How a new Stark Law exception could help physicians

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 updated exceptions to Stark Law and Anti-Kickback law that will allow hospitals and healthcare providers to improve mental health services for physicians, attorneys from law firm ArentFox Schiff wrote in an article published by JDSupra on June 13. 

The law issues a new exception for physician wellness programs offered by healthcare entities, including ASCs, hospitals and physician practices. 

Qualifying programs must be designed to prevent suicide, improve mental health or provide training in strategies to promote mental health. The benefits offered can include counseling, mental health services, a suicide prevention program, or a substance use disorder prevention and treatment program.

To satisfy the exception, the program must also include a written policy, which must include a description of the content and duration of the program, a description of the evidence-based support and the estimated costs, among other stipulations.

There is no limit on the dollar value of the program, which "could give hospitals and other entities greater comfort to implement more robust wellness programs than permitted by other Stark Law exceptions," according to the article. 

The program must be limited to physicians who are members of the provider's staff or hold clinical privileges. The provider must also extend its program to physicians who practice in the geographic area served by the entity without regard to how much business any physician generates.

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