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Free Introductory Home Health Visits Don’t Violate Anti-Kickback Law

Anti-Kickback StatuteInspector General: No Kickback violation for free home health introductory visits

The Office of the Inspector General issued an advisory opinion clearing the way for home health providers who provide “introductory” home visits to individuals who eventually become their clients. The OIG advised that home healthcare providers who contact  patients after being selected by that patient and provide information to those patients about their services, do not violate the federal Anti-Kickback statute.

The Federal Anti-Kickback law makes it a criminal offense to knowingly and willfully offer, pay, solicit or receive anything of value in exchange for inducing or rewarding referrals of items or services reimbursable by a Federal health program

The OIG’s office stated that the “primary purpose of the Introductory Visit is to facilitate the patient’s transition to home health services in an effort to increase compliance with the post-acute treatment plan.” In addition, the OIG”s noted that during the “Introductory” visit, the health care provider ‘”does not provide any type of  any federally reimbursable diagnostic or therapeutic services during the Introductory Visits,” which occur where a patient is receiving care whether it’s a physician’s office, hospital or personal home. Further, the home health provider is not involved in any way in the patient’s selection process and “Introductory Visits” do not provide any actual or economic benefit to the patients. .

It’s important to reiterate, that healthcare providers should not contact the patient prior to receiving notification from the  patient that they have been selected nor can the “Introductory Visits” be a covered service under Medicare or Medicaid, or reimbursed by third-party payors. These actions could violate the Anti-Kickback statute.

To read the full opinion, click here.

For more information, please contact Kimberly Sheridan at 678-708-4703.

Office of Inspector General’s Advisory Could Affect Payment to All Healthcare Providers

OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SEALOn May 8, 2013, the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) issued an Advisory Bulletin pertaining to exclusion and excluded healthcare providers.  Because exclusion could potentially affect every provider, it is important to learn more details about the designation.

If the OIG excludes a provider, then no Federal health care program payments may be made for items or services furnished by the excluded provider or prescribed or directed by the excluded provider.  If the excluded provider changes from one health care profession to another, the exclusion will still be in effect.

In addition, the prohibition is not limited to direct patient care; it also includes services such as review of treatment plans, preparation of surgical trays, or services provided related to filling prescriptions.  Transportation services provided by excluded individuals are also prohibited.

Finally, according to the Bulletin, excluded individuals are prohibited from providing any administrative or management services, even if they are not separately billable.

There are severe consequences if an excluded individual submits a claim or causes a claim to be submitted to a Federal health care program.  A civil monetary penalty of $10,000 per claimed item or service may be imposed.  In addition, any potential for reinstatement to Federal health care programs may be jeopardized.  Criminal penalties may also be imposed.

Civil monetary penalties may be imposed against providers that employ or enter into contracts with excluded individuals to provide items or services payable by a Federal health care program.  Further, there may be civil monetary penalties for health maintenance organizations that contract with or employ excluded individuals.  This does not mean that entities cannot hire or contract with excluded individuals at all.

If the services or items provided are not paid for by a Federal health care program, then there isn’t a prohibition against hiring or contracting with an excluded individual.  If the excluded individual only provides services or items to patients that are not covered by a Federal health care program, then there is no prohibition.

All individuals and entities should search the OIG program exclusion information that is available on the OIG Web site prior to employing or contracting with any provider of health care services and keep documentation of the search. 

In addition, individuals and entities should proactively monitor the exclusions database to ensure that none of its current employees or contractors is listed as an excluded provider.  Due diligence will help mitigate the risk of civil monetary penalties in the future.

Office of Inspector General’s 2013 Work Plan Increases Focus on Hospital Billing and the Affordable Care Act

Last month the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) released its Work Plan for Fiscal Year 2013 (“FY 2013 Work Plan”).  The FY 2013 Work Plan focuses on many of the same areas as the prior year; however, there are two areas that received extra attention:  hospital billing and payment issues and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).

For Medicare purposes, the OIG has added new reviews including:

  • the efficiency of edits to identify hospital claims that were billed as discharges when they should have been billed as transfers
  • costs resulting from inpatient hospital claims for canceled surgical procedures
  • savings resulting from new payments for swing-bed services at critical access hospitals

One area of increasing focus in the Medicaid arena is prescription drugs.  In FY 2013, the OIG intends to explore alternative payment methods for home blood-glucose test strips.  The cost-saving means include rebates and competitive bidding, both of which have been successful at reducing net payment rates in some states.

Finally, the OIG will continue to monitor the ongoing implementation of the ACA.  Actions that the OIG intends to take in FY 2013 include the following:

  • reviewing compliance of home health agencies with the ACA requirement that physicians or other certain practitioners have face-to-face contact with beneficiaries
  • exploring cost savings associated with rental rather than purchase of power mobility devices
  • planning the frequency of on-site visits as part of the Medicare enrollment or re-enrollment process

As the OIG begins to implement its FY 2013 Work Plan, providers should continue to monitor what Medicare and Medicaid areas receive increased attention.  Additionally, providers should be proactive as the deadlines approach for implementation of parts of the ACA.