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Archive for the ‘Physician Practices’ Category

Interpreting Fiorina’s Comments on Vaccination Law

August 16, 2015 Leave a comment

CMS Proposes Significant Changes to the 2016 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, including to Stark

August 16, 2015 Leave a comment

CMS Factsheet:

“On July 08, 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule that updates payment policies, payment rates, and quality provisions for services furnished under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) on or after January 1, 2016. This year, CMS is proposing a number of new policies, including several that are a result of recently enacted legislation. The rule also finalizes changes to several of the quality reporting initiatives that are associated with PFS payments, including the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), the Physician Value-Based Payment Modifier (Value Modifier), and the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program, as well as changes to the Physician Compare website on Medicare.gov.”

The proposed rule includes provisions relating to the following;

  • physician quality reporting system
  • “Physician Compare”
  • EHR incentive program
  • Medicare shared savings
  • advance care planning
  • payment provisions on Part B drugs, misvalued codes, RVU reductions, “incident to” services, physician value-based payment modifier, etc.

Perhaps most significant in the area of healthcare business transactions are the physician self-referral (Stark law) updates:

  • expansion of recruitment and retention provisions to NPPs
  • updating physician-owned hospital requirements
  • reducing burdens of technical noncompliance through more reasonable regulations in a number of areas (based on information learned from self-dsiclosures and the rersults of recent cases)

The complete proposed rule as published in the Federal Register on July 15 can be found here.

Comments will be accepted by CMS on the proposed rule until September 8, 2015.

Do we need the Stark and Anti-Kickback Laws? Yes, unfortunately. Here’s another reason why.

April 12, 2015 Leave a comment

Thank goodness that most of us do not have to scrutinize every business deal we do to make sure that it is fully compliant with self-referral and kickback prohibitions.  In the healthcare arena, compliance with these counter-intuitive and overly punitive restrictions adds much unreimbursable administrative costs to the delivery of healthcare. Hopefully, shifting payment from procedures to quality of care will reduce the artificial inducements to violate these restrictions.

And while I advocate the repeal of these outdated self-referral and kickback laws which have unfairly burdened physicians in this country for decades, there is always another example of why the laws are still needed.

Benchmark Reporter has this story today:

2 U.S. organizations have been fined with a whopping $48.5 million in charges of conducting unnecessary medical tests linked with doctors who are responsible for referring patients to them for commission. These scamming corporations are Health Diagnostics Laboratory (HDL) and Singulex, both are well-known cardiovascular disease screening labs.

The Benchmark story is based on the Thursday announcement from the Department of Justice.  According to the DOJ  announcement, this is what the Labs did:

As alleged in the lawsuits, HDL, Singulex and Berkeley induced physicians to refer patients to them for blood tests by paying them processing and handling fees of between $10 and $17 per referral and by routinely waiving patient co-pays and deductibles. In addition, HDL and Singulex allegedly conspired with BlueWave to offer these inducements on behalf of HDL and Singulex. As a result, physicians allegedly referred patients to HDL, Singulex and Berkeley for medically unnecessary tests, which were then billed to federal health care programs, including Medicare.

And a reminder of why kickbacks are bad (some people apparently need to be reminded):

“When health care companies pursue profits by paying kickbacks to doctors, they undermine a patient’s ability to trust that medical decisions are being made for scientific reasons, not financial ones,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen Jr. of the District of Columbia. “Those kickbacks also harm the taxpayer because they drive up the cost of federal health care programs with medically unnecessary tests. This significant settlement shows our determination to work with whistleblowers and our federal partners to defend the integrity of the health care system from illegal agreements that hurt patients and taxpayers.”

If this were a blog about the Seven Deadly Sins, the key words might be Greed, Pride, Envy, and Sloth.

There is no easy way for physicians to make more money.  Working hard is not enough.  And the current state of financial health of  physicians in this country is appalling.

Nevertheless, there are  physicians who are good providers, who are devoted to their patients, and who follow the law.  I know this because I represent many of them. They resist the temptation from these Labs and others like them.  They spend a lot of money on attorneys and consultants to do things the right way.   When they see their colleagues benefit through illegal behavior, it is good that they also see them caught and punished.

South Shore Physicians Hospital Organization in Kickback Scheme — Did DOJ Get it Wrong?

February 1, 2015 Leave a comment

In its news release on January 20, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced that that the South Shore Physician Hospital Organization in South Weymouth has agreed to pay $1.775 million to settle allegations of operating a recruitment grant program through which it paid kickbacks to its physician members in exchange for patient referrals.  The news release talks about false claims as if the care was not given, but the claims were only “false” because of the kickback taint.

There is great pressure on physicians and hospitals to form networks to capture patients, improve care, and reduce costs.

Without knowing, I am guessing that the grant program by SSPHO was intended to build the network and reward physicians who joined (and referrals were probably required to be made to the hospital and other physician network members). I can see how this could be construed to be a kickback, but we need these networks and I suspect that no harm was done to the Medicare or Medicaid programs.

Even if my guess about the SSPHO is wrong, it’s still time that we allowed healthcare innovators and entrepreneurs to act like real business people and recruit and reward participants in a sensible and straightforward manner — without calling it a kickback.

 

CMS launches database of manufacturer and GPO payments to physicians

October 3, 2014 Leave a comment

The following post will also be published today on the Akerman Health Rx blog.

The Affordable Care Act contains a provision known as the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) to establish a national databank containing information on the financial relationships between physicians (which includes dentists, chiropractors, and other physician specialties) and teaching hospitals, applicable manufacturers, and group purchasing organizations (“GPOs”).  CMS launched its Open Payments website on September 30, 2014 , making its database available to the public.

The database is populated by information reported to CMS by applicable manufacturers and GPOs regarding their payments or other transfers of value to physicians and teaching hospitals.  It is important to note that this reported information specifically includes any ownership or investment interest that physicians (and their immediate family members) have in the manufacturers and GPOs.

CMS encourages physicians and teaching hospitals to register with the Open Payments website.  While registration is voluntary, the reported information is made available to registrants before being made public, and registrants are given an opportunity to dispute any reported information.  In fact, there is a mobile app (and other resources) that allows physicians, teaching hospitals, manufacturers, and GPOs to track provider and industry contact details, share information, and track payments and other transfers of value.

According to CMS and as reported, 4.4 Million payments valued at nearly $3.5 billion were made to 546,000 individual physicians and 1,360 teaching hospitals in the last five months of 2013.  The website will provide future reports on an annual basis.  Beginning in June 2015, it is expected to report twelve full months of data.

We know that the public, and in particular the press, will access the Open Payments database, and there will likely be a high level of misunderstanding and misinformation.  One cannot forget the feeding frenzy that arose when CMS released physician Medicare billing data  earlier this year.  Any physician who receives payments from a manufacturer or GPO would presumably want advance notice of any disclosure regarding payments to that physician.   Accordingly, any physician who does receive such payments should register on the Open Payments website and check the accuracy of all information reported about them, and be prepared to answer questions they may be asked.

AMA President-Elect Wakes Up in 21st Century

September 18, 2014 Leave a comment

On Tuesday, the AMA issued a press release “AMA Calls for Design Overhaul of Electronic Health Records to Improve Usability” about its landmark study with the Rand Corporation, “confirming that discontent with electronic health records … is taking a significant toll on physicians.”  Steven J. Stack, president-elect of the AMA was quoted extensively in the release.

One has to wonder whether Steven “Rip Van Winkle” Stack has been sleeping for the past 5 years or was just off visiting relatives on a distant planet.  Same for the Rand Corporation.  One also has to wonder how much the study cost.  One can sure, however, that if the government had done the study, it would have been a clear contender for a Golden Fleece Award.

Physicians in this country have been abandoned and left alone to deal with the thousands of software charlatans selling inadequate EHR products.   Many physicians are on their second EHR system, and some are still looking for something that works.

EHRs and the data that they can produce are critical in dealing with questions of population health and focusing on prevention rather than procedures, all of which will promote more cost-effective health care.

Hopefully, now that the AMA in on task, something useful can be derived from the desolate software environment.

Vascular Access Centers: A Complex Picture

September 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Physicians are under a lot of pressure to improve their bottom line. In office procedures as described in this blog, as well as investments in surgery centers and other business ventures, all bring levels of needed regulatory compliance and increased regulatory scrutiny. From the business side, there are many stories of corporate partners from Hell! Before getting involved in any of these “opportunities,” physicians should work closely with their legal and financial advisors.  An ounce of legal prevention is worth a pound of very expensive legal cure.

Florida Healthcare Law Firm Blog

bcbs lawsuitBy: Jeff Cohen

Vascular access centers are a common ancillary service offered by a variety of physicians, mostly nephrologists.  They provide a unique setting for patients requiring interventional vascular services in connection with things like oncology, dialysis, nutritional delivery, wound healing, pain management and more.  Unlike many surgical services, however, they are typically not provided via a surgery center, but rather as part of (and inside) the physician’s practices.

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