December 21, 2023

I have always found the OIG’s past “Compliance Guidance” to be vague and not particularly helpful.  Is there anything more recent that will provide an analytical framework to comply with the Anti-kickback statute?

The Anti-kickback statute is an intent-based statute.  So, the OIG can be forgiven to a certain extent for their “it depends” guidance on compliance with this law.  However, given the fact the Anti‑kickback statute is a criminal statute and that federal health care program claims resulting from a violation of this law will also constitute a violation of the False Claims Act, even the OIG has realized that more definitive guidance is required.

The OIG seems to have heard your plea for help, and has provided the following analytical framework for compliance with the Anti-kickback statute on Pages 12-14 of the November 6, 2023, OIG General Compliance Program Guidance (“GCPG”).

When attempting to identify problematic arrangements under the federal Anti-kickback statute, some relevant inquiries to explore and consider can include the following.  This list of questions is illustrative, not exhaustive, and the answers to these questions alone are not determinative as to whether an arrangement violates the federal Anti-kickback statute.

Key Questions:

(1)        Nature of the relationship between the parties –

        • What degree of influence do the parties have, directly or indirectly, on the generation of federal health care program business for each other?

(2)        Manner in which participants were selected –

        • Were parties selected to participate in an arrangement in whole or in part because of their past or anticipated referrals?

(3)        Manner in which the remuneration is determined –

        • Does the remuneration take into account, either directly or indirectly, the volume or value of business generated?
        • Is the remuneration conditioned in whole or in part on referrals or other business generated between the parties? Is the arrangement itself conditioned, either directly or indirectly, on the volume or value of federal health care program business?  Is there any service provided other than referrals?

(4)        Value of the remuneration.

        • Is the remuneration fair market value in an arm’s-length transaction for legitimate, reasonable, and necessary services that are actually rendered?
        • Is the entity paying an inflated rate to a potential referral source? Is the entity receiving free or below-market-rate items or services from a provider, supplier, or other entity involved in health care business?
        • Is compensation tied, either directly or indirectly, to federal health care program reimbursement?
        • Is the determination of fair market value based upon a reasonable methodology that is uniformly applied and properly documented?

(5)        Nature of items or services provided.

        • Are the items and services actually needed and rendered, commercially reasonable, and necessary to achieve a legitimate business purpose?

(6)        Federal program impact.

        • Does the remuneration have the potential to affect costs to any of the federal health care programs or their beneficiaries?
        • Could the remuneration lead to overutilization or inappropriate utilization?

(7)        Clinical decision making.

        • Does the arrangement or practice have the potential to interfere with, or skew, clinical decision making?
        • Does the arrangement or practice raise patient safety or quality of care concerns?
        • Could the payment structure lead to cherry-picking healthy patients or lemon-dropping patients with chronic or other potentially costly conditions to save on costs?

(8)        Steering.

        • Does the arrangement or practice raise concerns related to steering patients or health care entities to a particular item or service, or steering to a particular health care entity to provide, supply, or furnish items or services?

(9)        Potential conflicts of interest.

        • Would acceptance of the remuneration diminish, or appear to diminish, the objectivity of professional judgment?
        • If the remuneration relates to the dissemination of information, is the information complete, accurate, and not misleading?

(10)      Manner in which the arrangement is documented.

        • Is the arrangement properly and fully documented in writing?
        • Are the parties documenting the items and services they provide? Are the entities monitoring items and services provided?
        • Are arrangements actually conducted according to the terms of the written agreements (when written to comply with the law)?

Is this perfect guidance – No.  But it is a significant improvement over any compliance guidance that the OIG has provided in the past.  In fact, we find the OIG’s New General Compliance Guidance to provide an excellent framework for compliance with the Anti-kickback statute, and a number of other federal laws that affect health care providers.

If you have a quick question about this, e-mail Henry Casale at

For an in-depth discussion of the OIG’s November 6, 2023, OIG General Compliance Program Guidance, please check out the Horty Springer Health Law Expressions Podcast  “New OIG General Compliance Program Guidance by Dan Mulholland and Henry Casale.”


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

August 18, 2022

Our On-Call Policy requires physicians to have 30 admissions or operating cases at the hospital per year to participate in the on-call schedule. The Policy also gives discretion to the department chairs, who develop the call schedules, to limit the ability of a particular physician to participate in the schedule for a number of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with the quality of care being provided. Do these provisions in our Policy pose any legal concerns?

Yes. First, conditioning participation in the call schedule on admissions at, or procedures done in, the hospital could be interpreted as conditioning participation on referrals to the hospital. Such a requirement could present compliance issues with the federal Anti-Kickback Statute. In Supplemental Compliance Program Guidance for Hospitals, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) cautioned that “conditioning privileges on a particular number of referrals or requiring the performance of a particular number of procedures, beyond volumes necessary to ensure clinical proficiency, potentially raise substantial risks under the [Anti-Kickback] statute.” Some state courts have found that participation on the call-coverage roster constitutes a “privilege.”

This issue is something that is on the Department of Justice’s radar as well.  For example, in 2010, a hospital agreed to pay the United States $108 million to settle claims that it violated the Anti‑Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act by limiting the opportunity to work at an outpatient cardiology testing unit to cardiologists who referred business to the hospital, giving the cardiologists a percentage of time in the testing unit which corresponded with the gross revenue attributed to the cardiologists’ referrals.  Conditioning participation on the call roster on admissions or performing cases at the hospital presents similar risks.

If compensation is involved in the call coverage arrangements, there is further concern under the Anti‑Kickback Statute. The OIG has warned that under the Anti-Kickback Statute there is “considerable risk” in conditioning compensation for on-call coverage on “doing business at a hospital.”

Finally, giving the department chairs the discretion to limit the ability of a physician to take call poses anticompetitive concerns. While there may be legitimate reasons to limit the ability of a physician to take call, such as issues with a physician’s quality of care, such decisions should not be made solely by potential competitors in the department.

October 31, 2019

QUESTION:        I thought I saw something recently about the Stark and Safe Harbor Regulations being changed?  Did I hallucinate after eating too much Halloween candy?

ANSWER:          Well, you may have been hallucinating, but it wasn’t about the Stark and Safe Harbor Regulations.  On October 9, 2019, CMS issued a proposed rule to modernize and clarify the Stark regulations and, at the same time, the OIG published proposed amendments to the Anti-Kickback Safe Harbor regulations.  Comments will be accepted through December 31, 2019.

The proposed amendments to the Stark regulations would:

  • create new, permanent exceptions to the Stark Law for value-based arrangements;
  • solicit comments about the role of price transparency in the context of the Stark Law and whether to require cost-of-care information at the point of a referral for an item or service;
  • provide additional guidance on several key requirements that must often be met in order for physicians and healthcare providers to comply with the Stark Law, including how to determine if compensation is at fair market value;
  • provide guidance on a wide range of other technical compliance issues; and
  • propose a new Stark exception for donations of certain cybersecurity technology.

The revisions proposed by the OIG to the Anti-Kickback safe harbors apply to certain coordinated care and associated value-based arrangements between or among clinicians, providers, suppliers, and others and add protections under the anti-kickback statute and civil monetary penalty (“CMP”) law that prohibit inducements offered to patients for certain patient engagement and support arrangements to improve quality of care, health outcomes, and efficiency of care.

The proposed rule would add a new safe harbor for donations of cybersecurity technology and amend the existing safe harbors for electronic health records (“EHR”) arrangements, warranties, local transportation, and personal services and management contracts.  The proposed rule would also add a new safe harbor related to beneficiary incentives under the Medicare Shared Savings Program and a new CMP exception for certain telehealth technologies offered to patients receiving in-home dialysis.

Do you want to know more?  HortySpringer partners Henry Casale and Dan Mulholland went over these proposals in detail earlier this month in a Special Audio Conference and told everyone what they should be doing right now to get ready for them.  You can order a recording of that audio conference here.

June 20, 2019

QUESTION:              I noted that one of the cases that was in this week’s HLE arose as a result of a hospital granting temporary privileges to an applicant for medical staff appointment.  While we do not routinely grant temporary privileges, they are useful from time to time.  How much risk is there in granting temporary privileges?


ANSWER:                 While temporary privileges should not be routinely granted, it is not unusual for a hospital’s medical staff bylaws to state that temporary privileges may be granted to applicants for initial appointment whose complete application is pending review by the Medical Executive Committee and the Board. In order to be “complete” there must be verification of licensure, training or experience, current competence, and an ability to perform the privileges requested. In addition, the bylaws should state that in order to be eligible for temporary privileges, an applicant must (i) have had no current or previously successful challenges to licensure or registration, (ii) have not been subject to involuntary termination of medical staff membership at another organization; and (iii) have not been subject to involuntary limitation, reduction, denial, or loss of clinical privileges.   The bylaws may include other criteria that must be met before temporary privileges are granted.

Additionally, the hospital must query and evaluate information from the National Practitioner Data Bank and check the Office of Inspector General’s List of Excluded Individuals/Entities before temporary (or any privileges) can be granted.  Finally, the grant of temporary privileges should be time limited consistent with the standards of the applicable accreditation organization.  According to The Joint Commission standard “Temporary privileges for applicants for new privileges are granted for no more than 120 days.” 

It is not clear, but it appears from the facts of the case described above, that the hospital’s hospitalist group had such a need for the nocturnist that it wanted to use temporary privileges to rush a candidate through the hospital’s credentialing process.  The temporary privileges were granted and rescinded in 2012, but the litigation did not end until 2019.  In this case, not only did granting temporary privileges fail to fill the nocturnist position, but also caused the hospital years of litigation.

The best way to avoid these kinds of situations and the endless litigation that sometimes ensues is only to grant temporary privileges to applicants after a thorough vetting, after confirmation that there are no red flags and only under the above-described circumstances.

January 24, 2019

QUESTION:        Is there anything new on physician retention arrangements?


ANSWER:            Unfortunately, no.  However, we have asked both the OIG and CMS to consider updating their respective positions on physician retention arrangements in response to the OIG’s and CMS’s requests for information on whether the Antikickback Statute and/or the Stark Law are creating barriers to improving quality care and achieving clinical and/or financial integration.

We urged CMS to consider changes to its exception for physician retention arrangements, 42 C.F.R. § 411.357(t), that will permit any hospital, regardless of its location, to use this exception and not limit this exception to instances where there is a firm, written recruitment offer.

There is no rational basis or business justification to continue to limit this exception to hospitals that are located in a rural area or HPSA (42 C.F.R. § 411.357(t)(3)(i)(A)) or where the physician’s patients reside in a medically underserved area or are members of a medically underserved population (42 C.F.R. § 411.357(t)(3)(i)(B)).

In our experience, hospitals, regardless of their location, would benefit from the ability to assist a physician in an existing independent practice to remain independent.  We are aware of clients that have been approached by a group of physicians who want to remain independent.  However, between the charity care they provide, their Medicaid patient population, and the amounts that were being paid to the physicians by Medicaid, Medicare and other third-party payors for their professional services, the group could not generate a sufficient amount of professional reimbursement to allow the group to compensate the physicians at a reasonable fair market rate and precluded the group from expanding the practice even though there was a need for additional physician services.

The hospital could have employed the physicians.  However, the physicians preferred to remain independent and the hospital determined that it would lose more money if the hospital employed the physicians than it would if the hospital provided a guarantee-like payment that would allow the physicians to remain independent.  While such a compensation arrangement might be able to be structured to comply with the Anti-Kickback Statute, there is no safe harbor that will protect such a retention arrangement.  Of greater concern is that currently there is no exception to the Stark Law that would permit this type of retention assistance in most hospitals.

One of the other problems with the Stark retention exception is that a hospital must wait until a physician has a written offer from a third party before it can offer retention assistance.  42 C.F.R. §411.357(t)(2).  By the time a physician has such a firm, written offer, he/she has often decided to leave the area and the permitted retention benefit is of little practical benefit.  We urged CMS to change the exception so that any hospital will be permitted to be proactive and has the ability to offer retention assistance to independent practicing physicians as long as the hospital has a good faith belief that the community served by the hospital would benefit from retention assistance, the amount of the financial assistance is reasonable, and the compensation arrangement complies with the other requirements set forth in this exception.

Whether CMS or the OIG listens to these concerns remains to be seen.

December 6, 2018

QUESTION:        A certain medication has gotten to be so expensive that our hospital has decided to stop stocking it.  As a result, we will not be able to treat certain patients.  The drug company that manufactures this medication has offered to provide the medication to the hospital FREE of charge, although it is our understanding that insurance will cover the drug after the patient is discharged.  This seems to us like a win-win.  Surely the government cannot object to such an arrangement.  Is this legal?


ANSWER:            Unfortunately, the Office of Inspector General cares a great deal about an arrangement such as the one that you have described and has recently opined that under certain circumstances a manufacturer providing an expensive drug free of charge to a hospital could violate the Medicare Anti-Kickback Statute.

The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits any form of remuneration, in cash or in kind, that is provided with the intent to induce the referral of business that is paid for in whole or in part by a federal health program such as Medicare or Medicaid.  The free drug is remuneration under the law.  In OIG Advisory Opinion 18-14 (posted Nov. 16, 2018), the OIG opined that under the circumstances presented, the free drug could constitute an unlawful inducement and prohibited the arrangement.

Why?  The drug at issue had multiple uses, one of which was to treat a particular syndrome.  Once started, the drug had to be tapered or the patient would suffer serious side effects.  Most insurance, including the Medicare program, will pay for the drug on an outpatient basis.  However, when provided to a hospital inpatient, the cost of the drug was included in the hospital’s DRG payment.  At the current price of $38,892 per vial, many hospitals have decided that they could not afford to stock the medication.

The drug manufacturer’s response was to offer to provide the medication to hospitals free of charge while the patient was an inpatient.  Because the medication was covered on an outpatient basis, the drug company could be paid for the medication following discharge.  However, if the patient’s insurance would not cover the medication on an outpatient basis, the manufacturer would continue to provide the medication free of charge until either insurance coverage is obtained or the patient is tapered off of the medication.

Why did the OIG object to such a program when in the past the OIG has approved several arrangements in which drug manufacturers provided free medication to financially needy outpatients?  In order to answer that question, you need to examine how the OIG viewed this particular arrangement.

Typically, the OIG limits its review in an Advisory Opinion to the facts that are submitted by the entity requesting the opinion.  However, in this opinion, the OIG took the unusual step of considering publicly available information.  The OIG noted that the drug at issue was not new and that at one time it cost only $40.  The OIG also noted that at its current price of $38,892 per vial, the drug “has the highest total annual spending per use and the highest price per unit among drugs that CMS examines that met certain criteria.”  The OIG also considered the fact that the drug manufacturer had entered into a $100 million settlement with the FTC of an antitrust claim that was alleged to stifle competition for this medication.

The OIG also considered the fact that insurance, including Medicare, covered the drug on an outpatient basis.  Also important to the OIG was the fact that the program did not consider the financial need of the recipient.  The manufacturer only provided the drug at no cost on an outpatient basis if the patient had no insurance coverage for the medication and then only until insurance coverage could be obtained or the patient could be safely tapered off of the drug.

This led the OIG to conclude that providing the medication for free to hospitals “could function as a seeding arrangement.”  The OIG noted that the full course of treatment typically extended beyond the patient’s hospital stay.  Factors such as the length of the treatment, the fact that alternatives to the medication exist, and the need to taper the medication in order for the drug to be discontinued led the OIG to conclude that the manufacturer’s intent appeared to the OIG to be to induce hospitals to start patients on this medication while an inpatient, so that the manufacturer would eventually be paid for the drug after the patient was discharged.  The OIG was also concerned that providing the medication free to hospitals would steer patients to this medication as opposed to other medications that could be used to treat the syndrome.

These facts caused the OIG to determine that such an arrangement could violate the Medicare Anti-Kickback Statute and, as a result, the OIG would not approve the proposed arrangement.

If you want practical examples as to what is and what is not permitted by the federal fraud and abuse laws, join Henry and Dan in New Orleans from April 11 to 13 for the Physician-Hospital Contracts Clinic.

August 30, 2018

QUESTION:        What is the latest formal regulatory guidance from the government on how hospitals are to structure a gainsharing program or a compensation arrangement with physicians who assist a hospital with the hospital’s Value Based Purchasing Program (“VBP”)?

ANSWER:            Currently, there is none – this is why the responses to the June 25, 2018 CMS Request for Information on the Stark Law and the OIG’s August 27, 2018 Request for Information that is described in this week’s “Government at Work” are so important.

Both OIG and CMS have referenced the HHS “Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care.”  Both OIG and CMS have recognized that the Fraud and Abuse Laws that are within their jurisdiction (the Stark Law in CMS’s case and the Anti-Kickback Statute and Civil Money Penalty Law (the “CMP”) in OIG’s case) can create real or perceived barriers to achieving clinical and financial integration between hospitals and physicians.  What is unfortunate is that in the past neither CMS nor OIG has shown much of a willingness to address those barriers to hospital-physician integration efforts.

As we pointed out to CMS (and also intend to inform OIG), if removing unnecessary governmental obstacles to care coordination is a key priority for HHS, then the planned HHS “Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care” will not get off the starting line without significant revisions to the regulations implementing the Stark Law, the Anti-Kickback Statute and the CMP, which are well within the respective discretion of CMS and OIG to implement.

For example, hospitals need immediate guidance concerning the ability of a hospital to compensate physicians who assist the hospital under Medicare’s VBP.  It is difficult, if not impossible, for a hospital to achieve the desired goals under the VBP without physician input and cooperation.  However, the fair market value of that input and cooperation is difficult to determine and hourly payment rates are often not reflective of the fair market value of the services actually being provided to the hospital by the physicians.

Hospitals need to be assured that utilizing a payment methodology that is based, in whole or in part, on the amount of the payment that the hospital receives under the VBP due to the services provided by the physicians will satisfy an exception to the Physician Self-Referral Law and will not violate the Anti-Kickback Statute or the CMP.

In addition, since 2001, the OIG has provided Compliance Program and Advisory Opinion Guidance on gainsharing arrangements.  (See, OIG Supplemental Compliance Program Guidance for Hospitals, 70 Fed. Reg. 4858, 4869-70 (Jan. 31, 2005); e.g., OIG Advisory Opinions 01-01 (Jan. 11, 2001); 05-01 (Feb. 4, 2005); 05-02, 05-03, 05-04 (Feb. 17, 2005); 05-05, 05-06 (Feb. 25, 2005); 06-22 (Nov. 16, 2006); 07-21, 07-22 (Jan. 14, 2008); 17-09 (Jan. 5, 2018).  However, no safe harbor exists for gainsharing arrangements.

CMS issued a proposed regulation, Incentive Payment and Shared Savings Programs, on July 7, 2008 (to be codified at 42 C.F.R. § 411.357(x)).  However, that proposed regulation did not adequately address VBP and  differed significantly from OIG’s gainsharing guidance.  Rather than publish a final regulation, CMS asked for public comment on 55 aspects of the proposed regulation.  73 Fed. Reg. 69,725, 69,795-98 (Nov. 19, 2008).  Unfortunately, to date, CMS has failed to issue any type of formal (or informal) guidance on the application of the Stark Law to gainsharing or other shared savings programs.

The OIG should turn its gainsharing, compliance and advisory opinion guidance into a safe harbor.  While we would prefer a new Stark gainsharing exception, a new Stark exception may not necessary so long as CMS states unambiguously that a hospital that complies with that OIG gainsharing safe harbor will satisfy the personal services exception to the Physician Self-Referral Law.

CMS and OIG should also propose additional, consistent guidance that will address VBP and other shared savings programs.  Such a position would be consistent with the position taken by CMS and the OIG in adopting parallel Stark exceptions and anti-kickback safe harbors for providing financial assistance to physicians implementing electronic prescribing and electronic health records (See 42 C.F.R. § 411.357(v)-(w); 42 C.F.R. § 1001.952(x)-(y)) and would provide practical guidance that hospitals and physicians could use to achieve clinical and financial integration.

July 5, 2018

QUESTION:        Our On-Call Policy requires physicians to have 30 admissions or operating cases at the hospital per year to participate in the on-call schedule.  The Policy also gives discretion to the department chairs, who develop the call schedules, to limit the ability of a particular physician to participate in the schedule for a number of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with the quality of care being provided.  Do these provisions in our Policy pose any legal concerns?

ANSWER:            Yes.  First, conditioning participation in the call schedule on admissions at, or procedures done in, the hospital could be interpreted as conditioning participation on referrals to the hospital.  Such a requirement could present compliance issues with the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.  In Supplemental Compliance Program Guidance for Hospitals, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) cautioned that “conditioning privileges on a particular number of referrals or requiring the performance of a particular number of procedures, beyond volumes necessary to ensure clinical proficiency, potentially raise substantial risks under the [Anti-Kickback] statute.”  Some state courts have found that participation on the call-coverage roster constitutes a “privilege.”