The Stark law provides that if a hospital has a financial relationship with a physician, the relationship must fit within a specific exception in the law. The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits paying or receiving remuneration in return for referrals of business paid for by Medicare or Medicaid.
Because “financial relationship” and “remuneration” are so broadly defined, any arrangement where anything of value passes from a hospital to a physician should be carefully scrutinized. If the physician in question is an employee of the hospital or health system, there should be no problem with the physician’s employer paying for virtual or on-demand education. The Anti-Kickback Statute does not apply to bona fide employment contracts, and the Stark Law exception for employment arrangements would permit this.
If the physician is not employed, paying for the physician’s virtual or on-demand education can fit within the Stark exception for “Compliance Training” as long as the training is held in the local community and content deals with laws, regulations or rules governing the conduct of the trainee. Since HortySpringer’s educational offerings focus on that, and because the virtual seminars can be presented at the hospital or on-line at the physician’s convenience, we believe that the compliance training exception applies.
Likewise, if the physician is receiving the training to enhance his or her ability to carry out duties on behalf of the hospital as a medical staff leader, the Anti-Kickback Statute would not be implicated because there would be no quid pro quo for or expectation of referrals for the physician.