Providing medical and healthcare services is an important task, and one that involves a huge amount of responsibility, trust, and care. As a result, these professions are regulated and covered by a wide range of laws at both the Federal and the state level.
In Florida, there are a number of different statutes that apply to providing healthcare services, particularly with regard to accepting compensation for services. Several different laws prohibit medical providers from taking kickbacks, and it’s important that healthcare providers are aware of their responsibilities and what they should do if they are accused of doing something unlawful.
What is a Kickback?
Kickbacks are illegal payments that are made in exchange for special services or a special benefit. In the healthcare space, this could take the form of taking payments for referrals or new clients, or taking other forms of compensation.
What Are Anti-Kickback Laws in Florida
There are nine different pieces of legislation covering kickbacks in Florida that healthcare providers should be aware of.
- The Florida Anti-Kickback Statute
This law is covered by Florida Statutes Section 456.054 and sets out the definition of a kickback, and states that a kickback is illegal. It specifies that a kickback is “a remuneration or payment, by or on behalf of a provider of healthcare services or items, to any person as an incentive or inducement to refer patients for past or future services or items.” It states that violations of the section will be considered violations of the Patient Brokering Act.
- The Florida Patient Brokering Act
Another important law to be aware of is in Florida Statutes Section 817.505. This law states that taking a “commission, benefit, bonus, rebate, kickback, or bribe, directly or indirectly” in exchange for patient referrals is unlawful. Depending on how many patients are involved, you could face fines of up to $500,000 under this Act.
- Kickbacks and Bribes Constituting Medicaid Fraud
Florida Statutes Section 409.920 states that taking kickbacks is a form of Medicaid fraud, and that the healthcare provider can be charged with a third, second, or first-degree felony for this action.
- Rebates Prohibited for Pharmacies
There are also a number of laws covering rebates, such as Florida Statutes Section 465.185. This law states that it is “unlawful for any person to pay or receive any commission, bonus, kickback, or rebate or engage in any split-fee arrangement in any form whatsoever with any physician, surgeon, organization, agency, or person, either directly or indirectly, for patients referred to a pharmacy.”
- Rebates Prohibited for Hospitals
Like in the case of pharmacies, Florida Statutes Section 395.0185 prohibits kickbacks and rebates for patients referred to a licensed facility such as a hospital.
- Rebates Prohibited for Nursing Homes and Related Facilities
Florida Statutes Section 400.176 also states that kickbacks and rebates relating to referrals to nursing homes are unlawful in the same way as pharmacies and hospitals.
- Bribes and Kickbacks Involving Nursing Homes and Related Facilities
Florida Statutes Section 400.17 also prohibits furnishing items or services directly or indirectly to a nursing home resident through the use of kickbacks, rebates, or bribes.
- Disciplinary Action Against Licensed Physicians for Illegal Payments
In addition, Florida Statutes Section 458.331 states that physicians can also face additional penalties if they have been involved in transactions involving kickbacks. This could include denial of a license or disciplinary action.
- Disciplinary Action Against Osteopathic Physicians for Illegal Payments
For osteopathic physicians specifically, Florida Statutes Section 459.015 sets out a similar provision to that mentioned for physicians above.
What do Healthcare Providers Need to Know?
For providers working in the healthcare space, it is important to understand that kickbacks laws are very serious and that while referrals are common practice, you must take care to conduct them ethically.
Taking advantage of unlawful financial incentives may leave you liable to punishment under one or more of the above anti-kickback laws in Florida, and you may be faced with high penalties as well as felony charges, and a loss of your license.
Get Help from a Board-Certified Attorney
If you are a healthcare provider and you have been charged with or accused of taking kickbacks, Stechschulte Nell can help. Attorney Ben Stechschulte is a Florida board-certified trial lawyer. We are available 24/7 to take your call and discuss the specifics of your case.
Contact our Tampa, FL law firm at (813) 280-1244 to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney, or request a free case review online.