Today I am focusing on the self-referral ban under the federal Stark laws. In particular, a recent case – Fresenius Medical Care Holdings, Inc. v. Tucker (Dkt. No. 4:03-cv-00411-SPM-GRJ (Jan. 10, 2013, 11th Cir.)) – discussed the interplay between those laws and a State’s attempt to impose more stringent requirements. 

The court first focused on two exceptions to the Stark laws’ ban on physician self-referrals. These exemptions concern clinical lab services for end-stage renal disease (ESRD), as well as certain lab services performed by a company with stockholder equity in excess of $75 million. 

A Florida statute subsequently narrowed these exemptions, and that statutory change impacted a Florida business’ ability to make referrals. 

The plaintiff argued that Congress had crafted the Stark laws’ exemptions in order to benefit Medicare and Medicaid recipients and, as such, intended to provided explicit benefits. That argument was rejected. 

The circuit court found that federal law permitted State laws to be more stringent, and that this was such a situation. Moreover, the court was not convinced that the plaintiff’s business was stifled by the State rules and, instead, found that the impact to the business was marginal. 

It remains to be seen whether or not this ruling will encourage States to enact more stringent restrictions and make it even more difficult for businesses to comply with a non-uniform set of rules.