According to a new Department of Health and Human Services report, in 2005, those doctors who ordered the most magnetic resonance imaging (“MRI”) services for their patients were more prone to have a medical practice or other form of business relationship with the provider performing the service. The analysis of physicians reimbursed by Medicare for MRI services determined that 25% of the payments went to physicians who had a connection to the performer of the service. In fact, just 5% of those physicians (the most frequent users of MRI) accounted for 55% of the MRIs ordered. The study also found that in 2005, Medicare paid for about 2.6 million MRI services under the Medicare physician fee schedule. The report concludes, “As more services are performed in these settings, doctors are increasingly in a position to order services from parties with which they have a medical practice or other business relationship. In these circumstances, doctors may have conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.”
As the DHHS study shows, doctors need to make sure to check for all conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise, when ordering services from outside parties. In light of the new phase of the Stark Law, Stark III, it is important for all doctors to assess their relationships with current and potential service providers to ensure that they comply with the Stark Law and any other applicable rules. By covering all of your bases, you will be able to obtain the services you need for your practice and develop longstanding business relationships with trusted providers, while at the same time feel confident that no conflicts exist.
© 2008 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC