Hatch spear­head­ing push to re­vise Stark law

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEEK AHEAD - —Lisa Schencker

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.

Hatch

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