February 1, 2024

Recently, we have had several physicians on our medical staff refuse to consult on a case because the patient was covered by Medicaid.  The patient had been admitted to the hospital, so we knew it wasn’t an EMTALA issue, but they still needed to be seen by a specialist.  Have you seen this at other hospitals, and do you have any suggestions on how to handle this?

Perhaps not surprisingly, this issue has come up before.  In an effort to address it, we recommend including language in your Medical Staff Governance Documents to make it clear that, not only do physicians have an obligation to see all patients in the ED, but they also have an obligation to respond to requests for consult (regardless of the patient’s payor status) when they are on call.

For instance, you might spell out in the Bylaws that Active Staff members have a responsibility to serve on the ED on-call schedule, and to “accept inpatient consultations, when on call for the ED.”  Similar language could be added to the Bylaws with respect to other staff categories.

Additionally, the threshold criteria for appointment and clinical privileges could require individuals to “agree to fulfill all responsibilities regarding inpatients, including responding to requests for consult when serving on the ED on‑call schedule.”  The basic responsibilities and requirements of appointment should also include an agreement “to provide emergency call coverage, consultations, and care for unassigned patients.”  This language will help ensure appropriate coverage not only for the ED but also for inpatients who require specialty consultations.

If you have a quick question about this, e-mail Susan Lapenta at slapenta@hortyspringer.com.

June 15, 2023

What are the laws/regulations around listing providers on a hospital directory? We’re revamping our provider directory, and have heard there are certain requirements for listing a provider in a directory.  Can we limit the providers listed to just those who are employed by us?

The OIG has long had a safe harbor for “referral services.”  The regulation, at 42 CFR §1001.952(f), reads as follows:

Referral services.  As used in section 1128B of the Act, “remuneration” does not include any payment or exchange of anything of value between an individual or entity (“participant”) and another entity serving as a referral service (“referral service”), as long as all of the following four standards are met –

(1)        The referral service does not exclude as a participant in the referral service any individual or entity who meets the qualifications for participation.

(2)        Any payment the participant makes to the referral service is assessed equally against and collected equally from all participants and is based only on the cost of operating the referral service, and not on the volume or value of any referrals to or business otherwise generated by either party for the other party for which payment may be made in whole or in part under Medicare, Medicaid, or other Federal health care programs.

(3)        The referral service imposes no requirements on the manner in which the participant provides services to a referred person, except that the referral service may require that the participant charge the person referred at the same rate as it charges other persons not referred by the referral service, or that these services be furnished free of charge or at reduced charge.

(4)        The referral service makes the following five disclosures to each person seeking a referral, with each such disclosure maintained by the referral service in a written record certifying such disclosure and signed by either such person seeking a referral or by the individual making the disclosure on behalf of the referral service –

(i)         The manner in which it selects the group of participants in the referral service to which it could make a referral;

(ii)        Whether the participant has paid a fee to the referral service;

(iii)       The manner in which it selects a particular participant from this group for that person;

(iv)       The nature of the relationship between the referral service and the group of participants to whom it could make the referral; and

(v)        The nature of any restrictions that would exclude such an individual or entity from continuing as a participant.

Based on this, it would be OK to only list your employed providers in the directory. Just make sure that the list clearly discloses that only employed physicians are listed.

If you have a quick question about this, e-mail Dan Mulholland at DMulholland@hortyspringer.com.

March 10, 2022


Is the “No Surprises Act” in effect?  I heard that a court enjoined it.  Is the No Surprises Act limited to Emergency Care?  Can you give me an example of how the Act works?  What recourse do I have if I do not agree with the amount that the insurer pays me under this Act?

The No Surprises Act and its implementing regulations (the “Act”) have been in effect since January 1, 2022.  The Act prohibits emergency department physicians and the facility from billing a patient an out-of-network fee for emergency care provided at any hospital Emergency Department and, if permitted by your state, any free-standing emergency department, regardless of whether the hospital or emergency department physicians participate in the patient’s insurance network.

The Act also prohibits balance billing a patient for non-emergency services provided in an in-network hospital by certain out-of-network physicians, including all traditional hospital-based physician specialties.  A physician can get a patient’s waiver of their rights under the No Surprises Act by using the notice and consent form provided by CMS for (1) certain non-emergency services and (2) post-stabilization services.  However, out-of-network physicians cannot obtain waivers for non-emergency services provided at an in-network hospital if they provide traditional hospital-based ancillary services (such as pathology), diagnostic services (including lab and x-ray); services provided by hospitalists, assistant surgeons, or intensivists; or if there are no in-network physicians on the hospital’s medical staff who can provide the care needed by the patient.  The waiver will also not apply to any emergent conditions that arise during a non-emergency service to which the patient provided his/her consent and waiver to be balance billed.

This section of the Act is best exemplified by one of the questions and answers provided by CMS’s Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight:

Rhonda is a 50-year-old female with employer-sponsored health insurance who discovers a lump in her breast.  Her primary care provider orders a mammogram, which shows a suspicious mass. She is referred to the local in-network hospital’s outpatient department for a biopsy.  The biopsy is reviewed and found to be negative for malignant cells by a pathologist who happens to be out of network.

How much can the pathologist bill Rhonda under the rules of the No Surprises Act? 

Under the No Surprises Act, the pathologist is banned from billing Rhonda more than the in‑network cost-sharing amounts, as determined by her health plan.  The pathologist, as an ancillary service provider, is banned from obtaining consent from the individual to waive these balance billing protections.

In the past, the pathologist could bill the out-of-network patient his/her usual and customary charge.  The patient would submit the bill to her insurer and the insurer would pay the provider the out-of-network rate and the pathologist could then balance bill the patient for any amount not covered by insurance – NO MORE.  The No Surprises Act regulations also prohibits the pathologist from obtaining the patient’s consent to waive these rights (although, as described above, certain other specialties can obtain the patient’s waiver for (1) certain non-emergency services and (2) post-stabilization services).

As stated above, the pathologist cannot bill the patient more than the pathologist would bill the patient if the patient was in-panel.  The pathologist must then bill the insurance carrier.  If the pathologist is not happy with the amount paid by the insurer, the pathologist must negotiate with the plan for 30 business days.  If the pathologist is still not happy with the amount being offered by the plan, the pathologist must go to arbitration to determine the amount of payment.

However, on February 23, 2022, a federal court has enjoined the CMS provider/health plan arbitration process (but only the arbitration process – the rest of the No Surprises Act regulations are in full force and effect).  That arbitration process created a presumption that the amount that the provider should be paid is the “Qualified Payment Amount” (“QPA”), which is typically the median rate the insurer would have paid for the service if provided by an in-network provider or facility.

The regulations also limited the information that can be presented to the arbitrator and specifically prohibited the arbitrator from considering the provider’s usual and customary charges for an item or service, the amount the provider would have billed for the item or service in the absence of the Act, or the reimbursement rates for the item or service under Medicare or Medicaid.  Finally, the arbitration is “baseball-type” arbitration, which means that the arbitrator must pick one of the amounts proposed – the arbitrator does not have the discretion to split the difference or to choose an amount other than the amount proposed by the provider or by the health plan.

The federal court enjoined this arbitration process from going into effect.  However, the court did not provide any guidance as to how disputed fees are to be resolved while this case is on appeal, or how payment disputes are to be resolved until new regulations are promulgated.