QUESTION

Can physicians accept gifts from suppliers?

SHORT ANSWER
Not all gifts are prohibited, but there are few bright line tests.
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Anything of value directly or indirectly provided to a physician, or their family members or staff, is a gift. As such, it may implicate the Federal Stark Law, the Anti-Kickback Statute, and the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, not to mention tax laws. As with most health care regulations, the answer is seldom straightforward.

Physicians cannot solicit or receive remuneration in exchange for referrals for items or services covered by federal healthcare programs. Nominal nonmonetary gifts that are unrelated to referrals (such as bringing in lunch for an educational forum) are probably ok, although there are few bright line tests. Under the Stark Law, however, such non-monetary gifts cannot exceed a set annual limit ($407 in 2018).  A few free supplies (such as specimen cups) that benefit the patient also usually pass muster. But a practice that accepts devices with significant value with the intent that they be distributed to patients becomes problematic.

Accepting trips, side employment with drug companies, and incidental compensation from hospitals all require a careful analysis to ensure compliance.