Hospital payments to physicians for providing emergency department on-call coverage, responding to emergency department calls, or providing inpatient care for uninsured persons could potentially violate anti-kickback statutes, according to an HHS inspector generals office advisory opinion.
The opinion, signed by Lewis Morris, chief counsel to the inspector general, acknowledged that hospitals are increasingly paying physicians for on-call coverage and that HHS is mindful that legitimate reasons exist for such arrangements, such as compliance with the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act or regional scarcity of physicians (registration required). But it also states that on-call coverage compensation potentially creates considerable risk that physicians may demand such compensation as a condition of doing business at a hospital...
The opinion was in response to a medical centers request for a legal review of its program, and the name of the facility was deleted from copies of the opinion made available to the public.
Despite the potential legal risks, the agency cleared the program because the payments to the doctors are based on fair market value, the program served a real need for on-call coverage and the program is offered to all physicians. -- by Andis Robeznieks
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