Super Groups: The Most Important Factors When Considering a Merge

supergroup doctorsBy: Brian Foster, Guest Contributor

We shouldn’t be surprised that physicians still talk about banding together into “supergroups.”  This has been a hot topic in South Florida for about 20 years.  There are notable examples of large single-specialty groups that have succeeded – but unfortunately, there are many more groups that have crashed and burned, with many docs left considering how to get out. It’s an old joke, but getting doctors together really can feel like herding cats. The politics are tiring, expensive and time consuming.  And there is no guarantee of success. Continue reading

Healthcare Trend Alert: PRP Therapy

graphic-chart-people

By: Bruce Bertman, Guest Contributor

In a time of diminished reimbursement and intense challenge in providing quality medical care when patient volume is maximized: adding a low risk, cash component to your practice may be just what the doctor ordered.  Success in recent clinical trials and strong celebrity endorsement and visibility has stimulated interest and demand for PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) therapy in an array of treatment applications. Recent Google statistics show that “PRP Therapy” was searched for 62,050 times per month locally over the past 30 days alone! 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

Is The End of Stark (and IOAS) Near?

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Background

Since its passage in 1989, the now ubiquitous federal law known as the Stark Law has driven the business behavior of health care providers of many kinds.  Recent developments, however, make us wonder whether the end of Stark is near, and if so, whether that’s a good thing.

By way of background, the Stark law has two components:  part one, a self referral prohibition, generally forbids physicians from referring to a provider of any “designated health service” (DHS) (e.g. MRI, PT, clinical lab) if the physician or his/her immediate family member has a financial relationship (including ownership interest) with the provider of the service.  Part two mandates that certain compensation arrangements between healthcare providers meet certain requirements.  Things like medical director agreements, management agreements, employment and independent contractor arrangements have been regulated by the law since its inception.  Most notably, for purposes of this article, one provision (the “In Office Ancillary Services” exception or “IOAS”, also known as the “Group Practice Exception”) has allowed medical practices to provide all sorts of “ancillary services” to their own patients.  That is the key aspect of the law that is lately coming under serious attack. Continue reading

Hospital Physician Alignments are Tenuous

integration1Hospitals, particularly those heading ACO development efforts, are quick to say things like “One day, all physicians will be employed by hospitals.”  Though there is clearly some wisdom under that statement, it’s also a remarkable leap of faith.

Three things are clear in this era of healthcare reform:  (1) healthcare will be provided to more, but with less; (2) there will be a growing move over time to pass financial risk to providers; and (3) those businesses in a position to control both costs and quality (and some say patient satisfaction) are in a position to both survive and even do better than ever.

This leaves the door wide open as to the form of the business that can succeed.  Is it a single specialty mega practice?  Is it a multi specialty medical practice?  How about a hospital? Continue reading

Healthcare Reform Doesn’t Have to be All or Nothing

By: Jeff Cohen

pulling hairHealthcare professionals today are constantly faced with views of what’s changing in healthcare, and all of them seem equally convincing.  “One day, everyone will be employed by a hospital” is one of the favorites.  Not surprisingly, the proponents of that perspective tend to be….hospitals.  “Everyone has to merge their practices” is another favorite.  The proponents?  Large super practices, of course.

How does one sort through this?  Who’s right?  The truth is that everyone is seeing part of the whole and is “right.”  But being “right” doesn’t mean right for you.  My opinion? Continue reading

The Stark Law Regulations: A Review

The Stark Regs (1) forbid doctors and their immediate family members from referring their patients to businesses they own which provide “designated health services,” and (2) contains a long list of permitted financial relationships between health care providers.  The list of what constitutes a “designated health service” (DHS) includes PT, rehab, diagnostic imaging, clinical lab, DME, and home health.  A “physician” means an M.D., D.O., chiropractor, podiatrist, optometrist or dentist.  An “immediate family member” is a husband or wife; birth or adoptive parent, child, or sibling; stepparent, stepchild, stepbrother, or stepsister; father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law; grandparent or grandchild; and spouse of a grandparent or grandchild.  In short, if you or your family member owns a DHS, don’t refer to it.  Unless of course your situation falls within one or more of the gazillion exceptions.

A few key changes from the third set of revisions (so called Stark III) which affect physicians are helpful to keep in mind.  For instance, the way fair market value of physician compensation is determined  in the Stark II regs has been simplified and now depends on an amorphous consideration of the transaction, its location and other factors.  The clear formulas contained in Stark II was dropped and this makes the need for an expert FMV study even more compelling. Continue reading

OIG Shoots Down Physician Owned Distributorships (PODS)

Physician owned distributorships (PODs) have been the source of considerable controversy for years.  A couple years ago, they caught the attention of Congress.  Now, the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (“OIG”) has issued a Fraud Alert making clear their dislike of PODs and sending a clear shot across the bow of those who are in that industry.

PODs distribute various things, most commonly surgical implants and devices, that are reimbursed by insurers.  A patient needs a spinal rod, a surgical implant/device company makes it and a distributor rep distributes it.  Device/implant companies usually contract with distributorships to sell their products.  Distributorships contract with reps who are paid commissions for sales.  Surgeons who actually order the devices sometimes think “Since I’m the one doing the surgery and ordering all this stuff, why can’t I earn something from that?  I’m not ordering anything I don’t need or that I don’t think is good for the patient.”  PODs are one way for physicians to financially benefit from the sales of devices and items their patients need, but they have never been more controversial than now. Continue reading

HIPAA Omnibus Final Rules and Penalties

On Friday January 25, 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services published the Final Rule modifying the HIPAA privacy, security, enforcement, and breach notification rules under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (“HITECH”) and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (“GINA”) as well as other modifications to the HIPAA rules. (See 45 CFR Parts 160 and 164, Federal Register Volume 78 Number 17.)

The omnibus rule actually contains four final rules. The first final modifications to HIPAA which were mandated by “HITECH” include modifications intended to improve the Rules which were issued as a proposed rule on July 14, 2010 include six modifications.

The first omnibus final rule includes direct liability modifications for business associates of covered entities for compliance with certain HIPAA privacy and security rule requirements. Strengthening of limitations on the use and disclosure of protected health information, expanded individuals’ rights to receive electronic copies of their health information, modification and redistribution of entities privacy practices protocols, modification of individual authorization forms and other requirements to facilitate research and disclosure of child immunization proof to schools as well as to enable access to decedent information and lastly the enforcement rules have been modified to address violations such as non-compliance with HIPAA rules due to willful neglect.

The second omnibus final rule adopts changes to the HIPAA enforcement rule that increase the civil monetary penalties in a tiered manner.

The third omnibus final rule involves the breach notification for unsecured protected health information under the “HITECH” act. This rule replaces the prior rules “harm” threshold with a more objective standard.

Finally, the fourth rule prohibits most health plans from using or disclosing genetic information for underwriting purposes.

These final rules take effect this month on March 26, 2013. Covered business entities and business associates must comply with the applicable requirements by September 23, 2013. The penalties for violating the final rules are now as follows:

TABLE 2 – CATEGORIES OF VIOLATIONS AND RESPECTIVE PENTALTY AMOUNTS AVAILABLE

Violation Category – Section 1176 (a)(1)

Each Violation

All such violations of an identical provision in a calendar year

(A)  Did Not Know(B)   Reasonable Cause

(C)   (i)Willful Neglect-Corrected

(C) (ii) Willful Neglect-Not Corrected

$100-$50,0001,000-50,000

10,000-50,000

50,000

$1,500,0001,500,000

1,500,000

1,500,000

Providers need to be aware of the penalties for violating the rules as we most recently reported to you the office of civil rights will not hesitate in sanctioning providers for violating the Act in amounts in excess of $1.5 million.

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.