HCFA was poised to publish final regulations this week to prohibit physicians from referring Medicare patients to clinical laboratories in which the doctors or their immediate family have a financial interest.
The final regulations for the self-referral law-commonly called the "Stark law" for its author, Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-Calif.)-come six years after it passed and three years after the law technically took effect.
The law allows doctors who are members of group practices to refer patients to practice-owned laboratory services and allows individual doctors to provide ancillary in-office tests without running afoul of the law.
And although it prohibits laboratories from directly or indirectly compensating doctors for referrals, it allows such compensation as the provision of supplies used to collect or transport specimens or communicate the results of tests.
In announcing plans to publish the regulations in the Federal Register, the government also said that HCFA intends to use many of the same interpretations of the self-referral law when it publishes regulations to enforce the so-called "Stark II" law, which widens the scope of prohibited referrals.