A South Florida physician will pay $10,000 as part of a settlement he reached with the state for allegedly posting details about a former patient on the internet and accusing her of doctor shopping and trying to fraudulently obtain opioids.
The Florida Board of Medicine on Friday approved the settlement with Miami Beach physician Michael J. Hall for allegedly posting personal health information of a patient, identified in documents by the initials C.B., on the crowd-sourced website Yelp.
Hall, who has been practicing for 18 years, did not acknowledge wrongdoing as part of the settlement. Also, he alleged that the patient threatened his life and his medical business, which he reported to the police.
According to an administrative complaint, Hall treated C.B. in June 2013 for opiate addiction and Suboxone maintenance. Hall gave C.B. a prescription for the medication Suboxone and told her to return to his office in a week for a physical exam, lab work and a drug screen.
C.B., who was a fire inspector, did not return for the follow-up visit, according to the complaint.
Two years later, Hall posted her name on Yelp and said she used her fire-inspector badge to “fraudulently obtain narcotics and has seen over 28 doctors in Florida for numerous prescriptions, pills and medical services.”
C.B. appeared at the Board of Medicine meeting on Friday in Altamonte Springs and asked the board to reject the settlement that Hall reached with the state.
“It’s not true. It’s simply not true,” she said of allegations in the administrative complaint.
She told the board members that the underlying cause of the dispute between her and Hall stemmed from medical bills.
“We are here today because I failed to pay my doctor bill of $1,300 in a timely fashion. That is why we are here today. There is no other reason,” she said.
C.B told board members that she lost her job as a fire inspector as a result of the post.
“What has happened to me because of his actions is absolutely criminal,” she said, adding, “I didn’t just lose my job, I lost my career as a fire inspector.”
Florida law bans physicians from discussing a patient’s medical information with anyone other than the patient, the patient’s legal representative or another physician without the written authorization from the patient.
Mark A. Kamilar, Hall’s attorney, tried to downplay the allegations against his client, telling the board that the information posted on Yelp was also included in a civil lawsuit C.B. had previously filed against the city of Daytona Beach.
Also, Kamilar said, C.B. allegedly threatened Hall’s life. Worried, the physician reported the information to the Miami Beach Police Department.
Kamilar maintained that because the information was in a civil lawsuit and a police report, it was available to the public for review and therefore wasn’t private.
Moreover, Kamilar told the board that “there is a public and private side on Yelp.”
“Not everything you say on Yelp is a public posting,” Kamilar said. “So it was unclear whether this was on the private side or the public side.”
Additionally, Kamilar said it was also unclear how long the post was even on the site.
“There is some indication is was up there for less than two days,” Kamilar told the board.
But the argument didn’t sit well with board members.
“Even if it’s private it’s a third party, which is a problem,” board member Steven Rosenberg said.