Hatch spearheading push to revise Stark law
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch will lead a hearing Tuesday on ways to change the Stark law following a congressional report that said the statute has created “a minefield for the healthcare industry.”
The Stark law, also known as the physician self-referral law, prohibits physicians from referring Medicare patients to hospitals, labs and other doctors that the physicians have financial relationships with, unless they fall under certain exceptions. No intent of wrongdoing is required to prove liability, and offenses carry potential civil monetary penalties. For years, many have criticized the Stark law for its complexity, which they say can snare unsuspecting providers. The recent congressional white paper decried the law as behind the times.
“The Stark law was designed in an era when fee-for-service was Medicare’s primary payment model,” Hatch (R-Utah) said in a statement. “But now, as providers move to alternative payment models, the law presents practical and outdated barriers in need of updating.”
The white paper summed up comments submitted by experts and others following a Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means roundtable on the law late last year. Many of those comments centered on expanding exceptions and waivers to Stark, or repealing parts of it or the entire law.
Judy Waltz, a partner at Foley and Lardner who typically represents providers, said she hopes Congress takes action. “I think it reflects the frustration that the provider community has been feeling over Stark issues for quite a while,” Waltz said of the white paper. She said she’d like to see the law completely rewritten.
Witnesses scheduled to testify at the hearing, which begins at 10 a.m. EDT Tuesday, include Troy Barsky, a partner at Crowell & Moring; Dr. Ronald Paulus, CEO of Mission Health in Asheville, N.C.; and Peter Mancino, deputy general counsel for the Johns Hopkins Health System Corp.