It has long been illegal to pay beneficiaries to receive services paid by Medicare. The fear being since the individual pays little of the cost or premium for Medicare any inducement to receive services could quickly lead to fraud. Countless court cases have held providers to account when they have engaged in this sort of activity. You would think a change would require our legislature to discuss the issue and pass a law changing precedent. Not with Obama's HHS they don't:
"The Department of Health and Human Services has given qualified approval for a Medicare provider to give away $20 grocery gift cards to induce seniors to get more taxpayer-funded health screenings, despite concerns the promotion could run afoul of federal anti-kickback laws."
“First, such programs can corrupt the decision-making process,
resulting, for example, in over-utilization, increased costs, or
inappropriate medical choices. Second, there is potential harm to
competing providers and suppliers who do not, or cannot afford to, offer
incentives to generate business. Third, these practices could
negatively affect the quality of care given to beneficiaries,” the
report noted. “As providers and suppliers race to the bottom by
offering increasingly valuable goods or services, the incentive to
offset the cost of these inducements by cheating on the quality of the
Medicare or Medicaid item or service increases proportionately.”
This is not some new phenomenon, we know exactly what happens when programs like this are allowed, that is why they are illegal. But just like Obama's naive belief in community rating and welfare, the politicians and academics behind this think they know better then everyone else.
Just another trainwreck waiting to happen. On the bright side, since it is only an HHS opinion, the next qualified individal to run HHS should be able to undo it quickly.