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EKRA prosecutions in 2020: 3 lessons for lab managers

The fact that the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecuted 3 EKRA cases in 2020 shows that the feds are serious about this law. As such, lab owners are wise to take steps to better ensure compliance. One important step: learning from past mistakes. This post will provide some important information to gather from federal prosecutions of EKRA violations in 2020.

What do labs need to know about EKRA?

Congress passed the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act (EKRA) in 2018. Lawmakers passed this provision as part of a larger attempt to thwart the opioid crisis with the Substance Use Disorders Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (SUPPORT). Although the provision is meant to reduce the risk of illegal kickbacks in exchange for physicians referring patients to certain labs, lawmakers left the definition broad enough to have a negative impact on many labs. As such, it is important for businesses leaders within this industry to review marketing strategies to better ensure compliance.

What should business leaders within this niche area of the healthcare marketplace know about prosecutions from 2020?

That the feds are aggressive.  One of the more notable cases is from January 2020. At that time the DOJ moved forward with a case against an office manager for a substance abuse clinic. The feds accused the manager of paying kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals.  When asked about the payment from officials, the prosecution states that she lied and attempted to have information about the payment altered. As a result, she was charged with one count of EKRA violation as well as obstruction of justice. This led to 6 months imprisonment.

How can lab leadership safeguard against similar actions?

The old adage an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure holds true in this situation. Internal audits can help proactively root out potential issues and lead to change to help better ensure compliance.