Traveling Nurses Must Have Appropriate Professional Liability Insurance

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

We are often asked what we consider to be the biggest problem that a nurse has in defending herself in a complaint against her license.  In our opinion, it is not having the financial resources to retain the services of an experienced attorney to defend her.  Because of this, we believe that any nurse, especially traveling nurses working at a hospital, skilled nursing facility, home health agency, assisted living facility, medical group, or any other organization must have her own personal professional liability policy that provides ample insurance coverage for professional license defense expenses.

Most Complaints Made Against Nurses are Filed by Employers.

In our experience, most of the complaints filed against nurse professionals come from employers.  In many cases, a patient will complain to the employer and the employer will file the complaint.  In others, the employer initiates the complaint because of substandard performance, documentation problems, allegations of theft or drug diversion, allegations of falsification of documents or records, etc.  When this happens, in most cases the employer terminates the nurse.  This is why we say that a nurse must have her own professional liability insurance policy.

We see a great many more complaints filed against a nurse’s license that she then must defend, than we ever see civil claims for damages.

Many nurses work under the incorrect assumption that they are “insured” by their employer or their agency or that their employer’s or agency’s insurance covers them.  This is a fallacy, especially when it comes to defending against a complaint made against one’s nursing license.  If your employer or agency is the one that files the complaint against you, you don’t really think that your employer or agency is going to cover the legal expenses associated with your defense, do you?

Some hospitals and health organizations are notorious about firing nurses who have any discrepancies in drug counts or who have documentation errors.  This often results in a complaint to the Department of Health (DOH) against the nurse’s license.

Furthermore, we are all aware of the phenomenon with the traveling nurse, the person who is no longer there, getting all of the blame for any problem or incident that come up.  The ones that are still at the facility, the ones who are conducting the investigation on the incident, are far less likely to find blame with their friends and colleagues who are still there.

Just when you need it the most, you may find yourself out of a job, with no income, and no money to pay for a legal defense.  This may ultimately lead to your losing your nursing license and your ability to ever work as a health professional again.

If You Don’t Have Personal Professional Liability Insurance-Get It.

Professional liability insurance policies for nurses are very cheap.  Often policies are only about ten dollars a month.  Usual limits of coverage for this small premium payment are one million dollars of coverage for civil suits and $25,000 or more coverage for professional license defense.

But wait, it is not as simple as just purchasing the first professional liability insurance policy you find.  Many professional liability insurance policies do not offer license defense coverage.  Or, if they do, it is limited to only complaints where there is also the threat that a patient is going to sue for money.  Still others provide such low limits of coverage for license defense expenses (e.g., $5,000 or $10,000) that it is not worth the money paid for it, while others do not allow you to choose your own attorney.

Insurance Companies We Recommend.

We usually tout insurance companies such as that provided by Nurses Service Organization (NSO) and Healthcare Professionals Service Organization (HPSO) as providing great bang for the buck.  But here lately, we’ve been seeing (and hearing) more and more about CPH & Associates insurance.  Not only does it provide one million dollars in coverage if you are sued in a civil court, but it also provides up to $35,000 in coverage for professional license defense.  Additionally, for a very small additional payment, with CPH & Associates Insurance you can increase that coverage to $100,000 for professional license defense.  The other company we hear good things about is Lloyd’s of London.

If you have a complaint filed against your nursing license and you have to prove your innocence through a formal administrative hearing (trial), this can be very, very expensive.  Additionally, if you lose at this level, you may have to appeal the results to a higher court.  These expenses can easily cost $75,000, even if you win.  And you are not ever assured that you will get any of this money paid back to you, even if you are innocent and you win the case.  Inexpensive insurance coverage is the only thing that makes since.  Buy it!

In Conclusion.

We urge all nurses, especially traveling nurses, to purchase and maintain their own personal professional liability insurance policy.  It’s tax deductible.  But check to make sure you have coverage for professional license defense, even when there is no claim for damages expected from a patient.  Additionally, pay the extra premium to purchase a higher limit of coverage for professional license defense cases, or buy a second insurance policy for this additional coverage.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

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

Comments?

Do you have personal professional liability insurance? Will you consider purchasing a personal policy now? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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.

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Whistleblower Case Against Tennessee-Based Nursing Care Company

IMG_5281 fixedBy Danielle M. Murray, J.D.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is investigating a Tennessee-based nursing care company. The company runs more than 200 skilled nursing homes (SNFs), assisted living facilities (ALFs), retirement living communities, home care services, and Alzheimer’s centers across the country. The nursing care company is accused of defrauding Medicare of millions of dollars for unnecessary and expensive therapy treatments from 2006 to 2011, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Click here to read the entire article from the Wall Street Journal.

Nursing Care Company Allegedly Overbilled Medicare and Tricare.

According to the federal complaint, the nursing care company is accused of encouraging its employed therapists to perform unnecessary and expensive therapy treatments that were billed to Medicare. The document mentioned specific cases of patients who allegedly didn’t need therapy or could have been harmed by it, but received it anyway.

In addition to Medicare, Tricare was also allegedly billed for high-priced nursing care performed at facilities that are affiliated with the nursing care company.

Letter on Company’s Website Defends Billing Methods.

Representatives from the nursing care company posted an open letter on its website. It calls the lawsuit an attempt by the federal government to target companies that provide rehabilitation therapy services. It also denies the allegations of fraudulent billing.

Click here to read the entire letter.


Whistleblowers Cry Foul.

Two former employees filed separate cases against the nursing care company, according to a Times Free Press article. In 2008, a former staff development coordinator working in Tennessee filed a complaint alleging Medicare fraud. In the same year, a former occupational therapist who had worked for the company in Florida, made similar complaints. The government decided to combine their lawsuits and is currently investigating. Be sure to check this blog in the future for updates to this story.

To read the Times Free Press article, click here.

More Medicare and Medicaid Audits May Be Coming to Health Professionals.

The Health Law Firm’s President and Managing Partner George F. Indest III wrote a two-part blog on the increased number of Medicare and Medicaid audits being initiated against health professionals who treat assisted living facility (ALF) and SNF residents. Most often these are audits by the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC), because this area of medical practice has been identified as one fraught with fraud and abuse. To learn more on the areas being targeted and how to respond to different types of audits, click here for the first blog and here for the second.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Medicaid and Medicare Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

In addition to our other experience in Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare cases, attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To learn more on our experience with Medicaid and Medicare quit tam or whistleblower cases, visit our website. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Do nursing care companies need stricter oversight? Have you noticed an increase in Medicare or Medicaid audits in your practice area? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Burton, Thomas. “Medicare Fraud is Charged.” Wall Street Journal. (December 3, 2012). From: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323717004578157640024945594.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Harrison, Kate and South, Todd. “Probe Reveals Claims of Unnecessary Therapies at Cleveland-based Life Care Centers.” Times Free Press. (December 16, 2012). From: http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/dec/16/dying-patients-unneeded-therapy-life-care-center/?print

Life Care Centers of America. “Open Letter to Life Care Associates and Medical Professionals.” Life Care Centers of America. (November 30, 2012). From: http://lcca.com/openletter/

About the Author: Danielle M. Murray 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 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.