Author Archives: Mark J. Rose, Esq.

Geico Sues Florida Health Clinic for ‘Unnecessary’ Massage Claims

As reported by Law360, Geico sued Medical Wellness Services Inc. of Miami, FL for allegedly making $1.2 million in claims for providing medically unnecessary treatments for automobile accident victims who were eligible for coverage under their no-fault insurance policies. According to Geico, some of the claims were for services that were not actually provided and contained billing codes that misrepresented and exaggerated the services.

“The defendants do not now have — and never had — any right to be compensated for the fraudulent services that were billed to Geico through Medical Wellness,” Geico said. Geico claims Medical Wellness Services Inc. submitted claims for massage therapist services which are not reimbursable because Florida law prohibits no-fault insurance reimbursement for massages or other similar services.

According to the suit, the scheme began no later than 2013 and continues to this day. In addition to the request for $1.2 million in damages, Geico is also requesting a declaration from the court saying it will not have to pay any pending fraudulent claims by the health clinic which totals more than $75,000.

Click here for the full story (subscription required).

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Filed under Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Defense, Insurance Fraud, Miami-Dade County, Miami-Dade Fraud, Personal Injury Protection, PIP/No Fault

UPDATE: Sixth Person Found Guilty in Unlicensed Chiropractic Clinics Scam

A Naples man convicted of committing mail fraud back in September of 2016 has been sentenced to 14 years in prison. According to the Naples Daily News, Nesly Loute, was also ordered to pay restitution of almost $2.15 million to the insurance companies.

Loute and five others plead guilty and were convicted of operating five unlicensed chiropractic clinics and fraudulently billing auto insurers for Personal Injury Protection benefits.

Click here to view the full article. (Previous post)

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Filed under auto insurance, Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance Fraud, Personal Injury Protection, PIP, PIP/No Fault, Unlicensed Clinics

Chiropractor’s Challenge To ‘PIP’ Law Kicked Back By Appeals Court

In a 14-page ruling on Wednesday, February 15th, the 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld part of a 2012 overhaul of the state’s personal-injury protection auto insurance system that limits No-Fault (Personal Injury Protection) benefits to $2,500 for individuals who were not diagnosed with an emergency medical condition. The appeals court overturned a judge’s decision in a Miami-Dade County court citing arguments that the 2012 law overhaul was intended to help prevent fraud in the PIP insurance system, but was unconstitutional.

The ruling was in response to chiropractor Eduardo Garrido’s legal victory against Progressive American Insurance Company. Garrido was seeking a determination that the insurer should pay up to the policy limit of $10,000 in the absence of diagnosis that the patient suffered an emergency medical condition as the result of an automobile accident. He also challenged that it was unconstitutional to bar chiropractors from being able to diagnose patients with having suffered an emergency medical condition. The chiropractor treated a patient after an accident in 2013 and submitted invoices to Progressive who only paid $2,500 of the $6,075 billed. According to Progressive, there had been no determination, other than Dr. Garrido’s, a chiropractor, that the patient suffered an emergency medical condition.

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Filed under FL Legislation, Florida, Insurance, Insurance Claims, Insurance Defense, Miami-Dade County, Personal Injury Protection, PIP/No Fault

Two Pharmacies in Florida to Pay $750k for False Billing

U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida announced that Lemon Bay Drugs North, Inc. in North Port, FL and Brooksville Drugs, Inc. operating in Brooksville, FL have agreed to pay a total of $750,000 to the government to resolve allegations that the pharmacies violated the False Claims Act.

Both pharmacies are managed by Benzer Pharmacy Holding LLC and are owned by Alpesh Patel.

The allegations were that Lemon Bay and Brooksville Drugs provided Medicare and Medicaid patients generic versions of certain medications, but charged Medicare and Medicaid for the brand name versions of those medications. These allegations were initiated in a lawsuit filed by a whistleblower who was a former pharmacy technician who worked at Lemon Bay Drugs. The whistleblower will receive $142,500 as her share of the recovery.
This investigation was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle S. Cohen with assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the FBI, the Florida Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the North Port Police Department, and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the Department of Justice, the claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Click here to view the full story.

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Filed under Florida, Health care, Insurance, Insurance Fraud

Sixth Person Found Guilty in Unlicensed Chiropractic Clinics Scam

According to Southwest Florida Online News, a federal jury found Nesly Loute guilty of fraud after a six day trial where he and five others testified that they had conspired to operate five unlicensed chiropractic clinics and fraudulently billing auto insurers for Personal Injury Protection benefits. This ruling was the culmination of a two-year law enforcement investigation dubbed Operation Fraudulent Pain.

Loute and five other individuals who have also pleaded guilty are facing a maximum penalty of 20 years each in federal prison and must make restitution to the insurance companies they have defrauded. The unlicensed chiropractic clinics had received more that $2 million in fraudulent PIP payments.

Click here to view the full story.

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Filed under Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Insurance Fraud, PIP/No Fault, Uncategorized

Third DCA at Odds With Another Court After OKing Red-Light Cameras

The Third District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of red-light camera programs, setting up a disagreement between appellate courts and likely meaning the issue will go to the Florida Supreme Court.

Red-light cameras run by municipalities have long come under fire from critics. Opponents decry the fact that traffic tickets can be given out by someone other than a police officer, especially a private company. That’s exactly what the Fourth DCA said in 2014, ruling that red-light cameras are an unlawful delegation of police power to the third parties issuing the tickets.

The Third DCA said the most recent case was a bit different though. Judges Thomas Logue, Kevin Emas and Linda Ann Wells ruled that it was legal for municipalities to hire private companies to review traffic images and decide which ones to forward to police officers. However, the Third DCA judges said a sworn police officer is required to review the evidence for a final decision and not just rubber-stamp the third-party recommendations.

The Third DCA case arose from a suit challenging red-light cameras in Aventura, while the Fourth DCA case concerned a similar program in Hollywood. Logue and Emas designated the case as one of great importance for the Florida Supreme Court to consider, while Wells asked to certify a conflict with the Fourth DCA.

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Filed under Uncategorized

GEICO Files RICO Suit Alleging Windshield Repair Fraud

A federal lawsuit filed by GEICO on June 9 provides an inside look at an elaborate windshield repair fraud scheme.

The suit, filed in the Middle District of Florida, makes claims of fraud, unjust enrichment and RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) violations against at least two companies and their owners.

The complaint explained the scheme as follows:

A company called Cornerstone Mobile paid kickbacks to car dealerships and car wash companies to work off their properties. Cornerstone would offer to fix even the slightest damage to windshields for free. It would obtain the car owner’s insurance information and, more importantly, the owner’s signature to transfer assignment of benefits. Sometimes, GEICO alleges, the Cornerstone owners would steal insurance information from glove boxes of cars and forge the owners’ signature.

Eventually, Cornerstone Network was incorporated. The two entities had separate tax identification numbers but operated in an identical manner. GEICO says the two companies were used in hopes of reducing the number of fraudulent claims from Cornerstone Network alone, and thus avoid detection. Both companies claimed to do windshield repairs, but neither had a physical address—one was just a post office box in Tavernier.

Once Cornerstone got insurance information from automobile owners, the employees used a liquid formula from a window repair kit to coat over cracks and chips. Afterward, Cornerstone charged GEICO and other insurers for a full windshield replacement. The complaint alleges that Cornerstone would wait two to four weeks to file for reimbursement. Florida law allows insurers 30 days to make windshield replacement reimbursements, meaning GEICO was rushed to pay the claims on time and didn’t have a chance to investigate them.

GEICO presented exhibits showing more than 600 fraudulent windshield claims from each Cornerstone company, costing GEICO in excess of $223,000.

The case is Government Employees Insurance Company, et al. v. Jason Fry, et. al.

Click here for full story.

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Filed under Auto Insurance Fraud, Florida, Florida Division of Insurance Fraud, Insurance, Insurance Fraud, Middle District of Florida, Windshield Damage Scam

Miami Man Gets 5 Years for Role in $2.3 Million Medicare Fraud

A Miami man who owned a consulting and staffing company was sentenced to five years in prison for his part in a $2.3 million scheme to defraud Medicare.

Carlos Rodriguez Nerey, the 45-year-old owner of Nerey Professional Services, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles. The judge also ordered Nerey to pay nearly $2.4 million in restitution.

After a one-week trial that ended April 1, 2016, a jury convicted Nerey of receiving kickbacks in connection with Medicare and of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and pay healthcare kickbacks. At the trial it was revealed that Nerey accepted kickbacks for referring Medicare beneficiaries to Mercy Home Care and D&D&D Home Health Care as patients. Some of the patients didn’t qualify for home healthcare services under Medicare rules.

The investigation was part of the U.S. Attorney’s Medicare Fraud Strike Force.

Click here for the U.S. Attorney’s press release.

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Filed under Health care, Insurance, Insurance Fraud, Medicare

Florida Ahead Of Curve With Hospital Pricing Transparency Law

In the national push for pricing transparency in hospitals, Florida has moved to the front of the field.

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law on April 14 that requires hospitals and other healthcare facilities in Florida to post the average amount they are paid for each procedure. That figure is far different from the standard charge information that must be posted in many states. Only New Hampshire, Colorado and Maine have laws similar to Florida’s new one. Law360 said the new law will let consumers shop around and allow Florida to limit Medicaid costs.

Scott made the transparency law a top priority for the 2016 Legislature, saying it will lower hospital costs. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is investigating whether managed care companies contracted through the state are overpaying for hospital services.

The law requires AHCA to use a consumer-friendly online platform where healthcare facilities post costs of procedures so consumers can compare them. Fines for failing to do so are increased under the law.

“The way patients are charged for services at the hospital should mirror a free market system,” Scott said in a statement. “We must ensure that prices and quality outcomes are aligned.”

“Florida emerges as a national leader in these efforts,” AHCA Secretary Elizabeth Dudek added in a statement.

Florida’s law is part of a nationwide movement to increase price transparency in healthcare, where negotiated rates are confidential and consumers often don’t know how much a procedure will cost.

The law goes into effect on July 1, but AHCA has until Oct. 1 to choose a vendor to create the online portal for pricing information.

Click here for full story (subscription required).

 

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Filed under Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), Health care

The Florida Medical Association Files Brief Against Allstate

The Florida Medical Association (FMA) will be permitted to file a friend-of-the-court brief in a case before the Florida Supreme Court over fees paid to medical providers who treat injured victims of vehicle wrecks.

Allstate Insurance had asked Florida’s justices to reject the FMA motion to file a friend-of-the-court brief, but the Supreme Court ruled on March 30 in FMA’s favor, according to the News Service of Florida.

Allstate is appealing a ruling by the Fourth District Court of Appeal concerning Florida’s PIP auto insurance system. A key issue in the ruling—which involved 32 consolidated cases—focused on whether policies were clear that Allstate would make payments to providers based on a Medicare fee schedule.

“This case is important to the FMA because it involves the application of a statute that deals with reimbursement rates for FMA member physicians who provide treatment to patients with personal injury protection insurance,” FMA said in its March 11 motion.

A Fourth DCA panel agreed with providers that insurance policies were ambiguous on whether payments should be based on the Medicare fee schedule, which places limits on payment amounts.

“Allstate is attempting to use a payment methodology that will dramatically limit or reduce the standard and customary rate of reimbursement for treatment and services for FMA members,” the FMA said in its motion. “FMA physicians have seen or will see a dramatic reduction in reimbursement rates under the PIP law based on the ruling in this case.”

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Filed under Florida Medical Association, Health care, Insurance Defense, Personal Injury Protection, PIP/No Fault