In what would undoubtedly be a devastating blow to many medical practices that rely on the Stark in-office ancillary services exception (which allows physicians to refer within their practices for Stark services), President Obama’s proposed FY 2014 would seek to eliminate the exception for physical therapy, radiation therapy and advanced imaging such as CT and MRI. The budget suggests that the exception may still apply for those providers that meet certain "accountability standards" established by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The proposed budget offers no further detail on what these accountability standards might be.
Although passing budgets has not been much of a priority in Washington for the last few years, this proposal clearly demonstrates that these services in the physician office setting are targeted for extinction. Practices that offer these services should begin making contingency plans now to divest or restructure in the event that the exception is eliminated.