Understanding Kickbacks or Fee-Splitting in Healthcare
Florida law governing health care providers and facilities prohibits what is commonly known as fee-splitting or kickbacks. As a healthcare provider or facility, it is important to understand and be familiar with this law, as the punishment could be severe.
Fee-splitting or kickbacks are defined as any “commission, benefit, bonus, rebate, kickback, or bribe, directly or indirectly, in cash or in-kind” or engaging “in any split-fee arrangement, in any form whatsoever, to induce the referral of a patient or patronage to or from a health care provider or health care facility.” The law also prohibits soliciting or receiving any such commission.
Marketing your health care facility? Learn more about the Legal Risks of the Anti-Kickback Statute in promotional and marketing practices.
What Activities Qualify as a Kickback?
Although the simplest form of fee-splitting or kickbacks is in the form of direct monetary compensation, there are a multitude of ways that individuals and facilities have tried to bypass the kickback laws.
The coverage is nonetheless very broad and there are many types of kickbacks prosecuted, including:
- Providing free meals
- Paying for travel expenses
- Entering into consulting or research agreements under which payments are made for little to no work in return
- Giving gifts such as sporting event tickets, paying fees above fair market value, and providing free transportation
The key takeaway is that, with limited exceptions, nothing of value can be given in return for a health care referral. As noted, there are certain exceptions to the kickback law, e.g., payments to health care providers or facilities for professional consultation services, commissions or fees paid to a nurse registry, and payments by a health care provider or facility to an information service provider.
It is always best to consult with an attorney regarding these matters because any violations are considered criminal in nature.
Punishment for Kickback and Fee-Splitting Violations
In addition to penalties and fines, discipline can also include revocation of medical licenses. Fines can be assessed, ranging in amount from $50,000 to $500,000 or more given the severity of the violation.
Contact the law offices of Howell, Buchan & Strong, Attorneys at Law for your free consultation at any one of our locations:
Orlando (407) 717-1773 | Tallahassee (850) 877-7776 | Tampa (813) 833-6726 | Sarasota (941) 779-4348