OIG kickback alert focuses on physician compensation arrangements

HHS' Office of the Inspector General issued a fraud alert addressing physician compensation arrangements on Tuesday that outlined the consequences physicians could face for accepting kickbacks disguised as medical directorships.

The fraud alert warned that physicians must be careful when entering into compensation arrangements, including medical directorships. "Although many compensation arrangements are legitimate, a compensation arrangement may violate the Anti-Kickback Statute if even one purpose of the arrangement is to compensate a physician for his or her past or future referrals of federal healthcare program business," the OIG stated.

To drive its point home, the OIG outlined recent settlements reached with 12 physicians who entered into questionable medical directorship and office staff arrangements. The OIG highlighted the reasons the arrangements violated the Anti-Kickback Statute, including that the payments took into account the physicians' volume or value of referrals and did not reflect fair market value for the services to be performed.

The fraud alert should put physicians on notice, as the OIG determined the physicians were "an integral part of the scheme and subject to liability under the Civil Monetary Penalties Law." Those who commit fraud involving federal healthcare programs, including physicians, are subject to possible criminal, civil and administrative sanctions.

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