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OIG Advisory Opinion Approves Surgical Device Warranty Program Intended to Reduce Readmissions

On September 17, 2018, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services published a favorable Advisory Opinion allowing a manufacturer of surgical devices and wound care products to offer a warranty program to hospital customers covering three joint replacement products (“Proposed Arrangement”).

Under the Proposed Arrangement, the manufacturer would refund hospitals for the combined purchase price of three of its products if a patient who received them as part of a joint replacement surgery was readmitted to the hospital within 90 days following the …

OIG Posts Telemedicine Advisory Opinion

The Office of Inspector General (OIG), Health and Human Services issued an Advisory Opinion allowing an arrangement proposed by a federally qualified health center look-alike (FQHC look-alike) to provide free technology items and services to a clinic run by a county Department of Health (County Clinic), that would facilitate telemedicine encounters (the Arrangement).  Although the OIG found that the Arrangement could potentially implicate the anti-kickback statute (AKS), the OIG concluded that it would not impose administrative sanctions.…

OIG Reports That CMS Paid Practitioners For Telehealth Services That Failed To Meet Medicare Requirements

On April 5, 2018, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) announced its findings that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) paid practitioners for telehealth services that did not meet Medicare requirements. Certain telehealth services are reimbursable by Medicare as Part B services. According to the OIG, it engaged in a review of telehealth services after finding that Medicare paid a total of $17.6 million in telehealth payments in 2015, compared to just $61,302 in 2001.…

Recent Anti-Kickback Cases Emphasize Government Scrutiny of Speaker’s Bureaus and Lavish Meals Funded by Pharmaceutical and Device Manufacturers

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently resolved two health care fraud cases – one criminal and one civil – that demonstrate the government’s continued scrutiny of lavish meals and “speaker’s bureaus” sponsored by pharmaceutical and device manufacturers as potential avenues for the payment of kickbacks to physicians for referrals of health care items and services. These cases indicate the criminal and civil risk that providing lavish meals or purported speaker’s bureau payment can pose, and the corresponding need to proactively assess the legitimacy of such programs and events.…

OIG Advisory Opinion Allows Medical Center to Share Cost Savings with Neurosurgeons for Curbing Spinal Fusion Surgery Costs

On January 5, 2018, the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) posted a favorable Advisory Opinion, permitting an arrangement involving payment by a Medical Center to a multi-specialty physician Group for cost-reduction measures achieved through the efforts of certain Neurosurgeons, relating to the selection and use of products during spinal fusion surgeries (Program).  Payment under the Program was calculated as a percentage of cost savings realized by the Medical Center over a three-year period.  Though not yet paid at the time of the OIG advisory opinion, …

OIG Advisory Opinion Allows Pilot Collaborative Program Proposed by Pharmaceutical Manufacturer for Medication Therapy Management Interventions

On December 11, 2017, the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) posted a favorable Advisory Opinion, permitting a proposed pilot Program involving a collaboration between a pharmaceutical manufacturer (the Requestor), a trade association (Association), a Medicare Advantage Part D plan (MA Plan), a Hospital System, and a Vendor.  As proposed, the program would provide new technology to allow real-time access to patient discharge information for use by MA Plan pharmacists who conduct medication therapy management (MTM) services. …

OIG Rescinds Advisory Opinion Due to Requestor’s Failure to Disclose Information

On November 28, 2017, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) rescinded advisory opinion 06-04, in which it had previously determined that a charity’s (Requestor) proposal to provide assistance to financially needy Medicare beneficiaries did not warrant the imposition of sanctions. The OIG explained that “public interest requires rescission” after finding that Requestor failed to comply with earlier factual certifications that were material to the original advisory opinion.

Under the program, the Requestor provides assistance with premiums and cost-sharing obligations for patients with two specific chronic diseases. Most of the …

New OIG Advisory Opinion Allows Waiver of Cost Sharing in Research Studies

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently issued Advisory Opinion 17-02, allowing waivers or reductions of cost-sharing amounts owed by financially needy Medicare beneficiaries in connection with certain clinical research studies conducted at a non-profit medical center.  In the advisory opinion, the OIG reiterated its longstanding concern about routine waivers of Medicare beneficiary cost-sharing amounts in the absence of financial hardship, and noted this can lead to liability under the anti-kickback statute (AKS).  The research studies were conducted utilizing protocols under the Medicare Coverage with Evidence Development (CED) framework …

OIG Publishes Prioritized Recommendations for HHS

The OIG has released the 2017 Compendium of Unimplemented Recommendations, summarizing prioritized recommendations relating to HHS programs and operations.   Topping the list are recommendations relating to hospitals, including:

  • Reimbursement rates for critical access hospital swing beds should be adjusted to the lower rates for similar services provided in skilled nursing facilities.
  • Reimbursement rates for hospital outpatient department procedures should be adjusted to the lower rates for similar procedures conducted in ambulatory surgical centers.
  • Medicare should adopt a hospital transfer payment policy to lower hospital reimbursement for beneficiaries who are

OIG Warns of Scam Using the OIG Hotline Number

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued a fraud alert, warning that the OIG Hotline telephone number was being used in scams across the country.  According to the OIG, the scammers pose as OIG Hotline employees and alter the caller ID to make it appear as if the call is coming from the OIG Hotline number. The scammer then tries to obtain or verify personal information, which could be used for fraudulent activities such as stealing money from bank accounts.…

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