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Can I offer free services as incentive if cosmetic?/ WEDNESDAY WEBINAR SIGNUP (HIPAA)

November 12, 2015

Question:

Jennifer,

A colleague of mine is offering the potential to win free services for patients who sign up/attend his demonstrations for cosmetic services.  Is this legal? 


D .K
Answer:

Some doctors think because a service is not reimbursable by insurance, or is a cosmetic service (such as laser, etc.) that incentive programs are okay.  Not true.

New York State, as well as other states, prohibit incentives for care across the board. Specifically for NY, NYS Education Law s. 6530 (18) states it is professional misconduct to: "Directly or indirectly offering, giving, soliciting, or receiving or agreeing to receive, any fee or other consideration to or from a third party for the referral of a patient or in connection with the performance of professional services".

On the Federal level, the AMA also has something to say on the topic, which serves as general guidance for conduct:
 

Opinion 6.021 - Financial Incentives to Patients for Referrals

Physicians should not offer financial incentives or other valuable considerations to patients in exchange for recruitment of other patients. Such incentives can distort the information that patients provide to potential patients, thus distorting the expectations of potential patients and compromising the trust that is the foundation of the patient-physician relationship.

To clear up the misconception surrounding free services, just because Medicare is not paying for it, doesn't mean you can offer it for free as an incentive for more patients.  No kickbacks in return or hope for new patients or referrals should be the policy across the board. 


 
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