CMS' Verma: Interagency group to examine Stark law

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will form an interagency group to take a look at the regulatory barriers posed by federal antikickback laws as part of its efforts to re-examine existing regulations. 

Seema Verma
Seema Verma (

CMS Administrator Seema Verma sat down on Wednesday for a town hall with American Hospital Association President Rick Pollack that touched on a number of initiatives that are part of CMS' ongoing "Patients Over Paperwork" project. Verma launched the program with a national listening tour last fall.

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Verma said the agency is aware that the Stark law can slow the transition to value-based care. CMS, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, HHS General Counsel and the Department of Justice will work together toward ways to ease providers' concerns, she said. 

"I think the Stark law was developed a long time ago, and given where we're going in terms of modernizing [Medicare] and the payment systems we are now operating under, we need to bring along some of those regulations," Verma said. 

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Concerns about the Stark law were among the most common comments the agency received when it issued a request for information from providers on the regulatory hurdles they find most burdensome, Verma said. Taking another look at the law is also a priority for acting HHS secretary Eric Hargan, she said. 

The AHA and other provider groups have argued that the Stark law, which was first passed in 1989, can hinder the growth of care coordination

In addition to discussing antikickback statutes, Verma said CMS is committed to making it easier for providers to offer telehealth services and is planning to re-examine conditions of participation. She noted that some of these issues, including changes to the Stark law, would require legislative action. 

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Verma has already met with providers across the country as part of the "Patients Over Paperwork" initiative, and at a forum with some of the biggest provider groups in the country in October she said that CMS is all in on a regulatory review. 

"We are very serious about going through this," Verma said.