Trump administration proposes changes to anti-kickback rules for healthcare

FILE PHOTO: With a portrait of former U.S. President Andrew Jackson hanging in the background, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former Attorney General Edwin Meese in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, October 8, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

(Reuters) – The Trump administration on Wednesday proposed changes to federal anti-kickback provisions that restrict the kinds of patient referrals doctors can make, saying it will improve healthcare coordination and foster payments based on the quality of care.

The plan will change how the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) enforces the Physician Self Referral Law, also known as the Stark law, which penalizes doctors for referring patients to outside services that the physician could stand to benefit from financially.

It will also include interpretation of the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute, HHS said in a statement on Wednesday.

HHS will create exceptions for healthcare providers that enter into agreements with other parties if they are aimed at cutting costs and improving patient health, officials said on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said the order was part of the administration’s efforts to cut back on regulatory red tape.

President Donald Trump issued an executive order last week that sought to woo seniors by strengthening the Medicare health program.

The order was the Republican president’s answer to Democrats like Bernie Sanders, who is running to become the party’s nominee in the 2020 presidential election and is promoting the idea of Medicare for all Americans.

The Trump administration has also rolled out measures in recent months designed to curtail drug prices and address other problems in the U.S. healthcare system.

Policy experts say the efforts are unlikely to slow the rise of drug prices in a meaningful way.

Reporting by Carl O’Donnell and Caroline Humer; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Bernadette Baum

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