QUESTION: The new, final, Stark regulations permit a hospital to provide financial assistance to a physician or physician group to employ or contract with non-physician practitioners (physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, clinical social workers, and clinical psychologists) (“NPP”). Is the amount of the assistance capped? How long can a hospital provide such financial assistance?
ANSWER: The financial assistance may not exceed 50 percent of the actual compensation, signing bonus, and benefits paid by the physician or physician group to the NPP. Compensation must be at fair market value and may not take into account referrals or business generated between the parties. As far as duration of the assistance, hospitals may provide financial assistance only for the first two consecutive years of the compensation arrangement between the NPP and the physician.