A group of U.S. senators is seeking an inquiry into the expansion and potential abuse of physician-owned distributorships (PODs). PODs are entities that allow doctors to purchase ownership shares in an organization that buys products used in surgery. In separate letters to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the report states that the Senate Finance Committee has received “numerous allegations” of physicians who performed more surgeries than medically necessary, or who used implants that were of “inferior quality or not best suited for the procedure,” due to their financial interest in PODs.
The Report asks each department to review the POD industry’s compliance with fraud and abuse and anti-kickback laws. Physicians who control the choice of medical devices may use their ability to generate referrals for hospitals in order to induce them to buy medical devices from companies in which the physicians have ownership. Further, the committee believes that the recently released regulations for accountable care organizations may “provide an inadvertent loophole allowing less reputable POD models to fall under the Stark and anti-kickback law waivers envisioned for ACOs.”
Physician-owned distributorships, according to a 2006 OIG opinion, carry “the strong potential for improper inducements.” The Senate committee noted that hospitals, physicians and medical device manufactures would benefit from “clear legal guidance.” For more information regarding PODs and their compliance with fraud and abuse and anti-kickback laws, please contact a Wachler & Associates attorney at 248-544-0888 or visit our website at www.wachler.com