The war on health care fraud continues to be front and center in Florida. Effective as of July 1, 2012, laws enacted this legislative session amend the draconian licensure penalties (enacted in 2009) for health care professionals who are convicted of certain criminal charges. Currently, licensing boards within the Department of Health must refuse to issue or renew the license of health care professionals if they have been convicted of certain enumerated crimes within 15 years from the date of application. This change relaxes this penalty, but expands the reach of the criminal convictions to similar laws in other jurisdictions.
The changes to the law create a tiered system of exclusions based on the severity of the crime and the length of time that has passed. Now, the licensing boards will prohibit the renewal of a health care license or issuance of a new license if the person has been convicted of, or entered a plea of guilty or no contest to, regardless of adjudication, a felony for Medicaid crimes, fraud, or drug crimes. As well, the law now expands its reach to “similar felony offenses committed in another state or jurisdiction,” which may include similar federal charges.
The exclusionary timeframes, for purposes of license renewals or new applications, are as follows:
- For felonies of the first or second degree, more than 15 years before the date of application;
- For felonies of the third degree, more than 10 years before the date of application, except for felonies of the third degree 893.13(6)(a), F.S. (drug charges); and
- For felonies of the third degree under s. 893.13(6)(a), F.S., more than 5 years before the date of application.
In addition, the licensing boards shall deny a new application or refuse to renew a license if the person
- Has been convicted of, or entered a plea of guilty or no contest to, regardless of adjudication, a felony under 21 U.S.C. ss. 801-970 (offenses related to controlled substances) or 42 U.S.C. ss. 1395-1396 (pertains to public health and welfare, Medicare, etc.) unless the sentence and any subsequent period of probation for such convictions or plea ended more than 15 years before the date of application; or
- Is listed on the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s List of Excluded Individuals and Entities.
The amendments to the law now carve out a significant exception, providing an opportunity for applicants or currently licensed health care professionals to avoid the collateral consequences of the amended laws, if the applicant successfully completes a drug court program and provides proof that the plea was withdrawn or the charges were dismissed. In the case of currently licensed professionals, the person need only provide proof that he or she is currently enrolled in the drug court program, and does not have to show successful completion of the program as is required of new applicants.
The changes in the law seems to indicate a more reasonable treatment of medical professionals because it will allow those who have been convicted of less serious crimes to apply for or regain their professional license in a shorter period of time than the 15 or more years that was mandatory under the current law. Since 2009, when the current law first became effective, there have been at least 336 initial applications that were denied by the various licensing boards and 109 applicants whose renewal applications have been denied. The new law also provides that an individual whose renewal was denied between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2012, and are now eligible to re-apply, will not be required to retake and pass any examinations.