The Stark Law is a limitation on certain physician referrals. It prohibits physician referrals of designated health services ("DHS") for Medicare and Medicaid patients if the physician (or an immediate family member) has a financial relationship with that entity. A financial relationship includes ownership, investment interest, and compensation arrangements.
A physician within a group practice referring his/her patient for MRI, CT or PET to be provided within the group practice must provide the patient, at the time of the referral, written notice that the patient may obtain these imaging services from a supplier other that the group practice. The written notice must provide the patient with a list of such alternative suppliers in the area where the patient resides.
Physician self-referral is the practice of a physician referring a patient to a medical facility in which the physician has a financial interest, be it ownership, investment, or a structured compensation arrangement. Critics argue that this practice is an inherent conflict of interest, because the physician benefits from the physician's own referral. They suggest that such arrangements may encourage overutilization of services, in turn driving up health care costs. In addition, they believe that it would create a captive referral system, which limits competition by other providers.