This week the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services published Advisory Opinion 12-15 in which it blessed an on-call compensation arrangement between a hospital and specialist physicians on its staff. In finding that it would not prosecute the arrangement, the OIG pointed to several "safeguards" which it felt would adequately protect against a violation of the anti-kickback statute. Among others, these included the following protections:
1. Based on an independent valuation, the per diem payment amounts were stipulated to be commercially reasonable, within the range of fair market value for actual and necessary services provided without regard to referrals or other business generated between the parties;
2. The hospital allocates funds for call coverage for each participating specialty and calculates the per diem annually, in advance, without regard to the individual Participating Physician’s referrals to the hospital;
3. Participating Physicians provide actual and necessary services, for which they are not otherwise compensated, including that Participating Physicians must respond within 30 minutes to a request from the hospital’s emergency department and, in some cases, must provide follow-up care.
4. The hospital offers the opportunity to participate in the arrangement to all specialists on its staff who are required by its bylaws to take unrestricted call and the method of scheduling on-call coverage is governed by a uniform equitable policy that does not take referrals into account.
Although an OIG Advisory Opinion may only be relied upon by the parties requesting it, this Advisory Opinion may provide useful guidance to hospitals and physicians in ensuring that their on-call arrangements are compliant.