CMS outlined changes to the nursing home survey process in a October 2017 memo to state survey agency directors, which scaled down the use and severity of civil monetary penalties (CMPs) for certain nursing home deficiencies. Shortly thereafter, CMS released a November 2017 memo that among other things, outlined an 18-month moratorium on the imposition of CMPs, discretionary denials of payment for new admissions and discretionary termination by surveyors for survey deficiencies identified by the following eight “F” tags: Continue reading…
End of 2017 Marked by Scaling Back of Obama Era Nursing Home Financial Penalties under the Trump Administration
CMS / No Comments
In early October, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a proposed rule that included, among other provisions, a proposed gainsharing regulation (“Proposed Rule”), and a specific request for comments on a definition of what it means to “reduce or limit services” under the statutory prohibition against certain “gainsharing” arrangements among hospitals and physicians. The OIG’s goal with this Proposed Rule and subsequent final rule is to “interpret the statutory [gainsharing] prohibition broadly enough to protect beneficiaries and the Federal health care programs, but narrowly enough to allow low risk programs that further the goal of delivering high quality health care at a lower cost.” More specifically, the OIG seeks to implement a “narrower interpretation of the phrase “reduce or limit services.” Industry analysts are touting the final regulation as a potential game changer in the battle to deliver “high quality health care at a lower cost.”
The existing gainsharing civil monetary penalty statute (“Gainsharing CMP”) is a law that broadly “prohibits hospitals and critical access hospitals from knowingly paying a physician to induce the physician to reduce or limit services provided to Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries who are under the physician’s direct care.” Violation of the Gainsharing CMP by a hospital that makes such payment, and a physician that in turn knowingly accepts the payment, results in CMPs that are no greater than $2,000 per each beneficiary for whom such payment is made.
Determining what does and what does not constitute a payment designed to reduce or limit services can be difficult, particularly because, as HHS has taken pains to point out, the statute technically prohibits payments from hospitals to physicians to limit any services, not just medically necessary services. However, as far back as 2005 the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and the Chief Counsel to the OIG have supported gainsharing when safeguards are in place to evaluate risks posed by such programs, including “measures that promote accountability, adequate quality controls, and controls on payments that may change referral patterns,” and to date, the OIG has approved 16 gainsharing arrangements through the advisory opinion process.
More recently, under Section 3022 of the Affordable Care Act, the secretary of HHS established waivers under the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) with respect to the Gainsharing CMP under certain conditions. These waivers have limited applicability as they apply only to accountable care organizations that participate in the MSSP. The final gainsharing regulations presumably will cover all hospitals and could potentially have a much broader impact upon hospital physician compensation arrangements. Overall, the Proposed Rule and the OIG’s request for comments on what should and should not constitute prohibited payments from hospitals to physicians to reduce or limit services is yet another example of how the regulatory landscape is changing to adapt to a reimbursement model that is evolving from a fee-for-service dominated model to one in which pay-for-performance will play a much larger role.
The comment period closed under the Proposed Rule in early December, and the final rule is expected in 2015.
HHS, OIG / No Comments
In May and within a week of the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) releasing a proposed rule to expand its exclusion authority, the agency also released a proposed rule (Rule) expanding its authority to impose civil monetary penalties (CMPs). OIG anticipates that “CMP collections may increase in the future in light of the new CMP authorities and other changes proposed in this [R]ule.” Over the last decade, OIG has collected more than $165 million in CMPs (between $10.2 million to $26.2 million per year).
Health care providers, suppliers and related institutions should pay particular attention to five proposed key changes:
(1) The focus on an expansion in the range of conduct for which OIG could assess CMPs to include: failing to provide OIG timely access to documents, ordering or prescribing medication or services while excluded from participation in federal health care programs, making false statements on enrollment applications to participate in federal health care programs, failing to report and return known overpayments, and making or using a false statement that is material to a false or fraudulent claim.
(2) Interpretation of the penalty as a per day penalty—for example, up to $10,000 for each day a person fails to report and return an overpayment.
(3) Imposition of CMPs on Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D organizations (if any of their employees or contractors engaged in fraudulent activity). This broadens the general liability of these organizations for misconduct to include contracted providers or suppliers, employees and agents. Medicare Advantage and Part D organizations would also be eligible for CMPs if they enroll an individual (or his or her designee) without consent; transfer an enrollee to another plan without the enrollee’s (or his or her designee’s) consent; transfer an enrollee to make a commission; fail to comply with marketing restrictions; or employ or contract with any person who engages in prohibited conduct.
(4) Revision to the current structure of 42 C.F.R. Part 1003 because it is “cumbersome and potentially confusing for the reader” in order to “add clarity and improve transparency in OIG’s decision-making processes.” The bases for CMP assessments would be grouped into subsections by subject matter. OIG would provide a single list of factors to be considered when determining the amount of a CMP to include: the nature and circumstances of the violation, the degree of culpability of the person, the history of prior offenses, other wrongful conduct, and other matters as justice may require.
(5) An increase of the claims-mitigating factor from $1,000 to $5,000. The claims-mitigating factor acts as a threshold to help OIG determine the severity of a program violation. OIG believes that the $1,000 threshold is “lower than appropriate . . . given the changes in the costs of health care since this regulation was last updated in 2002.”
Other notable proposed changes include: the addition of a mitigating factor for “appropriate and timely corrective action” taken by a person under OIG’s Self-Disclosure Protocol; clarification that a single aggravating circumstance may result in the maximum amount allowed penalty, assessment, or exclusion; and the delegation of authority from the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary to OIG at Part 1003.150.
Comments to the Rule are due by July 11, 2014.