Tag Archives: Personal Injury Protection

Florida Doctor Arrested for Allegedly Defrauding Nine Auto Insurers

According to a statement from the Florida Department of Financial Services, Dr. Celestino Santi was arrested for allegedly defrauding nine auto insurance companies our of more than $500,000 in unlicensed medical billing.

Investigators reveal that Santi was allegedly acting as a “straw owner” of Accident Care Center of Boggy Creek to disguise the identity of the unlicensed, true owner of the motor vehicle accident medical treatment center.

Click here to read the article.

Filed under Fraud, Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

Three Miami Arrests in Physical Therapy Clinic PIP Fraud Scheme

Three individuals from the Miami physical therapy clinic Professional Medical Practice have been arrested in an alleged personal injury protection (PIP) fraud scheme. The clinic owner Alean Machado, recruiter Barbarito Leyva-Claro, and physical therapist Yoandra Rodriguez-Pena were charged with Insurance Fraud, Grand Theft, Patient Brokering and Organized Scheme to Defraud.

An undercover investigation uncovered the scheme which paid $2,500 for patients that participated in the fraudulent physical therapy sessions. Two insurance companies were billed over $39,000 in fraudulent claims from the clinic. Machado, Rodriguez-Pena and Leyva-Claro could face up to 45 years in prison if proven guilty.

Click here to read the article.

Filed under Fraud, Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

How Billing Processes of Florida Medical Providers for PIP Claims are Affected by the Thirty Third Amendment to Regulation 83 Under New York-Based Insurance Policies

The New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS’) has finalized the Thirty-Third Amendment to Regulation 83 (the “33rd Amendment”), which was published in the State Register on October 25, 2017 and will affect treatment rendered on or after January 23, 2018. Pursuant to the accompanying press release, the 33rd Amendment is designed to “limit the amount that insurers can reimburse for healthcare services performed outside of New York State under its no-fault insurance law.”[1] By limiting reimbursement amounts for out-of-state no-fault healthcare services, which are treating New York State (“NYS”) residents, the DFS intends to “curb costs and abuses” by out-of-state medical providers charging excessive rates.[2].

Regulation 83, governing the reimbursement of out-of-state providers, previously provided that:

“If a professional health service is performed outside New York State, the permissible charge for such service shall be the prevailing fee in the geographic location of the provider.” (11 NYCRR § 68.6).

The case of Surgicare Surgical Assoc. v National Interstate Ins. Co., 2014 WL 6610048, 2014 N.Y. Slip Op. 24362) (Anthony Cannataro, J.), provides a good example of an out-of-state provider seeking reimbursement at an exorbitant rate, diminishing the coverage available to the insured for other medically necessary services. There, the provider performed arthroscopic surgery on a covered person in New Jersey and submitted a claim for reimbursement under the applicable New York No-fault policy. Although the state of New Jersey has a fee schedule that applies to the reimbursement of medical services under the New Jersey’s No-fault law, the provider submitted a bill to the insurer for approximately $5,000 more than the amount it would have been reimbursed had the claim involved a New Jersey auto policy and as a result, was governed by the New Jersey fee schedule. The insurer reimbursed the amount permitted under the New Jersey fee schedule, essentially maintaining that, pursuant to Regulation 83, the New Jersey fee scheduled reflected the permissible amount in the geographic area. The provider sued for the difference. After discussing the applicable regulations and policy considerations behind the enactment of the New York No-fault law, including the legislative intent of cost containment, a New York City Civil Court judge held that, “when services are rendered outside of New York but in a jurisdiction which utilizes a fee schedule, the insurer complies with Section 68.6 by paying the ‘permissible’ charge for that particular medical service, that is, the amount permitted by that jurisdiction’s fee schedule.” The provider appealed and the Appellate Term affirmed. See Surgicare Surgical Assoc. v National Interstate Ins. Co., 2015 NY Slip Op 25338 (App. Term 1st Dept. 2015).

In other instances, the amount sought by out-of-state providers has been tens of thousands of dollars above the amount that would be permitted under the New York Fee Schedule. Recognizing the potential for fraud and abuse, the Amendment provides an effective solution to the exploitation of the No-fault system by out-of-state providers and, adopts, to some extent, the holding in Surgicare and, by regulation, strengthens the limits placed on reimbursement of such providers. Specifically, the Amendment states:

11 NYCRR 68.6: Health services performed outside New York State

(a)(1) If a professional health service reimbursable under [section 5102(a)(1) of the] Insurance Law section 5102(a)(1) is performed outside this State, the amount that the insurer shall reimburse for the service shall be the lower of the amount charged by the provider and the prevailing fee in the geographic location of the provider with respect to services:

(i) that constitute emergency care;

(ii) provided to an eligible injured person that is not a resident of this State; or

(iii) provided to an eligible injured person that is a resident of this State who, at the time of treatment, is residing in the jurisdiction where the treatment is being rendered for reasons unrelated to the treatment.

(2) For purposes of this subdivision, emergency care means all medically necessary treatment initiated within 48 hours of a motor vehicle accident for a traumatic injury or a medical condition resulting from the accident, which injury or condition manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that absence of immediate attention could reasonably be expected to result in: death; serious impairment to bodily functions; or serious dysfunction of a bodily organ or part.  Medically necessary treatment shall include immediate pre-hospitalization care, transportation to a hospital or trauma center, emergency room care, surgery, critical and acute care.  Emergency care extends during the period of initial hospitalization until the patient is discharged from the hospital.

(b) Except as provided in subdivision (a) of this section, if a professional health service reimbursable under Insurance Law section 5102(a)(1) is performed outside this State with respect to an eligible injured person that is a resident of this State, the amount that the insurer shall reimburse for the service shall be the lowest of:

(1) the amount of the fee set forth in the region of this State that has the highest applicable amount in the fee schedule for that service;

(2) the amount charged by the provider; and

(3) the prevailing fee in the geographic location of the provider.

(c) If the jurisdiction in which the treatment is being rendered has established a fee schedule for reimbursing health services rendered in connection with claims for motor vehicle-related injuries and the fee schedule applies to the service being provided, the prevailing fee amount specified in subdivisions (a) and (b) of this section shall be the amount prescribed in that jurisdiction’s fee schedule for the respective service.

The 33rd Amendment separates treatment by out-of-state medical providers into the following two categories:

  1. Out-of-state medical services, which (a) constitute emergency care[3], (b) are provided to non-NYS residents, and (c) are provided to patients with a NYS domicile, who are currently living in the state where the treatment is being rendered, for reasons unrelated to the accident.
  2. Out-of-state medical services provided to a NYS resident, currently living in NYS.

There is one main difference between the two categories – which State’s no-fault fee schedule governs and must be utilized by the insurer when reimbursing the medical provider. Simply put, if the medical services fall into Category 1, the medical provider’s reimbursement will be capped at the No-Fault Schedule rate for the State and region wherein the services are provided. By contrast, if the medical services fall into Category 2, the medical provider’s reimbursement will be capped at the highest rate available under the New York State No-Fault Fee Schedule unless the State where the treatment is being rendered has an established fee schedule for claims related to motor vehicle-related injuries.

As such, section (c) of 11 NYCRR 68.6 would apply to medical services rendered in Florida as there is an established set of fee schedules within the Florida No-Fault Law. While the foregoing may be the general rule, there are nuances requiring attention.

The reimbursement rate for medical services is now capped at the prevailing fee in the geographical location of the provider unless the provider charges less. Thus, the 33rd Amendment now limits the prevailing geographical rate to that area’s local No-Fault Fee Schedule Rate. In other words, if x-ray services are performed in Miami, Florida the provider’s reimbursement is limited to the schedule of maximum charges as listed in the Florida No-Fault law for that geographical region (Miami) (i.e, 200% of Medicare Part B).

The medical providers and insurers also need to be familiar with the amendment’s definition of what constitutes “emergency care”’ and how it relates to reimbursement.

Example 1: If a person is transported to the Hospital as a result of a motor vehicle accident in Florida and that person lives in Florida but is covered by a New York policy, then that Hospital provider’s charges would be limited to 75% of the usual and customary charge pursuant to the Florida No-Fault Law’s schedule of maximum charges. Moreover, the emergency services doctor would be paid at its usual and customary charge which is generally the submitted charge.

Example 2: Compare to the facts that this same individual is involved in a motor vehicle accident in Florida on January 1, 2019 and is not transported to the Hospital. However, three days later they decide to go to the emergency room due to having neck and back pain related to the accident. Would these Hospital and physician services now be considered “emergency care”?  Under this amendment, it would not because the treatment was not initiated within 48 hours following the accident.

Now further compare these facts with the applicable schedule of maximum charges under Florida Statute §627.736(5) (2018) which states in pertinent part:

The insurer may limit reimbursement to 80 percent of the following schedule of maximum charges:

a. For emergency transport and treatment by providers licensed under chapter 401, 200 percent of Medicare.

b. For emergency services and care provided by a hospital licensed under chapter 395, 75 percent of the hospital’s usual and customary charges.

c. For emergency services and care as defined by s. 395.002 provided in a facility licensed under chapter 395 rendered by a physician or dentist, and related hospital inpatient services rendered by a physician or dentist, the usual and customary charges in the community.

d. For hospital inpatient services, other than emergency services and care, 200 percent of the Medicare Part A prospective payment applicable to the specific hospital providing the inpatient services.

e. For hospital outpatient services, other than emergency services and care, 200 percent of the Medicare Part A Ambulatory Payment Classification for the specific hospital providing the outpatient services.

In the situation listed in Example 2, the patient’s condition would not be considered “emergency care” and thus, payment would be made at 200 percent of the Medicare Part A prospective payment applicable to the specific hospital providing the inpatient services or 200 percent of the Medicare Part A Ambulatory Payment Classification for the specific hospital providing the outpatient services.

Conclusion

In order to maximize recovery without running afoul of the new fee schedule mandates of the 33rd Amendment, Florida medical providers treating patients covered by New York No-Fault policies must be cognizant of whether the service rendered meets the definition of “emergency care.” What this amendment does clarify is that if medical services are rendered in Florida under a PIP claim brought under a New York policy, then the maximum amount to be paid to the medical providers for these services would be limited to Florida’s schedule of maximum charges.

[1] Press Release, posted October 10, 2017, http://www.dfs.ny.gov/about/press/pr1710101.htm

[2] Id.

[3] Under the 33rd Amendment, in order to constitute emergency care, the treatment must be initiated within 48 hours of the motor vehicle accident.

This article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship by offering this information, and anyone’s review of the information shall not be deemed to create such a relationship. The content provided is intended to provide information of general interest to the public and is not intended to offer legal advice about specific situations or problems. You should consult a lawyer with regard to specific law issues that require attention.

For additional information, please contact Stephen Mellor of Roig Lawyers at 954-354-1541 or by email at smellor@roiglawyers.com. Stephen G. Mellor is a partner in the Deerfield Beach office of Roig Lawyers who primarily focuses on out-of-state policy claims for insurance carriers. 

Filed under Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

Appeal Court Backed Air Ambulance Firm in PIP Dispute

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals backed air-ambulance firm Air Methods Corp. in a dispute stemming from a traffic accident that resulted in the death of accident victim Lemar Bailey about whether the amount paid for helicopter services should be limited by Florida’s no-fault auto insurance law. The federal appeals court ruled that the air-ambulance firm is considered an air carrier under federal law and should be able to bill the child’s father, Lenworth Bailey, for costs that exceeded the limits in the state’s no-fault system.

Following the March 2013 accident, Air Methods Corp. billed $27,975 for its services. Bailey’s auto insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., paid $6,911 under the fee schedule. His health insurer, Aetna Life Insurance Co. paid another $3,681. However, Bailey did not pay the remaining balance of nearly $17,400. He filed a potential class-action lawsuit alleging that the air ambulance company was trying to improperly collect amounts in excess of the fee schedule. However, the judge ruled in favor of the Air Method, which led Bailey to the appeals court that also rejected such arguments.

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Filed under Legislation, Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

UPDATE: Ringleader Pleads Guilty To His Role In $23 Million Auto Insurance Fraud Crime Ring

Andrew Rubinstein of Miami and the self-confessed ringleader, Felix Filenger of Sunny Isles pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge last year. Rubinstein and Filenger were paying kickbacks to tow truck drivers and body shop workers who illegally steered accident victims to chiropractic clinics they owned at a rate of $1,500 to $2,000 per “patient.” Clinic workers would then have patients attend multiple visits, document exaggerated pain levels, and bill insurance providers for treatment in the amount of $10,000, the maximum allowed under Florida law.

According to Prosecutors, the clinics were located throughout south and central Florida, including Sunrise, Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Pompano Beach, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Miami, Orlando and Kissimmee.

Under the terms of his plea agreement, both sides had agreed to recommend the six-year sentence for Rubinstein. Filenger’s sentencing has been postponed. Several other people who also admitted their roles in the fraud are scheduled for sentencing later this year.

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

Filed under Fraud, Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

ROIG Attorneys Publish Ridesharing Article in Daily Business Review

ROIG Lawyers Attorneys Cecile S. Mendizabal and Lissette M. Alvarez published the article, “Ridesharing Legislation May Trigger New Wave of Litigation” in the Daily Business Review.

ROIG Lawyers Summer Law Clerk Yasbel Perez also contributed to the article.

Subscription required for full article.

Filed under Legislation, Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

New Opinion Released Regarding Examinations Under Oath (EUOs)

A new opinion was recently released by the Florida 9th Circuit Court in its appellate capacity interpreting Fla. Stat. § 627.736(6)(g) and the timely scheduling of Examinations Under Oath (EUOs). This case reaffirms that as a general rule, an insurer ought to schedule the initial EUO in any claim under investigation to occur within 30 days of receipt of the first bill to ensure that the investigation is being conducted well within the time limits set forth in the PIP statute without obliging the insurer to issue a payment of the subject bill prior to investigation.

In Geico Indemnity Co. v. Central Florida Chiropractic Care a/a/o David Cherry (2016-CV-000038-A-O), Central Florida Chiropractic sued Geico for breach of contract for failure to pay overdue PIP benefits. Geico asserted as an affirmative defense that coverage was appropriately denied because the assignor failed to appear for two EUOs.

Central Florida Chiropractic contested Geico’s above-described defense because the EUOs were scheduled to occur more than 30 days after the date on which Central Florida Chiropractic had submitted the bills for the alleged charges at issue and, thus, the EUOs were unreasonably set to occur beyond the 30-day statutory period for payment of said bills. In fact, the Court noted, the first EUO request was not even sent until after 30 days had lapsed. Further, Geico had not informed the claimant pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 627.736(4)(i) that his claim was pending investigation.

The 9th Circuit ruled that even though attendance at an EUO is a condition precedent to receiving PIP benefits under Fla. Stat. § 627.736(6)(g), this provision “cannot be read in a vacuum.” The Court specifically looked to section (4)(b), which requires provider bills to be processed within 30 days of receipt, and to section (4)(i), which states that the claimant should be notified in writing within 30 days of filing the claim that an investigation is under way. Geico argued that section (4)(i) permits a 60-day extension of time for investigation beyond 30 days, but the Court pointed out that Geico failed to send any letter notifying the claimant of the investigation in this case, so the 30-day window was not extended.

The Court also explained that timely payment of the provider bills does not foreclose the insurer from investigating the claim. Nonetheless, “nothing in the statute additionally excuses the insurer’s potential breach for failure to pay a PIP claim within 30 days as contemplated by section 627.736(4)(b).”

Therefore, Geico could not enforce the EUO as condition precedent to receiving PIP benefits because by the time it had scheduled the EUOs, it was already in breach of the policy as the provider’s bills were not timely paid within 30 days. “[B]ecause Geico was already in breach of the insurance contract before the EUOs were scheduled to take place, [the assignor] was not obliged to submit to them.”

The Geico case is the latest in a long line of opinions and trial court orders, starting with Amador v. United Auto. Ins. Co., 748 So. 2d 307 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999), which holds that an EUO does not toll or extend the 30-day period within which an insurer must pay otherwise timely, compensable charges pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 627.736(4)(b). Courts have also ruled that the insurer does not comply with the 30-day requirement if it coordinates the EUO within 30 days, but the EUO is nonetheless scheduled to occur beyond the 30-day window. (See Micro-Diagnostics & South Florida Inst. of Medicina a/a/o Luz Solarte v. United Auto. Ins. Co., 12 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 248a (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. App. 2004). In general, an insurer cannot defend claims on the basis of a claimant’s failure to attend an EUO if said EUO is scheduled to occur outside the 30-day period after submission of the medical bills. (See Humanitary Health Care, Inc. a/a/o Juan Esquivel v. United Auto. Ins. Co., 12 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 531b (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. 2005).

However, a Miami-Dade appellate court did find that an insurer may still benefit from the claimant’s failure to appear for an EUO if said EUO is initially scheduled to occur within 30 days, but then rescheduled for a later date at the claimant’s request. (See West Dixie Rehab. & Medical Ctr. v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 10 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 16a (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. App. 2002)).

The above cases make clear that any communications regarding the re-scheduling of an EUO ought to be done in writing, with language that clearly communicates that the change in date was done to accommodate the request of the insured or insured’s attorney. When appropriate, the insurer may send a letter to the claimant or claimant’s attorney pursuant to section (4)(i) advising that a claim is under investigation within 30 days of the claim filing. This will extend the time period within which an investigation may be conducted up to 90days after the submission of the claim, and thus allows additional time before any provider bills must be processed.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss this issue in greater detail, please feel free to contact us.

ROIG Lawyers is a minority-owned litigation firm with a primary focus on Insurance Defense Litigation. We serve as primary counsel for numerous national and regional carriers and corporations related to all aspects of insurance litigation from 7 offices throughout the state of Florida. ROIG Lawyers does not intend to create an attorney-client relationship by offering this information, and anyone’s review of the information shall not be deemed to create such a relationship. E-mail list/s from ROIG Lawyers are intended to provide information of general interest to the public and are not intended to offer legal advice about specific situations or problems. You should consult a lawyer with regard to specific legal issues that require attention.

Filed under Legislation, Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal Retroactively Applies Allstate PIP Decision

According to Law360, on Wednesday, April 19th Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal retroactively applied a state Supreme Court decision involving Allstate Insurance Co.’s personal injury protection policy language regarding the use of the Medicare fee schedules, overriding a lower court’s ruling and handing Allstate the win. After denying the insurer’s request for review of a circuit court appellate division’s ruling in favor of medical provider Hallandale Open MRI LLC last September, the court reversed course, applying the Supreme Court’s January decision in Allstate v. Orthopedic Specialists.

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Filed under Legislation

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.

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Filed under Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

Sunny South Florida, Out-of-State College Students and the question of Vehicle Insurance Coverage

Spring Break, a time where college students from all over the Country flock down to Florida, known by many as the “Spring Break Capital of the World”, looking to have some fun in the sun.

Florida has many Universities, Colleges and other institutions of higher learning that welcome students from other States to attend.

So the question is, does an out-of-state student who attends University or College in Florida for 2 or 4 years now become a resident of Florida because they have decided to live in Florida during this time? Is that out-of-state student now required to register and license their out-of-state vehicle in Florida and obtain the minimum Florida automobile insurance coverage on that vehicle which is $10,000.00 in Personal Injury Protection and $10,000.00 in Property Damage Liability?

Well yes and no.

If the out-of-state student is planning to domicile themselves in Florida then they are required to license their vehicle in Florida and obtain the minimum insurance in order to operate that vehicle on the roads and highways of the State.

However, if the student maintains their residence in another State while they are enrolled as a full-time student in an “institution of higher learning”, then they are exempt from licensing their vehicle and obtaining the minimum insurance on that vehicle during the duration of their enrollment, as long as they have complied with the licensing and insurance requirements of the State for which they are a resident. One less thing for parents to worry about when they watch their babies leave the nest for the first time.

However, what constitutes an “institution of higher learning”.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary® defines this term as “a college or university”. But what about a trade school, vocational school or cosmetology school? The Federal Government generally defines an ”institution of higher education” as a public or nonprofit educational institution who only admits students who have a high school diploma or have a recognized equivalent certificate such as a General Educational Diploma (GED); is accredited or has pre-accreditation status; awards a Bachelor’s Degree or a 2-years Associates Degree; or, any school that provides not less than a 1-year training program beyond High School, to prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.[1]

These are inquiries that an insurance company must properly investigate in an automobile accident claim involving a nonresident student in order to determine whether they would be exempt from maintaining the minimum Florida insurance on their vehicle while in Florida or if the insurer may be required to extend that student the minimum insurance under Florida law.

So would your insured qualify for the exemption as a nonresident student?

This article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship by offering this information, and anyone’s review of the information shall not be deemed to create such a relationship. The content provided is intended to provide information of general interest to the public and is not intended to offer legal advice about specific situations or problems. You should consult a lawyer with regard to specific law issues that requires attention.

For additional information, please contact Stephen Mellor of Roig Lawyers at 954-354-1541 or by email at smellor@roiglawyers.com. Stephen G. Mellor is a partner in the Deerfield Beach office of Roig Lawyers who primarily focuses on out-of-state policy claims for insurance carriers. 

[1] 20 U.S. Code § 1001

Filed under Personal Injury Protection (PIP)