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Healthcare Defense Lawyers in Buffalo

Physicians and other providers need healthcare lawyers, ideally on the front end of deals, investigations, and employment decisions. At The Coppola Firm, we represent physicians, other healthcare providers, and medical practices. From corporate formation, lease negotiations, buying, selling, and closing practices, and commercial real estate transactions to preparing or negotiating employment agreements, training on regulatory compliance and employment matters, and representing licensed professionals in disciplinary proceedings, The Coppola Firm can guide a practitioner or medical office through all aspects of its lifecycle.

That is why having healthcare law attorneys in your corner can be so important to your business. Does your Buffalo, New York healthcare business need help managing new oversights and health laws? Contact the diligent healthcare lawyers at The Coppola Firm.

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Representing Healthcare Providers and Medical Professionals in Buffalo, New York

The healthcare law attorneys at The Coppola Firm have represented licensed medical professionals in various businesses across the healthcare industry. In our many years of experience, we have defended cases involving:

  • Formation, mergers, and sales of business entities and practice groups
  • Employment contracts – reviewing for physicians joining a practice and creating contracts for medical practices to use with new providers
  • Contracts, negotiation, and litigation
  • Professional licensing, administrative investigations
  • Medical practice employment issues
  • HIPAA/privacy
  • Regulatory compliance programs including COVID-19 regulation
  • Investigations
  • And many other issues

We are proud to be a doctor-friendly law firm that seeks to make operations easier for healthcare professionals and healthcare services in Western New York. Whether your business involves home health, human services, mental health, or any other healthcare facility, we are ready to help if you need legal guidance. Contact our offices at 716-839-9700 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment for legal advice and a comprehensive case review.

Are You Compliant With Health Law?

Regulatory oversight regarding health laws is complicated, but essential. Complying with all health law regulations and laws is vital to your practice staying in business.  From entity formation to the contracts you have in place with employees, policies and procedures, vendors, and payors, you need to ensure regulatory compliance at all times. If you are not in compliance, payors and insurance companies can exclude you or your practice from their program. In addition, you can be subjected to a wide range of legal issues, including fines, criminal penalties, and even the loss or limitation of your license to practice. Some of the important regulations your health services company must comply with include the following.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

HIPAA is one of the most well-known regulatory acts that all healthcare services must follow. It is designed to protect the privacy of patients and is under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights. HIPAA requires HHS to maintain national standards for health identifiers, electronic health care records and transactions, and security.

A major part of HIPAA is the privacy rules that set standards to protect health information and disclosures related to healthcare clearinghouses, health plans, and healthcare providers. The security rules, likewise, require national standards to protect the integrity of electronic records, including their confidentiality. Finally, HIPAA includes rules that provide standards for enforcing the rest of the rules in the act.

What makes HIPAA so tricky is that it has been revised many times over the several decades since it was first enacted in 1996, including a recent 2023 revision. While some of these revisions were intended to simplify the act, they opened loopholes and inconsistencies that can be very confusing to healthcare providers who are not familiar with how the law works.

If you run any sort of health systems operation that deals with health information, it is vital that you have representation from a qualified healthcare law attorney with years of experience who can provide the conscientious legal services you need.

New York State has additional laws that provide even greater protections than HIPAA in certain circumstances, like access to mental health records.  If you get a record request or subpoena for mental health records, increased scrutiny and compliance is required.  You should speak with a lawyer before responding to a medical records request or subpoena if your records contain any mental health treatment notes.

What Are Common HIPAA Violations Made by Healthcare Providers?

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Healthcare privacy violations can be devastating to your practice. Investigations into violations of healthcare privacy regulations can result in significant financial penalties and even damage your ability to engage in healthcare practices. You absolutely must avoid violating these rules. Some of the most common HIPAA violations include the following.

Absence of an Organization-Wide Risk Analysis

Failing to perform organization-wide risk analyses is the most common HIPAA violation in the healthcare field and almost always results in severe financial penalties. You must perform regular risk analyses across your company to analyze the availability, integrity, and confidentiality of your patients’ health information. Healthcare organizations and practices have seen millions of dollars in fines due to this violation.

Failure to Minimize Risks

While regularly performing risk analyses is vital, it is important to also act on the issues you find. Never treat a risk analysis as a box to check off. You must also have a risk management process that prioritizes uncovered risks and addresses them in a reasonable timeframe. The Office for Civil Rights has handed out millions in penalties to organizations and healthcare practices that do not address risks uncovered in analyses.

Denying Access to Records

Every patient has the right to access their own medical records at any time and obtain copies of them upon request. This right allows patients to check for errors, share their records with those whom they choose, and keep access to their health history. If your organization fails to provide records within 30 days of a request, overcharges for copies, or for any reason denies copies, the Office for Civil Rights can fine you for Right of Access violations under HIPAA provisions. There are laws in New York State that address patients’ rights to their healthcare and medical records as well, and every healthcare practice should be fully informed about and comply with them or risk complaints to governing authorities.

Failure to Have a HIPAA-Compliant Business Associate Agreement

Your business must be in a formal HIPAA-compliant business agreement with any vendors that have access to protected health information, which is also called PHI. Failure to have such an agreement in place is another of the most common violations encountered.

The biggest risk here is that many healthcare and medical practices believe they are in compliance because they have vendor agreements in place, only to discover that their existing business agreements are not actually HIPAA compliant. Your New York healthcare law attorney can help you with your agreements so that they are legal and compliant with all regulatory requirements.

Failure to Have Sufficient Encryption

Strong encryption in your systems is one of the most effective means of protecting against data breaches that can compromise protected health information. If encrypted systems are breached, the incidents are not reportable unless the hackers also steal the key. While encryption is not expressly mandatory under HIPAA rules, courts have awarded millions in settlements related to data breach lawsuits when a practice or a provider fails to minimize risks. Serious problems also arise when providers use their personal (unencrypted) email accounts to communicate with or about patients. The Coppola Firm’s attorneys work with medical practices to ensure that providers and their support staff use appropriate and compliant email and other communications systems.

What Is the Physician Self-Referral Law?

The Physician Self-Referral Law is commonly known as the Stark Law. It is a way to prevent physicians from referring patients to services that benefit the original referrer, be it directly or through their family.

Specifically, the law states that physicians may not refer patients to designated health services that are covered by Medicaid or Medicare with which the physician or one of their immediate family members has financial ties. Exceptions to this rule do exist. Under this law, for example, a general practitioner should not refer a patient to their sister who is a specialist.

Designated health services under the Stark Law include clinical laboratory services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, radiology, speech-language outpatient pathology, durable medical equipment, radiation therapy, prosthetics, orthotics, parenteral and enteral nutrients and supplies or equipment, home health services, prescription drugs, and hospital services. Exceptions relate to specific arrangements for nonmonetary compensation used only for receiving and transmitting electronic prescription information.

What Is the Anti-Kickback Statute in Healthcare?

The Stark Law also covers issues like receiving payments or any other form of remuneration for referrals. Remuneration refers to anything of value, not just cash payments. It can include gifts, travel perks, meals, promotions, free rent, and many other forms of payback. Any such remuneration is considered a kickback and a form of fraud and abuse in the industry.

The Anti-Kickback Statute, or AKS, is a criminal law, meaning you can be subject to criminal penalties if you are found to be in violation of it. You may face fines and penalties of up to $50,000 per kickback and triple the amount of remuneration, as well as actual jail time. This is in addition to being excluded from participating in federal healthcare programs.

Kickbacks in the healthcare system can lead to corrupt medical decision-making practices, patient steering, overutilization of certain goods and services, increased costs of programs, and unfair competition. Healthcare providers should take great care in dealing with patients. Even routinely waiving copays for patients on Medicare and Medicaid could theoretically invoke the AKS; though, in this case, the practice would have to be regular and ongoing, not restricted to a patient the doctor believes genuinely cannot afford payment.

Are You Having Licensing Issues With the Office of Professional Medical Conduct in New York State?

The New York Office of Professional Medical Conduct, which is under the umbrella of the New York State Department of Health, oversees healthcare providers who are subject to orders of the State Board of Professional Medical Conduct. It investigates complaints made against physicians and healthcare providers, including doctors and physician assistants. Nurses nurse practitioners, and other licensed professionals in the healthcare field are subject to oversight by the New York State Office of Professional Discipline, a division of the New York State Department of Education.

Anyone can file a complaint against a healthcare provider. Your credentialing and license to practice could be put under question because a single disgruntled patient or competing healthcare professional makes an undeserved claim against you. Sometimes, these claims can be resolved quickly; other times, they can extend for months or even years. No matter the length of the legal process involved, it is always best to have someone with years of legal experience in your corner. The right law firm will know the processes and procedures and can help defend you against these claims and protect your right to continue to serve your patients.

 If someone has filed a complaint with the New York Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) and the New York State Department of Health against your healthcare organization, let The Coppola Firm stand up for you.

New York Healthcare Litigation

The Coppola Firm represents many different types of people, businesses, and cases. We have a reputation for protecting healthcare providers against unjustified claims and guiding providers and individuals through important decisions. From helping doctors form a practice to helping protect against liability or litigation related to end-of-life decisions, we are there for our clients every step of the way.

End-of-Life Decisions

When a patient does not have advance directives and can no longer make healthcare decisions for themselves while at the same time having no medical power of attorney or healthcare proxy, health providers are in a difficult position. When you are forced to make a decision regarding the end of a patient’s life and face litigation from relatives or healthcare proxy challenges, we are ready to stand by your side and protect you and your practice. These are difficult and personal matters, and having an attorney from The Coppola Firm can make all the difference for you.

Representing Physicians

Physicians facing regulatory claims, administrative investigations, accusations of HIPAA violations, or insurance claim violations should take these claims seriously at every turn. Our attorneys have experience dealing with such claims. We can stand up for your rights and help protect you against frivolous claims.

Sales of Practices

Buying or selling a healthcare company is an extremely complex process that is essential to expanding and thriving. These processes are complicated, with regulatory issues tied both to business and health issues like transferring patient records while remaining in compliance with HIPAA. We can help you work toward getting a reasonable price, oversee that your shareholders and partners are considered, and work toward protecting your management and staff in the new practice’s structuring after the sale is complete.

We can help you perform due diligence, draft contracts and purchase agreements, work out management transfer plans and agreements, prepare sales listings, deal with any certificate of need issues related to real estate and construction, and even help negotiate with potential buyers. We can perform a valuation of your company to determine its fair market value, from its real estate value to the value of the business itself.

Importance of Regulatory Compliance in the Healthcare Industry

female healthcare worker wearing a mask outside

The New York State and federal laws and regulations surrounding healthcare change rapidly. The landscape of health regulations is a living one, constantly evolving to meet the needs of customers, patients, and providers in a world where technology advances faster than we can keep up with it. Knowing how these laws change and understanding their complexities can help you maintain the healthy status of your practice. The right team of healthcare attorneys can oversee the important regulatory and administrative compliance issues you face every day. A skilled attorney can also keep you on top of changes and help you work through the shifting landscape to help avoid accidentally placing your practice in jeopardy.

Why Hire a Buffalo, New York Healthcare Law Attorney?

Healthcare law is exceptionally intricate, especially when dealing with regulatory issues that constantly seem to change. Whether you are the target of a lawsuit or investigation regarding your healthcare practice, you seek to merge with another healthcare practice or service, or you are building a new practice, you may face many stumbles and roadblocks you may not understand.

Never take lawsuits or legal issues of this nature lightly. The right law firm, like The Coppola Firm, brings years of experience dealing with health law to the table. We are an award-winning service listed by Super Lawyers and featured among the U.S. News Best Law Firms for 2023.

We are not a large firm that uses a one-size-fits-all approach for each client. We are a proudly woman-owned, doctor-friendly law firm that deeply values our clients and organizes custom solutions to fit clients’ needs. Many of our attorneys also own businesses of their own, and our experience in law and business together leaves us uniquely positioned to represent your interests, both as a healthcare professional and a business owner. We can manage virtually all of your legal needs. We are here for you every step of the way.

Help Your Patients While We Protect Your Practice

Our Buffalo office has represented clients from all over New York State. We assist doctors ranging from those with small private practices to large firms, ambulatory surgery centers, full hospitals, and more. We also represent healthcare practitioners such as occupational and physical therapists, chiropractors, speech-language pathologists, and more. We are fierce litigators who always behave with honor and integrity. We are meticulous in everything we do and pride ourselves on maintaining a constant line of communication.

Take advantage of our comprehensive knowledge base, and let us protect your practice while you help your patients. Contact us at 716-839-9700 or through our online form for a consultation about your case today.

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