Can I Treat My Partner’s Mother and Bill Medicare?

By R.L. “Ron” Ramsdell, PhD, FACFEI, DABFE, CFC, LFMAAMA.

The regulations on treating immediate relatives are found in the Medicare Benefits Policy Manual, Pub 100-02 in Chapter 16 (General Exclusions From Coverage) Section 130.  To better understand these regulations, you must first be familiar with the definitions of “provider and supplier” as used in all Medicare regulations.

Provider is defined at 42 CFR §400.202 and generally means a hospital, critical access hospital, skilled nursing facility, comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facility, home health agency or hospice, that has in effect an agreement to participate in Medicare; or a clinic, rehabilitation agency, or public health agency that has in effect a similar agreement but only to furnish outpatient physical therapy or speech pathology services; or a community mental health center that has in effect a similar agreement but only to furnish partial hospitalization services.

Supplier is also defined in 42 CFR §400.202 and means a physician or other practitioner, or an entity other than a provider that furnishes health care services under Medicare.

In general, Medicare excludes payment for services rendered by a physician or other practitioner not only to their own immediate relatives but also to relatives of the owner or owner’s of the practice entity. (130-A.)

The intent of this exclusion is to bar Medicare payment for items and services that would ordinarily be furnished gratuitously because of the relationship of the beneficiary to the person imposing the charge. This exclusion applies to items and services rendered by providers to immediate relatives of the owner(s) of the provider. It also applies to services rendered by physicians to their immediate relatives and items furnished by suppliers to immediate relatives of the owner(s) of the supplier.”.

 Immediate Relative, as defined in regulations includes;

  • Husband and wife;
  • Natural or adoptive parent, child, and sibling;
  • Stepparent, stepchild, stepbrother, and stepsister;
  • Father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law;
  • Grandparent and grandchild; and
  • Spouse of grandparent and grandchild.

There are some minor exceptions but basically these prohibitions also survive divorce or death of the actual relative.  In a stated example within the regulations, (130 B.) we see;

“For example, if a provider treats the stepfather of the owner after the death of the owner’s natural mother or after the owner’s stepfather and natural mother are divorced, or if the provider treats the owner’s father-in-law or mother-in-law after the death of their spouse, the services are considered to have been furnished to an immediate relative, and therefore, are excluded from coverage.”

Current regulations also extend to “members of the patient’s household” who share a single family unit dwelling and includes their (live in) domestic employees.

 “These are persons sharing a common abode with the patient as a part of a single family unit, including those related by blood, marriage or adoption, domestic employees and others who live together as part of a single family unit. A mere roomer or boarder is not included.”

The prohibition of payment for services rendered to the immediate relatives is quite broad and applies whether the provider or supplier is a sole proprietor or a partnership in which even “one of the partners” is related to the Medicare patient and extends to any “incident to” services that may be provided by a nurse or technician.(130 E)

What if my PA or NP treats the relative?

Under Medicare regulations, 130 F, “This exclusion applies to charges imposed by a non-physician supplier that is not incorporated, whether the supplier is owned by a sole proprietor who has an excluded relationship to the patient, or by a partnership in which even one of the partners is related.”

Under regulation 130 D, Regulations state;  “Professional corporation means a corporation that is completely owed by one or more physicians, and is operated for the purpose of conducting the practice of medicine, osteopathy, dentistry, podiatry, optometry, or chiropractic, or is owned by other health care professionals as authorized by State law. Any physician or group of physicians which is incorporated constitutes a professional corporation.”

 The regulations provide an “exception” for the stockholders, officers or directors of a corporation (other than a professional corporation) however you should definitely check with a competent healthcare law attorney for a legal opinion on how your “particular corporation” would actually be viewed under the Medicare rules.

Summary: The Medicare regulations would appear to prohibit your billing for services rendered to your partner’s mother or any other immediate relative of any partner within your practice.  I would suggest you refer the patient to a physician that is not associated with your practice or provide the care at no cost to anyone.

 The discussion presented above is offered only as an overview of Medicare regulations and is not intended to be, or construed by the reader as being a legal opinion or legal advice.  Private carrier policies may vary in coverage on this subject.  While the author has made a good faith attempt to present the discussion accurately, the discussions presented are base on lay-interpretation of the issues and should not be viewed as an attempt to offer or render legal advice or opinion or otherwise engage in the practice of law.  The discussion presented is, at best, of a general nature and cannot be substituted for the advice of a licensed attorney at law with specialized knowledge in healthcare regulatory issues.
 The M.A.A.M.A. and the Medcorp Compliance Network always advise physicians and other practitioners to seek the advice and legal opinion of a licensed healthcare law attorney in your home State as your only authoritative interpretation of all matters of law and regulation for Federal, State and individual carrier coverage issues.