By: Michael Silverman
There are perfectly compliant ways to engage with healthcare marketers, and then there’s this; here are some of the latest real-life examples:
“DME BRACE CAMPAIGN – $40 to $150 PER LEAD PER BRACE”
“DME DIABETIC LEADS $40 PER LEAD, INSURANCE AND DOC INFO INCLUDED”
“PAIN CREAM/LIDOCANE LEADS FOR SALE, RX INCLUDED”
These marketers are seemingly holding auctions for the sale of federally protected patient health information out to the highest bidder! Couldn’t make this stuff up – if you’re in this industry, a quick gander at your (business) social media platforms will quickly confirm it.
There are a myriad of serious issues inherently involved such types of patient marketing/lead generation, ranging to violations of HIPAA and the Social Security Act’s Anti-Solicitation Statue to running afoul of State and Federal Anti-Kickback (“AKS”) laws that makes it unlawful to offer to pay, or be paid in exchange for the referral of a patient to or from a healthcare provider (oftentimes regardless of who the payor is).
Which part of paying a healthcare marketer $50 in return for a patient’s treating physician and insurance information so that you can be their provider sounds like it complies with the AKS’ prohibition on paying for referrals? Add a completed prescription into the mix and the case is closed.
Many of these marketers are offshore and out of the (immediate) grasp of law enforcement, but many are right here in our hometowns.
The DME and pharmacy providers purchasing this information, however, ARE always within the jurisdiction of regulators, AND, law enforcement activity is only heating up and becoming more aggressive.
Be it ignorance or downright blatant disregard for the law, buyers and sellers of such protected patient information continue to use platforms such as LinkedIn as if it were the porthole to an open black market for illicit ‘healthcare’ lead generation/marketing.
DME/pharmacy providers billing commercial insurance companies and/or federally funded payors (see this recent article) are responsible for knowing the laws! Willful ignorance is not excused, and you will be held liable for misconduct.
Don’t fall for smooth talking marketers promising to increase your patient base if they treat healthcare marketing as if they were selling widgets, or worse yet, treat compliance like an abstract concept. They may think they won’t be targeted by regulators because they’re not the ones billing Medicare, but little do they know.
Be cautious and get educated about the laws, risks and options before you engage with any marketing person or service.
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