Stark law changes ramp up in 2023

Here are four Stark law changes Becker's has reported on since Feb. 15:

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

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.

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2. CMS added a Stark law waiver for physician owners of independent freestanding emergency departments that served Medicare patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. The waiver applies retroactively and is the first time CMS has modified its blanket Stark law waivers since 2020, according to the report. Independent, freestanding emergency departments will now receive similar protections to ASCs, which were also able to convert to hospitals during the pandemic. 

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3. CMS' 2024 Inpatient Prospective Payment System would require physician-owned hospitals to satisfy all Stark law hospital exceptions or rural provider exceptions to qualify for services referred by the physician owner or investor. The rule further specifies that physician-owned hospitals cannot increase the number of operating rooms, procedure rooms and beds above the level it was licensed for as of March 23, 2010, unless granted an exception by CMS. 

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4. CMS updated its voluntary self-referral disclosure laws Jan. 23, including an updated version of the self-referral disclosure protocol form, an updated physician information form and a new group practice information form. The new self-referral disclosure protocol form includes an update to signed certification — it no longer needs to be submitted as a hard copy and can now be submitted electronically. 

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