On August 13, 2015, The Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) announced multiple arrests related to a large scale personal injury protection fraud scheme across the Central Florida region.
According to the Orlando Business Journal, DIF and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) partnered to investigate two clinics, First Medical Rehab of Bradenton and Kirkman Family Chiropractic Care in Orlando. Their investigation led to the arrest of five people, arrest warrants issued for three additional people, and three related arrests in the Fort Myers area. Insurance carriers and former patients raised allegations of possible illegal activity happening at these two personal injury clinics.
The Kirkman Family Chiropractic investigation disclosed their plot of bypassing clinic licensure requirements set by the Agency for Health Care Administration. Co-conspirators solicited licensed chiropractors to serve as straw owners, or owners on paper only because licensed health care professionals can operate clinics without the necessity of an additional clinic license. To date, more than $100,000 in fraudulent claims have been paid by multiple insurance carriers.
The charges varied depending on each individual’s alleged role which included: patient brokering, conspiracy to commit patient brokering, false and fraudulent insurance claims, solicitation, grand theft, organized scheme to defraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. All individuals arrested, if convicted can face anywhere from five to 30 years in prison as well as face fines as large as $10,000.
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On March 10, 2015, the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County issued a ruling in favor of Imperial Fire & Casualty Insurance in a mandatory licensing (House Bill 119) case. The Court found that the charges submitted for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits to Imperial Fire & Casualty, to be unlawful and thus, noncompensable pursuant to Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law.
Imperial Fire & Casualty issued a policy of automobile insurance to the Insured under which the Defendant, Magic Hands Solutions Inc. sought payment. Magic Hands Solutions operated as a medical clinic and allegedly rendered medical treatment to the Insured who was injured in an automobile accident. Subsequently, Magic Hands Solutions submitted charges for payment of PIP benefits to Imperial Fire & Casualty. Magic Hands Solutions was advised that the claim submitted for PIP benefits was not payable because the clinic was not properly licensed pursuant to Section 627.736, Florida Statutes (2013).
In 2012, the Legislature required mandatory licensing for all clinics holding an exempt status, whether by issuance of Certificate of Exemption or self-determined, in order for clinics to receive reimbursement pursuant to the “PIP Statute.” Hence, a clinic must be licensed under Part X, Chapter 400 to receive reimbursement for PIP benefits, unless it qualifies for an exception listed in Section 627.736(5)(h).
The Court found that the Magic Hands Solutions being wholly owned by a license massage therapist does not qualify for any of the exceptions delineated in §627.736(5)(h)(1)-(6) and was required to obtain a Health Care Clinic license as a condition precedent to receiving reimbursement of PIP benefits.
As a result of Magic Hands Solutions’ failure to obtain a Health Care Clinic License, the Court found that the charges submitted were unlawful and thus, noncompensable pursuant to Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law and that Imperial Fire & Casualty.
Imperial Fire & Casualty Insurance Company vs. Magic Hands Solution Inc., Case No. 2014-2211 CC 24 (01) (Fla. 11th Circuit March 10, 2015).