced that a group of Columbia University students who sought to join a union deserved employee protections when they get paid for work completed by request from the school. Just like most medical residents and fellows, this is because they are employees.

For private colleges and universities, this decision could raise salary costs and prove disruptive to administrators who are unaccustomed to collective bargaining with graduate students.

Not All Are Happy With the Decision.

This decision could limit a school or programs’s ability to choose who teaches particular classes and when. It could also make the schools and programs subject to strikes by unionized graduate students.

The new decision also applies to undergraduate students who take on teaching duties.”In their broad-based decision, the NLRB swept aside decades of earlier history and basically said that any student who does either research or teaching in a private sector institution will be considered a school employee entitled to be represented by a union,” said Joseph Ambash, a Boston lawyer who helped write a brief filed by several prestigious universities arguing against the decision. So the decision may also apply to medical school students in paid positions.

Students or Employees?

The big question is whether graduate students are mostly students or employees, and whether the teaching and research they perform as an integral part of their education exempts them from employee status.

Administrators from the university argued that while the majority of graduate students receive financial support from their schools, they aren’t working in a trade for wages but are being educated to prepare for a career. Union groups however, say the students provide essential services for universities and should be considered employees if they act at least in the part.

The Service Employees International Union said that because of the ruling, students at several universities plan to immediate steps to try to join the union.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians in investigations and at Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine hearings. We represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, in patient complaints and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

 

Source:

Trottman, Melanie. “Graduate Students Win Fight to Unionize.” The Wall Street Journal. (August 24, 2016). Print


About the Author:
George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

KeyWords: federal labor board, graduate students win right to join union, The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), student unionization, graduate students mostly students or employees, reviews for The Health Law Firm attorneys, the Service Employees International Union, The Health Law Firm reviews, The Health Law Firm

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved

 

Texas Jury Finds Doctor Responsible for Harassment of Nurse Despite Settlement Being Reached

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On August 9, 2016, a licensed vocational nurse in Texas who alleged she was bullied and sexually harassed by a doctor at work was vindicated when a $440,000 settlement was reached between the parties. Patricia Hahn alleged the harassment she received from Dr. Scott Davidson started soon after beginning work at North DFW Urology Associates (North DFW) in 2007.

The Alleged Harassment.

Hahn reportedly testified that on three separate occasions, Dr. Davidson screamed at her with raised arms and clenched fists, “Just shut up. Just shut up, I’m sick of you,” according to the court documents. She reported the behavior to the human resources department at her group and shortly afterwards was allegedly called by Dr. Davidson for an after-hours meeting in his office. Then, according to the nurse, he proceeded to give her a “demonstration” of what screaming was, she testified, attempting to prove that he had not screamed at her previously.

After she made a report about the sexual harassment and hostile work environment she claims she suffered at the hands of Dr. Davidson throughout her three years at North DFW, Hahn was eventually fired.

The Settlement.

Even if she had not settled, Hahn would have received damages related to the alleged mistreatment she suffered. A Dallas County, Texas, jury returned a $1.08 million verdict in her favor on claims of sexual harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, just minutes after the settlement was reached. Oh well, “A bird in the hand . . . .” The up side of this is that now the case is completely resolved and there won’t be any risk of appeals dragging out the final result for years.

Hahn’s attorney noted that the verdict is one of few in the country that’s been handed down by a jury relating to “bullying” claims.

Click here to read the plaintiff’s original petition.

To read about a similar case of harassment in the workplace and the repercussions, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Source:

Casady, Michelle. “Dallas Jury Finds Clinic, Doc Responsible For Harassment.” Law360. (August 9, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawfirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone; (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace attorneys, intentional infliction of emotional distress lawyers, settlement for harassment in the workplace, legal representation for physicians accused of wrongdoing, reviews on The Health Law Firm lawyers, legal counsel for healthcare professionals, legal representation for nurses, health law litigation attorneys, health law defense counsel, health professionals legal counsel, The Health Law Firm reviews, state court litigation attorneys, federal court litigation attorneys, legal defense of physicians in civil litigation

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Massage Therapist Charged in Sexual Battery Case Following Several Complaints

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On June 24, 2016, a South Florida massage therapist was charged with sexual battery after being accused of assaulting a client during a session in February 2016. The therapist who allegedly worked at Chi Spa in Pompano Beach, Florida, pleaded not guilty on charges of sexual battery on a person older than 18 without violence.

The Complaints.

According to police reports, at least three women claimed to have been inappropriately touched during massage appointments at Chi Spa. Police said the spa’s owner said she was aware of one incident because the woman called to ask for her money back and complained about “too much touching.”

To learn about how to protect yourself as a massage therapist from situations like this and the repercussions, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Massage Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensing matters and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers. We have represented a number of massage therapists who have had summary actions initiated against their massage therapy licenses by the Department of Health (DOH).

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Batchelor, Samantha. “South Florida massage therapist accused of touching clients’ breasts, genitals.” Local 10 News. (June 25, 2016). Web.

Geggis, Anne. “Massage therapist charged in sexual battery case.” Orlando Sentienl. (June 25, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawfirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone; (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Department of Health Investigation, Florida Board of Massage Therapy, Massage Therapy Licence, criminal background screening, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida massage therapist, license disciplined, license investigation, license revoked, licensure defense coverage, massage therapy defense, massage therapy regulations, employee of massage establishment, employer of massage establishment, massage therapist attorney, massage therapist lawyer, regulations of massage therapists, regulations of professionals and occupations, The Health Law Firm, Health Law

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Pennsylvania Hospital Agrees to Pay $325,000 to Settle Medicare Overbilling Allegations: Inpatient Codes Used for Outpatient Procedures

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On August 8, 2016, a Pennsylvania hospital accused of overbilling Medicare agreed to settle civil claims with the federal government for $325,000, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia announced. The case arose out of allegations that the hospital used inpatient diagnosis codes for routine outpatient procedures.

Northampton Hospital Co. LLC (Northampton), which operates Easton Hospital, has agreed to resolve allegations of improper Medicare billing for inpatient procedures performed at the health care facility from January 1, 2008, through June 27, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release. Click here to read the press release in full.

Overbilling Medicare.

Northampton provides inpatient and outpatient health care services in Easton, Pennsylvania. The hospital’s services include cardiovascular, orthopedic, oncology, maternal, child health, pediatric, physical therapy rehabilitation, and mental health services. In addition, it offers surgical care, emergency care, occupational and speech therapy, wound healing management, imaging, radiology, home health, hospice, and laboratory services.

According to the DOJ, Northampton allegedly billed inpatient Medicare Part A claims using particular primary diagnosis codes that did not justify patient admission to an acute care hospital. The improper codes that were used correspond primarily to long-term, stable conditions.

“According to the United States, these primary diagnosis codes were used to justify inpatient admissions for routine procedures that should have instead been performed on an outpatient basis,” the office said. “Had these procedures been performed on an outpatient basis, the procedures would have been billed at a lower rate.”

Northampton agreed to pay a total of $325,000 to settle the allegations of overbilling Medicare.

To read a similar case of overbilling Medicare and the repercussions, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits, Investigations and other Legal Proceedings.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, nurses, medical groups, nurse practitioners, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions. The attorneys at The Health Law Firm, have defended individual health professionals and health facilities in false claims act and whistle blower cases. The attorneys at The Health Law Firm, have also represented plaintiffs (relators or “whistle blowers”) in bringing qui tam or false claims act cases against those involved in falsely billing Medicare.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Source:

Wolf, Alex. “Pa. Hospital Settles Medicare Overbilling Claims For $325K.” Law360. (August 8, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawfirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone; (407) 331-6620.
KeyWords: Medicare fraud investigation defense attorney, Medicare audit legal counsel, Medicaid audit defense attorney, Medicare false claims attorney, qui tam case attorney, whistle blower legal counsel, fraudulent billing Medicare, Medicare overpayment attorney, Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation defense attorney, Medicare overbilling defense lawyer, legal representation for Medicare fraud, Legal counsel for Medicare audits, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.