Kusserow on Compliance: Civil monetary penalty rules revised regarding inducements

In December 2016, the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a Final rule applying to the Civil Monetary Penalty Law (CMPL) administered by the OIG. The legislation creating the law came about in 1981, upon my request as HHS Inspector General. In testimony before Congress, I requested legislation to provide an administrative alternative to the False Claims Act.  This was to permit taking action against wrongdoers administratively, rather than through the court system. The resulting legislation authorized the imposition of administrative penalties and assessments on any person who “offers to or transfers remuneration to any individual eligible for benefits” under a federal health care program “that such person knows or should know is likely to influence such individual to order or receive from a particular provider, practitioner, or supplier any item or service for which payment may be made, in whole or in part” by a federal health care program–in short, it imposes financial penalties and exclusion from federal health care programs and participation in any state health care programs. The HHS Secretary assigned these authorities to the OIG. Remuneration is a major element in the CMPL and is implicated in other legislation, including the Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark Laws. It has undergone changes in definition over time.  The following outlines the five new exceptions to its definition under CMPL.

Five new exceptions to the definition of remuneration

  1. Reduction in copayment for certain outpatient services. The rule adds a cost-sharing exception permitting reduction in the copayment amount for covered outpatient department services, but does not apply to physician practice billing.
  2. Remuneration that poses a low risk of harm and promotes access to care. A provider can avoid the CMPL when it provides items or services that improve a beneficiary’s ability to obtain items and services payable by Medicare or Medicaid, and pose a low risk of harm to beneficiaries and the programs. This does mean it permits remuneration that would be likely to influence a patient to access unnecessary care. The inclusion of “items and services” revises the earlier proposed language, “medically necessary health care items and services.”  Cash and cash equivalents would not meet the criteria for the exception.
  3. Retailer rewards and discounts. Retailers may offer or transfer items or services for free or less than fair market value without being subject to civil monetary penalties. However, they must consist of coupons, rebates, or other rewards from a retailer; be offered or transferred on equal terms available to the general public, regardless of health insurance status; and must not be tied to the provision of other items or services reimbursed in whole or in part by a federal health care program.
  4. Remuneration to financially needy individuals. The regulations also provide for a financial need-based exception to the definition of remuneration, wherein a person may offer or transfer items or services for free or less than fair market value if: the items or services are not offered as part of an advertisement or solicitation and are not tied to the provision of other items or services reimbursed in whole or in part by a Federal health care program; there is a reasonable connection between the items or services and the medical care of the individual; and the person providing the items or services must determine in good faith that the individual is in financial need.
  5. Copayment waivers for the first fill of generic drugs. A Medicare Part D Plan sponsor may waive any copayment for the first fill of a covered Part D drug that is a generic drug, as long as the waiver is included in the benefit design package submitted to CMS.

These regulatory changes are effective January 6, 2017. A separate section of the same rule package focused on revision of the Anti-Kickback provisions.  For information about those changes, see my December 29, 2016, post.

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

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Copyright © 2016 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.