As with other free or discounted items or services, offering free screenings can violate (1) the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”) if one purpose of the free screening is induce referrals for items or services payable by federal healthcare programs (42 USC § 1320a-7b), and/or (2) the federal Civil Monetary Penalties Law (“CMP”) if the physician knows or should know that the free screening is likely to induce a federal program beneficiary to purchase items or services covered by federal healthcare programs (42 USC § 1320a-7a). There are several potentially relevant CMP exceptions, most of which focus on whether the screening is tied to the provision of other services payable by federal healthcare programs. In Advisory Opinion 09-11, the OIG approved a hospital’s free blood pressure screening program where (1) the free screening was not conditioned on the use of any other goods or services from the hospital; (2) the patient receiving the screening was not directed to any particular provider; (3) the hospital did not offer the patient any special discounts on follow-up services; and (4) if the screening was abnormal, the patient as advised to see their own health care professional. Under these circumstances, the OIG concluded that the test was not improperly tied to the provision of other services by the hospital.
For more information, see the OIG’s Special Advisory Bulletin: Offering Gifts and Other Inducements to Beneficiaries (August 2002), available at https://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/docs/alertsandbulletins/SABGiftsan