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Feds gain momentum with EKRA as doc takes plea deal

A group of medical professionals recently accepted plea deals in connection to a healthcare fraud scheme that operated through the country. The group had operations set up in multiple states, including New Jersey, Maryland, California. According to feds, the group would bribe drug addicted patients to enter specific drug rehabilitation centers. One of the doctors that accepted a plea deal was in charge of the drug rehabilitation center. The physician who owned and operated this facility agreed to plead guilty to a relatively new charge — a violation of charge of EKRA.

What is EKRA?

Congress enacted the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act (EKRA) in 2018 to address the opioid crisis. Essentially, this law makes it illegal for medical professionals to use kickback payments in exchange for referring patients to drug treatment facilities.

What was the violation?

According to the United States Department of Justice, the physician agreed to pay marketing companies $5,000 to $10,000 for patient referrals when those patients had adequate health insurance benefits.

What are the potential penalties?

Those who are accused of an EKRA violation can face up to five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

What is the big picture lesson?

Medical professionals throughout the country are wise to note the government has a new tool in its fight against kickbacks. This can result in hurdles for those who are trying to work across different practice specialties to provide patients with quality care. As such, it is wise to conduct internal audits to make sure you do not run afoul of this and other regulations.