The American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and 16 other healthcare trade groups have announced their support of newly proposed legislation that would help clarify the federal fraud and abuse statutes for healthcare providers.
Specifically, the law, introduced last month by Rep. Peter Hoagland (D-Neb.) would require HHS' inspector general's office to issue advisory opinions on whether proposed provider business arrangements would violate the anti-kickback provisions of the Medicare and Medicaid fraud and abuse statutes (March 21, p. 12).
The provisions bar any form of remuneration to induce patient referrals.
HHS has opposed issuing advisory opinions, which providers voluntarily would seek from HHS, because the agency says it can't pass early judgment on potentially criminal activity.
In a March 22 letter to Mr. Hoagland, the trade groups emphasized the need for advisory opinions, noting that "the breadth and lack of clarity of the current fraud and abuse laws has long created confusion and uncertainty for healthcare providers working to develop innovative, lawful arrangements for the delivery of healthcare."
Other supporters of the legislation include the American Group Practice Association, the Federation of American Health Systems, the Group Health Association of America and the Health Industry Manufacturers Association.
HHS Inspector General June Gibbs Brown opposed the Hoagland bill in a letter sent to House Ways and Means Committee health subcommittee Chairman Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-Calif.).
Ms. Brown opposed the plan, "based on the extensive resources which it would require, its impracticality and its harmful effect on future criminal prosecutions, particularly with respect to the Medicare and Medicaid anti-kickback statute."