The Stark Law has often been criticized for being too complex, with significant technical burdens imposed on physicians. This past July, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published proposed modifications to the law, aimed at easing some of these burdens. The financial relationships between physicians and other healthcare providers will be impacted by these changes. It will simplify things in some ways, while raising questions in others.
The Stark Law prohibits physicians from issuing referrals that would lead to government reimbursement to an entity in which physicians, or an immediate family member, share a financial relationship. When physicians are prevented from making referrals like this – including self-referring or prescribing unnecessary services – ideally it preserves the integrity of patient care. The government may consider an action to be a violation of the Stark Law when inconsistencies appear, like full-time benefits given for part-time work.
In the non-profit sector, funds are often redistributed from a profitable department of a hospital so that it can subsidize a department that does not generate income, but that adds value to the community. When a physician earns an unusually high income, without justifying the salary with an acceptable reason to explain the disproportionate income gap, the hospital could be in violation of the Stark Law.
The changes to the Stark Law would allow for the following two exceptions:
- Allow payments to physicians to employ non-physician practitioners
- Allow timeshare arrangements for the use of office space, equipment, personnel, supplies and other services that benefit rural or underserved areas
These changes seem to reflect two main themes. First, CMS intends to lift the burden of specific Stark Law requirements so that providers are less likely to have to reveal technical violations of the Stark Law. Secondly, CMS is requesting feedback and recommendations for other steps that can be initiated in order to promote health reform initiatives.
Philadelphia Health Care Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates Provide Legal Counsel for Stark Law Compliance Issues
The health care arena is heavily regulated, so if you are facing charges of violating the Stark Law, it is crucial that you contact a lawyer who is well-versed in the latest changes to the law. Philadelphia health care lawyers at the Sidney L. Gold & Associates have extensive knowledge of these laws, even as they continue to evolve. Contact us today so that we can ensure that you are in full compliance with the latest requirements. Our offices are located in Center City, Philadelphia. Call us at 215-569-1999 for a free consultation or contact us online.