Pharmacists: Beware of the Adverse Effects of Discipline on Your License or Resignation of a License: Steps You Should Take to Protect Yourself

Tuesday, February 23, 2016
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Though pharmacists pursue a career hoping that they will never face disciplinary charges, any number of events can lead to an investigation or administrative action. Have you been notified that an investigation has been opened against you? Are you thinking about resigning your pharmacist license or voluntarily relinquishing your license?


If So, You Should Be Aware of the Following.

It is important to know that you should never voluntarily relinquish or resign your license after you find 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 Such a resignation is considered to be a “disciplinary relinquishment” and is treated equally as if your license had been revoked on disciplinary grounds.

Furthermore, this will be reported out to other states, agencies, to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), to any certifying bodies for certifications you have and to other reporting agencies (such as the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy). In most cases, other states and other professional boards will also initiate disciplinary action based upon the first one. To read a prior blog I wrote about the NPDB and licensure issues, click here


Protect Your Pharmacist License.


The following are examples 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 pharmacist license after receiving notice of investigation:

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.  Disciplinary actions or relinquishment of license must be reported to and included in the Department of Health (DOH) profile that is available to the public online (for those having one), and remains there for at least ten years.
    
3. Any other states or jurisdictions in which a pharmacist has a license will also initiate an investigation and possible disciplinary action against the pharmacist in that jurisdiction. (Note: Even if your licenses in other states are inactive or not renewed, action can still be taken against you).
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).

        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. You are also automatically “debarred” or prohibited from participating in any capacity in any federal contracting, and 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, working as a school teacher in a public school, etc.
        
        c.  Even further, 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 pharmacist license.

5.  Any profile or reporting system maintained by a national organization or federation will include the negative action in it and is generally available to the public.
    
6.  If you are a pharmacist or other professional with clinical privileges at a hospital, nursing home, HMO or clinic, action will be taken to revoke or suspend the clinical privileges.

7.  Third party payors such as health insurance companies and HMOs, 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 pharmacists or other professional’s DEA registration.

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


What You Should Do.

– Don’t act rashly and take the easy way out by immediately relinquishing your license if you are notified you are under investigation. It doesn’t matter if you have a license in another state.

– Don’t look the other way and think the case will just go away on its own.

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

– Immediately seek the advice of an attorney who has experience in such professional licensing matters and administrative hearings. 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.
– 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 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.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys. 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.


KeyWords: Disciplinary charges, disciplinary actions, Department of Health (DOH) investigations, voluntary license relinquishment, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), The Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB), Office of the Inspector General (OIG), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Medicare program, OIG exclusion, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), professional liability insurance, licensure issues, licensure defense attorney, administrative hearings, health law attorney, Florida health care lawyer, health law, The Health Law Firm


“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 © 2016 The Health Law firm. All rights reserved
2/23/2016

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