Health Law Alert: Online Referral Service Proposes to Charge for Services, Raises OIG Concerns


The Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently issued a negative advisory opinion that raises concerns about fees charged by some online referral services. Specifically, Advisory Opinion 11-06 analyzed a proposal by an online referral service to charge a startup and monthly user fee to post-acute care providers in exchange for the use of an electronic referral service used by hospitals. The OIG expressed concern that payments to potential referral sources for such services could potentially generate prohibited remuneration and present more than a minimal risk of violating the antikickback statute.

Proposed Arrangement

The requestor currently provides software, online tools and other discharge planning support to hospitals nationwide. The service includes the use of software by which hospitals could access a list of post-acute care providers (skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, and assisted living facilities) that the requestor compiled from existing state databases of licensed post-acute care providers. The hospitals use these listings to identify resources and refer patients for post-acute care. The requestor advised that many hospitals initiate a referral request for a patient to many providers at once and make the referral for post acute care to the first provider that responds to the referral request.

Please see full alert below for more information.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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