When you make your living as a doctor or other type of health care professional, you must follow the guidelines dictated by the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute. The AKS is a criminal law that bans you from accepting any type of payment, cash or otherwise, in exchange for encouraging or referring patients to receive certain goods or services for which payment comes from a federal health care program.
When it comes to the AKS, a “federal health care program” is any plan or program that offers health benefits funded either completely or in part by the United States government. Examples of federal health care programs include TRICARE military health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, among others.
Fines and sentences
If you violate the AKS, you may face a wide range of serious penalties. You may have to pay as much as $50,000 for each violation plus three times the amount of whatever you accepted as payment for your referrals. You may, too, have to spend as much as five years behind bars for each violation of the AKS. You may also receive a felony conviction. If so, this comes with its own set of collateral consequences in addition to the criminal ones you face.
Additional exclusions and penalties
Violating the AKS also exposes you and your health care practice to possible exclusion from participating in federal health care programs such as TRICARE and Medicaid.
Note that the government does not need to prove that a patient suffered harm as the result of an AKS violation to hold you responsible for it.