Federal Judge Allows Class Action to Proceed Against Michigan’s Professional Health Program in Groundbreaking Decision

Wednesday, April 25, 2018
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On April 1, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Arthur J. Tarnow approved a crucial step in a class action lawsuit filed against the Michigan Health Professionals Recovery Program (HPRP) brought by a group of medical professionals.


An Abuse of Power?

The Michigan HPRP was originally designed to monitor health care professionals suffering from a mental health or substance abuse impairment that affected their ability to safely work in their chosen medical profession. A group of health professionals filed suit and claimed the program was abusing its authority and demanding medically unnecessary treatment backed up with the threat of license suspension. The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss which was denied in part and granted in part in a recent federal court ruling.  To read the order denying HPRP’s motion to dismiss, click here.


Groundbreaking Ruling.

Judge Tarnow found that Michigan health professionals were intended beneficiaries of the state contract for HPRP.  Therefore, they could, in fact, sue to enforce the terms of the contract as third party beneficiaries. This decision is groundbreaking because it is the first time that a federal judge has found that physician health program (PHP) participants are intended beneficiaries of a state physician health program's contract. Currently, most states do have some form of PHP.  However, there are allegations that many are plagued with mismanagement and abuses, including conflicts of interest and being operated to make a profit. As a result of the judge's ruling, health professionals may have added leverage to demand strict enforcement of their State’s PHP contract.

Additionally, Judge Tarnow found that health professionals with substance abuse issues or those who are falsely believed to have substance abuse issues qualify for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  This move is favorable for the health professional community, especially those individuals facing addiction issues.  It sends a clear message to PHPs that they cannot breach their contracts or engage in disability discrimination without being held accountable for their actions.

To read the class action complaint filed against HPRP, click here.

To learn more about how The Health Law Firm can assist you in situations like this, please visit our Areas of Practice page on our website.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs about the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) Evaluation for all Applicants with History of Mental Problems or Substance Abuse.

The Florida Department of Health's (DOH) "impaired practitioners program" is administered by the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) and the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN). IPN is responsible for all nurses and works with and through the Florida Board of Nursing. The Florida Board of Medicine and all other professional licensing boards in the DOH have contracted with and use the services provided by Professionals Resource Network (PRN).

There have been criticisms aired in the media regarding these programs.  In order to be sure you are fully aware of all sides of the situation, you may want to review these, at:
www.wptv.com/longform/are-fl-doctors-and-nurses-being-sent-to-rehab-unnecessarily
and
www.nbc-2.com/story/33043200/nbc2-investigators-nurses-sent-to-rehab-whether-needed-or-not


Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Health Care Providers in Board of Pharmacy Cases.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced in dealing with the Board of Pharmacy, PRN, and license applications.  Our attorneys can help you get your application and supporting documentation together and present it to the Board in the most effective way possible.

Our firm has extensive experience in representing physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other professionals accused of drug abuse, alcohol impairment, mental impairment and sexual boundary issue, as well as in dealing with the Professionals Resource Network (PRN), its advantages and disadvantages, its contracts, its personnel, and its policies and procedures.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.


Sources:


“Federal Judge Gives “Green Light” On Class Action Against HPRP, Michigan’s Professional Health Program (PHP).” Chapman Law Group. (April 1, 2018). Web.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).” ADA. (April 23, 2018). Web.


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.


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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.
4/25/2018

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