It is not uncommon for patients to look for referrals when they need care from a doctor. Though referring patients to other doctors is not illegal, accepting a fee for doing so may violate the law.
This is patient brokering, a type of healthcare fraud that could end up with the participant in serious trouble.
Defining patient brokering
The Florida Senate lays out laws regarding patient brokering. With patient brokering, a doctor will refer a patient to another healthcare provider or a facility. In exchange for this referral, they accept a bonus, bribe, kickback, rebate or other benefit.
Many doctors may consider doing this because they have the incentive to go for patients who can pay for expensive medical procedures. They do this because of the amount that insurance companies may pay for services, whether private or public.
Penalties of related charges
Though it might seem like a tempting way to earn extra money, the penalties for patient brokering are actually quite harsh. Someone accused of this crime may face either first, second or even third-degree felony charges. This charge will depend on the number of patients brokered, the nature of the conduct, and other factors.
Any charge regardless of the degree of severity could net a person with jail time. In addition, the fine for patient brokering ranges from $50,000 to $500,000.
There are some situations in which patient brokering is not illegal under the state laws, however. For example, fee-splitting in the same practice group is not illegal. Anyone facing such serious charges should take immediate action to protect himself or herself from the aforementioned consequences.