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‘Tis the Season for Giving: OIG Updates Policy on Gifts of Nominal Value to Medicare and Medicaid Beneficiaries

On December 7, 2016, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a policy statement increasing its thresholds for gifts that are considered “nominal” for purposes of the patient inducement provisions of the civil monetary penalties law (section 1128A(a)(5) of the Social Security Act) (CMP Law). HHS also announced the new thresholds in the preamble to a final rule issued on December 7, 2016, revising safe harbors under the Anti-Kickback Statute and rules under the CMP Law. 81 Fed. Reg. 88368, 88394 (Dec. 7, 2016).  The previous thresholds for gifts to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries were $10 per item or $50 in the aggregate annually per patient. The new thresholds are $15 per item or $75 in the aggregate annually per patient.

Under the CMP Law, a person who offers or provides any remuneration to a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary that the person knows or should know is likely to influence the beneficiary’s selection of a particular provider, practitioner or supplier of Medicare or Medicaid payable items or services may be liable for civil money penalties, subject to a limited number of exceptions. The OIG has indicated that gifts of “nominal value” are not required to meet an exception. However, the OIG has not changed its thresholds for what constitutes “nominal value” since issuing its 2002 Special Advisory Bulletin: Offering Gifts and Other Inducements to Beneficiaries, which included thresholds of no more than $10 in value individually or $50 in value in the aggregate annually per patient. To account for inflation, the OIG has now increased its interpretation of “nominal value,” permitting inexpensive gifts (other than cash or cash equivalents) of no more than $15 per item or $75 in the aggregate per patient annually, effective immediately.

The OIG’s policy statement provides that violations of the CMP Law could result in penalties of up to $10,000 per wrongful act; however, HHS increased the penalty to $15,024 per violation in an interim final rule issued earlier this year. 81 Fed. Reg. 61538, 61543 (Sept. 6, 2016). While the new thresholds are still fairly low, they are a welcome update to the longstanding $10/$50 thresholds.

© 2019 McDermott Will & Emery

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About this Author

Joan Polacheck, Health Care industry Lawyer, McDermott Will Emery, Chicago Law Firm
Partner

Joan Polacheck is a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Firm’s Chicago office. She represents a broad range of health care industry clients, including hospitals, suppliers, and drug and device companies.

312-984-7556
Monica Wallace, regulatory counseling lawyer, administrative attorney, McDermott Will Emery, law firm
Associate

Monica A. Wallace is an associate in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Firm’s Chicago office.  She focuses her practice on complex regulatory and transactional counseling to health care organizations such as health systems, hospitals, physician groups, integrated delivery systems, durable medical equipment prosthetics and orthotics suppliers, home health agencies, and other health care providers. Monica’s regulatory practice focuses on the Anti-Kickback and Stark laws; Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement and billing; legal assessments and compliance programs; and other general regulatory matters including licensure, survey/certification, and accreditation. Her transactional practice includes mergers, acquisitions and affiliations; divestitures; hospital/physician joint ventures; and corporate reorganization.

312-984-7757
Erica Gnilka, McDermott Law Firm, Health Care Attorney
Associate

Erica L. Gnilka focuses her practice on health advisory matters.

Previously, Erica worked as a health care associate and law clerk where she counseled clients on regulatory issues arising under the Stark Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute in physician hospital business relationships. She also assisted in health care-related transactional work, including contract review and document drafting.

312-984-7697