HHS approves physician ASC arrangement

The Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) approved an arrangement June 14 for a physician to become the sole investor in, and sole owner of, a freestanding, Medicare-certified, single-specialty ambulatory surgical center (ASC). The physician would derive at least one-third of his medical practice income from endoscopic procedures that he performs within his office or at one of the local hospitals.

The advisory opinion is "a very straightforward application of the ASC safe harbor without any complicated wrinkles," says health care attorney Bill Sarraile of Arent Fox in Washington, DC. "From that perspective, I think it was a very easy opinion."

According to Sarraile, physicians and hospitals both are very concerned about the potential kickback implications of joint-venture ASC configurations. "What is interesting about this arrangement is that it was a single doctor rather than a joint-venture situation," he says.