HHS issues warning to physicians in concierge practice

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The Department of Health and Human Services has put physicians who offer personalized, "deluxe" services to Medicare patients for a fee on alert. According to The New York Times (4/13/04), the department warned physicians in so-called concierge or boutique practices that, if they charge extra for services already covered by Medicare, they could face a fine or be expelled from federal health programs.

Despite the alert, physicians who offer deluxe services such as round-the-clock access, same-day appointments, or counseling for healthy living aren't too worried, reported Modern Healthcare (4/12/04). They stated that they believed their practices, which charge for amenities and patient convenience, were in line with the law.

Still, attorneys caution physicians in these practices to carefully delineate on a case-by-case basis those services that are covered by Medicare and those that are not.

"If you're doing what are clearly noncovered activities, you should be fine," Michael Blau, a lawyer with McDermott, Will & Emery, told Modern Healthcare.

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