Deadline Looming: New Fingerprint Requirement for Florida Massage Therapists

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

You can run, but you can’t hide.

During the 2014 Legislative Session CS/HB 1065 was passed. This law requires all new applicants and existing massage therapists and establishment owners to submit digital fingerprints. The law has been in effect since July 1, 2014 for new licenses. However, the deadline to submit fingerprints for existing licenses is January 31, 2015.

Click here to read CS/HB 1065.

Law Details.

According to the law, the following individuals must undergo a criminal background screening prior to January 31, 2015:

-    All massage therapists licensed in Florida prior to July 1, 2014.

-    Any person with an ownership interest in a massage establishment licensed in
Florida prior to July 1, 2014.

-    If the massage establishment is owned by a corporation that has more than
$250,000 of business assets in Florida, the owner, officer or individual directly
involved in the management of the establishment will be required to submit to
background screenings.

What’s a Digital Fingerprint?

If you haven’t already, massage therapists must locate a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)-approved LiveScan Provider. LiveScan is a digital fingerprint used throughout the country by law enforcement, state agencies, and employers. The LiveScan provider will electronically send your fingerprint to the FDLE.

The cost for submitting a digital fingerprint varies by location, as does the information an applicant needs to bring with them.

It’s important to remember, if you include a photo with a LiveScan fingerprint, it will stay in the Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) database. However, if there is no photo included, then you will need to resend your finger print every two years.

Exemptions with New Requirement.

Licensed physicians, osteopathic physicians or chiropractors, who employ a licensed massage therapist to perform massages on the physician’s patients at the physician’s practice, are exempt from the background screening requirements.

Purpose of the New Law.

This law is new to massage therapists, not to the field of healthcare. Many other healthcare providers in Florida, including doctors, dentists, chiropractors, and nurses, have been required to submit digital fingerprints for years.

If a qualifying felony offense does show up on the background screening, the DOH will issue an emergency suspension order (ESO), suspending the license of that massage therapist or massage establishment. The DOH will also deny the application or renewal of any massage therapist or massage establishment with certain prior felony conviction. The purpose of the fingerprint-based background checks are to eliminate people with past felony convictions from obtaining or keeping their massage therapy licenses. Be mindful that any and all prior convictions will show up on this background check. This means, that even if you have a very old criminal history, it can potentially result in an investigation by the Board and possible disqualification from licensure. If you have questions regarding your massage therapy license, contact an experienced healthcare attorney.

Comments?

Did you know about this new law? Have you sent in your digital fingerprint yet? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Massage Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensing matters and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers. We have represented a number of massage therapists who have had summary actions initiated against their massage therapy licenses by the Department of Health (DOH).

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.

“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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Administrative Law Judge Recommends Dismissal of All Charges Against Massage Therapist

FACTS: As reported in the June 2013 edition of DOAH Case Notes, Guiping Diamond graduated from the Florida College of Natural Health (“FCNH”) and became a Florida-licensed massage therapist in 2009. However, FCNH’s former registrar falsely told her that FCNH would accept all of the credits from her previous school and that those transfer credits fulfilled FCNH’s requirements for issuance of a diploma satisfying state licensure requirements. There was no evidence that Ms. Diamond was aware of the falsified documentation, which the FCNH registrar submitted directly to the Board of Massage Therapy (“the Board”).

The Department of Health (“DOH”) issued an administrative complaint seeking revocation of Ms. Diamond’s license based on a variety of charges, including that Ms. Diamond obtained a license through fraudulent misrepresentation, or in the alternative, formal administrative hearing, the ALJ recommended that the Board enter a final order finding her not guilty. While section 456.072(1)(h), Florida Statutes, subjects licensees to discipline for obtaining a license through an error of DOH, the ALJ concluded the licensee must have knowingly used DOH’s error to his or
her advantage, which the ALJ found was not the case here.

OUTCOME: The Board issued a Final Order rejecting all 13 of DOH’s Exceptions to the Recommended Order and dismissed the administrative complaint. DOH appealed the Board’s Final Order to the First District Court of Appeal. That appeal and four others involving similar events at FCNH are currently pending.

Source:

Dep’t of Health v. Diamond, DOAH, Case No. 12-3825PL (Recommended Order April 9, 2013); DOH Case No. 2012-11850 (Final Order Aug. 21, 2013).

About the Author: The forgoing case summary was prepared by and appeared in the DOAH case notes of the Administrative Law Section newsletter, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Dec. 2013), a publication of the Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar.

The Health Law Firm Attorneys Often Represent Massage Therapists in Last Minute Depositions and Hearings

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Our attorneys often receive calls from massage therapists regarding the possibility of representing them on short notice at a Board of Massage Therapy hearing, or at a deposition related to a health care matter.

We Take Last Minute Cases.

There are some law firms that refuse to represent a client at a hearing unless given plenty of advance notice and preparation time. We always prefer to have sufficient time to obtain documents, review files, interview witnesses, conduct research and prepare, in order to provide our clients the best possible representation. But we realize that in certain cases, the alternative is that the client either gets legal representation on little or no advance notice, or has to suffer the consequences of having no legal representation.

If we think the case is too complex for us to represent you effectively on such short notice or that any legal representation would be completely futile we may also refuse to represent a client. However, often this is not the situation.

Administrative Proceedings Can Be Confusing, Even For Inexperienced Attorneys.

In some cases individuals responding to a disciplinary complaint may be fooled into believing that they can effectively represent themselves. Laypersons (meaning, in this case, nonlawyers) who are not aware of such complex matters as the Administrative Procedure Act, the Rules of Civil Procedure, the Rules of Evidence, the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) Rules which the Board of Massage Therapy and the Department of Health (DOH) have enacted may quickly be perplexed. Often the individual may only figure this out days or weeks before the final hearing.

The inexperienced individual, or even the inexperienced attorney, in these matters can fall into a number of procedural traps that damage an effective defense. This can be advising the individual to talk to the DOH investigator, filing an unnecessary answer to an Administrative Complaint, forgetting or not knowing that the client’s right to be free of self-incrimination applies in this type of case and many others.

Don’t Damage Your Defense.

Often you will find that merely having an experienced attorney to represent you at a hearing or Board meeting will assist you in avoiding mistakes that damage your case and assist you in preserving your rights for an appeal. In other cases it may even be possible to obtain a change in forum to obtain a better result. For example, many laypersons do not know that if you elect an informal hearing before the Board of Massage Therapy, you have waived your right to prove you are innocent by contesting the facts alleged against you.

What few know or think of in the heat of the moment is that you can ask at the informal hearing before the Board of Massage Therapy to contest the facts, to prove you are not guilty of the charges, and to have the hearing converted to a formal hearing. A formal hearing will be in front of a neutral Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), and you have a great many more procedural rights than you have at an informal hearing. However, we still recommend that you have an experienced health lawyer represent you at a formal hearing.

The Health Law Firm is Available for Deposition Coverage.

In a number of cases, we have been requested to provide local deposition coverage in an area near to one of our offices, when an out-of-town lead counsel is unable to make the trip. If the issues involve health care, we are pleased to be able to assist.

Often Professional Liability Insurance Will Pay Legal Fees for Deposition Coverage.

If you are a massage therapist who has a professional liability insurance policy, these often provide legal coverage for depositions. This is primarily because the outcome of the deposition may include having you named as a defendant in a professional liability or negligence lawsuit or having disciplinary charges filed against you.

One of the first things you should do if you receive a subpoena or a notice of a deposition is to contact your professional liability insurance carrier and see if it will pay for an attorney to represent you. For example, Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO), CPH & Associates, Lloyds of London and many other malpractice insurance companies provide excellent deposition coverage.

The second thing you should do is to call an experienced attorney and schedule a consultation. Even if you cannot afford to retain the services of the attorney for the actual deposition, a consultation may assist you in properly preparing.

Consult With A Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Massage Therapists.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to massage therapists, massage therapy assistants and other health professionals being deposed in criminal cases, negligence cases, civil cases or disciplinary cases involving other health professionals.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing health professionals in investigations and at Board of Massage Therapy hearings. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Have you ever had an informal or formal hearing before the Board of Massage Thearpy? What was the experience like? 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.

New Florida Law Prohibits Massage Therapy Businesses from Operating Between Certain Hours: Should Remedy “Human Trafficking” in Florida

LOL Blog Label 2By Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The operation of massage therapy establishments between certain late night and early morning hours will be prohibited under a new Florida law. Section 480.0475, Florida Statutes, becomes effective on October 1, 2013. The new Florida law restricts massage therapy businesses from being open for business between midnight and 5:00 A.M., with limited exceptions.

Click here to read Section 480.0475, Florida Statutes.

This law represents a significant curtailment of an establishment owner’s right to operate his/her business. The law states that it does not matter if an establishment is operating legitimately. The Florida Legislature and the Attorney General (AG) have cast a wide net to end what they refer to as a “human trafficking epidemic” in Florida massage establishments.

From our perspective, this will do nothing to help resolve any “human trafficking” problem that exists and is merely an invalid rationalization for this law. We have represented many massage therapists in Florida and have counseled many more. So far we have never encountered any that have been involved in any “human trafficking,” whether they are licensed massage therapists working in spas and salons or whether they are the owners of message therapy establishments.

Exceptions to the Law.

The law does not apply to massage establishments located on the premises of health care facilities, health care clinics, hotels, motels and public airports. It similarly does not apply to massages performed by a massage therapist under a medical prescription from a licensed physician, physician assistant, osteopathic physician, chiropractic physician, podiatric physician, advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) or dentist.

Also, the law does not restrict massage therapists from operating between midnight and 5:00 A.M., during a special event if the county or municipality in which the establishment operates has approved such operation during the event.

Massage Therapy Businesses as Primary Residence.

Section 480.0475, Florida Statutes, also states that a massage establishment cannot be used as a primary residence unless it is zoned for residential use.

The Florida rules define “massage establishment” as “a site or premises, or portion thereof, wherein a licensed massage therapist practices massage for compensation.”

Penalties for Not Complying with the Law Include Fines and Jail Time.

A person who violates any provision of this statute is subject to criminal penalties.

The first violation is considered a misdemeanor of the second degree. The offender could face jail time of up to sixty (60) days and a $500 fine. The second violation is considered a misdemeanor of the first degree. The offender could spend up to a year in jail and have to pay a $1,000 fine. For someone who commits a third or subsequent violations, that person could be charged with a felony of the third degree. That offender faces imprisonment of up to five (5) years and a $5,000 fine.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Massage Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensing matters and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

We have represented a number of Chinese massage therapists who have had summary actions initiated against their massage therapy licenses by the Department of Health (DOH). Many of these have confided in us that they believe there may be discrimination involved in the way they were targeted. We are looking into such allegations for several clients.

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

Comments?

Did you know about this Florida Statue? Does your massage therapy business comply with this law already? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Have you been the subject of any discrimination or harassment from investigators based on your race or national origin? We’d like to hear from you if you have.

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 Statute on Massage Therapy Establishments: Employees Must Present Documentation to Department of Health and Law Enforcement Agencies

LOL Blog Label 2By Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Currently there is a fight in Florida, headed by the Attorney General (AG), to stop human trafficking. AG Pam Bondi has worked to make Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking. During the 2012 legislative session, she advocated for legislation that was supposed to crack down on human trafficking.

Section 480.0535, Florida Statutes, is one result of her efforts. The statute contains details on the documentation required for employees working in a massage therapy establishment. These requirements provide the Department of Health (DOH) and law enforcement agencies the means to forcibly identify, investigate and arrest people who are supposedly involved in human trafficking.

Click here to read Section 480.0535, Florida Statutes.

This statute became effective on July 1, 2012.

Documents Required While Working in a Massage Therapy Establishment.

Under Section 480.0535, Florida Statutes, a person employed by a massage therapy establishment and any person performing massage therapy must immediately present, upon the request of a DOH investigator or a law enforcement officer, a form of valid government identification.

Valid identification includes:

- A valid driver’s license;
– A valid identification card;
– A valid United States passport;
– A naturalized certificate issued by the United States Department of Homeland Security;
– A valid alien registration receipt card (green card); or
– A valid employment authorization card issued by the United States Department of              Homeland Security.

A person operating a massage therapy establishment must immediately present upon the request of a DOH investigator or law enforcement officer:

- Valid government identification while in the establishment; and
– A copy of the documentation specified above for each employee and any person              performing massage therapy in the establishment.

Penalties for Not Complying.

A person who violates any provision of this statute is subject to criminal penalties for failure to comply with the documentation requirements.

The first violation is considered a misdemeanor of the second degree. The offender could face jail time of up to sixty (60) days and a $500 fine. The second violation is considered a misdemeanor of the first degree. The offender could spend up to a year in jail and have to pay a $1,000 fine. For someone who commits a third or subsequent violations, that person could be charged with a felony of the third degree. That offender faces imprisonment of up to five (5) years and a $5,000 fine.

This statute criminalized the act of not having identification on you during work as a massage therapist.

Previous Investigation of Massage Therapy Businesses Led to Emergency Suspension Orders.

You may remember back in September 2012, an investigation into several massage therapy businesses by the Florida DOH, Clearwater Human Trafficking Task Force and the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force turned up more than 200 massage therapists who appeared to have obtained their massage therapy licenses by fraud. Subsequently, the Florida Surgeon General signed emergency suspension orders (ESOs) for more than 160 massage therapists in Florida.

Authorities said the ESOs were, in part, an effort to target Florida’s human trafficking problem. Authorities stated that massage parlors are a typical place for finding victims of human trafficking. Click here to read more from our previous blog.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Massage Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensing matters and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

We have represented a number of Chinese massage therapists who have had summary actions initiated against their massage therapy licenses by the Department of Health (DOH). Many of these have confided in us that they believe there may be discrimination involved in the way they were targeted. We are looking into such allegations for several clients.

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

Comments?

Did you know about this Florida Statue? Does your massage therapy business comply with the statute? Do you think it will help in preventing human trafficking? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Have you been the subject of any discrimination or harassment from investigators based on your race or national origin? We’d like to hear from you if you have.

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.

After Discipline on Your Massage Therapy License or Resignation of a Massage Therapy License After Notice of Investigation, What Happens Next?

7 Indest-2008-4By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Do you have massage therapy licenses in several states?  Do you have a license in more than one health profession?  Have you been notified that an investigation has been opened against you?  Are you thinking about resigning or voluntarily relinquishing your massage therapy license?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then continue reading.

First, you should never voluntarily relinquish or resign your license after you know that an investigation has been opened or that disciplinary action has been taken against you.  Such a resignation is considered to be a “disciplinary relinquishment.” It is treated the same as if your license had been revoked on disciplinary grounds.

Second, this will be reported out to other states, agencies, to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) and to any certifying bodies for certifications you have.  Other states and other professional boards will most likely initiate disciplinary action as well.

Beware of These Adverse Actions That Can be Taken Against You.

The following is a list of some of the adverse actions that you can expect to be taken against you after discipline on your license or after you resign your massage therapy license:

1.  A mandatory report to the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB) which remains there for 50 years. Note: The Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank or HIPDB recently merged into the NPDB.

2.  Must be reported to and included in the Department of Health (DOH) profile that is available online and remains there for at least ten years.

3.  Any other states or jurisdictions in which the massage therapist has a license will also initiate investigation and possible disciplinary action against him or her in that jurisdiction.  (Note:  I have had two clients who had licenses in seven other states and all, even ones that were inactive or not renewed years ago, initiated action).

4.  The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will take action to exclude the provider from the Medicare Program.  If this occurs (and most of these offenses require mandatory exclusion) the provider will be placed on the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) maintained by the HHS OIG.

a.  If this happens, you are prohibited by law from working in any position in any capacity for any individual or business, including hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, physicians, medical groups, insurance companies, etc., that contract with or bill Medicare or Medicaid.  This means, for example, you are prohibited from working as a janitor in a nursing home that accepts Medicare or Medicaid, even as an independent contractor.

b.  If this happens, you are also automatically “debarred” or prohibited from participating in any capacity in any federal contracting, and you are placed on the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) debarment list.  This means you are prohibited by law from working in any capacity for any government contractor or anyone who takes government funding.  This applies, for example, to prevent you from being a real estate agent involved in selling property financed by a government backed loan, prohibited from working for an electrical company that bids on contracts for government housing projects, working as a school teacher in a public school, etc.

c.  If this happens, your state Medicaid Program is required to terminate you “for cause” from the state Medicaid Program.  In many states, this is also grounds for revocation of your massage therapy license.

5.  Any profile or reporting system maintained by a national organization or federation will include the adverse action in it, generally available to the public.

6.  If you have clinical privileges at a hospital, nursing home, HMO or clinic, action will be taken to revoke or suspend the clinical privileges and staff membership. This may be in a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, skilled nursing facility, staff model HMO or clinic.

7.  Third party payors (health insurance companies, HMOs, etc.) will terminate the professional’s contract or panel membership with that organization.

8.  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will act to revoke the  professional’s DEA registration if he or she has one.

9.  Many employers will not hire you or will terminate your employment if they discover your license has been disciplined in another state.

Tips to Follow if You are Under Investigation.

-  Don’t immediately relinquishing your license if you are notified you are under investigation.

-  Don’t think the case will just go away on its own.

-  If you are innocent, request a formal hearing and contest the charges; defend yourself.

-  Do not request an informal hearing or a settlement agreement in which you admit the facts alleged against you are all true.  If you do this, you are “pleading guilty.”

-  Do immediately seek the advice of an attorney who has experience in such professional licensing matters and administrative hearings.  They are out there, but you may have to search for one.  Do this as soon as you get notice of any investigation and especially before you have talked to or made any statement (including a written one) to any investigator.

-  Do purchase professional liability insurance that includes legal defense coverage for any professional license investigation against you, whether it is related to a malpractice claim or not.  This insurance is cheap and will provide needed legal assistance at the time when you may be out of a job and not have money to hire an attorney.  Beware of the insurance policy that only covers professional license defense if it is related to a malpractice claim.

Keep This Information in Mind When Purchasing Professional Liability Insurance.

We strongly encourage all licensed health professionals and facilities to purchase their own, independent insurance coverage.  Make sure it covers professional license defense under all circumstances.  Make sure you have enough coverage to actually get you through a hearing. $25,000 coverage for just professional licensure defense is the absolute minimum you should purchase;  $50,000 may be adequate but $75,000 or $100,000 may be what you really need in such a situation.  For a few dollars more you can usually purchase the higher limits.

Also, verify it covers your legal defense in an administrative disciplinary proceeding against your license, even if there is no malpractice claim filed against you.

We also recommend that you purchase coverage through an insurance company that allows you to select your own attorney and does not make you use one that the insurance company picks for you.

Companies we have encountered in the past who provide an inexpensive top quality insurance product for professional license defense costs include:  CPH & Associates Insurance, Healthcare Providers Organization (HPSO) Insurance and Lloyd’s of London Insurance.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Massage Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensing matters and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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.

“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.

Massage Therapists (LMTs) and Massage Therapy Assistants: What You Don’t Know About Legal Matters Can Hurt You

7 Indest-2008-4By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent Licensed Massage Therapists (LMTs) and Massage Therapy Assistants in a number of different legal matters. We appear before the Board of Massage Therapy. We represent massage therapists and massage therapy assistants in disciplinary matters, in credential matters, in licensing matters and in defending against malpractice claims and suits.

If you receive a letter from the Department of Health (DOH) notifying you that you are being investigated, this is a very serious matter. Get an attorney who is experienced in such matters. If you do receive a letter from the DOH, finding correct information regarding the next steps in the process is vital. Read on the learn more, and hopefully help you fight to keep your license.

Here is what you didn’t know:

1.  You are not required to make any statement to the investigator, oral or written, and     you should not do so.

2.  You do not have to send the investigator a copy of your resume, and you should not     do so.

3.  You have a Fifth Amendment right to refuse to say or do anything that might incriminate yourself. This applies to administrative investigations.

4.  If you have malpractice insurance (professional liability insurance) it may pay for     your legal defense in an investigation. Use it!

5.  You have the right to obtain a copy of the investigation after it is completed and to file a rebuttal to it.

Other things about this that you probably don’t know:

1.  You should never agree to voluntarily relinquish your license if any investigation is pending. This will be treated the same as a disciplinary revocation and the consequences will be severe. (see below.)

2.  You should never request an informal hearing. An informal hearing means you are admitting all of the allegations against you are true (pleading guilty), and you are not disputing them.

3.  If disciplinary action is taken against you (including a “voluntary” relinquishment) this will be reported to your national certification board and it will most probably revoke your national certification.

4.  If you have licenses in other states or in other health professions, this will be reported and they will commence investigations and disciplinary actions.

5. It will be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) and the Office of         the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG will then commence action to exclude you from the Medicare Program. If excluded, it is likely that you will not be able to work in health care or for any government contractor in any capacity.

Our attorneys have been very successful in representing massage therapists and massage therapy assistants. We may be able to have your case dismissed by the Probable Cause Panel of the Board. If not, we may be able to obtain a favorable result for you in a formal administrative hearing (like a trial) where the government has to prove the case against you and you are able to defend yourself.

You spent a great deal of time and money to get your professional education and your profession licenses. Don’t give it all up without getting advice from experienced attorneys.

Information Regarding Insurance Coverage.

Our recommendation is that every massage therapist and massage therapy assistant carry professional liability insurance that includes professional license defense coverage (sometimes called disciplinary defense, license defense, administrative hearing coverage or broad coverage). Most often this type of insurance coverage is included in most professional liability policies; however, if it is not, it can often be added as a rider to the insurance policy for a slight additional charge. You should be sure that your coverage for professional license defense is at least $25,000, and we recommend that you increase it to $50,000. You should also request and obtain “broad form coverage” that includes coverage of your legal fees for defense of all administrative or governmental proceedings, including Medicare audits, Medicaid audits, EEOC complaints and other types of governmental actions that could be initiated against you.

If you are required to defend yourself at a formal administrative hearing, this is similar to a medical malpractice trial in civil court. Attorney’s fees, court reporter costs, expert witness fees and other costs and fees can rapidly mount up to the point where most massage therapists and massage therapy assistants could not afford to defend themselves. If you are then required to appeal an adverse outcome, the appeal alone could cost $10,000.

Don’t wait to purchase this type of insurance until there is complaint filed against you, because then it is too late to purchase it. Complaints can be initiated against you based solely on anonymous calls to the Department of Health Hotline, newspaper reports, prior arrest reports, disgruntled patients, disgruntled insurance companies, competitors or other sources. Once and investigation is initiated, you should obtain legal representation right away. Without insurance, you probably will not be able to afford to hire a competent, experienced health lawyer to defend you. Always go to a board certified health lawyer experienced in representing massage therapists and massage therapy assistants.

For a chart depicting the Florida Department of Health investigation process, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Massage Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, licensing matters and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Comments?

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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. http://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.
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