The OIG published a notice today announcing that it is extending the public comment period on its July 11, 2014 notice soliciting recommendations for revising OIG's non-binding criteria for implementing its permissive exclusion authority under Section 1128(b)(7) of the Social Security Act. The OIG notes that due to a technical problem, the public may have been unable to submit comments during the original comment period. The new comment deadline is December 29, 2014.
The OIG has issued a report on Medicare beneficiary copayment costs for outpatient services provided at critical access hospitals (CAH). Beneficiaries who receive services at CAHs pay Medicare coinsurance amounts based on CAH charges, in contrast to patients at acute care hospitals who are responsible for coinsurance amounts based on outpatient prospective payment system (OPPS) rates. According to the OIG report, “Medicare Beneficiaries Paid Nearly Half of the Costs for Outpatient Services at Critical Access Hospitals,” CAH charges are typically higher than the reasonable costs associated with CAH services or the OPPS rates that acute-care hospitals receive. The OIG estimates that Medicare beneficiaries paid nearly half the costs for outpatient services at CAHs in 2012 (approximately $1.5 billion of the estimated $3.2 billion cost for CAH outpatient services). The OIG recommends that CMS seek legislative authority to modify how coinsurance is calculated for outpatient services received at CAHs to reduce the percentage of costs paid by Medicare beneficiaries in coinsurance. For instance, CMS could consider (1) computing coinsurance so that it is based on interim payment rates rather than charges, and (2) processing claims for outpatient services at CAHs as if they were paid under OPPS for the purpose of calculating an OPPS equivalent coinsurance.
Reed Smith Client Alert: Analysis of HHS OIG Proposed Rule to Amend the Anti-Kickback Safe Harbors, CMP Rules on Beneficiary Inducements & Gainsharing Regulations
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has published a major proposed rule that would amend the safe harbors to the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and the Civil Monetary Penalty rules to protect certain payment practices and business arrangements from criminal prosecution or civil sanctions under the AKS. Reed Smith has prepared a Client Alert analyzing the proposed rule, highlighting areas where the OIG is seeking public comment. Overall, the OIG appears to recognize that new health care delivery mechanisms demand a more flexible approach to fraud and abuse enforcement than has been the case in the past, as discussed in our analysis.
The Client Alert is available here.
OIG and CMS Extend Fraud/Abuse Waivers for Medicare Shared Savings Program/ACOs; Invite Feedback on Waiver Policy
Today the OIG and CMS published a joint notice continuing the effectiveness of fraud and abuse law waivers granted in 2011 in connection with the Medicare Shared Savings Program, which is intended to encourage physicians, hospitals, and certain other types of providers and suppliers to form accountable care organizations (ACOs).
By way of background, in a November 2, 2011 joint OIG-CMS interim final rule with comment period, the agencies established waivers of the application of the federal physician self-referral law, the federal anti-kickback statute, and certain civil monetary penalties law provisions to specified arrangements involving ACOs participating in the Shared Savings Program (the Waiver IFC). In 2011 Reed Smith prepared an in-depth analysis of the Medicare Shared Savings Program, including an analysis of the Waiver IFC. Because of a general 3-year deadline for publishing Medicare final rules after the publication of a proposed or interim final rule, the agencies are extending the timeline for publication of a final rule concerning Shared Savings Program waivers to avoid “creating legal uncertainty for ACOs participating in the Shared Savings Program and potentially disrupting ongoing business plans or operations of some ACOs.” The notice also states that CMS is developing a proposed rule to make certain modifications to the Shared Savings Program regulations; in order to ensure that the final waiver regulations align with the Shared Savings Program rules, the agencies believe “the prudent course of action at this time is to extend the effectiveness of the Waiver IFC.” Thus the Waiver IFC will remain in effect through November 2, 2015, unless a final waiver rule becomes effective on an earlier date.
In the notice, the agencies also suggest that they would benefit from additional stakeholder input to inform their understanding of:
- how and to what extent ACOs are using the waivers;
- whether the existing waivers serve the needs of ACOs and the Medicare program;
- whether the waivers adequately protect the Medicare program and beneficiaries from the types of harms associated with referral payments or payments to reduce or limit services; and
- whether there are new or changed considerations that should inform the development of additional notice and comment rulemaking.
No deadline is specified for providing feedback on these considerations.
In a recent report, the OIG concluded that Medicare would have saved millions of dollars in 2011 if Medicare Part B prescription drug dispensing and supplying fees had been aligned with the rates paid by Medicare Part D plans or state Medicaid programs. Specifically, if Part B dispensing and supplying fees had been the same as average Part D rates in 2011, Part B would have saved $110.9 million, while use of average state Medicaid rates would have saved $106.3 million. The OIG recommended that CMS issue regulations to decrease Part B dispensing and supplying fees to rates similar to those of other payers, such as Part D and Medicaid. CMS did not concur with the OIG’s recommendation, and requested that the OIG study actual costs associated with dispensing these Part B drugs. For additionl information, see the full report, “Medicare Part B Prescription Drug Dispensing and Supplying Fee Payment Rates Are Considerably Higher than the Rates Paid by Other Government Programs."
The OIG has issued a report evaluating state standards for access to care for Medicaid managed care program enrollees, an issue which the OIG notes has taken on heightened importance as enrollment in such programs grows. Based on a review of the 33 states with comprehensive, "full risk" Medicaid managed care, the OIG concluded that state standards for access to care vary widely. For example, state standards for primary care providers range from one primary care provider for every 100 enrollees to one provider for every 2,500 enrollees. The OIG also pointed out varying state strategies to assess compliance with access standards, and noted that most states did not identify any violations of such standards over a five-year period. The OIG recommend that CMS: (1) strengthen its oversight of state standards, including ensuring that states develop standards for key provider types; (2) strengthen its oversight of states' methods to assess access standard compliance; (3) improve states' efforts to identify and address violations of access standards; and (4) provide technical assistance to states. CMS concurred with the recommendations.
The OIG has created a “Spotlight” page on its internet site focusing on “Medicaid: State Policies that Result in Inflated Federal Costs.” The page compiles OIG reports that highlighted “State policies that distort the cost-sharing arrangement, causing the Federal Government to pay more than its share of Medicaid expenditures.” According to the OIG, such mechanisms do not increase benefits to beneficiaries, but they increase states' funds at the expense of the federal government. The OIG discusses steps that have been taken to close loopholes in this area, but it notes that more work remains. The OIG continues to recommend that CMS seek legislation to strengthen its ability to curb wasteful federal spending stemming from states claiming reimbursement for excessive payments.
OIG Releases Proposed Revisions to Anti-Kickback Safe Harbors, CMP Rules on Beneficiary Inducements & Gainsharing
The OIG has just released a major proposed rule to amend the safe harbors to the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and the Civil Monetary Penalty (CMP) rule to protect certain payment practices and business arrangements from criminal prosecution or civil sanctions under the anti-kickback statute. In particular, with regard to the AKS, the OIG proposes:
- a technical correction to the existing safe harbor for referral services;
- protection for certain cost-sharing waivers, including: pharmacy waivers of cost-sharing for financially needy Medicare Part D beneficiaries, and waivers of cost-sharing for emergency ambulance services furnished by state- or municipality-owned ambulance services;
- protection for certain remuneration between Medicare Advantage organizations and federally qualified health centers;
- protection for discounts by manufacturers on drugs furnished to beneficiaries under the Medicare Coverage Gap Discount Program; and
- protection for free or discounted local transportation services that meet specified criteria.
The OIG also proposes to amend the definition of “remuneration” in the CMP regulations at 42 CFR 1003 by adding certain statutory exceptions for:
- copayment reductions for certain hospital outpatient department services;
- certain remuneration that poses a low risk of harm and promotes access to care;
- coupons, rebates, or other retailer reward programs that meet specified requirements;
- certain remuneration to financially needy individuals; and
- copayment waivers for the first fill of generic drugs.
The OIG also proposes to codify the gainsharing CMP rule set forth in section 1128A(b) of the Social Security Act. The official version will be published tomorrow; Reed Smith is preparing an analysis of this proposed rule.
OMB Clears OIG Proposed Rule on Anti-Kickback Safe Harbors, CMPs for Beneficiary Inducements & Gainsharing
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has cleared an HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) proposed rule that would expand the OIG’s Medicare and state health care program fraud and abuse authorities. Specifically, on September 4, 2014, the OMB gave final regulatory clearance to an OIG proposed rule that would add new anti-kickback safe harbors to reflect statutory changes, codify the ACA’s definition of "remuneration," and add a gainsharing civil monetary penalty (CMP) regulation. The proposed rule should be published in the Federal Register in the near future.
The OIG has issued a report reviewing the extent to which Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing facilities comply with federal requirements related to reporting allegations of resident abuse or neglect. For the purposes of this report, the OIG uses the term “nursing facility” (NF) to refer to both Medicare skilled nursing facilities and Medicaid nursing facilities. Based on a sample of 250 NFs, the OIG estimates that:
- 85% of NFs reported at least one allegation of abuse or neglect to OIG in 2012. The OIG notes that for the purposes of this study, it did not determine whether the reported allegations were substantiated.
- 76% of NFs maintained policies that address federal regulations for reporting both allegations of abuse or neglect and investigation results.
- 61% of NFs had documentation supporting the facilities’ compliance with regulations under Section 1150B of the Social Security Act requiring NFs to (1) annually notify covered individuals (i.e., owners, operators, employees, managers, agents, or contractors of nursing facilities) of their obligation to report to the appropriate entities any reasonable suspicion of a crime, and (2) clearly post a notice specifying employees’ rights to file a complaint under Section 1150B.
- 53% of allegations of abuse or neglect and the subsequent investigation results were reported, as required.
The OIG recommends that CMS ensure that nursing facilities: (1) maintain policies related to reporting allegations of abuse or neglect; (2) notify covered individuals of their obligation to report reasonable suspicions of crimes; and (3) report allegations of abuse or neglect and investigation results in a timely manner and to the appropriate individuals.
A recent OIG report, “Medicaid Drug Rebate Dispute Resolution Could Be Improved,” focuses on the extent to which drug manufacturers and states disagree on the amount of money that manufacturers owe states in Medicaid rebates, and how such disputes are resolved. Most states providing data (29 of 31) estimated that only a small percentage of rebate dollars were disputed, such as when poor quality claims data leads to disputes regarding unit of measure conversions, physician-administered drugs, and ineligible drugs (e.g., drugs purchased under the 340B Drug Pricing Program and terminated drugs). States reported difficulties in providing data to resolve such disputes, and some state and manufacturer representatives expressed interest in greater CMS involvement in preventing and resolving disputes. To that end, the OIG recommends that CMS: work with states to improve the quality of claims data submitted by providers and pharmacies; help states obtain better data on ineligible drugs; facilitate states’ submission of standardized claims data, and establish a stronger role in dispute resolution.
The OIG has issued two reports on implementation of the ACA health insurance “Marketplaces.” The first report, “Marketplaces Faced Early Challenges Resolving Inconsistencies with Applicant Data,” looked at the extent to which the federal and state health insurance marketplaces ensured the accuracy of information submitted by insurance applicants, including information related to eligibility for premium tax credits and cost sharing reductions. According to the OIG, marketplaces were unable to resolve most data inconsistencies, particularly involving citizenship and income information (although the OIG cautions that inconsistencies do not necessarily indicate that incorrect information was provided or that financial assistance is inappropriate). The report recommends additional planning and oversight to resolve inconsistencies.
A related OIG report questions the effectiveness of internal controls implemented by the federal, California, and Connecticut marketplaces in ensuring that individuals were enrolled in qualified health plans (QHPs) according to federal requirements. In particular, the OIG identified deficiencies in internal controls that could limit the marketplaces’ ability to prevent the use of inaccurate or fraudulent information when determining applicant’s eligibility for enrollment in a QHP. The OIG recommended steps to verify applicant data, determine enrollment and cost sharing assistance eligibility, and maintain and update enrollment data.
Finally, the GAO released a report that concentrates on contractor performance related to the Healthcare.gov portal. The GAO points cost increases and delayed system functionality for the federally facilitated marketplace that resulted from CMS’s lack of effective planning, changing requirements and oversight gaps. GAO recommends that CMS take immediate steps to address contract costs, acquisition strategies, and use of oversight tools. In its response to the report, CMS discussed improvements it was making in the management of the Marketplace (including a stronger CMS management structure, an improved structure of Marketplace contracts, and a strengthened acquisition workforce). CMS expressed confidence that “its contractors will deliver the needed capabilities for the 2015 open enrollment period in a timely and cost-efficient manner.”
The OIG has posted guidance on its contractor self-disclosure program, which provides a means for contractors to self-disclose potential violations of the False Claims Act and federal criminal laws involving fraud, conflict of interest, bribery, or gratuity. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requires federal contractors with contracts valued over $5 million to disclose to the OIG when they have credible evidence of one of these violations. The guidance specifies that such self-disclosures are made with no advance agreement regarding possible OIG resolution and with no promises regarding potential Department of Justice action. The guidance, a disclosure form, and FAQs are available at the OIG web site.
The OIG attributes $32 million in Medicare Part D spending on HIV drugs in 2012 to claims associated with “questionable utilization patterns.” Specifically, nearly 1,600 Part D beneficiaries with HIV drug claims had no indication of HIV in their Medicare histories, received an excessive dose or supply of HIV drugs, received HIV drugs from a high number of pharmacies or prescribers, or received contraindicated drugs. The OIG observes that while some of this utilization may be legitimate, these patterns warrant further scrutiny, since they could indicate that a beneficiary is receiving inappropriate drugs or diverting drugs, a pharmacy is billing for drugs that the beneficiary did not receive, or a beneficiary’s identification number was stolen. The OIG recommend that CMS: expand sponsors’ drug utilization review programs and use of beneficiary-specific controls; expand the Overutilization Monitoring System to additional drugs; restrict certain beneficiaries to a limited number of pharmacies or prescribers and limit their ability to switch plans; increase monitoring of beneficiaries’ utilization patterns; and follow up on questionable utilization patterns.
According to an OIG report, “Questionable Billing for Medicare Part B Clinical Laboratory Services,” Medicare allowed $1.7 billion for clinical laboratory claims in 2010 associated with eight types of “questionable billing.” Such indicators of questionable billing identified by the OIG include: claims for beneficiaries with no associated Part B service with ordering physician; claims with beneficiaries living more than 150 miles from the ordering physician; duplicate lab tests; claims with ineligible or invalid ordering-physician numbers; claims with compromised beneficiary, ordering-physician, or lab provider number. More than 1,000 labs had unusually high billing for five or more measures of questionable billing for Medicare lab service, and almost half of these labs were located in California and Florida. The OIG notes that while “some of this billing may be legitimate, all labs that exceeded thresholds on five or more measures of questionable billing may warrant further scrutiny.” The OIG recommends that CMS: review the labs identified as having questionable billing and take appropriate action; review the effectiveness of existing program integrity strategies; and ensure that existing edits prevent claims with invalid and ineligible ordering-physician numbers from being paid. CMS concurred with these recommendations.
The OIG has issued a report entitled “Limitations in Manufacturer Reporting of Average Sales Price Data for Part B Drugs.” The OIG determined that at least one-third of 200 manufacturers did not submit required ASPs for some of their products in the third quarter of 2012, despite being required to do so, and another 45 manufacturers were not required to report ASPs because they have not signed a Medicaid drug rebate agreement (although 22 of these manufacturers voluntarily reported ASPs). In addition, the OIG asserts that inaccuracies in CMS’s ASP files may have affected Medicare payments for a small number of drugs. The OIG made a series of recommendations, including that CMS continue to work with OIG to identify and penalize manufacturers that do not meet ASP reporting requirements (CMS concurred). CMS did not agree with an OIG recommendation to seek a legislative change to directly require all manufacturers of Part B drugs to submit ASPs.
The OIG published a notice July 11, 2014 announcing that it is considering revising its nonbinding criteria, established in 1997, outlining the circumstances under which the OIG may exercise its permissive authority under Section 1128(b)(7) of the Social Security Act to exclude an individual or entity from participation in the federal health care programs for engaging in conduct described in sections 1128A and 1128B of the Act (e.g., submitting or causing the submission of false or fraudulent claims or soliciting or paying kickbacks in violation of the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute). Since 1997, OIG has used these criteria in False Claims Act cases and administrative matters to evaluate whether to impose a permissive exclusion or release this authority in exchange for the defendant’s entering into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with OIG. The OIG suggests that “updated guidance could better reflect the state of the health care industry today, including the changes in legal requirements and the emergence of the health care compliance industry.” The OIG is particularly interested in input on: (1) whether there should be differences in the criteria for individuals and entities and (2) whether and how to consider a defendant's existing compliance program. The OIG will accept comments through September 9, 2014. After reviewing comments, the OIG will decide whether and how to revise its non-binding exclusion criteria.
Today the HHS OIG issued a Special Fraud Alert highlighting its concerns regarding two trends involving transfers of value from laboratories to physicians that the OIG believes “present a substantial risk of fraud and abuse under the anti-kickback statute.” Specifically, the OIG details risks involved with certain compensation paid by laboratories to referring physicians and physician group practices for (1) blood specimen collection, processing, and packaging, and (2) submitting patient data to a registry or database. The Special Fraud Alert reiterates the OIG’s “longstanding concerns” when payments from laboratories to physicians exceed the fair market value of the physicians’ services or reflect the volume or value of referrals of federal health care program business. Reed Smith is preparing an analysis of the Alert.
The OIG issued a report today entitled “Inconsistencies in States’ Reporting of the Federal Share of Medicaid Drug Rebates.” States are eligible for higher federal financial participation (FFP) rates for certain Medical Assistance services, such as those related to family planning, Indian Health Services, and breast and cervical cancer care. Based on prior work, the OIG was concerned that states may not always use the higher FFP rates when refunding to the federal government its share of drug rebates that drug manufacturers paid to the states, which could result in a loss of federal share. The new OIG report assesses whether states reported drug rebates at the applicable FFP rates for the period July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012. According to the OIG, while states claimed drug expenditures at higher FFP rates, they did not consistently report the federal share of drug rebates at those higher FFP rates for one or more quarters during the review period. The OIG also found that states used different methodologies to determine the federal share of drug rebates, which could be attributed to a lack of specific national CMS guidance instructing states to report drug rebates at the FFP rates at which drugs were originally reimbursed or that identifies acceptable methods to determine the federal share of drug rebates. The OIG recommended that CMS issue guidance that clearly instructs states to report drug rebates at the applicable FFP rates and identify acceptable methods to determine the federal share of drug rebates; CMS concurred.
The OIG has released an ACA-mandated report assessing the extent to which formularies used by Medicare Part D drug plans include drugs commonly used by full-benefit dual-eligible individuals(i.e., individuals eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid and who receive full Medicaid benefits and assistance with Medicare premiums and cost-sharing). The report, which covered the 3,309 Part D plans operating in 2014, determined that on average, Part D plan formularies include 96% of the 195 commonly-used drugs identified by the OIG. In addition, 64% of the commonly-used drugs are included by all Part D plan formularies. The OIG observes that these results are largely unchanged from the 2013 report. Formularies applied utilization management tools to 28% of the unique drugs reviewed in 2014, also the same as in 2013.