The U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee today issued a report slamming physician-owned distributorships that sell the spinal implants their doctor-owners prescribe.
It’s not the 1st time that so-called PODs have drawn scrutiny from federal officials. Back in 2011, a Senate Finance panel report prompted a group of senators to petition the U.S. Health & Human Services Dept.’s inspector general to investigate the businesses and warn that they may create incentives for doctors to give preference to devices that provide them a financial return. The finance committee’s 2011 report found that PODS existed in 20 states, with more than 40 in California alone.
In 2012 the HHS OIG issued a “Special Fraud Alert” labeling PODs as “inherently suspect” under Medicare’s anti-kickback rules. A 2013 OIG report found that the cost of spinal fusion surgeries rises when hospitals purchase medical devices from PODs, finding that 20% of the procedures used devices purchased from the doctor-owned distributors. The Justice Dept. joined the chorus that year, warning that the influence that doctors have over hospitals purchasing practices leaves room for serious conflicts of interest.