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Closing your Medical Practice? Don’t forget to Wind Up!

You’ve decided that now is the time to close your healthcare entity (i.e. Medical Practice) for any number of reasons. However, you can’t simply close the doors and just walk away. There are a few steps that you need to take in order to comply with Federal and Florida law. One of the requirements is that you “wind up” your limited liability company (“LLC”).

After you’ve dissolved the company the company continues only for the purpose of winding up. During this process the LLC is required to discharge or make provisions for the company’s debts, obligations and other liabilities, as well as, settling and closing the company’s activities and affairs, including distribution of the assets of the LLC.

You may also have to prosecute and defend certain legal actions and proceedings even after dissolution, whether civil, criminal or administrative. The company would have to settle any disputes by mediation or arbitration and transfer title to the company’s real estate and other property.

If the dissolved company has no members (i.e. death of sole shareholder), the legal representative of the last person to have been a member may wind up the activities and affairs of the company. If the legal representative declines to do so, a person may be appointed to do so by the consent of the transferees owning a majority of the rights to receive distributions as transferees at the time the consent is to be effective. Alternatively, a circuit court judge may order judicial supervision of the winding up of a dissolved LLC, including the appointment of one or more people to wind up the company’s activities and affairs. The person appointed by the court may also be designated trustees for or receivers of the company with the authority to take charge of the LLC’s property and to do all other acts that might be done by the LLC which may be necessary for the final settlement of the unfinished activities and affairs of the company. The powers of the trustees or receivers may be continued as long as the court deems necessary.

The dissolved company that has completed winding up may submit a statement of termination to the Department of Business Regulations including: (a) the name of the LLC; (b) the date of filing of its Articles of Organization; (c) the date of filing of its articles of dissolution; (d) the LLC has completed winding up its activities and affairs and has determined that it will file a statement of termination; and (e) other information as determined by the authorized representative.

Finally, the trustees may distribute property of the limited liability company discovered after dissolution, convey real estate and other property and take such other action as may be necessary on behalf of and in the name of the dissolved LLC.

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It should be noted that I am not your lawyer (unless you have presently retained my services through a retainer agreement). This post is not intended as legal advice, it is purely educational and informational, and no attorney-client relationship shall result after reading it. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice. If you do not have one and would like to retain my legal services, please contact me using the contact information listed above.

 

All information and references made to laws, rules, regulations, and advisory opinions were accurate based on the law as it existed at this time, but laws are constantly evolving. Please contact me to be sure that the law which will govern your business is current. Thank you.

Do I need a Business Associate Agreement?

Your healthcare entity may need to enter into a signed Business Associate Agreement with certain vendors and contractors that you have contracted with depending on the type of services that will be provided to your healthcare entity. Failure to produce a signed Business Associate Agreement could lead to fines and/or penalties by the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) in connection with potential HIPAA violations.

 

What is a Business Associate?

A business associate is one that creates, receives, maintains or transmits protected health information (“PHI”). Companies that only store encrypted PHI are also considered Business Associates. Subcontractors may also have to sign a Business Associate Agreement if they create, receive, maintain, or transmit PHI on behalf of a business associate.

A healthcare provider is not considered a business associate if disclosure of PHI is required for treatment. A covered entity participating in an Organized Health Care Arrangement (“OHCA”) that performs a function or activity for or on behalf of the OHCA is not a business associate if it is acting on behalf of the OHCA as a whole.

 

Business Associates Restrictions and Requirements

Business associates may use or disclose PHI only as permitted or required by the Business Associate Agreement or as required by law. Business associates will be directly liable under the HIPAA Rules and subject to civil and criminal penalties for failing to comply with the Business Associate Agreement or the HIPAA Security Rule.

If a Business Associate becomes aware of a security incident they must report it. A “security incident” includes “attempted or successful unauthorized access, use, disclosure, modification, or destruction of information or interference with system operations in an information system.”

Business Associates are governed by rules that provide specific guidance regarding the sale of patient information. For example, information can be sold for public health, treatment and payment, or for the sale of an entity. Additionally, information can be sold for research, but compensation must be reasonable and cost-based. Any information or data that is sold must be de-identified to remove any and all identifiers of the individual, relatives, employers, or household members.

 

Business Associate Agreement Requirements

The following is a list of items that must be addressed in a Business Associate Agreement:

  1. Establish the permitted and required uses and disclosures of PHI by the business associate.
  2. Provide that the business associate will not sue or further disclose the information other than as permitted or required by the contract or as required by law.
  3. Require the business associate to implement appropriate safeguards to prevent unauthorized use or disclosure of the PHI, including compliance with the Security Rule for ePHI.
  4. Require reporting to the covered entity of any improper use or disclosures including breaches.
  5. Require the business associate to make PHI available for access and amendment and require information for accounting.
  6. Require Privacy Rule compliance to the extent applicable.
  7. Require business associates to make books and records available to HHS.
  8. Require the business associate to return or destroy PHI at termination if feasible.
  9. Require the business associate to ensure that subcontractors agree to the same restrictions and conditions.
  10. Authorize termination of the contract by the covered entity if the business associate violates a material term.

 

Business Associate Agreement Regulatory Compliance

Periodically, Business Associate Agreements should be reviewed and updated as necessary to ensure that they are compliant with HIPAA and the HITECH Act or any other related laws.

OCR is responsible for auditing and only provide healthcare entities a narrow window to produce a list of its business associates. Therefore, it is critically important to maintain a list of business associates.

 

Things to consider

This is not an exhaustive list of a few things to consider when negotiating a BAA:

  1. Is this entity a Business Associate? If so, what will this BA be doing and does HIPAA allow for it?
  2. Do you want a stand alone BAA or will it be incorporated into other contracts?
  3. Has there been a discussion about indemnification and how much is required?
  4. Is a confidentiality agreement required for other information?
  5. Should we have a privacy official to design, implement and oversee privacy policy and procedure practices, including risk analysis and risk mitigation?

 

There are several other items to consider when drafting, negotiating and executing a Business Associate Agreement. If you have questions about Business Associate Agreements and how they work or whether yours incorporates the most recent legal requirements you should contact us today.

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This post was authored by Jamaal R. Jones, Esquire  Jones Health Law, P.A. for more information contact me at (305) 877-5054; email me at JRJ@JonesHealthLaw.com, or visit our website at www.JonesHealthLaw.com.

 

It should be noted that I am not your lawyer (unless you have presently retained my services through a retainer agreement). This post is not intended as legal advice, it is purely educational and informational, and no attorney-client relationship shall result after reading it. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice. If you do not have one and would like to retain my legal services please contact me using the information listed above.

 

All of the information and references made to laws, regulations, and advisory opinions were accurate based on the law as it existed at this time, but laws are constantly evolving. Please contact me to be sure that the law which will govern your business is current. Thank you.

Which Business Structure is Best for my Medical Practice?

Which Business Structure is Best for my Medical Practice?

Over the years many providers have come to my office expressing an interest in owning a medical practice, healthcare facility, or healthcare business. During these meetings, it is important to obtain pertinent background information about the healthcare entity followed by a discussion about some of the regulatory and licensing issues that may arise. Equally important is determining how the healthcare entity should be structured for asset protection and tax purposes. A corporate healthcare attorney like myself can determine whether it is best for you to create a corporation, LLC, or an LLP. Admittedly, some of the more complex tax issues should be discussed with an attorney that specializes in tax law. Here is an overview of some of the basic differences between the different business entities.

Sole Proprietorship

An individual who does not create an entity.

  • No taxes are imposed on the entity. Instead, the individual owner reports the income and pays the income taxes.

Professional Corporation (a/k/a “P.A.”):

A corporation in which one or more shareholders must be licensed professionals (or entities that themselves are wholly-owned by licensed professionals). The P.A. can be taxed either as an S Corporation or as a C Corporation.

 

Corporation:

A corporation whose owner is not limited solely to licensed professionals. The corporation can be taxed either as an S Corporation or as a C Corporation.

  • C Corporation: Unless it elects otherwise, a corporation must report its own income and pay its own income taxes, under Subchapter C of the Internal Revenue Code.
    • A C Corporation is also subject to Florida’s state corporate income tax at a rate of 5.5%. Any distributions of its earnings to its shareholders requires the shareholders to recognize dividend income, resulting in a second layer or taxation.
    • Many professional C Corporations attempt to avoid distributing dividends by paying all income as compensation (because although it is still taxable to the recipient employee/shareholder, the C corporation gets a deduction for such compensation, resulting in one-layer of taxation).
    • If a C corporation pays excessive compensation, the IRS may try to treat some of the compensation as a dividend distribution and deny the deduction to the corporation with respect to such imputed dividend.

LLLP

A limited liability limited partnership comprised of at least one general partner and at least one limited partner, which is created by filing a Certificate of Limited Partnership and indicated LLLP status in such certificate. The status provides a general liability shield for all of the general partners.

S Corporation

No tax generally imposed on a corporation that elects to be treated as an “S Corporation” under Subchapter S of the Code. Rather, the tax consequences flow-through to the shareholder(s).

  • Each shareholder reports his or her pro rata share of the tax consequences based on his or her ownership in the S corporation and pays the income tax at his or her effective personal income tax rate.
  • Any distribution to the shareholder(s) is not treated as a dividend, but rather first is a return of basis and then excess is capital gain: provided, however, if the S corporation was formerly a C corporation within the past 10 years and had earnings and profits, then a portion of the distributions of the S corporation could be subject to tax as a dividend (Rather than a return of basis).
  • Shareholder distributions:
    • must be made in the ratio or ownership;
    • can be abused to “save” payroll taxes applicable to compensation; and
    • lack the asset protection potential of compensation payable to the head of a family under Florida law.
    • A P.A. generally should elect to be taxed as an S corporation, preferably from inception.
    • If a corporation has already been taxed as a C corporation, then conversion to S Corporation status must be carefully considered to ensure that the “built-in gains” tax on unrealized receivables can be handled through proper accrual and payment of accounts payable and compensation.

Professional Limited Liability Company (a/k/a “P.L.”)

A limited liability company in which one or more members must be licensed professionals (or entities that themselves are wholly-owned by licensed professionals). The P.L. can be taxed either as a disregarded entity (if there is only one member), as a partnership (if there is more than one member), or an S Corporation (whether it has one or more members.)

LLC

A limited liability company whose ownership is not limited solely to licensed professionals. The LLC can be taxed either as a disregarded entity, a partnership or an S corporation.

General Partnership

An entity that is comprised of two or more general partners. No written document is necessary to create a general partnership.

LLP

A limited liability partnership is comprised of two or more general partners, which registers with the state by filing a Statement of Qualification. The registration provides a general liability shield for all of the partners.

Limited Partnership

An entity comprised of at least one general partner and at least one limited partner, which is created upon the filing of a Certificate of Limited Partnership with the state.

There are many factors to consider when deciding how to structure your medical practice or healthcare entity. You should obtain an in-depth analysis of the various business structures so that you can choose the best one suited for your needs. While it is not impossible to change from one business entity type to another, it is always best to choose the best structure from the very beginning. A capable attorney at Jones Health Law, P.A. would be happy to guide you through this process.

***This blog post does not constitute legal advice and is only intended for educational purposes. You should consult a licensed attorney in the State of Florida that specializes in healthcare law.***

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