Health Law Highlights

Recent $345 Million Settlement Underscores Critical Importance of Appropriate Physician Compensation

From Baker Donelson, by Alissa Fleming and Joseph Keillor:

  • An Indianapolis-based health system recently settled with the Department of Justice for $345 million due to allegations of Stark Law and False Claims Act violations related to its physician compensation arrangements, highlighting the importance of appropriately structuring physician compensation to avoid fraud and abuse enforcement.
  • The health system was accused of providing false information to appraisers, inflating physician salaries, and ignoring warnings about the large discrepancies between high physician compensation and moderate productivity. Additionally, it was alleged that physician compensation was dependent on the volume or value of referrals, which violates Stark Law’s restrictions.
  • The actual compensation for many specialties was either fixed guaranteed compensation or wRVU-based compensation for personally-performed services, which under the December 2020 rulemaking, should not violate the Volume/Value element.
  • The government argued that exceeding fair market value does not necessarily implicate the “indirect compensation arrangement” definition in place at the time, and that fair market value is only relevant where the parties have implicated a threshold volume/value standard.
  • The settlement emphasizes the importance of structuring physician compensation appropriately, with the health system now under a five-year corporate integrity agreement with an independent review organization and a compliance expert. Unsettled claims from the relator are still pending, and attorney’s fees relating to the settled claims may be added to the $345 million settlement.