HHS has given federally qualified community health centers a little more protection from its anti-kickback rules, loosening more stringent regulations that could have punished health centers for otherwise benevolent partnerships with hospitals, vendors and other types of providers.
In a final rule, HHS established safe-harbor protections that would allow community health centers to accept certain services, donations or loans from qualified donors, as long as the agreed upon terms work toward the betterment of care. Additionally, the rule requires that those arrangements must be explicitly spelled out and open to all health center patients who clinically qualify for them, regardless of their ability to pay.
A protected arrangement must contribute to the ability of the health center to maintain or increase the availability of, or enhance the quality of, services provided to a medically underserved population, the rule states.
Previously, health centers that had entered into agreements with hospitals or other vendors as a means to enhance care were subject to anti-kickback penalties, said Amy Simmons, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Community Health Centers.
While its not everything we sought, were satisfied the rule will enhance patient care at community health centers with innovative partnerships and save tax payer dollars at the same time, Simmons said. -- by Matthew DoBias
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