The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through its Office of Inspector General (OIG), announced plans for significant updates and modernization of OIG compliance program guidance (CPG) to improve their accessibility and usability for healthcare entities.[1] Originally issued in 1998, the CPG provide healthcare organizations across the industry with guidance on developing, implementing, and maintaining internal compliance controls. In the 25 years since, the OIG has issued multiple and specific CPGs that apply to particular segments of the healthcare industry including Medicare Advantage organizations, hospitals, home health agencies, nursing homes, and clinical laboratories. However, over time the CPGs have not sufficiently kept up with the innovations and growth of the healthcare industry.Continue Reading OIG Announces Upcoming Changes to Its Compliance Program Guidance Resources for the Healthcare Industry

Recent legislative changes indicate that Congress is committed to continuing to allow patients to access telehealth services after the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) ends, but it is gathering more information before making such changes permanent. Comments from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (“HHS”) Secretary Xavier Becerra and the HHS Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) indicate that HHS is committed to expanding telehealth beyond the end of the PHE and that the OIG recognizes the long-term benefits of access to these services.
Continue Reading Telehealth Flexibilities Extended to Late 2022 and Likely Beyond

Group of Children in a CircleOn January 6, 2017, several new regulatory exceptions to the beneficiary inducement statute went into effect. These regulations, published by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) in a final rule dated December 7, 2016,1 bring long awaited closure to many of the outstanding issues raised in the statutory versions of the exceptions implemented by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and in the proposed regulations issued by the OIG on October 3, 2014.2 Several exceptions that may be of particular interest to children’s hospitals are highlighted below.
Continue Reading New Regulatory Exceptions to the Beneficiary Inducement Statute

White gift box wrapped with vibrant red bow and ribbon isolatedOn Dec. 7, 2016, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) released an update to its 2000 policy regarding gifts of nominal value given to a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary. The update increases the nominal value of gifts given to a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary to $15 per occurrence and $75 in the aggregate for a year (the previous limit was $10 per occurrence and $50 in the aggregate). If a gift complies with these limits, the arrangement does not need to fit within a “safe harbor” to 42 U.S.C. §1320a-7b(b) (the federal anti-kickback statute).
Continue Reading OIG updates policy regarding gifts of nominal value

spotlightiStock_000001543068_LargeThe Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recently published its Fiscal Year 2016 Work Plan, which summarizes OIG’s priorities over the coming year. Notably, the 2016 Work Plan demonstrates the OIG’s expanded focus on delivery system reform and the effectiveness of alternate payment models, coordinated care programs, and value-based purchasing.

There were also noteworthy areas of new focus for several provider types, including skilled nursing facilities, hospice organizations, ambulatory surgical centers, and physician practices.  Below we have highlighted a few key areas from the FY 2016 Work Plan that will likely impact these providers. Please note this is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of the 2016 Work Plan and is focused only on the new OIG focal areas for these certain providers.
Continue Reading OIG issues FY 2016 Work Plan with more than 40 new focal areas

Healthcare_148231933The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) issued a fraud alert on June 9, 2015, targeting physician compensation agreements that potentially violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b). The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits remuneration of payment in exchange for referrals of patients receiving aid from federally funded healthcare programs (i.e. Medicare and Medicaid). The OIG alert references 12 recent settlements with individual physicians who entered into “questionable” medical directorship and office staff arrangements. The key concern in those cases centered on individual physicians entering into arrangements where the compensation did not “reflect [the] fair market value for bona fide services the physicians actually provide[d].”
Continue Reading OIG fraud alert regarding compensation agreements for physicians

money-closeup122486570The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a special fraud alert on June 9, 2015, stating that physician compensation arrangements may result in significant liability. Hopefully this is not a surprise to any physician or entity that treats federal health plan beneficiaries. However, given that, historically, OIG regulatory actions largely (although not exclusively) focused on the entity from which a physician received compensation, such as hospitals, laboratories, durable medical equipment suppliers, pharmacies, etc., the June 9, 2015, fraud alert highlights the potential for physician liability in these arrangements.
Continue Reading Physician compensation caution

Based on OIG enforcement action excerpts for the past week, tips for staying ahead in healthcare regulatory compliance efforts include:

Continue Reading Compliance tips this week: Lessons learned from recent OIG enforcement actions

A recent OIG Advisory Opinion (Adv. Op. 13-15) is, to a certain degree, more interesting for one of its footnotes than the body of the opinion itself. The footnote addresses a hotly debated issue, originally raised in an OIG Management Advisory Report (MAR) in 1991. That MAR took the position that an agreement between a hospital and a hospital-based physician group was a “suspect arrangement” under the Anti-Kickback Statute because the physician group was essentially required to split its revenue with the hospital–including requiring the group to provide uncompensated services to the hospital.

The OIG modified this position somewhat in the Supplement Compliance Program Guidance for Hospitals in 2005. In that compliance guidance, the OIG stated that an exclusive arrangement that required a hospital-based physician group to provide “reasonable administrative or limited clinical duties directly related to the hospital-based profession services at no or a reduced charge” would be permissible. The Compliance Guidance cautioned, however, that uncompensated or below-market-rate services would still be subject to “close scrutiny.”
Continue Reading The OIG Advisory Opinion with the Fascinating Footnote

The Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services released a report last week showing that the government has achieved the highest return on investment in the 16-year history of the Health Care Fraud and Abuse (HCFAC) Program.  According to the report, for every dollar spent on healthcare-related fraud and abuse investigations in the last three years, the government recovered $7.90.

The government recovered $4.2 billion from healthcare fraud enforcement efforts in FY 2012, up from $4.1 billion in FY 2011.  The government continues to focus on reducing fraud and waste in the healthcare system.

“This was a record-breaking year for the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services in our collaborative effort to crack down on health care fraud and protect valuable taxpayer dollars,” said Attorney General Holder.  “In the past fiscal year, our relentless pursuit of health care fraud resulted in the disruption of an array of sophisticated fraud schemes and the recovery of more taxpayer dollars than ever before.  This report demonstrates our serious commitment to prosecuting health care fraud and safeguarding our world-class health care programs from abuse.”

The government also touted the use of fraud-fighting tools authorized by the Affordable Care Act including enhanced screenings and enrollment requirements, increased data sharing across the government, expanded recovery efforts for overpayments and greater oversight of private insurance abuses.  Screening of all 1.5 million Medicare-enrolled providers through the new Automated Provider Screening system began in FY 2012.  The report states that nearly 150,000 ineligible providers have already been eliminated from Medicare’s billing system. 
Continue Reading Government Announces Record-Breaking Recoveries of Healthcare Fraud Money