My practice is slow and small. Is it legal to offer to give one time free consults to anyone who wants to come in and ask questions, no matter whether the patient is with or without insurance?
Depends. If you accept Medicare and your consultation would under normal circumstances be a reimbursable service, offering free consults may constitute an improper inducement under applicable prohibitions. Medicare prohibits its beneficiaries from receiving more than $10 as a free gift or more than $50 cumulative annually as a gift. With reimbursement as it is, I know some of you reading this would take the position that the rate you may receive for such a free consult may not qualify as reaching the stated precipice, but the fact of the matter remains that by offering a free consult as a Medicare provider you may, in fact, be opening yourself and your practice up to potential liability.
If you do not accept Medicare or you are straight fee for service, you are technically (as confirmed to our firm by the NYS Department of Insurance (while still called that)) entitled to price your services at whatever rate you choose, which would include $0. However, as you would likely be advertising any such promotion, be advised that anytime you are offering an inducement to entice patients to visit your practice, you may be inviting potential scrutiny on your practice as well as potential liability.
Bottom line, while a promotion offering free consults may be a great way to let potential patients know about what you do, you may also be inviting exposure. Instead of risking it, I recommend looking for local medical fairs or community events you may be able to participate in where you could highlight your services to your local community - who of course represent your potential patients and referral sources. Hope this helps and good luck!
For additional information on this topic, contact Jennifer Kirschenbaum at (516)-747-6700 ext. 302 or at Jennifer@Kirschenbaumesq.com.
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