Beware Agressive Marketing

PicturePhysicians who engage in overly aggressive marketing and advertising to attract or maintain patients may violate a host of federal and state laws and regulations, which carry heavy civil and criminal sanctions, as well as possible licensure discipline. An excellent way to ensure that your marketing practices are in compliance with state and federal laws is to authorize your attorney to prepare a formal marketing compliance policy for your practice and to review your marketing proposals before they start.

Here are a few “do’s” and “don’ts” for physicians to consider:

DO: Give incentives to promote only the delivery of non-covered preventive care services.

DO: Give only inexpensive gifts or services, never cash.

DO: Be very cautious about waiving deductibles or coinsurance, offering professional courtesy, or forgiving old debts. A number of laws may be violated by these actions.

DO: Make sure marketing materials and advertisements are clear and honest. You must avoid misleading patients or the creation of unjustified expectations.

DO: Review guidance offered by the Office of Inspector General before structuring any marketing program.

DO NOT: Give gifts or services beyond nominal value in exchange for a recommendation or for using your services.

DO NOT: Give a valuable gift to a prospective patient to influence them to choose your practice, or to existing patients to influence them to continue selecting your practice as a provider.

DO NOT: Hire any employee or consultant who claims that their services or products are approved, certified or recommended by Medicare, Medicaid, CMS, OIG, or any other government agency.

DO NOT: Offer any contingent discount programs.

DO NOT: Pay independent contractor marketers on a percentage or per patients basis.

DO NOT: State in your advertising that your practice accepts Medicare or insurance as payment in full, or that your practice provides discounts to Medicare or Mediciad beneficiaries.

These are just a few guidelines to assist you when considering marketing arrangements. This list is not comprehensive. In today’s competitive marketplace, advertising and promotional activities can be beneficial to grow your business or practice. However, health care is governed by numerous laws and regulations unique to the industry. Your specific marketing programs or proposals should always be cleared with your health law attorney before you invest significant time and resources, so you can be sure you are in compliance.