Hospitals are being accused of violating federal laws designed to keep financial considerations from influencing doctors' decisions, Kaiser Health News reports with The Daily Beast.
What's happening: Various lawsuits allege that hospitals are overpaying doctors or offering incentives like free office space in exchange for the downstream revenue that doctors create through referrals.
Background: It's illegal for doctors to refer patients for services that the doctor has a financial interest in, and for hospitals to pay doctors for referrals.
- These measures are supposed to help keep costs down by discouraging doctors from using excessive, unnecessary health care.
- The lawsuits are raising the question of whether financial arrangements like high doctor salaries count as illegal kickbacks.
The other side: One hospital facing a lawsuit said that the generous salaries that it gave doctors were the only way it could provide specialized care to local residents.
The bottom line: Lawsuits aside, there's no disputing that hospitals are gobbling up physician practices, the market is becoming more consolidated and doctors generate significant revenue for hospitals.