Physicians in the Middle of the Marijuana Battle

medical marijHow physicians became the gatekeepers between cannabis and the public and how physicians should approach cannabis as a form of treatment

By: Jacqueline Bain

The Federal Government lists marijuana as a “Schedule I” controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use.  21 USC § 812(b)(1).  Because there is no current accepted medical use, Federal law prohibits physician from issuing prescriptions for marijuana.  21 CFR § 1306.04(a).  However, the Federal Government has traditionally deferred to the States to prosecute small-scale marijuana violations.  This lack of Federal enforcement has encouraged the States to enact less stringent controls on the marijuana industry. Continue reading

Toxicology Labs Owned by Referral Sources – Is it Really so Wrong?

Notebook and lens concept

By: David Hirshfeld & Jeff Cohen

Lately we’ve noticed an uptick in criticism of toxicology labs that are owned by the substance abuse treatment programs and recovery residences that refer to them.  Sadly, this criticism seems to be coming from within the addiction and recovery industry itself.  In addition to being absolutely necessary for substance abuse treatment, toxicology screens have become a meaningful source of revenue that helps to fund treatment programs and scholarships for those who cannot afford to pay the full cost of treatment.  We cannot understand why the substance abuse treatment industry would want to help pull the rug out from under itself, but that seems to be what is occurring.  Under the current state of Florida law, toxicology labs can be owned by their referral sources without much risk if that arrangement is properly structured. Continue reading

Physician Joint Ventured Pharmacies Require Guidance

Final-ACO-RulesFlorida physicians are being approached to become owners of pharmacies to which they may refer, often compounding pharmacies, but may be unaware of the regulatory issues involved.  Physicians need to be aware of the core laws that apply, which include the Florida Patient Self Referral Act (FPSRA), the Florida Anti Kickback Statute, the Patient Brokering Act and the Federal Investment Interest Safe Harbor. Continue reading

OIG Blesses Medigap Discount Policy for In-Network Hospitals

OIG crestBy: Jackie Bain

On February 20, 2014, the Office of the Inspector General posted Advisory Opinion 14-02.  The Advisory Opinion reviews the following scenario for compliance with the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 USC § 1320a-7b.  Under the proposed scenario, a Medigap insurance provider participates with a preferred provider organization (“PPO”) which contracts with hospitals (“Network Hospitals”).  The Network Hospitals discount Medigap policy-holders’ inpatient deductibles up to 100%.  In exchange for each discount, the Medigap plan pays an administrative fee to the PPO.  The Medigap plan also pays a portion of the discounted savings directly to the policy-holder who stayed at the Network Hospital. Continue reading

District Judge Hits Halifax Hospital with $26M Fine in Qui Tam Suit

bonus calculationA November 13th order from U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell hit Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach hard and has implications for all physician bonus compensation arrangements.  The background of the whistleblower case involves: Continue reading

Blue Cross Lawsuit Against Avee Attacks Point of Care Testing

bcbs lawsuitA recent lawsuit by Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New Jersey has the potential to cripple point of care testing arrangements often employed by drug and alcohol treatment centers.  At risk is not only the roughly $36 Million sought to be recouped by BC/BS, but also perhaps the many millions more which may be claimed by other payers as well.

BC/BS is making serious allegations against Avee Laboratories, Alere, Inc., and a number of recovery centers.  The factual allegations include: Continue reading

Kill H.R. 2914

Background

H.R. 2914 is a bill filed by Congresswoman Speier that is intended (among other things) to prohibit medical practices providing the following sorts of medical services (“Non-ancillary Services”) to their own patients—

*The technical or professional component of (i) surgical pathology, (ii) cytopathology, (iii) hematology, (iv) blood banking, or (v) pathology consultation and clinical lab interpretation services

*Radiation therapy services and supplies

*Advanced diagnostic imaging studies (which include for instance MR and CT)

*Physical therapy services

Continue reading

Hospital Physician Recruitment on the Rise Again

In an effort to stay competitive, hospital physician recruitment deals are on the rise.  These arrangements are permitted under applicable federal law (the Stark Law) and are a core tool in hospitals’ tool chest.  These arrangements generally involve the hospital “loaning” to the physician or to a practice employing the doctor the costs associated with that doctor joining.  Since the ramp up costs associated with hiring or a physician just relocating to a new community can be steep (especially as payer contracts can take many months to set in place), hospital financial assistance can be critical.  How do they work?  Simple—

1.The hospital guarantees, based in part on MGMA salary surveys and other cost data sources, that the physician will collect at least $X each month for a period of normally up to 12 months;

2.The doctor agrees to remain in the hospital’s service area for 2-3 years, during which time, the amount loaned by the hospital is forgiven.

Though it may sound too good to be true, there are drawbacks, including:

1.There are pretty severe limitations placed on noncompetes for hospital recruited physicians which can be daunting to practices hiring them;

2.Unless carefully worded and negotiated, recruited physicians may find themselves with high expectations and little delivered in terms of the marketing and other support required to create a successful practice.  Not being financially successful is no defense to the requirement of staying in the hospital community for several years to write off the loan;

3. Some hospitals offset their business risk by taking any excess earnings (the collections exceeding the guaranteed amount) for months after the 12 month guarantee period, a period when collections should be substantially higher than during the early phases of the recruitment.

Practices entering into a hospital recruitment arrangement need to be careful in their physician contracts to pass as much financial risk as possible to the recruited doctor.  A recruited doctor that decides he or she no longer likes the new community can leave the practice holding the bag for a huge amount of money which has not yet been forgiven.

Recruited physicians need to be careful about the risk passed off to them in their employment contracts if they are joining an existing practice, since the practices typically benefit by receiving enough money to cover all of the new physician’s salary, benefits and overhead.

Split-Fee Soup: A Recipe for Disaster

Cauldron-psd74325By: David Hirshfeld

When people ask me what I do, I used to say “I’m a transactional health care attorney.  I represent health care practitioners in their business deals.  I don’t do malpractice.”  That response does little to wipe the blank stare off my questioner’s face, and even I have to stifle the urge to yawn.  My new and improved response is that “I spend a lot of time advising health care practitioners how they can share fees with people who refer them patients.”  Now I get invited to all sorts of cocktail parties !!!

Practitioners split fees with one another for a variety of reasons; and they very often do not realize that a particular arrangement involves a split-fee arrangement, or that split-fee arrangements are often illegal in Florida.  The purpose of this article is to provide practitioners with a general overview of the concepts underlying the prohibition against split-fee arrangements in Florida, in the context of three common business arrangements. Continue reading

Closely Monitoring the 26.5% Medicare Physician Payment Threat

Via HCMA, SGR Advocacy Alert from the AMA – – – –  The negotiations between Speaker Boehner and President Obama on the Lame Duck tax and deficit reduction package are at an impasse. There is a very real threat of the 26.5 percent Medicare physician payment cut taking effect on January 1, 2013, at least temporarily.

If Congress does adjourn without addressing the payment cut being induced by the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, the Administration announced today that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will follow normal claims processing procedures.

That is, claims will not be held and Medicare carriers will process payments for physician services provided after December 31 under the normal 14-day cycle required by law.  Payment for these claims would be based on the new, lower fee schedule conversion factor of $25.0008, as opposed to the current rate of $34.0376.

At this time, it is impossible to predict whether the 112th Congress will find a way to pass a stop-gap measure before adjourning, how long such a measure would last, or how long payment cuts will be in effect before legislation can be passed after the 113th Congress convenes in January.  It is highly unusual for a new Congress to enact significant legislation in the first month of its session, but the circumstances facing our nation today are far from typical.

It is inexcusable that Congress is once again putting the 47 million Medicare patients and the practices of physicians who provide them needed health care at significant risk.  The Medicare program has become unreliable and its instability undermines efforts by physicians to implement new health care delivery models that stand to improve value for seniors and other beneficiaries through better care coordination, chronic disease management, and keeping patients healthy.

The AMA believes that the financial disruption this situation will cause for physicians and their practices is unacceptable, and we will continue to fervently convey this message in the strongest possible terms to Congress and the Administration, as we have for the past several weeks.  Our patient and physician grassroots networks have been activated, and we are seeking your voices to tell Congress just how deeply its inaction will affect you.

Despite these efforts, at this time we feel compelled to advise physicians to start making plans for steps they can take to mitigate this disruption and meet their own financial obligations in January, in case the 26.5 percent cut actually takes effect.  Given the potential impact on practice revenue in early January, physicians should be certain adequate arrangements are in place to sustain their practices.  For those physicians who are forced into the untenable position of limiting their involvement with the Medicare program because it threatens the viability of their practices, we urge that patients be notified promptly so that they, too, can explore other options to seek health care and medical treatment.