New Immigration Law in Georgia Slows Down License Renewal Process for Doctors and Nurses

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

Hundreds of Georgia health providers are without a professional license to practice, because a new immigration law is causing massive backups in paperwork, according to a number of sources. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 or House Bill 87 went into effect on January 1, 2012, and requires every person to prove his or her citizenship or legal residency when the individual renews his or her license.

To read House Bill 87 in its entirety, click here.

With all of the extra paperwork required and too few staff members at the reviewing state agencies, many licenses are expiring before they can be renewed. Shortages of staff are being reported at the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and Georgia’s Medical Board. Licenses being affected include licenses for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health providers are falling through the cracks and expiring. According to a Kaiser Health News story released November 12, 2012, there’s not much that can be done to speed up the process.

So Far Georgia House Bill 87 Is Creating Confusion and Issues for Citizens.

Georgia House Bill 87 was aimed at blocking illegal immigrants from getting benefits but instead has created lots of confusion, according to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For example, when people are confused about the requirements and fail to not submit copies of acceptable identification, then their professional licenses expire and they are not legally allowed to practice.

It is reported that some individuals, instead of forwarding copies of photo identification, are sending photos of animals or pornography into the state’s online system. Officials believe this is either a form of protest or a joke, either way it slows down the review process.

To read the article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, click here.

Providers Be Aware of Medicare Conditions of Participation.

Providers need to be forewarned that if their licenses are expired Medicare conditions of participation (COPs) prohibit billing for services provided. If a service was provided while the license was expired, be prepared to refund the overpayments.

Around 1,300 Doctors and Nurses Cannot Practice Due to Incorrect
Paperwork.

Last year, the secretary of state’s office received more than 49,000 new applications for licenses and since 2008 the state licensing division has lost almost 40 staff members.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the average time it takes for the state to process new license applications has jumped from 60 days to 70 days. The same goes for renewal applications. It used to take two days to renew a license, but now it takes 10 days.

According to Kaiser Health News, it’s estimated that 1,300 doctors, nurses and other health professionals have lost their ability to work either because they did not send in the correct paperwork, or they are stuck in the backlog of work.

The same article stated so far the new document requirements have yet to find any illegal immigrants.

Click here to read the entire article from Kaiser Health News.

Georgia Nursing and Pharmacy Associations Warning Members of Delays.

The Georgia Nursing Association and the Georgia Pharmacy Association are monitoring this situation closely. The pharmacy association has been informing members about the new identification requirements and urging them to not put off applying for their licences.

Click here to see a warning about the process from the Georgia Pharmacy Association.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.
If you have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, it is imperative that you contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career.  Remember, your license is your livelihood, it is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues all over the country.

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

Comments?

As a health professional what   do you think about this new law in Georgia? Do you think it is ridiculous or a necessary process? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Burress, Jim. “Doctors’ And Nurses’ Licenses Snagged By New Immigration Law In Georgia.” Kaiser Health News, WABE, Atlanta and NPR. (November 12, 2012). From: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2012/November/12/Georgia-immigration.aspx

Redmon, Jeremy. “New ID Law Gums Up Licensing Process.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (October 15, 2012). From: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/new-id-law-gums-up-licensing-process/nSc6g/

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.

“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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Overcoming License Suspension and Revocation Pending Appeal

By: Lance O. Leider, J.D.

If you are a doctor, nurse, dentist, psychologist, pharmacist, massage therapist or other licensed health professional whose license has been recently revoked or suspended, there may still be hope. Ordinarily, you must immediately stop practicing or you risk being prosecuted for unlicensed practice, a felony. Although this blog deals with Florida law, similar relief may be available in other states, too.

One of the hardest things about having a license suspended or revoked is that it immediately cuts off the licensee’s sole source of income. If you have a thriving practice, this will usually destroy any value your business has. Without income, paying your bills will be a challenge, much less the cost to fight the legal action or to appeal.

Even if you appeal the decision and win the appeal, you will be out of practice for many months, often more than a year, before your license is reinstated. You still have all the lost income and business, and you never get this time and money back.

Fortunately, Florida law provides an avenue for temporary relief from the adverse decision, so that you may retain your license and practice your profession pending appeal of your case. This legal process is called a writ of supersedeas.

What is Supersedeas Relief?

Supersedeas relief is a form of relief granted by a reviewing court (court of appeal) that suspends the enforcement of the judgement of the lower court (or agency) while the underlying issues are decided on appeal. What this means is that you can have the action to revoke or suspend your license put on hold while you appeal the decision of the Department of Health (DOH).

This relief is authorized in two separate places in Florida law: Section 120.68(3), Florida Statutes, and Rule 9.190(e)(2)(C), Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. Both of these provisions state that a reviewing court can grant a stay of enforcement of the revocation or suspension of a license pending review.

The relief is not automatic, however. Both provisions specifically prevent supersedeas from being granted if the licensee poses a probable threat to the health, safety or welfare of the state. Fortunately, it is the burden of the agency whose order is being reviewed to prove that there is a danger to the public.

Additionally, the Appellate Rule permits you to ask for expedited review. (Which of course is recommended because you want to be back to work as quickly as possible, right?) This means that the agency only has ten (10) days to file its opposition. This shortened time period may make it difficult for an overworked government attorney to file on time or to produce quality opposition.

Steps to Seeking Supersedeas Relief.

1. File an appeal of the Final Order revoking or suspending your license with the appropriate agency and a copy to the appellate court. Be sure to follow all appellate rules and instructions.

2. File a Petition for Expedited Supersedeas Relief with the appellate court at the same time.

3. If you receive a favorable ruling from the court, deliver that order to the licensing agency (in this case, the DOH) and request that your license be reinstated immediately.

Other Considerations.

It is important to note that this form of relief will not make the underlying action disappear. Your return to practice will only be temporary, unless you win the appeal. You will still have to show the licensing agency did something contrary to law when it imposed the discipline in order for the appellate court to overturn the decision. This is not often an easy task. Furthermore, the law only permits a thirty (30) day window in which to appeal the agency’s decision, after which your rights are lost and you are very likely stuck with the decision.

Appeals Are Very Technical and Require a Thorough, Specialized Knowledge of the Law.

What few people understand is that appeals are very technical and have complex, procedural rules that you must follow. An appeal of an agency final order is not the place to argue about the facts of your case or to try to prove different facts.

An appeal is all about the law and the court cases that have interpreted the law. Unless the agency (in this case your board) made a legal error and violated the law, you won’t win.

For an appeal, a person needs an attorney. To prevail on an appeal, you must have a detailed knowledge of the correct, relevant court cases and you must be able to argue these in the proper form in legal briefs.

There are many other procedural steps you must follow in an appeal that only a good appellate attorney will know. To attempt to do this yourself is not advisable.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.

If you have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, it is imperative that you contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career. Remember, your license is your livelihood, it is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, dentists, nurses, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues.

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

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with 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 Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

Preserving Your Nursing License: Alternatives to Conviction, Nolo Contendere or Adjudication Withheld

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

As if being faced with the consequences of criminal charges wasn’t frightening enough, physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists and other health professionals have the added danger of having their licenses disciplined or revoked if they plead nolo contendere or guilty to a criminal charge

Whether you are applying for a new license to practice or have been practicing for years you are under an obligation to report “convictions” and “pleas” to the board that governs your profession.  The normal definition of a “conviction” is not the same as the Department of Health (DOH) and the various professional boards use.

Pursuant to Section 456.072, Florida Statutes, licensed healthcare providers can be disciplined for all of the following dispositions of a criminal case:

- Actual conviction (by a judge or jury)

- Entering a plea of guilty

- Entering a plea of nolo contendere 

- Adjudication Withheld

Click here to see Section 456.072, F.S.

That’s right, adjudication withheld and nolo contendere pleas are all treated the same as a conviction as far as your professional license is concerned.

While these alternative means of disposing of a criminal case may be beneficial or expedient for the average citizen, healthcare practitioners have to think of what those dispositions mean for their license.

Don’t give up hope yet though, there is an alternative that will permit your criminal case to be favorably disposed of and allow you to potentially avoid discipline to your professional license.  That alternative is pretrial intervention (PTI) programs, sometimes referred ti as “PTI” or “PTIO.”

What Is Pretrial Intervention (PTI)?

PTI is a diversion program for those accused of certain types of crimes that, if successfully completed, results in the criminal charges being dismissed.  The best part of this option is that it does not require the defendant to enter any plea.

Individuals who are enrolled in PTI programs are on a sort of quasi-probation.  The criminal case against them is continued (put on hold) while the PTI program is running.  Typical conditions of PTI supervision require periodic reporting, drug screening, mental health or substance abuse counseling, community service, and payment of supervision fees.

Who Is Eligible For PTI?

Eligibility for entry into PTI programs is governed by Sections 948.08 and 948.16, Florida Statutes.

To see Section 948.08, F.S., or Section 948.16, F.S., click the links.

Generally, any first time offender, or any person who has previously been convicted of not more than one nonviolent misdemeanor or third-degree felony is eligible for PTI so long as the following requirements are met:

1. The defendant has voluntarily agreed to participate in PTI,

2. Consent of the victim,

3. Consent of the prosecutor, and

4. Consent of the judge who presided at the initial appearance.

Should the offense for which the practitioner is facing charges be related to controlled substances, the statute offers additional eligibility criteria:

1. Those charged with nonviolent felonies and are identified as having a substance abuse problem; or,

2. Those who are charged with felonies of the second or third degree for purchase or possession of a controlled substance, or obtaining a prescription by fraud; and

3. Who have not been previously convicted of a felony, nor admitted to a felony PTI program.

Similar programs are available for those having substance abuse problems who are charged with nonviolent misdemeanor offenses, or those who are charged with misdemeanor possession of drugs or alcohol, prostitution, or possession without a prescription.

Benefits of PTI.

PTI may seem like more of a hassle for minor offenses than simply accepting a plea or adjudication withheld.  This may be true for the average person, but licensed health professionals have to take into account the professional consequences that come from a conviction, or other similar dispositions of the case. These include actions against their license, reports to certification bodies, reports to health facilities in which they are licensed and reports to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) or other data banks.

The most important thing to remember about PTI is successful completion of the program results in the charges being dismissed!

This means you don’t have to report anything to your board and there will be no discipline on your license.  Furthermore, you can later apply to have the arrest expunged (if you are otherwise eligible).

The benefits of entry into a PTI program by a healthcare practitioner cannot really be overstated.  The disciplinary process is often long and extremely costly.  The effects of discipline on your license can follow you for the remainder of your career and is publicly available to anyone who cares to look.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Licensure Matters.

If you have been arrested, it is strongly recommended that you retain an experienced healthcare attorney who can advise you and your criminal counsel as to the effects a potential outcome could have on your license.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners in licensure matters.  We frequently consult with criminal defense attorneys regarding defense strategies tailored to minimizing criminal sanctions while at the same time preserving the practitioner’s license.

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

Sources:

Section 948.08, Florida Statutes

Section 948.16, Florida Statutes

Section 456.072, Florida Statutes

About the Authors: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with 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 Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

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.

“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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Nurse Accused of Abusing Patient

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

A Florida State Hospital licensed practical nurse (LPN) has been arrested and charged with one count of abuse of a disabled adult at the facility. The nurse was arrested on a felony warrant by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU). The arrest was announced by the Florida Attorney General on June 29, 2012.

Nurse Accused of Abusing Patient During Medication Administration.

The nurse allegedly struck a disabled woman at the mental health facility, while trying to administer medication. The nurse attempted to administer medications to the patient by holding her nose closed in an attempt to force her mouth open, slapping her across the face, and pulling the patient’s hair, according to the charges filed.

The nurse has been charged with one count of abuse of a disabled adult, which is a third degree felony. If convicted she faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) Conducted Investigation.

Investigators with the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) received information regarding the alleged abuse from the Florida Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) Adult Protective Services Program. The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the arrest. The case will be prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office for the Second Judicial Circuit of Florida.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health investigations, before the Board of Nursing, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters, and in administrative hearings.

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

Sources Include:

Lucas, John. “Attorney General Pam Bondi Announces Arrest of Nurse for Abusing a Disabled Adult at Florida State Hospital.” Florida Office of the Attorney General. (June 29, 2012). Press Release. From: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/AF6292E44D8579B685257A2C0069ED2D

WCTV. “Nurse at Florida State Hospital Arrested for Abuse.” WCTV.com. (June 29, 2012). From: http://www.wctv.tv/home/headlines/Nurse_at_Florida_State_Hospital_Arrested_for_Abuse_160893645.html

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.

Adverse Consequences of Discipline Against Your Nursing License

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

If the Florida Department of Health (DOH) takes discipline against your Florida nursing license, this will have many significant consequences.

Investigation and Discipline of Other State Licenses.

The discipline will be reported to every other state in which you have a license and similar investigations will be opened by those states.

Many states also have laws similar to those of Florida which require you to report discipline yourself to the other state in which you are licensed. Sometimes this is very short, 15 or 30 days, for example. Check the other state’s laws to be sure.

Discipline Against Other Types of Licenses.

If you have other types of health professional licenses, such as a massage therapist (LMT) license, emergency medical technician (EMT) license, mental health counselor license (LMHC), advance registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) license, acupuncture physician (A.P.) license, etc., it is most likely that an investigation will be opened against the other license. This may result in discipline against your other license.

Discipline Will be Reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank.

Additionally, any discipline against your Florida nursing license will be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), as well as other reporting organizations. You may also face action to exclude you from the Medicare Program by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). If this occurs, it will be virtually impossible for you to get a job anywhere, especially in a hospital or facility.

Possible Loss of Certification.

In addition, if you are certified in a specialty, your certification organization may revoke or not renew your certification. It may also have rules requiring you to report disciplinary action.

Loss of Employment Opportunities.

Many health facilities, insurers, hospitals and other employers have policies against hiring nursing professionals with discipline on their licenses. Regardless of what an employer or supervisor might orally tell you, company policy, whether formal (written) or informal, may cause you to be terminated as an employee.

Buy Insurance to Cover License Investigation Legal Defense Expenses: It’s Cheap.

Most nursing malpractice insurance policies are very inexpensive and provide excellent coverage. Most contain insurance coverage that will pay for an attorney and other legal defense expenses if you are being investigated or charged with a licensure offense. Buy this. You should have at least $25,000 in coverage for such investigations and administrative proceedings. $50,000 in coverage would be better, even if you must pay extra or buy additional coverage.

If you are innocent of the charges alleged against you, a fully contested formal administrative hearing (trial) could easily cost $50,000. If you can’t afford to pay this amount yourself, you may have to give up your rights to proof of your innocence or guilt. Buy insurance to cover such unfortunate circumstances.

Obtain an Experienced Health Law Attorney Immediately After Receiving Any Notification of an Investigation from the Department of Health.

If the DOH is investigating you, you will receive a letter stating that an investigation has been opened by the DOH for discipline against your license. Do not speak with or make any statement to any DOH investigator (for more on this, see our previous blog post). Instead, immediately obtain an experienced health law attorney to represent you throughout the investigation and disciplinary proceedings.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Board of Nursing Cases.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health Investigations, before the Board of Nursing, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters, and in administrative hearings.

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

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.

Why Nurses Should Purchase Professional Liability Insurance

indest9By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Though many nurses pursue a career in nursing hoping that they will never face disciplinary charges, any number of events not in a nurse’s control can lead to an investigation or administrative action. Nurses need to make sure they are covered if this ever occurs, with appropriate insurance.

The primary reason that a nurse should purchase a professional liability insurance policy is that this type of insurance usually includes coverage for legal defense of licensing and disciplinary action commenced against a nurse.

License defense coverage pays the legal fees and costs associated with defending a nurse when an investigation is initiated that may result in action against her nursing license or disciplinary action against the nurse. Coverage is usually available from the time the nurse receives written notice that an investigation by a state agency has been initiated. It will also cover formal complaints made against the nurse, informal hearings before the Board of Nursing, and formal administrative hearings before an administrative law judge.

Such investigations, complaints, and administrative action may be opened based on events including patient complaints, hotline calls, Code 15 reports, nursing home and home health agency surveys, abuse investigations by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), newspaper articles, copies of lawsuits, and many other sources. It is far more likely that a nurse will be involved in one of these types of actions than being sued for nursing negligence.

Professional liability policies, which provide coverage for licensure defense, will usually provide compensation to the nurse for her out-of-pocket expenses (travel, postage, etc.) that she herself incurs, as well as lost wages because of working time missed for hearings, depositions, etc. However, the maximum coverage available under such policies for licensure defense is usually limited. to between $10,000 and $15,000. This amount will usually be sufficient to provide for most of the legal fees and costs involved in defense of such a case.

Does Vicarious Liability Actually Absolve the Nurse From Liability?

The assumption that vicarious liability or the legal doctrine of respondeat superior protects a nurse against a medical negligence claim is a mistaken one. If the employer provides legal representation, the attorney representing the nurse will almost always be the same attorney representing and being paid by the hospital or employer.

In many circumstances, the nurse may conclude that her interests are contrary to those of the hospital or employer, which could result in the attorney hired by the hospital withdrawing from further representation of the nurse. Additionally, it may be necessary for the nurse to raise evidence showing that the injury was caused by another nurse or hospital employee, in order to defend herself. It is doubtful that an attorney representing the employer or hospital would raise this defense since it would prove liability against the employer hospital.

Many employers will not provide legal representation if the matter involves licensing or disciplinary action against the nurse. This could force the nurse to fund all the fees and costs associated with her defense. However, some larger corporations with good risk management programs will provide the nurse with legal representation for such matters.

If you are an agency nurse, a home health agency nurse, a nursing home nurse, an independent duty nurse, or you are not employed by a large hospital chain, then you should consider nursing liability insurance mandatory. It appears that complaints of negligence against nurses working in these positions are far more likely. This may be because of the high turnover of nurses in some types of healthcare facilities (such as nursing homes), or because the nurse is no longer employed at the facility when the investigation begins (for example, in the case of an agency nurse). Additionally, agency nurses may only work in facility for a short period of time making them less familiar with the facility’s policies and procedures, and not a part of the permanent team of nurses who may have established relationships with each other and are more likely to cover for each other.

As previously mentioned, a number of different proceedings may be covered by the licensure defense coverage provided in professional liability insurance. These proceedings may include an investigation by the Department of Health based on a patient complaint or Code 15 report; an abuse investigation (abuse of a child, abuse of a developmentally disabled or vulnerable person, or abuse of an elderly person) by the Department of Children and Families (DCF); allegations of nursing negligence or abuse being investigated by a state “surveyor” by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA); an investigation into allegations of Medicaid over-billing or fraud; an investigation by the Agency for Health Care Administration or on the Attorney General’s State-wide Medicaid Task Force; and allegations of improper Medicare billing or fraud.

A nurse might be involved in a Medicaid fraud investigation, for example, in the case of an Advance Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) or Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) who has her own provider identification number and is allowed to bill as part of a group practice or independently. This might also occur, for example, in the case of a nurse working for a home health agency which receives its reimbursement for the nurse’s services from Medicare or Medicaid.

Cost of Professional Liability Coverage is Minimal

Nurses can purchase liability coverage rather inexpensively. For example, an excellent insurance policy providing coverage for nurses is available through the Nurses Service Organization (N.S.O.) for less than $100 per year. Professional liability coverage provided by this type of insurance represents a bargain at these rates.

Focusing on Protecting the Nurse’s Individual Interests

Perhaps most importantly, the nurse should have an attorney focusing on her interests only in defending her against any type of negligence or licensing complaint. A nurse with her own professional liability insurance coverage will be able to hire a separate, independent attorney, and often the insurer will allow her to pick her own attorney.

Important Considerations When Purchasing Liability Protection

When deciding on which professional liability insurance to purchase, the nurse should inquire as to the extent of coverage for licensing in disciplinary defense coverage. Some professional liability insurers have a “broad form” of coverage which may provide legal defense for the nurse in almost any type of administrative action. This might include, for example, defense of a discrimination complaint filed against the nurse with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and for Medicare and Medicaid complaints. Other companies limit coverage to only actions that may result in disciplinary action against the nurse’s license. The nurse should always attempt to get the broadest coverage available for disciplinary defense and licensure defense coverage.

Additionally, the nurse should inquire as to whether or not she will be allowed to select her own attorney. Many insurance companies have contracts with certain law firms to provide legal services on their cases for a reduced fee. The insurance company may require you to use one of its own contracted attorneys, or even one of its in-house attorneys which it employs directly. Given the limited number of attorneys with experience at handling nursing law issues and trying malpractice cases, the nurse should attempt to obtain coverage through a company which allows her to choose her own attorney.

The most important reason to purchase professional liability insurance is for the licensure defense coverage. A nurse does not want to risk losing her nursing license because she was unsuccessful at defending an investigation against her license or did not have the resources to do so. Since there are far more complaints filed each year against nurses’ licenses than here are nursing malpractice lawsuits, it is far more likely that a working nurse will need legal defense of a licensure complaint investigation.

For more information visit www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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.