Kusserow on Compliance: OIG summarizes investigative accomplishments from last three years

The OIG testified before the House Committee on Ways and Means and reported that in the last 3 fiscal years, its investigations have resulted in more than $10.8 billion in investigative receivables (dollars ordered or agreed to be paid to Government programs as a result of criminal, civil, or administrative judgments or settlements); 2,650 criminal actions; 2,211 civil actions; and 10,991 program exclusions. Much of this work involving the Medicare and Medicaid programs is funded by the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program (HCFAC).  The HCFAC provides funding resources to the Department of Justice (DOJ), HHS, and OIG, which are often used collaboratively to fight health care fraud, waste, and abuse. Since its inception in 1997, the HCFAC has returned more than $31 billion to the Medicare trust fund.

The OIG is a lead participant in the DOJ led Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which combines the resources of Federal, state, and local law enforcement entities to fight health care fraud across the country. The Strike Force operates in nine geographic hot spots, including Miami, Florida; Los Angeles, California; Detroit, Michigan; southern Texas; Brooklyn, New York; southern Louisiana; Tampa, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; and Dallas, Texas. Strike Force teams are led by the DOJ, includes the FBI and the OIG, along with state and local law enforcement. In 2017 alone Strike Force teams accounted for over 2,000 criminal actions with about 3,000 indictments, and accounted for monetary results of around $3 billion. Since its inception in March 2007, the Strike Force has charged more than 3,000 defendants who collectively billed the Medicare program more than $10.8 billion.

The OIG also collaborates with state Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs) to detect and investigate fraud, waste, and abuse in state Medicaid programs, as well as private sector stakeholders to enhance the relevance and impact of its work to combat health care fraud, as demonstrated by its leadership in the Healthcare Fraud Prevention Partnership (HFPP) and collaboration with the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association (NHCAA). The OIG strives to cultivate a culture of compliance in the health care industry through various educational efforts, such as Pharmacy Diversion Awareness Conferences, public outreach, and consumer education.

 

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.

Kusserow on Compliance: OIG estimates $4.4B in savings in 2017

The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued its second Semiannual Report to Congress for 2017 summarizing achievements for the year that included estimated savings of $4.4 billion as result of its work.   It reported over $4 billion in “investigative” receivables for the full year from expected recoveries from criminal actions, civil and administrative settlements, civil judgments, and administrative actions by OIG. In addition, it reported almost $300 million in audit findings. For the year, the OIG brought criminal actions against 881 individuals or organizations, and 826 civil actions, including false claims and unjust-enrichment lawsuits filed in federal district court, civil monetary penalty settlements, and administrative recoveries related to provider self-disclosure matters. The OIG cited some of the major fraud enforcement actions for the year that included the largest national health care fraud takedown in history, involving more than 400 defendants in 41 federal districts and $1.3 billion in false billings to Medicare and Medicaid.

The largest body of work involves investigating matters related to the Medicare and Medicaid programs, such as patient harm; billing for services not rendered, medically unnecessary services, or services more extensive than those actually provided; illegal billing, sale, diversion, and off-label marketing of prescription drugs; and solicitation and receipt of kickbacks, including illegal payments to patients for involvement in fraud schemes and illegal referral arrangements between physicians and medical companies. The OIG also investigates cases involving organized criminal activity, medical identity theft, and fraudulent medical schemes that are established for the sole purpose of stealing Medicare dollars. Those who participate in these schemes may face heavy fines, jail time, and exclusion from participating in Federal health care programs. The OIG highlighted some of the most common criminal fraud scheme case types relating to (1) controlled and non-controlled prescription drugs, (2) home health agencies and personal care services, (3) ambulance transportation, (4) DME, and (5) diagnostic radiology and laboratory testing.

Highlighted major cases include actions taken against 120 opioid-related defendants, including 27 doctors. In addition, the OIG issued 295 exclusion notices related to the use and abuse of controlled substances. Other high profile OIG actions related to fraud allegations noted were against Mylan Inc. that agreed to pay $465 million; and eClinicalWorks, LLC (ECW) for $155 million.

 

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.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on Google+ or LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

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

Kusserow on Compliance: OIG report on 2017 Hotline activity

The HHS Office of Inspector Genera (OIG) is mandated to provide a semiannual report to Congress to summarize its activities. Included in this report was a section on the OIG Hotline (1-800-HHS-TIPS), available to individuals to report fraud, waste, or abuse in HHS programs.  The OIG considers the hotline a significant avenue of intelligence. What it also underscores is that many more “Whistleblowers” contact the OIG directly, than by filing qui tam actions with the DOJ. During the second half of 2017 alone, the OIG Hotline received 58,110 hotline contacts which were evaluated to determine whether an issue rises to the level of a complaint and whether it falls within OIG’s jurisdiction. Of that 13,781 were sufficient in details to warrant evaluation. The hotline phone was the source for 5,815 of these cases with another 3,966 obtained via the OIG website.  In addition 1,107 complaints were obtained via letter or fax. After evaluation, 10,888 were referred for action. The balance did not provide basis for further action or were found to not provide evidence of violations. The source of those tips that were referred for action varied.  Those received via the hotline phone were 5,127.  The internet was the source for 3,768 tips with the remaining 1,075 tips coming from letters and facsimiles.

The OIG forwarded approximately one-third of the complaints to its field offices for follow-up, slightly less than half to CMS, with the balance referred to other HHS operating divisions and other federal agencies. During this semiannual reporting period, the OIG Hotline reported expected recoveries of $9.9 million as a direct result of cases originating from hotline complaints.

Jillian Bower, has assisted scores of clients with their hotline operations through the Compliance Resource Center (CRC). She notes that having an effective hotline program is a must for any effective compliance program, however many organizations with hotlines that are not effective.  Those not promoting an effective hotline operation are making a grave error and risk driving complainants externally to the DOJ and OIG, litigating attorneys, media, etc. and that can only spell trouble. Receiving and resolving issues internally is the right approach and is good for the organization on many levels. Failing to do so can result in potential liabilities, headaches, and a lot of remedial work. By maintaining such a positive culture for employees to be able to report problems, concerns, and perceived wrongdoing will encourage internal reporting rather than having individuals thinking they must resort to “whistleblowing” to external parties.

10 Practical Tips

  1. Develop and implement written guidelines relating to the hotline operation that should information on the (a) hotline operations, (b) duty to report, (c) non-retaliation, (d) anonymity, (e) confidentiality, (f) investigations of complaints, among others.
  2. Have information about the use of the hotline made part of the Employee Handbook and Code of Conduct.
  3. Promote a culture that encourages employees to raise concerns and report perceived problems with managers being counseled that these are opportunities for improvement in the organization.
  4. Maintain a confidential recordkeeping system to enable a review of employment history for those employees who have raised concerns or reported problems.
  5. Have posters on the employee bulletin boards for the availability and use of the hotline.
  6. Ensure the hotline number and its availability is included in new employee orientation.
  7. Consider having a flyer go out to all employees on the availability of the hotline.
  8. If there is an Intranet for employee use, include information about the hotline.
  9. If there is an organization newsletter, use it to promote the hotline.
  10. Extra care needs to be taken to avoid doing anything that might be interpreted as retaliatory.

 

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.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on Google+ or LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

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

Personal service care fraud; a growing problem for Medicaid

Medicaid personal care service (PCS) fraud cases made up a “substantial and growing” portion of cases investigated by the Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MCFUs) and greater oversight is recommended by the HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG). In a report covering the PCS work of MFCUs over fiscal years 2012-2015, the OIG found that these cases comprised over 12 percent of the total investigations and accounted for 34 percent of the convictions (OIG Report, OEI-12-16-00500, December 6, 2017).

Background

Personal care services are those services that support consist daily living activities, including bathing and dressing, meal preparation, and transportation. PCS providers assist the elderly, people with disabilities, and individuals with chronic or temporary health conditions, allowing these persons to remain living in their homes and communities. PCS are typically delivered through either an agency-directed PCS or a self-directed PCS, through which beneficiaries hire and supervise their own provider. PCS are offered either as an optional benefit through a Medicaid State plan or through demonstration projects and waiver programs. States are required to develop their requirement and qualification standards for PCS providers, resulting in widely varying requirements across the country.

Growing percentage

The OIG found that during the three-year review period, PCS fraud cases made up a substantial and increasing number of MFCU cases and outcomes. In FY 2015, such cases made up 12 percent of total investigations and over the review period, they made up 38 percent of indictments, and 34 percent of convictions. Furthermore, during the review period, indictments increased 56 percent and convictions increased 33 percent. Payments to PCS providers represented $13 billion out of $524 billion total Medicaid expenditures during FY 2015.

Recommendations and challenges

MCFUs have recommended that State Medicaid either enroll PCS attendants as Medicaid providers, or include PCS attendants in a provider registry. This would allow for the assignment of unique provider identification number to PCS attendants to include on claims for reimbursement. Some form of enrollment or registration is needed, as the inability to identify individual PCS attendants restricts the ability to identify fraudulent providers. MCFUs have suggested that enrolling PCS attendants in Medicaid would better inform them about Medicaid procedures and requirements.

MCFUs have also recommended the use of background checks for attendants. They found that the current, minimal, background check requirements could put vulnerable beneficiaries at risk. For example, a PCS attendant in Arizona pleaded guilty to theft and financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, after having stolen checkbooks, cash, credit cards, and personal items belonging to the beneficiaries. The PCS agency checked for felony arrests and found none; the attendant had, however, numerous misdemeanor convictions and had previously lost her nursing assistant license.

The MCFUs have also recommended using additional documentation requirements, such as requiring require PCS attendants to provide detailed or standardized timesheets and to show the start and stop times for the services. The currently minimal PCS documentation means that PCS claims data may not contain the identity of the PCS attendant, the number of hours worked, or the time of day during which the services were provided.

Lastly, the MCFUs recommended that State Medicaid agencies implement a variety of controls regarding oversight of PCS providers and their services. These controls include more frequent in-home supervisory visits, training for PCS attendants and cross-reference attendant and beneficiary location. For a variety of reasons, beneficiaries may be reluctant to report abuses and more frequent in-home visits could curtail fraud.

Funding issues

The units reported that their efforts to protect beneficiaries are hamstrung by their ineligibility to receive Federal funding to investigate and prosecute complaints in nonfacility settings. Such complaints are often referred to other agencies. Those agencies often do not receive the same level of training on patient abuse and neglect that MCFU staff receives and may have severely strained resources.

Conclusions

The report found that the volume and increase of MFCU investigations and prosecutions indicates that PCS remain vulnerable to fraud. The report noted that the recommendations are similar to those made in previous reports and states that it is crucial that federal funding authority be expanded to allow MFCUs to investigate and prosecute cases of patient abuse and neglect in nonfacility settings.