Home Health & Hospice

Our agency subscribes to an online referral service. We pay a fee to electronically receive and respond to referrals from a local hospital. Recently, we have been told that this could be a violation of the anti-kickback statute. Can you advise?

Homecare Insider, August 5, 2013

Q: Our agency subscribes to an online referral service. We pay a fee to electronically receive and respond to referrals from a local hospital. Recently, we have been told that this could be a violation of the anti-kickback statute. Can you advise?

A: On May 20, 2011, the Office of Inspector General posted an advisory opinion regarding this issue. These types of agreements could, in fact, potentially violate the anti-kickback statute. The anti-kickback statute makes it a criminal offense to knowingly and willingly offer, pay, solicit, or receive remuneration to induce or reward referrals of items or services reimbursable by a federal healthcare program. When that remuneration is paid purposefully, the statute is violated.

Because your agency is paying for referrals, you can see how this arrangement could violate the statute. These arrangements do not qualify for protection under the safe harbor for referral services. In fact, in this scenario, the anti-kickback statute applies not only to your agency but also to the hospital involved. 

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