Office of the Inspector General ("OIG")

The Biden Administration has expressed a deep concern about nursing home owners and related parties excessively profiting off of the residents they serve to the detriment of quality care. To address this concern, President Biden has asked Congress to implement laws that will empower federal agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to increase accountability for facility ownership and expand enforcement authority at the ownership level. In addition, the federal agencies that regulate and oversee nursing homes (and some states[1]) have or plan to take action to ensure more transparency, compliance and enforcement regarding nursing facility ownership. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced last week that it will undertake an audit of skilled nursing facility Medicare payments to related parties. Facility owners and operators should heed these developments, which as discussed below, focus on several fronts, and ensure that their relationships and operations are in accord with existing federal and state related party laws and regulations.

Continue Reading Nursing Homes Beware: the Government has Increased Its Scrutiny of Related Parties

On August 19, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) posted a favorable advisory opinion, AO 22-16, with respect to the provision of gift cards to Medicare Advantage (“MA”) plan enrollees who complete certain steps in an online patient education program. This opinion underscores potential flexibility for with Medicare Advantage Organizations (“MAOs”) and their vendor partners to offer incentives to patients to engage in learning and health care engagement activities that may improve health outcomes without inappropriately steering patients toward particular providers or MA plans.

Continue Reading OIG Blesses Gift Cards for Patient Engagement with Education Tool

The Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) recently issued Advisory Opinion 22-08 (the “Advisory Opinion”), concluding that the provision of limited use smartphones by a federally qualified health center (“FQHC”) to existing, low-income patients (the “Arrangement”) lacked the intent required to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”)[1] and was not likely to generate remuneration prohibited under the federal Civil Monetary Penalties Law prohibiting inducements to health care program beneficiaries (“Beneficiary Inducement CMP”)[2].

Continue Reading OIG Issues Favorable Advisory Opinion For Federally Qualified Health Center’s Smartphone Loan Program

On July 20, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a Special Fraud Alert warning physicians and other practitioners to exercise caution when entering into telemedicine arrangements that have certain suspect characteristics.

Continue Reading OIG Warns Physicians About Entering into Arrangements with Telemedicine Companies

On April 25, 2022, the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) issued Advisory Opinion No. 22-07 which evaluated the risk of fraud and abuse under the federal anti-kickback statute (“AKS”) posed by an arrangement involving physician-ownership of a medical device company. The opinion identified six characteristics of the arrangement which greatly reduced the risk of fraud and abuse.

Continue Reading OIG Issues Favorable Advisory Opinion for Physician-Owned Medical Device Company

Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector (“OIG”) released a report that studied prior authorization denials and payment denials by Medicare Advantage Organizations (“MAOs”) (the “Report”). While the Report found that the “vast majority” of prior authorizations and payment requests were approved, the Report focused on the finding that MAOs “sometimes” denied prior authorization and payment requests that met Medicare coverage rules claiming that the denials delayed or denied beneficiaries’ access to medically necessary services.
Continue Reading HHS OIG Report On Prior Authorizations Under Medicare Advantage

On March 2, 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Office of the Inspector General (the “OIG”) issued a new advisory opinion (“AO 22-04”) related to a program through which the Requestor would provide certain individuals access to digital contingency management (“CM”) and related tools to treat substance use disorders (“Program”).  The OIG advised that it would not impose administrative sanctions under the Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”) or the Beneficiary Inducements Civil Monetary Penalty Law (“CMPL”).
Continue Reading HHS OIG Signs Off on Substance Use Recovery Incentive Program

On Thursday, March 16, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (“OIG”) issued OIG Advisory Opinion (“AO”) No. 22-05, relating to subsidization of certain Medicare cost-sharing obligations in the context of a clinical trial involving medical devices (the “Proposed Arrangement”). This is the third AO in a recent series of AOs (see AO 21-17 on November 19, 2021 and AO 21-13 on October 4, 2021) focused on Medicare cost subsidies in a clinical trial setting for serious conditions that affect large portions of the population in the US. Like these other AOs, OIG found that while the Proposed Arrangement could generate fraud and abuse risks under both the Federal anti-kickback statute (i.e., Section 1128A(a)(7) and 1128B(b) of the Social Security Act (“Act”)) and the Beneficiary Inducements CMP (i.e., Section 1128A(a)(5) of the Act), the Proposed Arrangement nevertheless presented a minimal risk of fraud and abuse under the law on the facts presented. Medical device manufacturers should pay close attention to this trend when considering trial designs and patient populations.

Continue Reading OIG Advisory Opinion Alert: Yet Another Favorable Decision for Medical Device Manufacturers

The United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) recently issued a report concerning the use of telehealth to render behavioral health services to Medicaid enrollees, calling for greater evaluation and oversight in the hopes of encouraging states to implement changes to improve how their Medicaid programs use telehealth for behavioral health services, including mental health assessments, individual therapy, and medication management.

Continue Reading HHS OIG Studies State Medicaid Programs’ Use of Telehealth

On November 30, 2020, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) issued a final rule (“Final Rule”) that makes significant changes to the federal Antikickback Statute (“AKS”) safe harbor regulations as such regulations relate to the cost of prescription drugs as covered by the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  More specifically, the Final Rule amends the AKS discount safe harbor (“Discount Safe Harbor”) at 42 C.F.R. §1001.952(h) to eliminate safe harbor protection for drug discounts and rebates offered by pharmaceutical manufacturers to pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs”) and  Medicare Part D prescription drug plan (“Medicare Part D”) sponsors.  In addition to making significant changes to the Discount Safe Harbor, the Final Rule creates two new pharmaceutical-related safe harbors: (i) a safe harbor applicable to certain prescription drug point-of-sale discounts as offered to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to reduce their direct out-of-pocket prescription drug costs (the “Point-of-Sale Safe Harbor”) and (ii) a safe harbor applicable to flat fee arrangements paid by drug companies directly to PBMs for PBM services (the “PBM Service Fees Safe Harbor”).

Continue Reading Eleventh Hour Rulemaking: HHS Eliminates Safe Harbor Protections for PBM Drug Rebates and Creates Two New Safe Harbors for Point-of-Service Discounts and PBM Fixed-Fee Arrangements

OIG Advisory Opinion No. 19-03

On March 6, 2019, the Department of Health & Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) published a new advisory opinion, No. 19-03 (the “AO”), addressing a proposed arrangement to provide free post-discharge support to patients. The OIG determined that it would not impose sanctions under either the Civil Monetary Penalties law (“CMPL”) or the federal health care program Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”), offering some comfort to providers who seek to implement – or who have already implemented – similar programs. However, the OIG’s assertion that the proposed program would not fall within the “promotes access to care” exception to the CMPL indicates a potentially worrisome and narrow interpretation of a facially broad statutory exception.
Continue Reading OIG Advisory Opinion No. 19-03: The OIG Puts the Healthcare Benefits of Free In-Home Care and the Risks of Patient Steering in the Balance