Kusserow on Compliance: Understanding and addressing whistleblowers

The vast majority of the cases resolved by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) were cases brought by “whistleblowers” under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act (FCA). Whistleblowers are responsible for an even higher percentage of cases resulting in OIG Corporate Integrity Agreements (CIAs). Although most compliance officers are well aware of this program, many remain unclear as to how the process works. Tom Herrmann, J.D., who served over 20 years in the Office of Counsel to the OIG and as an Appellate Judge for the Medicare Appeals Board, explained that Congress permitted a whisltleblower called the “Relator” to file a case with the DOJ under the FCA.  Since this provision of law went into effect in 1986, there have been over 10,000 qui tam cases filed with a current average of one such case being filed every day of the year. The intent was to create incentives for private parties to detect and pursue fraud under the FCA. In return for reporting this information, Relators receive a portion (usually about 15 to 25 percent) of any recovered damages.  Once the lawsuit is filed, it is placed “under seal”, meaning that it is kept secret from everyone but the government, in order to give the DOJ enough time to investigate the allegations in deciding whether to join (“intervene”) in the case. Intervention by the DOJ occurs only in about one in five qui tam lawsuits, leaving whistleblowers the option to pursue cases on their own, however the chances of success are much lower than in cases when the government joins. Most successful qui tam cases are resolved through settlement negotiations rather than a court trial, although trials may occur.

Kash Chopra, J.D., noted that the overwhelming number of cases that result in a CIA, arise from whistleblowers and these, in turn, are based upon violations of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS). It is the government’s position that all claims arising from a corrupt arrangement violating the AKS or in some cases, the Stark Law, are considered fraudulent. This is even when the services rendered were needed and provided appropriately.  She advises here clients that the best ways to manage the whistleblower risk is to ensure that they are channeled through internal communication channels and their complaints are promptly evaluated, investigated, and resolved.  It is worth considering the following:

  1. Using outside experts to independently audit arrangements with physicians and evaluate compliance communication channel effectiveness.
  2. Ensuring a 24/7 hotline operated externally by experts in recognizing health care compliance issues.
  3. Reviewing/updating hotline-related polices/procedures (confidentiality, anonymity, non-retaliation, duty to report, etc.).
  4. Making sure that the duty to report suspected wrongdoing is explained in the Code, policies and training.
  5. Having trained and competent people on hand to conduct prompt and competent investigations of matters raised through the hotline.
  6. Moving quickly to use CMS and OIG self disclosure protocols when there is credible evidence of violations; and not wait until the DOJ gets involved.

For more information on this subject, Kashish Parikh-Chopra can be reached at kchopra@strategicm.com or via telephone at (703) 535-1413.

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 © 2018 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: The relationship between an Interim Compliance Officer and the CEO

Getting the right start is the best way to have a good return on investment

Catie Heindel, J.D., a highly experienced compliance consultant who has served as an Interim Compliance Officer, notes it is increasingly common for healthb care organizations to seek a temporary compliance officer to cover a gap. Though the rationale behind hiring an interim compliance officer is different for every organization, the ultimate goal is usually the same—to provide high quality and efficient compliance program leadership that will reduce exposure to unwanted risks and problems. Preparation and communication with staff to introduce the person selected to act in an interim capacity is very important to having a successful result from the engagement.

Ensuring a successful hiring decision really needs the personal involvement of the CEO. The OIG compliance guidance stresses that the compliance officer should report directly to the CEO. This sentiment also applies to Interim Compliance Officers; and the best return on investment for having someone move in and successfully temporarily fill a compliance officer gap is for the CEO to establish a direct reporting relationship. It is also helpful for everyone involved if the CEO personally provides a detailed background briefing on the organization that includes:

  • management structure;
  • mission/vision;
  • why the person was engaged;
  • expectations for the engagement; and
  • their role in the organization.

Upon arrival, the CEO should ensure there is a proper “on-boarding” process that includes personally introducing the interim compliance professional to the executive leadership, key program managers, legal counsel, HRM, and Board members. This interaction, from the outset, sets the right tone and will help to ensure that the interim is in lockstep with the CEO.  Furthermore, this empowerment exercise will permit the interim to move more quickly in gathering the reins of the compliance program and guard against having anything fall “beneath the cracks”.  It will also help the interim compliance professional to “hit the ground” running immediately and begin productive work.

For more information regarding engaging and preparing Interim Compliance Officers, Catie Heindel can be contacted at www.cheindel@strategicm.com, or via phone at (847) 707-9830.

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 © 2018 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: Advice for compliance officers taking on a new engagement

One of the great hurdles for someone moving into a new position is meeting the expectations of the organization.  Kash Chopra, JD has served as compliance officer on multiple occasions.  Among her duties at Strategic Management is providing clients with interim compliance officers to fill gaps between permanent appointments. She found that in far too many cases, new compliance officers inherit a host of problems, many of which can be of longstanding nature. and in a very short time the interim compliance officer will come to own these problems. She advises that at the time an organization notifies a person that they been accepted for the position as compliance officer, that person should request an independent compliance program evaluation in order to find out the status of the program and just exactly what they are inheriting. If possible, it is helpful to include having an independent evaluation performed to be part of negotiating terms of the engagement. Not taking this step may result in having the job get off to the wrong start and lead to piecemeal reporting of problems as they are encountered. This seldom plays well with management or the board. The better play is to let the outside reviewer identify the problems, and have the new compliance officer focus on the solutions. It will make clear to the executive leadership and the board that the flaws, weaknesses, and exposures identified belongs to the predecessor. Such a review should also provide a road map of what needs to be done to ensure the program is on the right track. By taking this approach, the new compliance officer will be seen as cleaning up the problems.

Kash Chopra can be contacted for more information on interim compliance staffing or independent compliance program evaluations at kchopra@strategicm.com or (703) 535-1413.

 

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 © 2018 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on compliance: OIG report on Medicare payments for clinical diagnostic lab tests

The OIG analyzed claims data for lab tests that CMS paid under Medicare’s Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule, under Medicare Part B. Effective this year, CMS replaced payment rates with new rates for clinical diagnostic laboratory tests. This was the first reform in three decades to Medicare’s payment system for lab tests. Congress mandated that the OIG monitor Medicare payments for lab tests and the implementation and effect of the new payment system for those tests. The OIG concluded the new payment system for lab tests took for this year has resulted in significant changes to the Medicare payment rates for lab tests. The OIG used the data collected to date as a benchmark against which to measure the effects of changes to the payment system when new data from 2018 become available. The OIG report provided the fourth set of annual baseline analyses of the top 25 lab tests. The OIG identified the top 25 tests based on Medicare payments in 2017 and found:

  • In 2017, Medicare paid $7.1 billion for Part B lab tests, at about the same level for last 4-years.
  • The top 25 tests totaled $4.5 billion, 64 percent of the total and about the same rate for prior years.
  • A total of 50,000 labs received payment in 2017 and three labs received $1.1 billion, 15 percent of the total payments.
  • The top 25 tests were similarly concentrated among a few labs: 1 percent of labs received 55 percent of all Medicare payments for the top 25 lab tests in 2017.

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 © 2018 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.