Articles Tagged with “OIG Advisory Opinions”

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On June 24, 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued an advisory opinion announcing that by request of a surgical products manufacturer (the “Requestor”), based on the certifications and information provided, a proposed tiered rebate program will meet the requirements of the discount safe harbor of the anti-kickback statute (AKS) and will not generate prohibited remuneration under the AKS. Thus, the OIG concluded that it would not impose administrative sanctions in connection with the proposed arrangement.

The AKS makes it a criminal offense to knowingly and willfully offer, pay, solicit, or receive any remuneration to induce or reward referrals of items or services reimbursable by a Federal health care program. At the discretion of the OIG, a violation of the AKS may constitute a felony punishable by imprisonment fines, or both, possible exclusion from Federal health care programs, and possible administrative proceedings and civil monetary penalties. However, safe harbor protection may be afforded to arrangements that meet all of the conditions set forth in the applicable AKS safe harbor. The regulatory AKS safe harbor for discounts interprets the Social Security Act’s exception for discounts, which protects “a discount or other reduction in price obtained by a provider of services or other entity under a Federal health care program if the reduction in price is properly disclosed and appropriately reflected in the costs claimed or charges made by the provider or entity under a Federal health care program.”

In this advisory opinion, the Requestor, a corporation that manufactures ophthalmologic products including pharmaceuticals, surgical equipment, and vision aids, sought an advisory opinion on whether a proposed arrangement would generate prohibited remuneration under the AKS. The Requestor’s proposed arrangement involved tiered, percentage-based rebates based on customer purchases of federally reimbursable and non-federally reimbursable surgical products. The rebate would be calculated based on a customer’s total annual purchases of such products regardless of whether such products are reimbursable by Federal health care programs and would not vary based on the volume of Federally reimbursable products purchased. In addition, the Requestor certified the various manners in which it would notify all customers receiving rebates of their obligation to report any rebates received based on sales of Federally reimbursable surgical products. Further, the Requestor certified that it would refrain from doing anything to impede the customer’s ability to meet its obligations under the AKS discount safe harbor.

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Last week the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued two Advisory Opinions addressing proposed programs that could potentially implicate the anti-kickback statute and the imposition of civil monetary penalties (CMPs).

The first OIG Advisory Opinion, 10-18, analyzed a proposed program by a health system which involved post-surgical free hotel accommodations to pediatric tonsillectomy patients insured by federal healthcare programs.  The health system provides services in a rural area and consists of four facilities that provide tonsillectomies.  The proposed program would offer the free overnight stay to pediatric tonsillectomy patients who are treated at the health system’s Surgery Center.  All of the procedures performed at the Surgery Center will be by ear, nose and throat specialists (Clinic ENTs) who only perform tonsillectomies at hospitals in the Health System.  Even though the patients that stay at the adjacent hotel will be Federal healthcare program beneficiaries, neither Federal healthcare programs nor private insurers will be billed directly or indirectly for the costs.  The OIG’s Advisory Opinion listed several components of the proposed program which contributed to its determination that the program would not constitute grounds for violation of the anti-kickback statute.  These included:

– The Clinic ENTs that perform the services do not have privileges at hospitals outside the Health System and do not perform tonsillectomies at hospitals outside the Health System.

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A manufacturer of cochlear implants (“Requestor”) inquired whether a Proposed Arrangement would violate the Anti-Kickback Statute and result in civil monetary penalties.  The Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) concluded that the Proposed Arrangement presents more than a minimal risk of violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute.

Cochlear implants are devices, covered by the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which assist patients’ ability to hear.  The implants consist of both internal and external components.  The internal component of the device is surgically implanted and following the implantation an audiologist must program the external sound processor.  Patients may choose the cochlear implant device and this choice may be influenced by the patient’s audiologist or surgeon.  The Requestor warranties the external component and operates a toll-free telephone line for customer’s questions and concerns about their product.  However, since customers often contact the Clinics for assistance with their devices, Clinics will provide troubleshooting services (Services) pursuant to the Requestor’s established process.

The Proposed Arrangement would operate pursuant to a written agreement between the Requestor and the Clinics.  The Requestor would compensate the Clinics $37 per occurrence for the Services.  The compensated Services would include those provided the Requestor under the customer’s warranty.  The Requestor affirmed that the fee was consistent with the fair market value and that Clinics would be prohibited from billing third-party payors or patients for the services.  These services would not be marketed to the patients. 

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently issued two Advisory Opinions.  The first Advisory Opinion, AO 10-12, found that an arrangement between a grant program operated by a nonprofit, tax exempt charitable organization that provides grants to brain tumor patients who require financial assistance for the costs of drugs and/or devices would not result in civil monetary penalties (CMPs) even though the arrangement could cause prohibited remuneration under the Anti-Kickback Statute.

Although the funding for the grants comes from manufacturers of drugs and devices used to treat brain tumors and other conditions covered by the program, the OIG found sufficient safeguards in the system that mitigate the risk of improper influence.  First, the grant program will award assistance to beneficiaries based on objective criteria.  The assistance will not limit the patient’s ability to choose a provider, practitioner or supplier because the patient will have already made these choices prior to receiving the assistance.  In addition, no donor will exert control over the Foundation or affect the Foundation’s decision to award assistance.  Donors will not receive data that would allow it to determine the correlation between its donations and the use of its products or services.

In the second Advisory Opinion, AO 10-13, the OIG determined that it would not impose administrative sanctions for the provision of free insurance pre-authorization services because the arrangement included sufficient safeguards to reduce the risk that the free services would be inducements for referrals.  The proposed arrangement involved a hospital addressing requests from insurers for the pre-authorization of diagnostic imaging services before they are completed by the hospital.  The pre-authorization services would be provided by the hospital free of charge and without regard to the volume and/or value of any physician referrals.

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The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published an advisory opinion regarding the Anti-Kickback Statute.  The OIG concluded that the Anti-Kickback Statute would not be implicated where a charitable donation is made in the name of a healthcare provider, so long as the healthcare provider does not receive a tax deduction or other monetary benefit from the donation.

The request of the advisory opinion created an online scheduling website for certain manufacturers (pharmaceutical, medical and diagnostic) to schedule a time to meet with healthcare providers to educate the providers about new products.  Although the manufacturers would pay a fee for the time, healthcare providers would not be paid for their availability, nor would they have to pay to participate.  Rather, healthcare providers would designate a public charity to receive donations “in name of” the healthcare provider.  Restrictions on the donation include, the healthcare provider will not be entitled to a tax deductions or other monetary benefit from the donation and neither the healthcare provider nor a member of the healthcare provider’s family may be closely affiliated with the charity (i.e. serve on the charity’s board or be employed by the charity). 

In its conclusion that this arrangement would not violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, the OIG stressed that the healthcare provider must not receive any form of remuneration, including tax incentives.  In addition, the OIG noted that the requestor had put in place several safeguards to ensure that the program was not abused.