Monday, December 03, 2007

Stark Not Happy With His Laws

There is a pretty good interview in Forbes with Congressman Fortney Pete Stark, who wrote the Stark laws about self-referral. He is disappointed that all he did was make doctors jump through the loophole in the law to keep self-referring.

The Congressman had his doubts at the time: "I didn't think there was such a big deal. So the doctors wanted to make some extra money..." But then a study in Florida showed how much these self-referral arrangements were being abused. Some doctors would send every patient in for an X-ray at facilities they owned.
While the law's intent was good, the law banning these businesses might have done more harm than good, he says now: "It gave every shyster and promoter a loophole." A whole industry of Stark-compliant businesses was born--not unlike the sector devoted to tax avoidance. Stark had to rewrite and clarify the laws in 1995, and there's still debate about it. Currently Congress is looking into regulating the use of imaging machines in doctors' offices and fighting over banning doctor-owned specialty hospitals. "We now have to keep rewriting the laws like the tax code," Stark says.

Some of the comments urge him to keep going and fix the problems. We can all only hope he does so.

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