Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Been down so long, it looks like up to me.

I'm not sure where the time goes sometimes, and it comes as a bit of shock that I haven't posted to this space in well over a week. The fact is, these puppies take some time to put together, and the last few weeks have been chockablock with writing and speechifying. Not that I expect any sympathy . . .

Since I've been gone:
  • DHHS' OIG has issued its long (long, long) awaited final Stark II, Phase 2 rule (albeit as an "interim final rule with comment period," which allows for the possibility of a final final rule), a mere 3 years and 3 months after the publication of the final Stark II, Phase 1 rule (available in three parts: 1, 2, 3) -- which allows for the possibility that the final final rule might appear in, say, June 2007. By the way, two omitted sections of the preamble were published in Tuesday's Federal Register.
  • DHHS also published an "OIG Alert" entitled "OIG ALERTS PHYSICIANS ABOUT ADDED CHARGES FOR COVERED SERVICES." This is a somewhat unhelpful title, but upon closer inspection, the alert addresses the situation of participating physicians (that is, physicians who agree to accept assignment for all Medicare patients) who charge their patients additional amounts for covered services. (The same problem would arise on a case-by-case basis if a physician charged extra for services provided to a patient for whom the physician agreed to accept assignment.) Everyone knows (or ought to know) that a physician who accepts assignment cannot "balance bill," but the alert seems to address a slightly different problem:
    For example, the OIG recently alleged that a physician violated his assignment agreement when he presented to his patients -- including Medicare beneficiaries – a “Personal Health Care Medical Care Contract” asking patients to pay an annual fee of $600. While the physician characterized the services to be provided under the contract as “not covered” by Medicare, the OIG alleged that at least some of these contracted services were already covered and reimbursable by Medicare. Among other services offered under this contract were the “coordination of care with other providers,” “a comprehensive assessment and plan for optimum health,” and “extra time” spent on patient care. OIG alleged that based on the specific facts and circumstances of this case, at least some of these contracted services were already covered and reimbursable by Medicare. Therefore, OIG alleged that each contract presented to this physician’s Medicare patients constituted a request for payment for already covered services, other than the coinsurance and deductible, and was therefore a violation of the physician’s assignment agreement.
    As I read it, this was a somewhat inept attempt to create a "boutique" or "concierge" practice with Medicare patients -- a topic I've addressed before, here and here.
  • It's nice to be back . . .
    posted by Tom Mayo, 11:33 PM

    Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter