A contract that pays a physician practice management company a percentage of practice revenues may violate a federal anti-kickback statute, according to an advisory opinion by HHS' inspector general's office.
But the opinion released last week doesn't say that such arrangements-which are common in the industry-are necessarily illegal.
The opinion was requested by an attorney for some Tampa, Fla.-area internists, whose contract with West Palm Beach, Fla.-based PhyMatrix was ruled illegal under state law by the Florida Board of Medicine (April 20, p. 124).
The federal opinion said the contract does not meet "safe harbor" provisions, contains no safeguards against overutilization and may include financial incentives that increase the risk of fraudulent billing.
The document "provides some markers as to what the federal government will look at if they were to investigate a percentage arrangement," said Gary Scott Davis of the Miami-based law firm Steel Hector & Davis."I think it's inappropriate to look at it as an absolute . . . bar on percentage arrangements."