Receiving free vein evaluations and free ultrasounds sounds like a great idea. However, in the wrong circumstances you, the patient, could become entangled in an audit. Government-administered insurance plans like Medicare and Tricare do not allow physicians to provide complimentary services valued at greater than $15.00 that may influence a patient’s decision in where to seek care. According to the Office of The Inspector General, this act carries a fine of $10,000.00 per violation. Any non-billed (free) discussion with a physician or non-billed (free) ultrasound study, no matter how minor it may seem, is defined as a violation for Medicare and Tricare patients. Federal agencies have recently issued significant warnings to physicians with respect to this issue.
Additionally, both Government healthcare plans and private insurance require a physician, not a registered nurse, to be the one ordering appropriate ultrasound studies. If you are a Medicare or Tricare patient who has received either a free physician evaluation or has had an ultrasound study ordered by a registered nurse, that physician’s office could be audited and the patient could be asked to testify. The same concerns exist with ordering of ultrasound studies by a registered nurse for all private insurance. Make sure your physician is in compliance with these issues, as what you receive for free may not end up being such a bargain.