On November 20, 2020, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) released heavily anticipated final rules revising the regulatory exceptions to the Physician Self-Referral Law (also known as the Stark Law), the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) safe harbors, and the Beneficiary Inducements Civil Monetary Penalties (CMP) regulations.  The changes to the regulations go into effect on January 19, 2021 (except for one change to the Physician Self-Referral Law that becomes effective January 1, 2022). In a separate rule also released November 20th, HHS removed safe harbor protection for rebates involving prescription pharmaceuticals and created a new safe harbor for certain point-of-sale reductions in price on prescription pharmaceuticals and pharmacy benefit manager service fees.

The full text of each rule is available below.


Continue Reading Physician Self-Referral Law (Stark), Anti-Kickback Statute, and Beneficiary Inducement CMPs – HHS Releases Final Rules

On October 9, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its long-awaited proposals (the Proposed Rules) to update regulatory exceptions and safe harbors, for the federal Physician Self-Referral Law (also known as the Stark Law), the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), and the beneficiary inducement Civil Monetary Penalties Law (CMP). The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule to update exceptions to the Physician Self-Referral Law (the PSR Rule), and the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a proposed rule to update the AKS safe harbors and expand exceptions to the CMP’s beneficiary inducements prohibition (the AKS Rule). The Proposed Rules are intended to reduce perceived regulatory barriers to beneficial health care arrangements, and to facilitate the implementation of new approaches to health care service delivery and coordination, including value-based care models.
Continue Reading Government Releases Proposed Rules on Physician Self-Referral Law (Stark Law), Anti-Kickback Statute and CMP Law; Significant Regulatory Changes Intended to Encourage Care Coordination and Value-Based Care

On April 26, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Notification of Enforcement Discretion (Notice) regarding imposition of Civil Money Penalties (CMPs) under HIPAA. In the Notice, HHS announces that it has revisited its prior interpretation of the standards for assessment of CMPs under the HITECH Act, and is exercising its discretion to reduce the maximum amount of CMPs that may be assessed annually for HIPAA violations based on culpability.

The official version of the Notice is dated April 30, 2019 and is available here.
Continue Reading HHS Exercises Discretion to Reduce Maximum Annual Civil Money Penalties for Certain HIPAA Violations

On April 8, 2019, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDA) filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit seeking review of a decision by the Department of Health & Human Services’s (HHS) Departmental Appeals Board (DAB) Appellate Division to uphold $4.35 million in civil money penalties (CMPs) assessed against MDA by HHS for alleged violations of HIPAA’s Security and Privacy Rules.

The DAB’s decision, issued on February 8, 2019, affirmed a 2018 decision by an Administrative Law Judge that sustained CMPs issued against MDA arising from three HIPAA breaches in 2011 and 2012 (see our previous analysis of the ALJ’s decision here).
Continue Reading Texas Health System MD Anderson Seeks 5th Circuit Review of HHS Determination that HIPAA Required Encryption of its ePHI

On March 6, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a favorable advisory opinion that allows a nonprofit medical center (“Center”) to offer free, in-home follow-up care after a recent hospital admission for qualifying patients (the “In-Home Program”). In Advisory Opinion No. 19-03, the OIG concluded that although services furnished to qualifying patients under the In-Home Program would constitute remuneration to patients under the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and the Civil Monetary Penalties law (CMP), the OIG would not impose sanctions on the Provider due to the low-risk nature of the In-Home Program.

The Provider furnishes a range of inpatient and outpatient hospital-based services, and currently offers in-home care to qualifying high-risk patients suffering from congestive heart failure (CHF) who (i) are currently admitted as inpatients of the Provider or (ii) were admitted within the previous 30 days and are being treated by the Provider’s outpatient cardiology department (“Current Arrangement”). Under the Current Arrangement, a clinical nurse leader must determine that the patient is a high risk for inpatient readmission using an industry-standard risk assessment tool, the patient must be willing to enroll in the program after consultation with the clinical nurse leader, the patient must seek follow-up care at the Provider’s CHF center, and the patient must live in the Provider’s service area.
Continue Reading OIG Approves of Free In-Home Follow-Up Care Program Targeting High Risk CHF and COPD Patients in Advisory Opinion

On January 24, 2019, the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) issued a favorable advisory opinion allowing a pharmaceutical manufacturer (“Manufacturer”) to temporarily loan limited-functionality smartphones to financially needy patients who lack the required technology to receive adherence data from a sensor embedded in a prescribed antipsychotic medication (“the Arrangement”). The OIG concluded that the Arrangement did not constitute grounds for penalties under the Civil Monetary Penalties law (“CMP”) and that although the Arrangement could potentially cause remuneration under the Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”), the OIG would not impose sanctions on the Manufacturer as related to the Arrangement based on the low-risk nature of the Arrangement.
Continue Reading OIG Advisory Opinion No. 19-02 Allows Pharmaceutical Manufacturer to Temporarily Loan Smartphones to Financially Needy Patients to Receive Data from a Digestible Medication Sensor

On February 9, 2018, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (the Act), which included a number of important health law provisions..

AKS and CMP Violations

Under the Act, Congress doubled the statutory civil fines for certain violations of the Anti-kickback Statue (AKS) and adjusted certain fines under the Civil Monetary Penalty (CMP) Law. The Act also increased the maximum criminal penalty from $25,000 to $100,000 and increased the maximum incarceration period from five years to ten years.
Continue Reading Bipartisan Budget Act Revises Stark Law, Increases Penalties for AKS and CMP Law Violations, and Expands Telehealth Coverage

On September 7, 2017, the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued an Advisory Opinion to the owner of a retail pharmacy chain (Pharmacy) that would allow Federal health care program beneficiaries to participate in a paid membership program (Program).  The Program would include discounts and rebates on certain prescriptions and, where offered, on selected clinic services.

The Program was being offered previously to customers who satisfied certain eligibility criteria and paid an annual fee to join, but Federal program beneficiaries had not been permitted to enroll. In seeking the Advisory Opinion, the Pharmacy sought to modify the Program to extend it to Federal program beneficiaries as well.
Continue Reading OIG Issues Advisory Opinion to Pharmacy

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 and involved a wound care system used to treat chronic, non-healing wounds.

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

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently issued Advisory Opinion 17-01 to a health system (Requestor) for an arrangement to provide free and reduced-cost lodging and meals to financially disadvantaged patients (Proposed Arrangement). In issuing this positive opinion, the OIG applied the Access to Care exception to the prohibition on beneficiary inducements under the Civil Monetary Penalties (Beneficiary Inducement CMP).

One of the hospitals operated by the Requestor provides services to a rural and medically underserved patient population. Under the Proposed Arrangement, the Requestor would offer financially needy patients residing in rural or underserved areas free or reduced-cost lodging at a hotel near the hospital where rooms are approximately $70 per night. Requestor would also provide eligible patients free or reduced-cost meals at the hospital’s cafeteria, not exceeding $15 per overnight stay. The hospital would pay the hotel directly and would not provide cash or cash equivalents to patients.


Continue Reading OIG Applies The Access To Care Exception In Favorable Advisory Opinion For Hospital Meal And Lodging Assistance Program