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CMS proposes easing the Stark Law

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Proposed changes by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to regulations governing financial relationships between physicians and other providers might make life easier for them in many areas but could also raise questions in others.

The CMS has released  proposed changes  in the regulations governing financial relationships between physicians and other providers. The Stark law—which is widely criticized for its complexity—prohibits physicians from making referrals for services covered by government programs to entities in which they have financial interests, although there are certain exceptions.

The proposal includes henceforth allowing payments to physicians to employ non-physician practitioners — meant mostly to ease shortages of primary-care physicians.

Another change would allow  timeshare arrangements for using office space, equipment, personnel, supplies and other services that benefit rural or  other underserved areas.

As with most proposed regulatory changes, it will take a while to figure out these. And administrative law judges would probably make a bunch of changes over time,  assuming that the easing gets final approval, which is likely.

Danielle Sloane, a partner of the Nashville law firm Bass Berry & Sims, told Modern Healthcare that she saw the proposed regulations as generally good.

“By in large, it makes significant changes and clarifications aimed at easing the technical burdens of the Stark law and reducing the number of self-disclosures coming to the CMS. It seems to be trying to update the Stark law for the new relationships that are out there.”



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