CMS office's warning about third-party payments seemingly contradicts recent HHS message

An office of the CMS is warning hospitals that it will frown upon healthcare providers that help patients buy coverage through a health insurance exchange. But that warning comes just days after the Obama administration seemed to say such a practice would be legal under the anti-kickback law.

The CMS' Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight published a one-paragraph statement Nov. 4 that encouraged health plans not to accept payments from hospitals seeking to buy coverage on an insurance exchange for their patients.Allowing hospitals to pay for patients' insurance costs, officials said, would “skew the insurance risk pool and create an unlevel field” in the exchanges: “HHS discourages this practice and encourages issuers to reject such third party payments. HHS intends to monitor this practice and to take appropriate action, if necessary.”

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