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Get Ready to Negotiate: OIG Authorizes Hospitals to Pay Physicians for Call Coverage

Since the enactment of EMTALA in 1986, hospitals have struggled with providing sufficient call coverage to meet federal requirements as physicians have been increasingly hesitant to take on the added responsibility, cost, and risk of responding to emergency department requests for consultation.  With patients often presenting in increasingly acute conditions with no health insurance coverage, physicians understandably find themselves between a rock and a hard place as utilization of hospital emergency departments has skyrocketed, particularly in Eastern Kentucky.  And, it is becoming increasingly difficult to see these patients in the hospital emergency departments without also seeing the patients for follow-up in private physician offices often without payment. Thus, the movement for hospitals to pay for physician call services started amid a tangled web of intricate financial relationships, power struggles between hospitals and medical staff, and a statutory and regulatory maze of the Stark Law and Anti-kickback Statutes.  Finally, good news is on the horizon as a result of a series of recent Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s Advisory Opinions, which essentially give the okay for a hospital to pay a per diem fee to specialists providing unrestricted on-call coverage for hospital emergency departments within certain parameters.  For physicians, these OIG Opinions give clear guidance and should be a tool to negotiate payment for call within the parameters of fair market value. More >

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