Defending Pain Management Clinics
Pain management physicians have a huge target sign on their backs as the result of the Federal and State law enforcement agencies’ relentless witch hunt that can effectively cost pain management practitioners their practices and even their freedom. Federal Criminal Healthcare Attorneys With Norman Spencer Law Group are here to protect you from overzealous federal agents and prosecutors by defending pain management clinics nationwide!
Hunting down doctors whose only fault is helping their pain-tortured patients has become one of the most popular activities for the DEA and other federal agencies. Thousands upon thousands of physicians have been arrested and prosecuted for prescribing patients with prescription controlled substances. While in some of these cases the physicians did in fact engage in criminal behavior, in many more cases the practitioners were wrongly targeted and charged with serious crimes.
Pill Mill Or Witch Hunt?
As noted above, the government’s campaign is not without merits. Some physicians did and do operate what is known as pill mills, in essence not being much more than drug dealers with medical licenses. However, many and many more are simply compassionate healers doing their best to serve the sick. The problem is that when an innocent doctor is accused of being a drug dealer, while he or she will have the opportunity to be heard in court, the damage is already done and it is irreversible in many cases. Professional reputations have been mired, practices shuttered, licenses revoked or suspended, jobs and privileges lost, careers ended, and unfortunately, freedom lost.
At Norman Spencer Law Group we are here to protect you from all that. Our federal criminal healthcare lawyers defend all health professionals facing criminal or licensing actions all over the U.S. Defending pain management physicians and practices have a special place in our law firm. We respect the work they do and are keenly aware of the pressure and stress they experience from the faceless and heartless government machine that utilizes numerous statutes, rules and regulations of how pain should be treated. We appreciate the fact that many pain management doctors face extreme consequences if they do not comply with the regulations, often at the expense of their livelihood.
Why Are Pain Management Clinics Being Targeted in America?
The short answer is that pain management clinics are simply another collateral casualty in the so-called war against prescription drugs waged by the federal government. First, the government’s policies created the prescription drug epidemic, and then the government began to abuse the physicians whose only fault is prescribing the narcotics to patients who can’t manage without them.
While there is certainly some abuse of the narcotics prescription process, the government seems to rarely recognize the wide and deep separation gap between those who abuse the system and those who legitimately need help with chronic pain and turn to physicians who swore the oath to ease patients’ pain and suffering.
Not surprisingly, many physicians refuse to help patients suffering from chronic pain, either by refusing to see them or refusing to proscribe the medications they need. Some will under-prescribe the drugs to avoid being flagged as a pill mill. Why? Because of the fear of being branded a criminal and losing everything. Does it solve the problem? It does not because some of these patients will turn to drug dealers who are less concerned with complying with the government regulations than law-abiding doctors.
As drugs like Vicodin and other Hydrocodone-based medications become Schedule II narcotics, pain management physicians are at an ever-increasing risk of scrutiny and criminal exposure.
What The Federal Government Must Prove to Convict a Physician For Drug Trafficking?
Generally speaking, to obtain a conviction, the prosecutor must prove that a doctor prescribes controlled substances without a “legitimate medical purpose” and “outside the normal course of medical practice”. Of course, government bureaucrats get to decide what the standard of care is and which doctors are practicing “within the normal course of medical practice” as opposed to those who are criminals – a very thin line, indeed.
The Anatomy of a Pain Management Clinic Investigation
Many government investigations of pain clinic practices are dubbed audits, a much more innocuous term. Do not be confused – audits and investigation are the same and any information obtained in the process will be used against the practitioner. The investigating agency doesn’t need to obtain search orders, issue subpoenas, and send agents armed for war to your small office. They can use their administrative powers to “audit” your practice and effectively learn all they want to know about your practice. This is how the process begins. It ends when the agents do descent upon your practice to serve search warrants and seize your documents and computers. This is how you know your problem is more serious than what you originally thought.
The Best Thing You Can Do When “Audited” or “Investigated”
There is only one thing you can effectively do to protect yourself at the first sign a federal agency shows interest in you. You need to call the federal criminal defense attorneys with Norman Spencer Law Group right away. We will make sure that you and your practice are protected and the earlier you engage us the better chance you have.
If you are visited by the DEA or any other law enforcement agency, do not wait and do not gamble with your freedom and livelihood. Call our attorneys immediately. There are some major steps a skilled criminal defense attorney will do immediately after the raid that can make all the difference in your case and in your life.
The Worst Thing You Can Do When “Audited” or “Investigated”
One of the worst things you can do when dealing with law enforcement in healthcare criminal matters or “audits” is what most people instinctively do – complying with them. Having any discussion about the matter, answering questions, voluntarily providing documents are the absolute worst things you can do, followed by engaging an inexperienced attorney to handle the matter as well as an attorney who makes loud claims and promises. Be aware of making such mistakes.
Common Criminal Charges Against Pain Management Clinics
In prosecuting pain clinics, the government is regularly using several criminal statutes such as Drug Trafficking, RICO, and Healthcare Fraud.
Drug trafficking includes prescribing controlled substances without medical necessity or without a “legitimate medical purpose” and prescribing outside the “usual course of his professional practice.”
Criminal RICO charges include conspiracy between two or more people to either do something legal by illegal means or to simply commit an illegal act. An example would be a situation where there is more than one doctor working at the pain clinic or where there is a high volume of patient referrals from other physicians to the target clinic.
The Health Care Fraud statute is used when physicians are accused of over-prescribing controlled substances to Medicare or Medicaid patients or helping the patients in the authorization of prescriptions reimbursement by Medicare or Medicaid.
The government is using very sophisticated means to determine when more scrutiny is required. Investigators utilize CMS data and state prescription systems data obtained from medical insurers, as well as other data to look for statistically significant differences in prescription practices. If they do find such deviations, the targeted auditor an investigation will ensue to determine if the practice is in compliance with the law or it is a pill mill.
At this point, it is not unusual and is actually expected that undercover agents or “confidential informants” will visit the clinic posing like patients. They may also contact existing patients to find out if anything out of the ordinary is going on. If this stage of the investigation is successful, the next step will be a visit by a group of armed agents serving the clinic a search warrant. There is never a prior warning and such a raid is followed by a press release by the raiding agency and some media coverage. At this point, you are no longer innocent until proven guilty. Your reputation will be marred by the allegations that you are running a pill mill operation.
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?
No matter where your case stands, you must be alert and proactive. A lot of times the doctor will feel that something is not right, even before the practice is raided. If you have a feeling that you or your practice is under investigation, call our experienced federal criminal lawyers immediately. At Norman Spencer Law Group we focus on defending clients like you and we have done it many times over. Even if you are mistaken and there is no active investigation, we will conduct a private audit and let you know if we believe there are some aspects that need to be fixed and whether you may have criminal or civil exposure. Being proactive allows us and you to take steps to possibly avoid the charges and overpayment demands – if we act fast and decisively.
If you are already under investigation, nothing is more important than contacting our office immediately. The longer you wait, the more difficult it is for us to help you avoid criminal charges.
Moreover, considering the huge financial and human resources the government uses in investigating and prosecuting you, it is crucial your criminal defense attorney has enough time to prepare your defense.
DEA and State Licensing Issues and Collateral Consequences
There are some of the less obvious collateral consequences of DEA investigation and clinic raid. The most obvious one is the suspension of the DEA license. The physician whose DEA license has been suspended will have the administrative due process to appeal the suspension, but the damage will have been done.
The other collateral consequence of not defending pain management clinics is that the physician’s CMS privileges will likely be suspended or revoked while their criminal or administrative matter are not resolved. The physician will not be able to bill Medicare or Medicaid, and that will happen almost immediately after the raid the DEA action.
Finally, and most dramatically, the physician’s medical license is very likely to be suspended, effectively putting a screeching halt to his or her practice. If the doctor is licensed in multiple states, this will happen in every state where he or she is licensed.
A pain management physician facing a criminal investigation or criminal charges for illegal dispensing or prescribing of narcotics will immediately have to deal with all of the administrative consequences discussed in the previous paragraph.
With respect to criminal liability, the most important question on everyone’s mind is whether the physician is facing prison time. Federal Sentencing Guidelines in drug trafficking cases are amongst the most determinative factors and you will need to discuss this with the competent federal criminal attorney.
To really mitigate or perhaps even prevent the worst damage, you will need the help of an attorney skilled in all of the discussed matters, not only in criminal defense. Anything less than that will not be sufficient to effectively represent you.
Unfortunately, in many cases, the physicians facing the DEA and other federal law enforcement fail to appreciate the complexity and the seriousness of their situation. They will often retain a lawyer who practices only criminal law, often not even federal criminal law. The outcomes are often less than optimal.
At Norman Spencer Law Group we are very skilled and knowledgeable in all aspects of healthcare criminal and administrative defense. The scope of our knowledge encompasses anything you may be facing down the road. The same attorneys will handle all aspects of your case – you will not have to hire a different firm to deal with different parts of the case. Don’t entrust your livelihood and your freedom to lawyers who never handled every aspect of the healthcare criminal, licensing, and administrative matters.
Our Skill in Defending Pain Management Doctors, Pain Clinics Nationwide is Unparalleled!
At Norman Spencer Law Group, our skilled national criminal defense attorneys and licensing attorneys have substantial experience defending doctors and other health professionals from allegations of unlawfully prescribing narcotics and healthcare fraud.
We offer an all-encompassing defense strategy to address every single aspect of your criminal case, licensing case, and all related compliance issues – in-house so that you don’t need to hire more attorneys. We also work as counselors for criminal defense lawyers nationwide by advising them on problems specific to the practice of medicine. We can also provide a second opinion and even work with clients who already have a criminal defense lawyer.
If you are a pain management provider accused of drug trafficking or prescribing narcotics without medical necessity, at Norman Spencer Law Group you will find national, healthcare-based criminal defense attorneys that will do anything possible to get you the best case result.
Besides attorneys, we have a team of experts in essentially any relevant discipline, from Board-certified medical experts to forensic billing experts and private investigators. If you are facing an issue that requires an expert opinion, you can rely on our vast expert network.
If your pain management clinic is under investigation, contact Norman Spencer Law Group today to speak with our experienced federal criminal attorneys. We represent physicians and pain management clinics anywhere in the country. Contact us today to learn more about us.