Author Archives: Fernando L. Roig, Esq.

Four Arrested in Medicaid Fraud Scam Targeting Orlando Homeless

The Florida Attorney General’s Office announced on March 20, 2015 that four people have been arrested for Medicaid fraud. Homeless people were allegedly recruited to pose as patients in the Orlando fraud scheme, frequently in exchange for gas cards and temporary housing.

The defendants in the case are identified as follows:

  • Christina Benson, arrested in Georgia
  • Demetrious Davis, arrested in Florida
  • Harold Harrison, arrested in North Carolina
  • Dr. Sabiha Khan, arrested in Florida

Each individual faces at least one count of Medicaid Provider Fraud and one count of Organized Scheme to Defraud.

According to the investigation, Christina Benson, owner of Tranquility Healthcare Solutions in Orlando, billed Medicaid up to $3.2 million for psychosocial rehabilitation services that were neither warranted nor provided in a period of just 18 months. The announcement cited fraudulent payments of $215,000.

The company claimed to have worked with a local doctor, Sabiha Khan, as a treating provider, but many recipients said they had never met her. Additionally, untrained personnel—including some with criminal records—were allegedly used to deliver some services.

Click on the link for the Florida Attorney General announcement.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud

1st DCA Upholds Allstate Use of Medical Fee Schedules

In an opinion filed March 18, 2015, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal held that language in an Allstate Insurance Co. policy gave sufficient notice to an assignee of its election to use Medicare fee schedules to limit benefit reimbursements under a PIP policy. Stand-Up MRI of Tallahassee, an assignee of 14 named insureds, sued Allstate in county court, contending that Allstate’s alleged failure to give adequate notice was contrary to the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Geico v. Virtual Imaging. The trial court agreed with Stand-Up MRI and certified a question of great public importance to the Appellate Court.

In Virtual Imaging, as here, an MRI provider had supplied services and then disputed the insurer’s authority to limit reimbursements under Medicare fee schedules. Pursuant to the Florida PIP statute, automobile insurers are required to provide PIP coverage for 80 percent of all “reasonable expenses” for medically necessary services.

The dispute here centers on whether Allstate’s policy language provided adequate notice of its election to limit reimbursements via the Medicare fee schedules or if, as Stand-Up MRI contends, the policy fails because it is ambiguous. Allstate points to the following language in the policy as having satisfied the Virtual Imaging notice requirement:

In accordance with the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, [Allstate] will pay to or on behalf of the injured person the following benefits. . . .

Medical Expenses

Eighty percent of reasonable expenses for medically necessary … services. …

Any amounts payable under this coverage shall be subject to any and all limitations, authorized by section 627.736, or any other provisions of the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, as enacted, amended or otherwise continued in the law, including, but not limited to, all fee schedules.

The appellate court agreed with Allstate, concluding that the policy gives sufficient notice of its election to limit reimbursements by use of the fee schedules. In making its decision, the court pointed to language in the policy stating that reimbursements “shall” be subject to the limitations of §627.736, including “all fee schedules.”

Section 627.736(5)(a) 2 refers to Medicare fee schedule-based limitations and provides that insurers “may limit reimbursement to 80 percent of the … schedule of maximum charges.” Thus, concluded the court, the notice requirement was satisfied by Allstate’s language limiting “any amounts payable” to the fee schedule-based limitations found in the statute.

Furthermore, the court also distinguished the language in Allstate’s policy from that found deficient in Virtual Imaging. There, the Florida Supreme Court concluded that Geico’s policy failed to “indicate in any way” that it intended to limit its reimbursement amounts using the fee schedules. Here, Allstate’s policy expressly limits reimbursements by “all fee schedules” in the statute, satisfying the Virtual Imaging notice requirement.

Stand-Up MRI also contended that Allstate’s use of the phrase “subject to . . . all fee schedules” fails to provide sufficient notice that reimbursements will always be limited by the fee schedules, arguing that “subject to” means only that Allstate had the option to limit reimbursements per the Medicare fee schedule , not that it would so limit reimbursements. The court, however, found no such ambiguity, stating that the language of the policy makes reimbursements subordinate to the fee schedule in “rather unmistakable terms.”

In sum, the court concluded that Allstate’s policy language gave legally sufficient notice to its insureds of its election to use the Medicare fee schedules as required by Virtual Imaging. The trial court’s decision was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.

The cases cited are listed below for reference.

Allstate Fire and Casualty Ins. v. Stand-Up MRI of Tallahassee, Case No. 1D14-1213, et al., 1st DCA Fla. (March 18, 2015).

Geico Gen. Ins. Co. v. Virtual Imaging Servs. Inc., 141 So. 3d 147 (Fla. 2013).

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Filed under Fla. Stat. 627.736 (2012), The Statutory "Fee Schedules"

Miami Health Care Fraud Scheme Results in 14 Arrests

A $13.9 million fraud scheme involving a network of medical clinics resulted in the arrest of 14 Miami-Dade County residents on March 11, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

As readers of the FLPIPGuide.com know, our coverage of medical clinics typically relates to PIP fraud. In this case, however, the named medical clinics allegedly intended to defraud health care insurers and employer-sponsored plans.

The following individuals were charged with health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud in the case of United States v. Reyna/do Castillo, et al.:

  • Reynaldo Castillo, 46, Hialeah
  • Hendris Castillo Morales, 33, Miami
  • Lisbet Castillo, 23, Hialeah
  • Maite Garcia, 40, Hialeah
  • Osvaldo Marin Medina, 48, Hialeah
  • Alejandro Biart, 40, Miami
  • Alejandro Jesus Cura, 47, Miami
  • Dania Chavez, 43, Miami
  • Ezequiel Severo Casas, 28, Hialeah
  • Humberto Martinez Rodriguez, 43, Hialeah
  • Jose Gerardo Gonzalez, 23, Miami
  • Julio Suarez, 47, Miami
  • Nelson Ramos, 56, Miami
  • Reinaldo Cinta Gonzalez, 46, Miami
  • Rudy N. Dominguez, 25, Hialeah
  • Diulys Martinez, 39, Miami

As many as 30 medical clinics based in Miami, Hialeah, Hialeah Lakes, and Doral, Fla. were owned or controlled by Reynaldo Castillo, Hendris Castillo Morales, Lisbet Castillo Batista, and Maite Garcia, according to the indictment.

Physician names and licensing information obtained through medical staffing companies was allegedly misappropriated to conceal the actual clinic ownership. Additionally, some of the individuals charged were paid fees in exchange for the use of their names as fronts for corporate ownership, bank accounts, and check cashing privileges.

Insurance companies Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), and United Health Care (UHC) were affected by the scam. Several self-insured employers whose insurance plans were managed by the three carriers were also the target of fraud, including:

  • Miami-Dade Public Schools
  • City of Miami
  • Pepsi Co.
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Macy’s
  • Nextera Energy
  • Radioshack
  • Sodexo

False and fraudulent claims totaling $125.7 million were submitted to the insurance carriers and employer plans, of which $13.85 million was paid. Many of the claims were for treatments that were not ordered by a physician or services that were never delivered.

The indictment also alleges that Reynaldo Castillo, Lisbet Castillo Batista, and Hendris Castillo incorporated an investment company to receive proceeds from the clinics and used those proceeds to purchase real estate properties. Those properties are subject to criminal forfeiture.

In a companion case, United States v. Ernesto Castillo, Osvaldo Marin Medina, Alejandro Biart, Ernesto Castillo, 43, of Hialeah, and Danny Jacomino Bordon, 50, of Miami were charged with health care fraud for causing Amazing Medical Services, Inc., Serenity Rehabilitation Center, Inc., and World of Rehabilitation Therapy, Inc. to submit false claims to Cigna totaling approximately $5.1 million, which resulted in payments to the three companies of approximately $1.1 million.

Jose Gerardo Gonzalez, Reynaldo Castillo, Ezequiel Severo Casas, and Danny Jacomino Bordon remain at large.

Click on the link to read the news release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud

Auto Insurers Warn that Driverless Cars May Affect Profitability

While driverless cars could be hitting the roads in as little as five years from now, many auto insurers are worried about the far-reaching implications this autonomous technology could have on their industry’s bottom line. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the industry brought in $107.4 billion in passenger-car auto insurance premiums in 2013, the latest year for which figures are available.

In a March 3rd Wall Street Journal article, “The Driverless Car, Officially, Is a Risk,” it was reported that three insurance suppliers as well as an auto parts manufacturer have already cautioned investors in their most recent annual reports that the dawn of the self-driving vehicle and its technology may greatly affect their business model in the future.

Companies usually regard their annual report’s risk-factor disclosures as a place to point out potential difficulties and disruptions and to protect against their liability—not as a prediction of what’s to come. But the fact that driverless cars have been mentioned in several annual reports is telling.

According to the WSJ article, Cincinnati Financial Corp., which produces about a quarter of its premiums from commercial and consumer auto policies, warned its forecasts could be flawed due to “Disruption of the insurance market caused by technology innovations such as driverless cars that could decrease consumer demand for insurance products.”

In addition, Mercury General Corp. said that “the advent of driverless cars and usage-based insurance could materially alter the way that automobile insurance is marketed, priced, and underwritten.” The company provides most of its auto coverage in California.

Industry analysts believe a variety of consequences could result by taking the driver out of the equation:

  • Insurers may sell fewer individual policies
  • Insurers may have to cover fewer accidents
  • Technologically-advanced cars may cost more to repair
  • Some of the expense from consumer auto insurance may shift to commercial liability policies as more automakers and software firms face litigation for accidents
  • Larger policyholders could have more bargaining power than many small ones, potentially putting more pressure on premium revenue

The Insurance Information Institute also addressed this topic on its website. According to the III’s recently-updated report, driverless cars are viewed by the organization as one natural outgrowth from a multitude of advances in safety technology.

Numerous developers of driverless cars are concerned that regulatory matters and costs could delay their launches to market, but in any event, these technologies are still moving forward.

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Filed under Fla. Stat. 627.736 (2012)

Orlando Clinic Operators Arrested in PIP Fraud Scheme

Dr. Lherisson Domond, a Coconut Creek physician, fronted ownership of the Unity Pain and Injury Center clinic for most of 2012 in exchange for monthly payments of $1,500, according to the Florida Department of Financial Services.

Domond admitted that he agreed to be paid for the use of him name as owner of the unlicensed medical clinic. Further investigation revealed that Nesly Loute of Naples and Pierre Alex Herisse of Orlando actually managed the clinic’s operations.

In investigating Unity Pain and Injury Center, the Division of Insurance Fraud discovered that the clinic illegally provided medical treatment and physical therapy to individuals involved in automobile accidents. The clinic then billed the treatments to various insurance companies under the PIP coverage of patient insurance policies.

The three individuals face felony charges for fraud, operating an unlicensed clinic, and grand theft, all of which carry sentences of up to 30 years.

The Division of Insurance Fraud reports that it has made 249 PIP arrests since July 1, 2014.

Click on the link to read the news announcement about the Unity Pain and Injury Center.

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Filed under Insurance Fraud, Licensing

Drugged Drivers Increase as Drunk Driving Drops

Although the nationwide effort to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving have been fruitful, two recent studies show that there is a troubling escalation in the use of marijuana and prescription drugs behind the wheel that could jeopardize the progress to make roads safer. The ground-breaking studies were recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The first study, which is the latest version of NHTSA’s Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, found that the number of drivers with alcohol in their system has declined by nearly one-third since 2007 and by more than three-quarters since 1973. However, figures also revealed that the number of drivers using marijuana or other illegal drugs jumped to almost one in four drivers who test positive for at least one drug that could affect road safety. According to the data, the number of weekend nighttime drivers with evidence of drugs in their system climbed from 16.3 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2014, while the number of drivers with marijuana in their system grew by nearly 50 percent.

The study, which has been conducted five times in the last 40 years, gathers data from anonymous voluntary participants throughout the U.S.

The second NHTSA survey, which is the largest of its kind ever conducted, assessed whether driver use of marijuana is tied to greater risk of crashes.  The study not only found that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in accidents, but revealed that this increased risk may partially be attributed to the demographics of marijuana users—in particular young men—who are more likely to be part of a group that is at higher risk of crashes overall.

The study also found that drivers who had been drinking above the 0.08 percent legal limit had about 4 times the risk of crashing as sober drivers, and those with blood alcohol levels at 0.15 percent or higher had 12 times the risk.

Conducted in Virginia Beach, Va., the study gathered data over a 20-month period from more than 3,000 drivers who were involved in crashes, in addition to a comparison group of 6,000 drivers who did not crash.

Results from the NHTSA surveys are consistent with a June study by Public Health Reports, a recent article in Claims Journal pointed out. This study, which was funded by Public Health Law Research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that the profile of a ‘drugged driver’ has changed considerably since 1993. Not only are more drivers testing positive for prescription drugs, cannabis, and multiple drugs, they are increasingly likely to be older than 50. The study noted almost 60 percent of marijuana-only users were younger than 30 years old, but 39 percent of prescription drug users were 50 years old or older.

“America made drunk driving a national issue and while there is no victory as long as a single American dies in an alcohol-related crash, a one-third reduction in alcohol use over just seven years shows how a focused effort and cooperation among the federal government, states and communities, law enforcement, safety advocates and industry can make an enormous difference,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “At the same time, the latest Roadside Survey raises significant questions about drug use and highway safety. The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes.”

A series of additional studies to further understand the risk of drugged driving is being planned by the NHTSA, including the Washington State Roadside Survey, which will assess risk in a state where marijuana has recently been legalized, and a simulator study with the National Institute on Drug Abuse to assess how drivers under the influence of drugs behave behind the wheel.

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Filed under Fla. Stat. 627.736 (2012)

Nine Arrested in Miami PIP Fraud Schemes

There has been no shortage of auto insurance fraud in Miami of late as Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the arrests of nine individuals who have been charged in connection with eight separate cases of personal injury protection (PIP) fraud schemes.

According to Atwater’s announcement, the Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) uncovered seven staged vehicle accidents in which the scammers collectively filed more than $242,000 in fraudulent billings to 11 different insurance carriers. Staged accident participants were referred to at least 13 different South Florida medical clinics.

The nine were arrested for acting in one or more of these capacities:

  • The organizer or staged accident recruiter;
  • The patient broker who encouraged participants to seek post-accident medical treatment for bogus injuries;
  • The licensed medical provider who agreed to sign off on falsified medical documents in exchange for payment billed under PIP insurance benefits.

The investigation into these cases remains ongoing and additional arrests are expected, DIF said.

“While their injuries may have been fake, PIP fraud is real and it is not a victimless crime,” CFO Atwater commented. “When insurance carriers absorb such high-dollar losses to fraud, we all pay in the form of higher insurance premiums. I’m thankful to our dedicated investigative team for shutting down this fraud ring.”

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Filed under Insurance Fraud