A physician proposing to open an imaging center with his brother in an area of Louisiana ravaged by Hurricane Katrina wont be targeted by HHS inspector generals office, even though the plan under ordinary circumstances might run afoul of anti-kickback rules, according to an advisory opinion published Jan. 3.
The devastation to healthcare services in the area to be served by the proposed imaging center is well-known, states the advisory opinion signed by Chief Counsel Lewis Morris.
The physician predicted that more than a third of the imaging centers patients would be referred from his own practice until other physicians are willing to practice in the community. While the arrangement doesnt fall into any of the anti-kickback statutes safe harbors, the opinion states that paramount among OIGs concerns is that beneficiaries have adequate access to quality healthcare.
According to the facts presented to the inspector general by the applicant, whose name is redacted in the published opinion, the only hospital in the parish also unnamedwas destroyed in the aftermath of the storm and has not reopened. Most of the physicians previously practicing in the area have left and no imaging services are available. Meanwhile, diminished healthcare services throughout the region have made it difficult for residents to get imaging services, even if theyre willing and able to travel beyond the parish. -- by Gregg Blesch
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