CMS released a final rule extending its exception to the Stark physician self-referral law that allows hospitals and health systems to provide EHR equipment and services to physicians. The HHS OIG released an almost identical final rule allowing hospitals to donate EHR software without running afoul of the Anti-Kickback Statute.
Together, the 2 rules extend the expiration date of the protections to December 31, 2021 and make a few modifications to the permissible donation arrangement.
As you know, the Stark Law prohibits payments that are aimed at encouraging referrals to hospitals while the federal anti-kickback law bans payments that could influence care for Medicare beneficiaries. In an effort to facilitate EHR adoption by physicians, CMS established an exception to the Stark law and the OIG established a safe harbor that allows hospitals to provide software and EHR services to physicians. These exceptions were scheduled to expire at the end of 2013.
The CMS final rule also lay out changes to the exception, such as excluding laboratory companies from the types of entities that may donate EHR items and services, updating the provision under which EHR software is deemed interoperable, removing the electronic prescribing capability requirement, and clarifying the requirement prohibiting any action that limits or restricts the use, compatibility, or interoperability of donated items or services. The final rules were published in the December 27 Federal Register.