Physical Therapist Agrees to Revocation of License

PTBCfinal

SACRAMENTO – A Southern California Physical Therapist has agreed to have his license revoked as part of a stipulated settlement with the Physical Therapy Board of California following his conviction on fraud charges.

Eddie Choi’s license revocation will be effective March 11, 2015.

In March 2013, Choi plead guilty to illegally paying others to refer patients to him. Choi paid an acupuncturist $3,322.07 to refer Medicare beneficiaries to California Neuro-Rehabilitation Institute located in Los Angeles, which he and a partner owned. Between January 2010 and March 2011, the acupuncturist referred approximately 220 Medical beneficiaries to California Neuro-Rehabilitation Institute. California Neuro-Rehabilitation Institute then billed Medicare for 220 patients for physical therapy services which were never provided. Medicare suffered a loss of $1,058,047.26 for fraudulently billed services.

Choi was obligated to inform the Board of his plea within 30 days of the occurrence. He reported his conviction seven months later.

In June 2014, Choi was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

The Acupuncture Board of California has been notified of the acupuncturist related to this case.

# # #

The Physical Therapy Board regulates more than 27,000 licensees who practice physical therapy in California.  The license status of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants can be verified by visiting the Board’s website at www.ptbc.ca.gov.  Information about filing complaints against the Board’s licenses is also available on the Board’s website.

California 2015 Laws

eggsHundreds of new laws—930 to be exact—go into effect this year. Most took effect on January 1; however, some laws, such as the smartphone kill switches requirement, ban on plastic bags, increase in assisted living fines, mandatory sick days, and pet insurance consumer protections won’t go into effect until July 1.

Here’s a rundown of some of the bills Governor Brown signed into law:

Smartphone kill switches: Senate Bill 962 requires all smartphones sold in California have theft-deterring technology that allows owners to remotely disable their stolen devices.

Dogs at restaurants: Under Assembly Bill 1965, restaurant owners can decide whether to allow dogs in their outdoor dining areas, and local jurisdictions retain the ability to prohibit the practice or add restrictions.

Ban on plastic bags: SB 270 bans supermarkets and large pharmacies from using single-use plastic bags. Customers will be encouraged to use reusable cloth bags but can purchase paper bags at a cost of at least 10 cents each.

Military spouses: AB 186 requires the Department of Consumer Affairs to provide military spouses and domestic partners licensed to practice professions in other states a 12-month temporary license to practice in California when their spouses are stationed in the State.

Pet insurance: AB 2056 requires that pet insurance policies clearly disclose details, including coverage limitations, reimbursements, waiting periods, and deductibles.

Online reviews: AB 2365 makes nondisparagement clauses in consumer contracts for goods or services in California unenforceable; businesses cannot use them for civil lawsuits against Californians offering opinions or reviews on Internet sites such as Yelp.

Chickens: With the backing of 2008’s Proposition 2 and then 2010’s AB 1437, every egg laid or sold in California must come from hens with enough space to stand up, turn around, lie down, and stretch its wings.

Ride-service insurance coverage: AB 2293 requires that drivers for ride-service companies, such as Uber and Lyft, must be insured during the time they have their app open but have yet to accept a call. The bill also calls on insurance companies to offer policies tailored specifically for ride-service drivers.

For more information on California’s new laws, go to http://www.gov.ca.gov.

Health Insurance and Taxes, Two Big Reasons to Act By Feb 15

Covered California and their tens of thousands of partners are working hard to ensure as many people as possible get the health insurance they want, and avoid future tax penalties.  With just a few days left before the February 15, 2015 deadline, time is short, but you still have time to sign up.

Covered CA Sprint to the Finish 2

If you don’t know how to get started, the best thing to do is to go online and head on over to www.coveredca.com.  From the website it is easy to compare plans and get your questions answered, or you can call them at 800-300-1506.

Not having health insurance can be stressful on its own, but there is another reason to think about the February 15th deadline.  Taxes!  When the Affordable Care Act passed it was understood that everyone needed insurance or they would face a tax penalty.  In an example provided by H&R Block, and reported by NPR, one couple with a combined income of $65,000 would have to pay a fine this year of nearly $450.  Next year that fine doubles, so if you want to avoid writing a big check to the IRS on April, 15, 2016, you better get in contact with Covered CA before February 15th of this year.

covered-CA-feb15 almost herejpg

If that news made your heart jump, don’t panic, and remember there are tens of thousands of Covered CA partners out there who are working hard to make sure you get the insurance you want, and avoid the tax penalties you don’t want.

Water Conservation Never Out of Season

shutterstock_WaterOffCalifornia’s Water Year 2014 as defined by the Department of Water Resources
(Oct. 1–Sept. 30) was the third-driest on record in the past 119 years. The 2013 calendar year was the driest ever, and that followed two years of below-average precipitation.

It has been taxing on State reservoirs and groundwater supplies.

Even as a significant storm system settles over Northern California, along with some relief that came with periods of major precipitation in December, intermittently wet weather shouldn’t give you a false sense of security—water conservation remains a critical component in the effort to minimize our statewide drought.

The public education program Save Our Water, a partnership between the Department of Water Resources and the Association of California Water Agencies, offers 10 conservation tips:

  1. Take shorter showers.
  2. Turn off the faucet when brushing teeth.
  3. Water your lawn only when it needs it.
  4. Use a broom to clean driveways and sidewalks.
  5. Adjust sprinklers so they don’t water driveways and sidewalks.
  6. Only wash full loads of laundry.
  7. Run the dishwasher only when full.
  8. Fix leaky faucets and toilets.
  9. Use a shut-off nozzle on your hose.
  10. Plant California-friendly trees and plants.

The Save Our Water website offers more ways to conserve both indoors and outdoors.

Financial Aid Questions? BPPE Takes Your Calls At KCRA 3’s Cash for College Day

Cash for College 2There is still time get your financial aid questions answered! The Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education is answering calls at KCRA 3’s Call 3 – Cash for College Day until this evening.

If you’re in the greater Sacramento area, call (916) 447-2255 between now and 7:00pm to get your student financial aid questions answered.

Cash for College 5

The Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education has joined the California Student Aid Commission to answer questions about financial aid requirements, application deadlines and make other resources available to students.

BPPE will be on KCRA – Channel 3 answering your financial aid questions

BPPE Logo Final2

Need money for college?  On Monday, January 12th, the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education will be joining the California Student Aid Commission at KCRA 3’s Call 3 – Cash for College Day to answer questions about college requirements, application deadlines and available resources.

Call (916) 447-2255 between 4 a.m. and 7 p.m. to have your financial aid questions answered!

Right now is the perfect time for high school seniors and other students to learn about applying for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), Cal Grant, California Dream Act (CADA), and the Middle Class Scholarship – all which have March 2nd deadlines.

Be sure to check our Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the day for updates.

Cash for College

 

BAR Smog Check Referee Program: Fair Play and Clean Air

refDuring a recent Sacramento-area Smog Check, a consumer was told that her car didn’t pass the visual inspection portion of the test. The Smog Check station said it would not complete the rest of the test and also refused to give her a refund.

In a situation such as this, what options are out there to help consumers? One important option consumers should take advantage of is the California Bureau of Automotive Repair’s (BAR) Referee Program.

Working to support consumers and the California Smog Check Program, BAR’s Referee Program has a statewide network of inspection centers that not only assists motorists with unusual Smog Check issues, but also provides specialized services not available through licensed Smog Check stations. Through this program, you can dispute the results of the test and get a third-party evaluation by the Referee.

Some of the Referee Program services include:

Repair Cost Waivers: If your vehicle fails its Smog Check and you had at least $650 in emission-related repairs done by a licensed Smog Check station and cannot afford the additional repairs, there is a one-time waiver available. The waiver allows the vehicle to be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Vehicles modified for use by disabled drivers: If your vehicle has been retrofitted for a wheelchair, or the steering and braking systems have been modified in a manner that make the vehicle difficult to test at a licensed Smog Check station, you can go to a Referee station.

Grey Market vehicles: If your car was imported into California and was not built to U.S. and California emission standards, your car is considered a “Grey Market” vehicle and will require an inspection at a Referee center.

Smog Check–exempt vehicles: Referee stations can inspect vehicles to verify Smog Check exemptions and issue Exempt Certificates.

Visit www.asktheref.org or call (800) 622-7733 to learn more details about the BAR Referee Program, find a Referee station, or to schedule an appointment. Please note there are vehicles—motorcycles and older gasoline or diesel vehicles—that are ineligible to be tested at Referee Program centers.

For more information about BAR, visit www.bar.ca.gov.

smog_header

This Just In: The Latest Edition Of Consumer Connection Is Here!

ConsumerConnection_Fall2014_web-1

The latest edition of the Consumer Connection magazine is now available! This edition of our magazine features:

  • Pill…or candy?
  • Protecting against HVAC service fraud
  • E-cigarettes: Helpful or harmful?
  • Reimbursement help after school closures
  • Stronger security with credit card chips
  • New vehicle smog check test

The Consumer Connection magazine is full of informative and fun to read articles. Share what you read and help others become more informed. Check out the magazine HERE.

CSLB Turns Up the Heat Against HVAC Scams

cslb logoAs the temperatures continue to drop, you’re likely to see ads offering low-cost air duct cleaning services and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) tune-ups. You decide to get some servicing done and the next thing you know, the HVAC contractor says that you need to replace your entire unit.

DCA’s Contractors State License Board (CSLB) says this type of HVAC visit is becoming all too common.

As part of its efforts to curb unethical activity, CSLB seeks to reduce the following predatory practices:

  • Using hard-sell tactics to obtain grossly inflated contracts.
  • Misrepresenting work as urgent, critical, or safety-related.
  • Failing to provide the three-day right to rescind a home improvement contract.
  • Failing to obtain building permits.
  • Lacking workers’ compensation insurance or under-reporting employees.

Take your time before saying “yes” to an HVAC contractor. Prior to hiring a contractor, research the contractor and their services, and follow these guidelines:

  • Make sure the HVAC contractor has a CSLB-issued State license.
  • Visit the Better Business Bureau and CSLB websites to check the contractor’s standing and to find out if there are any pending disputes or disciplinary actions.
  • Get written estimates from at least three companies.
  • Ask questions.
  • Get professional references for each contractor who is bidding on the job.
  • Make sure your contract includes the notice about the three-day right to cancel.
  • Check that the contract spells out that the contractor will obtain building permits and inspections that must be completed by the local building department to meet State energy efficiency laws.
  • Don’t pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment. There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry special bonds to protect consumers. These exceptions are noted on CSLB’s website.
  • Don’t pay in cash, and don’t let your payments get ahead of the work.

Visit the CSLB website for more tips, to sign up for e-mail alerts, or to submit a complaint.

The Gift Of A Gift Card

shutterstock_135100568

Gift cards are always a favorite whether you are giving or receiving — for a birthday, holiday gift, or just because. We will all cross paths with a gift card or gift certificate at one time or another and they can be great, especially if you have some helpful tips in your back pocket to go along with that wonderful gift card.

If you’re buying a gift card or gift certificate:

  • Ask about the seller’s redemption policy.
  • In the case of a gift card usable with multiple, unaffiliated sellers (such as a mall card or a prepaid debit or credit card), ask about expiration dates and any applicable fees. In addition, ask about the locations where the unspent portion of the value can be redeemed, and how that amount can be redeemed. In California, gift cards from single stores (not multiple seller cards) cannot have an expiration date.
  • In the case of a gift card, ask the seller if the recipient can add value or reload the card.
  • Ask the seller about its policies on returning merchandise.

A recipient who redeems a gift certificate or gift card for merchandise will be subject to those policies.

shutterstock_142996375

If you receive a gift card or gift certificate:

  • Ask about the seller’s redemption policy. Some merchants may redeem the gift certificate for cash or a combination of merchandise and cash, while some may issue a new certificate for any balance remaining after the original certificate is redeemed.
  • In the case of a gift card, ask the seller if value can be added to the card or if it can be reloaded. Also ask about any service or dormancy fee.
  • Use any remaining value on a gift certificate or gift card. If a gift certificate or gift card has a low balance, make a purchase with it and pay the difference out-of-pocket.
  • Ask the seller about its policies on returning merchandise.

shutterstock_126299303

For more information about gift certificates and gift cards, check out FAQs and Tips on Gift Certificates and Gift Cards:

Legal Guide S-11 from the Department of Consumer Affairs online at www.dca.ca.gov/publications/legal_guides/s-11.shtml.

For a side by side comparison California law VS. federal law on gift certificates, store gift cards, multiple seller gift card (also known as a “General-use prepaid cards), and reward programs, check out the S-11 charts:

Legal Guide S-11 Charts from the Department of Consumer Affairs online at www.dca.ca.gov/publications/legal_guides/s11_chart.pdf

Now that you have all the 4-1-1 on gift cards and gift certificates, happy shopping!