A recent federal district court decision granted summary judgment to the government in a lawsuit by a urology group challenging the 2008 changes in Stark regulations affecting “under arrangement” services for hospital patients. The decision illustrates the significant barriers to a successful challenge to these regulations.
The challenge focused on the 2008 regulatory changes that swept entities performing DHS into the definition of entities “furnishing” DHS and reversed CMS’ 2001 regulatory approval of “per click” lease agreements. Several challenges to these changes were dismissed for not being raised within the six year limitation period applicable under the federal Administrative Procedures Act.
The arguments against these changes that survived the timeliness bar failed to convince the court that the changes were contrary to express Congressional intent stated in the legislation or were an impermissible interpretation of the legislation. The court rejected an argument that the group practice exception for certain compensation arrangements constituted a Congressional expression of intent that the term “entity” was not intended to include entities that furnished DHS. The court readily concluded that including entities that performed DHS within the definition of entities “furnishing” DHS was a permissible interpretation of the legislation.
As for the revision in the regulations to prohibit the previously permitted “per click” lease arrangements, the court noted that CMS is entitled to change its mind as long as there is a reasonable basis for the change.
“Thus, the agency remains free to reinterpret a statute in a way that varies greatly from its past interpretations so long as the agency provides a reasoned basis for its new interpretation.”
For more information regarding the Stark law or False Claims Act in general please contact Greg Montgomery.