Jul 16, 2018
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Medical Director Agreements – What you don’t document could hurt you.

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Unlike most other types of employment arrangements involving physicians, physicians acting as a medical director are compensated purely for the performance of administrative services related to patient care services. That is not to say that a medical director does not play a crucial role in the operation of a health care provider. In fact, the New York State Department of Health recommends, or even requires, medical directors be put in place for certain types of providers, and federal law similarly requires medical directors for certain types of services and facilities.

 

Because medical directors are not performing medical services, many physicians feel comfortable entering into medical directorship with little or no written documentation. However, physicians should proceed with caution when undertaking a medical director role. In particular, medical director arrangements are often scrutinized by the Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to determine whether the arrangement is, in reality, being used as a vehicle to provide remuneration to physicians for patient referrals. For this reason, where the contracting provider participates with federal payors and the physician may refer patients to the contracting provider, the physician should enter into a written medical director agreement that is structured to fall within an exception (or safe harbor) to the federal Stark and anti-kickback statutes.

Most often, the exception used under both Stark and anti-kickback laws will be the “personal services” safe harbor. Although slightly different under each statute, some key elements in complying with the “personal services” safe harbor are as follows:

 

  • Written Agreement: The agreement between the physician and the provider should be in writing, with a term of not less than one year. [1]
  • Duties: The agreement should provide for all of the services which the physician is expected to perform.[2]
  • Commercially Reasonable: The services provided by the medical director should be necessary to the provider and not exceed the amount of services required by the provider. This analysis is focused not only on whether the contracting physician’s services in and of themselves are necessary, but also whether there are other medical directors and whether numerous medical directors are performing duplicative services.[3]
  • Compensation: [4]
    • Fair Market Value – The physician should be paid fair market value for the services provided. To this end, it might be helpful to obtain a fair market value analysis, taking into account the geographic location, the experience of the physician, the certification of the physician, and they type of facility. While having such an analysis is not an absolute defense in an investigation, it is useful to demonstrate that fair market value was analyzed and that the remuneration falls within what was believed to be an acceptable range.
    • Hourly Rate – It is recommended that the medical director be paid on an hourly basis, with such hourly rate being paid at the fair market value rate.
    • Cap on Compensation – it is also recommended that the aggregate compensation a physician can earn for his documented hours be capped, to further ensure reasonableness.[5]
  • Documentation: The physician should keep daily time logs of services performed and the time spent on each service. This shows that the physician is performing real work, for which he or she is being paid fair market value, and also can be used to demonstrate that the services being performed are necessary for the facility.

While it is always best to consult with an experienced professional before entering into medical director arrangement, adhering to the criteria set forth above can offer protection for both the physician and the facility.

[1] 42 CFR 1001.952(d)(1): “The agency agreement is set out in writing and signed by the parties.” 42 CFR 1001.952(d)(4): “The term of the agreement is for not less than one year.” 42 U.S.C. 1395nn(e)(3)(A)(i): “the arrangement is set out in writing, signed by the parties, and specifies the services covered by the arrangement.” 42 U.S.C. 1395nn(e)(3)(A)(iv): “the term of the arrangement is for at least 1 year.”

[2] 42 CFR 1001.952(d)(2): “The agency agreement covers all of the services the agent provides to the principal for the term of the agreement and specifies the services to be provided by the agent.” 42 U.S.C. 1395nn(e)(3)(A)(ii): “the arrangement covers all of the services to be provided by the physician.”

[3] 42 U.S.C. 1395nn(e)(3)(A)(iii): “the aggregate services contracted for do not exceed those that are reasonable and necessary for the legitimate business purposes of the arrangement.”

[4] 42 CFR 1001.952(d)(5): “The aggregate compensation paid to the agent over the term of the agreement is set in advance, is consistent with fair market value in arms-length transactions and is not determined in a manner that takes into account the volume or value of any referrals or business otherwise generated between the parties for which payment may be made in whole or in part under Medicare, Medicaid or other Federal health care programs.” 42 U.S.C. 1395nn(e)(3)(A)(v): “the compensation to be paid over the term of the arrangement is set in advance, does not exceed fair market value, and . . . is not determined in a manner that takes into account the volume or value of any referrals of other business generated between the parties.”

[5] In OIG Advisory Opinion No. 01-17 (2001), the OIG said that even though total aggregate compensation over the contract has not be set in advance, the totality of facts and circumstances in the specific circumstances at hand yield a conclusion that there is no significant increase in risk of fraud and abuse – however, this finding was likely due to the presence of a monthly payment cap. In 2003, in Advisory Opinion 03-8, the OIG found that a proposed arrangement does not qualify for protection under the safe harbor because the aggregate compensation paid under a management agreement would not be set in advance.



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