Office of Inspector General Developments

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) will be lifting its long-standing refusal to accept requests for advisory opinions if the request describes a course of action that is “the same or substantially the same” as a course of action that is either under investigation by OIG, or is the subject of a proceeding involving a governmental agency. As of February 10, 2022, a new final rule issued by the OIG will do away with that restriction and allow entities to request an advisory opinion, even if the requested course of action is the same or substantially the same as one under investigation or is the subject of a proceeding involving a governmental agency. Previously, the OIG’s policy deliberately left unsettled many fraud-and-abuse issues implicated by pending investigations or litigation.

As the final rule points out, however, seeking clarity during a pending investigation or litigation will carry risk: the mere fact that a course of action is the subject of a qui tam case or under investigation “will weigh against the issuance of a favorable advisory opinion because such circumstances generally indicate that the arrangement does not present a sufficiently low risk of fraud and abuse.”

This warning seems to assume that all investigations and litigation have equal merit, which is certainly not the case with matters initiated by self-appointed whistle-blowers under the False Claims Act, who often bring cases with very little merit. Nevertheless, the new rule provides flexibility, and provides opportunities for the OIG to provide guidance to health care companies seeking to develop business opportunities that, for example, a long-pending and/or declined qui tam case may have stymied.

Continue Reading Pending investigations/cases no longer prevent OIG advisory opinions

On July 18, 2018, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for regulatory review a proposed rule entitled “Removal Of Safe Harbor Protection for Rebates to Plans or PBMs Involving Prescription Pharmaceuticals and Creation of New Safe Harbor

Today the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) published its annual solicitation of recommendations for new or modified safe harbor provisions under the federal anti-kickback statute, as well as potential topics for new OIG Special Fraud Alerts. Comments will be accepted until March 2, 2015. In a separate report, the OIG discusses three safe

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

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.
Continue Reading Reed Smith Client Alert: Analysis of HHS OIG Proposed Rule to Amend the Anti-Kickback Safe Harbors, CMP Rules on Beneficiary Inducements & Gainsharing Regulations

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,

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:

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On September 19, 2014, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health & Human Services issued a Special Advisory Bulletin (SAB) in which it identified several potential regulatory risks to federal health care programs as the result of coupon programs used by drug manufacturers to reduce or eliminate patient copayments for brand-name drugs. In the SAB, the OIG explains that coupon program sponsors and pharmacies will risk the receipt of penalties if they do not take steps to actively prevent federal health care program beneficiaries from using the coupons. According to the OIG, these coupon programs qualify as examples of remuneration offered to consumers to encourage the purchase and use of specific items, and therefore implicate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute. In addition, a claim that includes items or services resulting from such a kickback violation would constitute a false or fraudulent claim under the False Claims Act.
Continue Reading HHS OIG Paints with Broad Brush in Criticizing Drug Manufacturer Coupon Programs

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

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

On the heels of its proposed rule to expand its health program exclusion authority, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services has published a proposed rule that would amend the health care program civil monetary penalty (CMP) regulations. The rule would codify the OIG’s expanded statutory authority under the Affordable Care Act to impose CMPs on providers and suppliers and would allow for significant penalties in a variety of scenarios, some of which could extend beyond what is currently permitted.

Reed Smith attorneys have prepared a Client Alert summarizing and analyzing the OIG’s proposed rule, including the various scenarios under which CMPs could be issued under the proposed regulations, such as: failure to report and return an overpayment; failure to grant OIG timely access to records upon request; ordering or prescribing items or services while excluded from a federal health care program, as well as arranging or contracting with an individual or entity who meets this criteria; making false statements or omitting or misrepresenting material facts in an application, bid, or contract; and failing to submit or certify drug-pricing and product information in a timely manner. In addition, the alert covers the changes in technical language proposed by OIG to clarify and more clearly define the scope of CMP regulations.
Continue Reading OIG Proposed Rule Would Expand Civil Monetary Penalty Authority

On May 9, 2014, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a proposed rule that would significantly expand the exclusion regulations applicable to persons or entities that receive, directly or indirectly, funds from federal health care programs (the Proposed Rule). The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded the OIG’s authority for exclusion, and authorized the use of testimonial subpoenas in investigations of exclusion cases. In this Proposed Rule, the OIG incorporates these statutory changes, revises the definitions applicable to exclusions, proposes early reinstatement procedures, and offers a number of proposed policy changes as to when and how exclusions may take place.

Reed Smith has prepared a Client Alert that provides an overview of the Proposed Rule, including: proposed revisions to definitions; new grounds for exclusion; clarifications to existing regulations to add mitigating and aggravating factors; early reinstatement procedures; and proposed procedural changes in the OIG’s exclusion authorities In particular, we discuss the OIG’s assertion that there should be no statute of limitations within which it would have to seek exclusion. This limitless look-back authority could place a tremendous burden on providers and suppliers, since their conduct and compliance efforts could be second-guessed many years into the future, when supporting documentation and witnesses may be long gone. We also discuss how these proposed changes to the OIG’s exclusion authorities could impact the debarment authority applicable to government contracts more generally.
Continue Reading HHS OIG Proposes Expansion of Exclusion Authorities

As previously reported, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published final rules in December amending Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and Stark Law regulations permitting certain arrangements involving the donation of interoperable electronic health record (EHR) software or information technology and training services.  Reed Smith has prepared

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has published its annual solicitation of recommendations for new or modified safe harbor provisions under the federal anti-kickback statute, as well as potential topics for new OIG Special Fraud Alerts.  Comments will be accepted until February 25, 2014. For a

On December 27, 2013, the Office of Inspector General and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services each published, in the Federal Register, a final rule that amends regulations protecting, from the Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark law, certain arrangements related to the donation of interoperable electronic health records (EHR) software or information technology and training services related to such EHR software. Among these amended regulations was the extension of protections of the Stark law exception and the Anti-Kickback safe harbor from December 31, 2013 to December 31, 2021 (the “sunset” provisions).
Continue Reading Final Rules Issued Extending Protections of Electronic Health Record Donations

A new OIG report estimates that Medicare could realize significant savings if drug manufacturers were required to pay rebates on Medicare Part B drugs, similar to rebates under the Medicaid program. Specifically, Medicare could have collected $3.1 billion in 2011 if manufacturers had been required to pay rebates based on average manufacturer price (AMP)

Almost two-thirds of critical access hospitals (CAHs) would not meet Medicare CAH location requirements if they were required to re-enroll today, according to the OIG. Many of these rural hospitals were permanently exempted from CAH distance requirements under previous authority of states to designate “necessary provider” (NP) CAHs. Medicare reimburses CAHs at 101% of their reasonable

A recent OIG report examines the extent of improper Medicare reimbursement for diabetes test strips (DTS), including the effect of mail-order DTS being subject to competitive bidding in nine geographic areas beginning in 2011 (CMS subsequently implemented a national competitive bidding program for mail-order DTS, effective July 1, 2013). According to the OIG, in

Two recent OIG reports point out the savings that state Medicaid programs could attain if they based reimbursement for DME, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies (DMEPOS) on Medicare competitive bidding payment amounts – although at least one state is pushing back on this idea. In the first report, “Medicaid DMEPOS Costs May be Exceeding Medicare

The OIG has called on CMS to strengthen activities to prevent improper Medicare payments, including enhancements to the Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) program. For instance, the OIG notes that RACs identified half of all claims they reviewed in FYs 2010 and 2011 as having resulted in improper payments totaling $1.3 billion. While CMS took corrective