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Does the Stark Law Affect Dentists?

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The ‘Stark Law’ is a set of federal regulations that are designed to prevent so-called ‘self referrals’ by medical practitioners. This law covers all federal funds that come from Medicare and Medicaid. In this post, our Miami physician practice management attorneys highlight three things that dental professionals should know about the Stark Law.

The Stark Law and Dentistry 

  1. The Stark Law Applies to Dentists

The Stark Law applies to a wide range of medical professionals, including dentists. South Florida dentists must ensure that their professional practice is in full compliance with the Stark Law and all other federal anti-kickback regulations. If a Miami dentist receives a direct or indirect benefit for referring a Medicare or Medicaid patient to another medical professional, they could be charged with a Stark Law violation. The penalties for violating this law are severe. Depending on the specific circumstances of the case, the penalties could include denial of payment, very large fines, and even a permanent ban from receiving future federal healthcare dollars in any professional capacity. 

  1. The Definition of the Term ‘Referral’ Can Be Broadly Applied

One of the things that confuse many medical professionals is that the Stark Law uses a very broad definition of the term ‘referral’. Indeed, referrals can take many different forms, so dental professionals are advised to be exceedingly careful when referring Medicare or Medicaid covered patients to other medical practitioners. Dentists must be sure that there is no ‘quid pro quo’ arrangement occurring, so that they do not risk running into legal trouble. A referral that benefits an immediate family member can even be constituted as a ‘self referral’ under the provisions contained in the law.

  1. Does That Mean Referral Marketing for Dentists is Illegal?

No, not necessarily. There are forms of referral marketing that dental professionals can use in a lawful manner. It is important to remember that the Stark Law only applies to Medicare and Medicaid patients, and that it impacts cases in which the dentist or their family members are receiving a ‘kickback’ for making a referral to another medical professional. Dental practices may be able to run lawful referral marketing programs. For example, dentists may be able to offer their patients benefits for referring a friend or neighbor to their practice. Of course, the law can be tricky to understand and apply to specific situations. As such, dental practices should consult with a qualified Florida business law attorney before implementing any type of complex referral marketing program. Your business law attorney will be able to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations.

Speak to Our Florida Business Law Attorneys Today 

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, Florida physician practice management and litigation lawyers have extensive experience handling issues related to the Stark Law  and other anti-kickback laws. To learn more about what we can do for your business, please contact our law firm today to get your free legal consultation. From our offices in Miami and West Palm Beach, we represent medical practitioners throughout South Florida, including in Doral, University Park, Hialeah, and Opa-locka.

Resource:

cms.gov/Medicare/Fraud-and-Abuse/PhysicianSelfReferral/index.html?redirect=/PhysicianSelfReferral/95_advisory_opinions.asp

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