On October 18, 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced two settlements with CHC Holdings, LLC, an Oklahoma limited liability company doing business as Carter Healthcare (Carter), and two former senior corporate officers, resolving alleged violations of the federal False Claims Act (FCA), Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), and Physician Self-Referral Law (commonly referred to as the “Stark Law”). One case settled claims that Carter had made improper payments to referring physicians in Oklahoma and Texas, while the other case settled claims that Carter had made false billing claims in Florida. Both matters were initiated by qui tam whistleblower complaints filed under the FCA. Carter agreed to pay more than $30 million to resolve the allegations.
On November 20, 2020, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) released heavily anticipated final rules revising the regulatory exceptions to the Physician Self-Referral Law (also known as the Stark Law), the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) safe harbors, and the Beneficiary Inducements Civil Monetary Penalties (CMP) regulations. The changes to the regulations go into effect on January 19, 2021 (except for one change to the Physician Self-Referral Law that becomes effective January 1, 2022). In a separate rule also released November 20th, HHS removed safe harbor protection for rebates involving prescription pharmaceuticals and created a new safe harbor for certain point-of-sale reductions in price on prescription pharmaceuticals and pharmacy benefit manager service fees.
The full text of each rule is available below.
- Final Physician Self-Referral Law Rule, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): https://public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2020-26140.pdf
- Final AKS Rule and Beneficiary Inducements CMP Regulations, Office of Inspector General (OIG): https://public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2020-26072.pdf
- Final Rule on Rebate/Point-of-Sale Price Reductions Safe Harbor, OIG: https://public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2020-25841.pdf?utm_campaign=pi+subscription+mailing+list&utm_source=federalregister.gov&utm_medium=email
On August 24, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an “extension of the timeline” for publication of a final rule addressing changes to the Physician Self-Referral Law (or Stark Law) regulations. In its announcement, CMS set a new deadline of August 31, 2021 for publication of a final rule.
Continue Reading CMS Extends Timeline for Finalizing Changes to Physician Self-Referral (Stark) Law Regulations to August 2021
Amidst the cavalcade of regulatory and policy changes from federal and state governments intended to help health care providers confront the COVID-19 pandemic, on April 21, 2020 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published “Explanatory Guidance” (Guidance) of the applicability of the blanket waivers of the federal Physician Self-Referral Law (PSR Law) CMS previously issued on March 30, 2020. See our analysis of the PSR Law blanket waivers here.
Continue Reading CMS Issues Explanatory Guidance of Blanket Physician Self-Referral (Stark) Law Waivers for COVID-19 in Response to Industry Feedback
On April 3, 2020 the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a Policy Statement to notify health care providers and other parties subject to the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) that the OIG will not impose administrative sanctions for potential AKS violations for COVID-19-related arrangements that are covered by some – but not all – of the Blanket Waivers of the Physician Self-Referral (Stark) Law issued on March 30 (see here for our analysis of the Blanket Waivers).
Continue Reading OIG Will Not Impose Administrative Sanctions for AKS Violations for Conduct Covered by Certain Blanket Waivers of the Stark Law
On March 30th, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued blanket waivers (Blanket Waivers) of sanctions under the federal physician self-referral law (Stark Law) to relax regulatory requirements related to health care providers’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blanket Waivers were issued under the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s authority in Section 1135 of the Social Security Act to ensure that (i) sufficient health care items and services are available to federal health care program beneficiaries, and (ii) health care providers are reimbursed for providing such health care items and services while addressing the COVID-19 crisis. The Blanket Waivers apply to remuneration that is between an entity (as defined under the Stark Law) and (1) a physician, (2) the physician organization in whose shoes the physician stands (under 42 C.F.R. 411.354(c)) or (3) the physician’s immediate family member.
Continue Reading CMS Issues Blanket Waivers of Physician Self Referral (Stark) Law Penalties to Support COVID-19 Response Efforts
Following the President’s proclamation on March 13 that the COVID-19 outbreak constitutes a national emergency, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar issued a Waiver or Modification of Requirements Under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act (full text available here) that waives or modifies certain health care laws and regulations in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. This “1135 Waiver” applies nationwide and took effect on March 15 at 6:00 p.m., but its applicability is retroactive to March 1, 2020. The 1135 Waiver applies for a period of 60 days (subject to extension by the Secretary for successive 60-day periods) or for the duration of the COVID-19 national emergency (if earlier), except the waiver of the HIPAA Privacy Rule described below applies for only 72 hours following a hospital’s implementation of its disaster protocol.
Continue Reading HHS Issues Section 1135 Waiver, and CMS Issues Blanket Waivers of Health Care Laws, in Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency
On November 15, 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had reached a settlement with Sutter Health (Sutter) and Sacramento Cardiovascular Surgeons Medical Group Inc. (Sac Cardio) to resolve alleged violations of the Physician Self-Referral Law (PSR Law), commonly known as the Stark Law. Sutter is a California-based health services provider; Sac Cardio is a Sacramento-based practice group of three cardiovascular surgeons. The total settlement in excess of $46 million includes $30.5 million from Sutter to resolve allegations of an improper financial relationship specific to compensation arrangements with Sac Cardio. Sac Cardio has agreed to pay $506,000 to resolve allegations of duplicative billing associated with one of these compensation arrangements. Separately, the settlement includes another $15,117,516 from Sutter to resolve self-disclosed conduct principally concerning the PSR Law.
Continue Reading DOJ Announces Physician Self-Referral (Stark) Law Settlement in Excess of $46 Million with California Health System and Surgical Group
On October 17, 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) formally published its proposed rule (PSR Rule) to update exceptions to the Physician Self-Referral Law (PSR Law, also known as the Stark Law). For our initial overview of the PSR Rule (and of the Office of Inspector General’s corresponding proposal to update the Anti-Kickback Statute) see here. The PSR Rule contains a number of important proposals to update the PSR Law, including putting forward a definition of the term “commercially reasonable” and revising the definition of “fair market value.” These terms and concepts are essential to PSR Law compliance, and constitute key elements of a number of exceptions to the PSR Law, including for space and equipment leases, employment arrangements, and isolated financial transactions.
Continue Reading CMS Proposes to Newly Define Commercially Reasonable, and Tweak Definition of Fair Market Value, in New Physician Self-Referral Law (Stark Law) Regulations
On October 9, 2019 the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a proposed rule making changes to the Physician Self-Referral Law (PSR Rule), also called the Stark Law. Among other revisions to the PSR Rule, the proposed rule would modify the group practice special rule that allows physician profit sharing in certain circumstances. Under the proposed rule, the “overall profits” group practice physicians can share must be a combination of all designated health services (DHS) profits, not just the DHS profits from the type of service the physician renders. The clarification is significant as it resolves lingering uncertainty regarding proper compensation arrangements for group practice physicians.
Continue Reading CMS Proposes Rule Clarifying Physician Self-Referral Law Rules for Group Practice Profit Sharing