Kusserow on Compliance: OIG testimony highlights opioid crisis actions

Gary Cantrell, HHS OIG Deputy Inspector General for Investigations, testified before a Senate Special Committee hearing on enforcement activities currently underway to combat the opioid crisis. He provided key policy recommendations to address the crisis. Opioid fraud encompasses a broad range of criminal activity from prescription drug diversion to addiction treatment schemes. Many of these schemes can be elaborate, involving complicit patients or beneficiaries who are not ill, kickbacks, medical identity theft, money-laundering, and other criminal enterprises. Some schemes also involve multiple co-conspirators and health care professionals such as physicians, nonphysician providers, and pharmacists. These investigations can be complex and often involve the use of informants, undercover operations, and surveillance. The OIG provided critical support in the establishment of the new Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit established by the Attorney General to focus on opioid-related health care fraud. This collaboration led to the selection of 12 judicial districts around the country where OIG has assigned Special Agents to support 12 prosecutors identified by the DOJ to focus solely on investigating and prosecuting opioid-related health care fraud cases.

The OIG collaborates with a number of HHS agencies, including CMS and the Agency for Community Living (ACL), on fraud- and opioid-related initiatives to educate providers, the industry, and beneficiaries on the role each one plays in the prevention of prescription drug and opioid-related fraud and abuse. The OIG is engaging ACL’s Senior Medicare Patrol and State Health Insurance Assistance Program through presentations on the prevention of fraud, waste, and abuse. The OIG is also working with the DEA to provide anti-fraud education at numerous Pharmacy Diversion Awareness Conferences held across the United States, which are designed to assist pharmacy personnel with identifying and preventing diversion activity.

OIG currently has numerous opioid-related audits or evaluations underway that address:

  • questionable prescribing patterns in Medicaid;
  • Medicaid program integrity controls;
  • Medicare program integrity controls in the prescription drug benefit;
  • CDC’s oversight of grants to support programs to monitor prescription drugs;
  • FDA’s oversight of opioid prescribing through its risk management programs;
  • SAMHSA’s oversight of opioid treatment program grants;
  • beneficiary access to buprenorphine medication-assisted treatment; and
  • opioid prescribing practices in the Indian Health

In the OIG’s data brief entitled Opioids in Medicare Part D: Concerns about Extreme Use and Questionable Prescribing and other reports, the OIG noted the following:

  • 60,000 individuals died from drug overdoses in 2016, of which two-thirds involved opioids
  • The CDC reported 75 percent new heroin users having abused prescription opioids prior to using heroin.
  • One in three Medicare Part D beneficiaries received opioids (14.4 million beneficiaries)
  • 500,000 beneficiaries received high amounts of opioids
  • 90,000 beneficiaries were at serious risk of opioid misuse or overdose for receiving extreme amounts of opioids and those who appeared to be “doctor shopping”
  • 70,000 beneficiaries received extreme amounts of opioids
  • 22,308 beneficiaries appeared to be doctor shopping for more opiods
  • 400 prescribers had questionable opioid prescribing for beneficiaries at serious risk
  • Prescribers with questionable billing wrote 265,260 opioid prescriptions for beneficiaries at serious risk at a cost under Part D for $66.5 million

The OIG is planning to release a new data brief on opioid use in Medicare Part D as a follow-up to a previous data brief, Opioids in Medicare Part D: Concerns About Extreme Use and Questionable Prescribing (OEI-02-17-00250) to: (1) determine the extent to which Medicare Part D beneficiaries received high amounts of opioids; (2) identify beneficiaries who are at serious risk of opioid misuse or overdose; and (3) identify prescribers with questionable opioid prescribing patterns for these beneficiaries.  In conjunction with this, they will release an analysis toolkit to assist the public and private sector in analyzing prescription drug claims data.  It will provide steps for using prescription drug data to analyze patients’ opioid levels and identify those at risk of opioid misuse or overdose or who appear to be doctor shopping.

The OIG has made numerous pending recommendations to improve HHS programs to better protect beneficiaries at risk of opioid misuse or overdose, including:

  • Restrict certain beneficiaries to a limited number of pharmacies or prescribers, implementing the new lock-in authority.
  • Require plan sponsors to report to CMS all potential fraud and abuse and any corrective actions they take in response; and provide guidance on how Part D sponsors identify and investigate these matters.
  • Improve Medicaid CMS does not have complete and accurate data needed to effectively oversee the Medicaid program, including opioids. OIG call for CMS to establish a deadline for when national T-MSIS data will be available for multistate program integrity efforts.

 

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 © 2017 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.