On November 10, 2016, the Office of Inspector General (“the OIG”) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) released its 2017 Work Plan. Published annually and updated throughout the year, the Work Plan identifies the OIG’s key areas of focus as it carries out its mission of protecting the integrity of programs within DHHS. The OIG is charged with ensuring the integrity of more than 100 programs administered by DHHS, including those within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institute of Health. The OIG Work Plan summarizes the OIG’s current activities – comprised of both new and revised activities — along with information regarding previously identified activities that have been completed, postponed, or cancelled.
The Work Plan highlights new and continuing priorities applicable to various provider types, including hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, home health, clinical laboratories, physicians and other health professionals, medical equipment suppliers and manufacturers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and other providers and suppliers.
The 2017 Work Plan is available here.
The following is a sampling of some of the new and ongoing efforts highlighted in the Work Plan:
The Affordable Care Act (sometimes referred to as Obamacare) included a requirement for providers to report and return all Medicare and Medicaid overpayments within 60 days of identification. Although this requirement has been in effect since 2010, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) has proposed but failed to promulgate rules serving to further clarify this requirement. On February 12, 2016, CMS published a final rule, which went into effect March 14, 2016. The final rule applies to Part A and Part B of Medicare.
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion that denies providers the right to challenge low Medicaid reimbursement rates by suing state agencies in federal court.
In Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center (No. 14-15), several residential care providers in Idaho sued on the grounds that its Medicaid program failed to pay providers increased Medicaid rates that had been approved by the federal government. The providers were initially successful in convincing the district court and Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that the State should be forced to pay the higher rates because federal Medicaid law requires states to pay rates that are sufficient to ensure access to care. The providers contended that they had the right to sue Idaho in federal court under the United States Constitution’s Supremacy Clause—which provides that federal law trumps State law.
A laboratory proposing to enter into an exclusive relationship with physician practices has been advised that the arrangement may violate federal law. The laboratory sought advice from the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) of the Department of Health and Human Services on an arrangement in which the laboratory would contract with physician practices to provide all laboratory services to the practices’ patients, without regard to the patients’ health insurance coverage. The requesting laboratory would not bill those patients whose health plans — so-called “exclusive plans” — require them to use other laboratories (nor would the lab bill the practices themselves). In its Advisory Opinion posted on March 25, 2015, the OIG concluded that the arrangement may violate the Anti-Kickback Statute and subject the laboratory to administrative sanctions, including exclusion from federal health care programs (e.g., Medicare and Medicaid).