[This section adapted from Richards EP, Rathbun KC. Professional Courtesy.
Med. January 1998;95:18–20.]
Professional courtesy—taking care of the families of other physicians without
charge—is a tradition that dates back to Hippocrates. The practice served to
build bonds between physicians, and to reduce the incentive for physicians to
treat their own families. Although the authors believe that, on balance,
professional courtesy is good for the medical profession, the Congress and
private insurance companies have greatly reduced the permissible scope for
reducing charges for medical care. Since the penalties for violating these
restrictions include denial of the claim, deselection from the plan, fines, and
imprisonment, medical care practitioners must review their practices to ensure
that they are in compliance.
Private insurers and the federal government have basic restrictions on how you
charge patients for medical care. Neither creates an exception for professional
courtesy: in general, if you cannot reduce the cost of care for anyone else in
your practice, you cannot reduce it for other medical care practitioners. There
are even situations where it is permissible to reduce the cost of care for
everyone except physicians.