The OIG Addresses Free Patient Transportation Issues

vanBy: Jacqueline Bain

The issue of whether a medical provider can provide free patient transport is one that we are asked to look into a few times every year. Aside from the liability issues that it raises, it is one that we have never been able to justify from an Anti-Kickback and Patient Brokering perspective.  The fact is, even given the good intentions of most providers to allow their patients easier access to healthcare, transporting patients to and from your facility or practice is providing them with something of value in return for coming to see you.  However, under slightly different facts than we are usually asked to consider the question, last week, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) came to a different conclusion.

The OIG issued an advisory opinion upon the request of a hospital system who had asked whether it could provide free transportation to persons who had limited access to public transportation to access the hospital’s facilities. The hospital system offered that the town had inadequate and infrequent public transportation services which would act as a barrier to healthcare for local residents.  The hospital system offered the following facts for consideration: Continue reading

Provider Credit Balances Result in $6.8 Million Overpayment Settlement

bonus calculationBy: Karina Gonzalez

USA v. Pediatric Services of America –  settlement under the False Claims Act involving a health provider’s failure to investigate credit balances on its books to determine whether they resulted from overpayment by a federal health care program.

The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia  announced that Pediatric Services of America Healthcare, Pediatric Services of America, Inc., Pediatric Healthcare, Inc., Pediatric Home Nursing Services (collectively, “PSA”), and Portfolio Logic, LLC agreed to pay $6.88 million ($6,882,387) to resolve allegations that PSA, a provider of home nursing services to medically fragile children, knowingly (1) failed to disclose and return overpayments that it received from federal health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, (2) submitted claims under the Georgia Pediatric Program for home nursing care without documenting the requisite monthly supervisory visits by a registered nurse, and (3) submitted claims to federal health care programs that overstated the length of time their staff had provided services, which resulted in PSA being overpaid.

“Participants in federal health care programs are required to actively investigate whether they have received overpayments and, if so, promptly return the overpayments,” said United States Attorney, John Horn. “This settlement is the first of its kind and reflects the serious obligations of health care providers to be responsible stewards of public health funds.” Continue reading

OIG Fraud Alert – Physician Compensation Arrangements May Result in Significant Liability

OIG crestThe HHS Office of Inspector General in a fraud alert released 6-9-15 is telling physicians to be cautious about entering into payment agreements that could violate the Anti-Kickback statute. In the alert, OIG tells physicians entering into such payment arrangements that their compensation must reflect the services’ market values. Further, OIG notes that such an arrangement could violate the Anti-kickback Statute if it seeks to increase the number of referrals the organization receives from those physicians.

Governing Boards in Healthcare Organizations – Making Compliance Your Priority

compliance manualBy: Jackie Bain

Does your healthcare entity have a governing Board? How involved is that Board in overseeing your business? Would your Board members be able to respond to questions about your business’ compliance-related activities? Recently, the Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”), in conjunction with a host of non-profit healthcare associations, released guidance on achieving compliance for healthcare governing boards. The guidance is not based on abstract principals of compliance, instead it points to applicable federal law, OIG guidance, case law, and sentencing guidelines.

Each and every healthcare organization, whether or not it accepts reimbursement from government payors, must have in place regulatory compliance measures designed to protect the population it serves, and the persons paying for and providing those services. All levels of a healthcare organization must be cognizant of their roles in the organization’s continuing commitment to compliance. Even Board members, who often do not experience the inner-workings of the entities they represent, have an obligation and duty to the organization to act in a manner that stressed compliance. Applicable federal and state laws, how they apply to an organization, and how the organization reacts to its obligations imposed by those laws, must be of paramount importance to a governing Board.

The OIG compliance guidance for healthcare Boards tracks 4 areas over which boards should have specific oversight: Continue reading

The 7 Essential Elements of an Effective Compliance Plan

020513-Succession-Planning-ChecklistBy: Jackie Bain

When a healthcare provider cares for a patient, many times, the provider will set out directives for the patient to follow in order to live a healthier life.  These changes may include changes in lifestyle, eating habits, and obedience in taking medications.  A patient’s compliance with these directives instructs the provider on how to care for the patient in the future.  A patient who does not follow these directives may suffer health consequences.

Similarly, the government sets out legal regulations for healthcare providers.  The government expects healthcare providers to comply with its regulations, and providers who don’t can suffer consequences as a result.  The regulations governing health care providers are vast and dynamic.  In order to keep abreast of the changes in law, and to evidence an intent to comply with law, healthcare providers should strongly consider instituting compliance programs in their businesses.

Compliance with healthcare laws is important.  Any number of consequences can result in the event that a healthcare provider is out of compliance—the most devastating being that the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) has the authority to exclude healthcare providers from participation in Medicare and other federal health care programs.  Ignorance of the law does not absolve a healthcare provider of liability. Continue reading

OIG Blesses Medigap Discount Policy for In-Network Hospitals

OIG crestBy: Jackie Bain

On February 20, 2014, the Office of the Inspector General posted Advisory Opinion 14-02.  The Advisory Opinion reviews the following scenario for compliance with the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 USC § 1320a-7b.  Under the proposed scenario, a Medigap insurance provider participates with a preferred provider organization (“PPO”) which contracts with hospitals (“Network Hospitals”).  The Network Hospitals discount Medigap policy-holders’ inpatient deductibles up to 100%.  In exchange for each discount, the Medigap plan pays an administrative fee to the PPO.  The Medigap plan also pays a portion of the discounted savings directly to the policy-holder who stayed at the Network Hospital. Continue reading

What’s Hot on the #OIG Work Plan for 2014?

OIG crestThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released it’s 2014 Fiscal Year Work Plan. If you’ve got the stomach for the long version, click here. Around each fiscal year, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General publishes its annual Work Plan, which provides terrific insight into unique provider behavior and practices the OIG plans to target in 2014.  Medicare providers should pay particular attention to the following targeted areas:

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