Kusserow’s Corner: The OIG on Screening Against the GSA EPLS

I served as HHS Inspector General for eleven years, and I’ve made it clear in previous blog articles that I do not like the GSA debarment list for many reasons.  The Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued its “Special Advisory Bulletin on the Effect of Exclusion from Participation in Federal Health Care Programs” on May 8, 2013, suggesting the OIG is not wedded to the list, either.  In its Bulletin, the OIG addresses questions regarding the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Excluded Parties List System (EPLS).  First, it is important to note that the OIG has never called for health care providers to screen against the GSA list.  In its various compliance guidance documents, it notes the GSA maintains a monthly listing of debarred contractors on the Internet as an additional resource available to providers.  However, the fact that the GSA debarment list was mentioned by the OIG has led providers to believe that they should not only screen against the LEIE, which is mandatory, but also against the EPLS.

In its Bulletin, the OIG contrasted the LEIE with the GSA’s EPLS, which was recently merged into the Systems for Awards Management (SAM).  The OIG appears to have put a little distance between itself and CMS regarding screening against the EPLS. The OIG noted that in January 2009, CMS issued final regulations (42 C.F.R. sec. 455.436) mandating states to screen all enrolled providers monthly against both the LEIE and EPLS.  This is in contrast to the OIG’s position.

The key points laid out by the OIG on this subject are as follows:

  1. The OIG stated the LEIE lists only exclusion actions taken by the OIG and that it provides the LEIE information to GSA, which is incorporated into the system.
  2. The LEIE should be considered the primary source for reporting any “hits” to the OIG.
  3. In contrast to the GSA debarment list, the OIG exclusion does not affect a person’s ability to participate in other Government procurement or non-procurement transactions.
  4. The OIG stated it has no authority to impose civil monetary penalties on the employment of a debarred person appearing on the GSA EPLS.

Final note: It is worthwhile to remember that CMS has not established any enforcement mechanism to deal with providers that have relationships with parties on the debarment list. With the foregoing in mind, I continue to suggest that providers limit the screening against the EPLS to a bare minimum, as required.

Richard P. Kusserow served 11 years as the DHHS Inspector General and currently is CEO of the Compliance Resource Center (CRC), including Sanction Screening Services (S³), which provides sanction screening tools and also provides full outsourcing of sanction screening.  For more information, he can be contacted at rkusserow@strategicm.co.

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