December 21, 2023

I have always found the OIG’s past “Compliance Guidance” to be vague and not particularly helpful.  Is there anything more recent that will provide an analytical framework to comply with the Anti-kickback statute?

The Anti-kickback statute is an intent-based statute.  So, the OIG can be forgiven to a certain extent for their “it depends” guidance on compliance with this law.  However, given the fact the Anti‑kickback statute is a criminal statute and that federal health care program claims resulting from a violation of this law will also constitute a violation of the False Claims Act, even the OIG has realized that more definitive guidance is required.

The OIG seems to have heard your plea for help, and has provided the following analytical framework for compliance with the Anti-kickback statute on Pages 12-14 of the November 6, 2023, OIG General Compliance Program Guidance (“GCPG”).

When attempting to identify problematic arrangements under the federal Anti-kickback statute, some relevant inquiries to explore and consider can include the following.  This list of questions is illustrative, not exhaustive, and the answers to these questions alone are not determinative as to whether an arrangement violates the federal Anti-kickback statute.

Key Questions:

(1)        Nature of the relationship between the parties –

        • What degree of influence do the parties have, directly or indirectly, on the generation of federal health care program business for each other?

(2)        Manner in which participants were selected –

        • Were parties selected to participate in an arrangement in whole or in part because of their past or anticipated referrals?

(3)        Manner in which the remuneration is determined –

        • Does the remuneration take into account, either directly or indirectly, the volume or value of business generated?
        • Is the remuneration conditioned in whole or in part on referrals or other business generated between the parties? Is the arrangement itself conditioned, either directly or indirectly, on the volume or value of federal health care program business?  Is there any service provided other than referrals?

(4)        Value of the remuneration.

        • Is the remuneration fair market value in an arm’s-length transaction for legitimate, reasonable, and necessary services that are actually rendered?
        • Is the entity paying an inflated rate to a potential referral source? Is the entity receiving free or below-market-rate items or services from a provider, supplier, or other entity involved in health care business?
        • Is compensation tied, either directly or indirectly, to federal health care program reimbursement?
        • Is the determination of fair market value based upon a reasonable methodology that is uniformly applied and properly documented?

(5)        Nature of items or services provided.

        • Are the items and services actually needed and rendered, commercially reasonable, and necessary to achieve a legitimate business purpose?

(6)        Federal program impact.

        • Does the remuneration have the potential to affect costs to any of the federal health care programs or their beneficiaries?
        • Could the remuneration lead to overutilization or inappropriate utilization?

(7)        Clinical decision making.

        • Does the arrangement or practice have the potential to interfere with, or skew, clinical decision making?
        • Does the arrangement or practice raise patient safety or quality of care concerns?
        • Could the payment structure lead to cherry-picking healthy patients or lemon-dropping patients with chronic or other potentially costly conditions to save on costs?

(8)        Steering.

        • Does the arrangement or practice raise concerns related to steering patients or health care entities to a particular item or service, or steering to a particular health care entity to provide, supply, or furnish items or services?

(9)        Potential conflicts of interest.

        • Would acceptance of the remuneration diminish, or appear to diminish, the objectivity of professional judgment?
        • If the remuneration relates to the dissemination of information, is the information complete, accurate, and not misleading?

(10)      Manner in which the arrangement is documented.

        • Is the arrangement properly and fully documented in writing?
        • Are the parties documenting the items and services they provide? Are the entities monitoring items and services provided?
        • Are arrangements actually conducted according to the terms of the written agreements (when written to comply with the law)?

Is this perfect guidance – No.  But it is a significant improvement over any compliance guidance that the OIG has provided in the past.  In fact, we find the OIG’s New General Compliance Guidance to provide an excellent framework for compliance with the Anti-kickback statute, and a number of other federal laws that affect health care providers.

If you have a quick question about this, e-mail Henry Casale at

For an in-depth discussion of the OIG’s November 6, 2023, OIG General Compliance Program Guidance, please check out the Horty Springer Health Law Expressions Podcast  “New OIG General Compliance Program Guidance by Dan Mulholland and Henry Casale.”


April 30, 2020

QUESTION:        Our hospital is eligible to receive money from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund. The HHS Terms and Conditions say that the payment will only be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, and shall reimburse the Recipient only for health care related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus.  There is also a condition that none of the funds can be used to pay individual salaries “in excess of Executive Level II.”  Can we still use the money to offset losses that our hospital and physician practices incurred resulting from the cancellation of elective procedures due to the lockdown order in our state?


ANSWER:            Yes, as long as the funds are not used to subsidize any particular physician’s salary. The Terms and Conditions incorporate by reference HRSA guidance about the salary cap, which was part of the original Congressional grant appropriation. Effective January 2020, the “Executive Level II” salary level is $197,300.  According to HRSA: “An individual’s institutional base salary is not constrained by the legislative provision for a limitation of salary. The rate limitation simply limits the amount that may be awarded and charged to HRSA awards. For individuals whose salary rates are in excess of Executive Level II, the non-federal entity may pay the excess from non-federal funds.”  So as long as the money is not used to fund any particular individual’s salary, you should be able to use the money to offset general losses experienced by your hospital or physician practices without the salary cap affecting what you pay.

January 30, 2020

QUESTION:        I heard that the Department of Health and Human Services released a new rule on partial fills of opioid prescriptions.  Can you give me a brief overview of the change?

ANSWER:          Yes.  The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has issued a final rule designed to improve tracking of transactions involving Schedule II drugs.  Briefly stated, this change requires certain covered entities to report “quantity prescribed” data for transactions involving Schedule II drugs.  The data will track whether the prescription was partially filled (which is legal under some circumstances) or refilled (which can potentially be a violation of the Controlled Substances Act).

If your organization is covered by HIPAA and has a retail pharmacy that dispenses Schedule II drugs, you should check to see whether this law may have an impact on your workflows and recordkeeping.  The final rule is available here.

March 7, 2019

QUESTION:        The Department of Health and Human Services requires us to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to Limited English Proficient (“LEP”) persons.  Can we rely on a patient’s family members or friends to help with this?

ANSWER:            No.  The only exception is if it is an emergency or if the patient specifically requests otherwise.  All entities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) are generally prohibited from requiring patients with limited English proficiency to use family members or friends as interpreters.  HHS acknowledges in its regulatory guidance that there may be times when a patient feels more comfortable having a trusted friend or family member act as interpreter — under these circumstances, you can honor the request.  However, you should consider factors such as competency, confidentiality, privacy, and/or conflicts of interest.

Your legal obligations will vary depending on the size of your organization and the patients you typically encounter.  This area of the law is developing quickly and we expect to see more case law on this topic in the next few years.  In the meantime, we encourage you to review your policies on this matter and have your lawyers assess whether you are in compliance with all federal regulatory obligations.

August 30, 2018

QUESTION:        What is the latest formal regulatory guidance from the government on how hospitals are to structure a gainsharing program or a compensation arrangement with physicians who assist a hospital with the hospital’s Value Based Purchasing Program (“VBP”)?

ANSWER:            Currently, there is none – this is why the responses to the June 25, 2018 CMS Request for Information on the Stark Law and the OIG’s August 27, 2018 Request for Information that is described in this week’s “Government at Work” are so important.

Both OIG and CMS have referenced the HHS “Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care.”  Both OIG and CMS have recognized that the Fraud and Abuse Laws that are within their jurisdiction (the Stark Law in CMS’s case and the Anti-Kickback Statute and Civil Money Penalty Law (the “CMP”) in OIG’s case) can create real or perceived barriers to achieving clinical and financial integration between hospitals and physicians.  What is unfortunate is that in the past neither CMS nor OIG has shown much of a willingness to address those barriers to hospital-physician integration efforts.

As we pointed out to CMS (and also intend to inform OIG), if removing unnecessary governmental obstacles to care coordination is a key priority for HHS, then the planned HHS “Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care” will not get off the starting line without significant revisions to the regulations implementing the Stark Law, the Anti-Kickback Statute and the CMP, which are well within the respective discretion of CMS and OIG to implement.

For example, hospitals need immediate guidance concerning the ability of a hospital to compensate physicians who assist the hospital under Medicare’s VBP.  It is difficult, if not impossible, for a hospital to achieve the desired goals under the VBP without physician input and cooperation.  However, the fair market value of that input and cooperation is difficult to determine and hourly payment rates are often not reflective of the fair market value of the services actually being provided to the hospital by the physicians.

Hospitals need to be assured that utilizing a payment methodology that is based, in whole or in part, on the amount of the payment that the hospital receives under the VBP due to the services provided by the physicians will satisfy an exception to the Physician Self-Referral Law and will not violate the Anti-Kickback Statute or the CMP.

In addition, since 2001, the OIG has provided Compliance Program and Advisory Opinion Guidance on gainsharing arrangements.  (See, OIG Supplemental Compliance Program Guidance for Hospitals, 70 Fed. Reg. 4858, 4869-70 (Jan. 31, 2005); e.g., OIG Advisory Opinions 01-01 (Jan. 11, 2001); 05-01 (Feb. 4, 2005); 05-02, 05-03, 05-04 (Feb. 17, 2005); 05-05, 05-06 (Feb. 25, 2005); 06-22 (Nov. 16, 2006); 07-21, 07-22 (Jan. 14, 2008); 17-09 (Jan. 5, 2018).  However, no safe harbor exists for gainsharing arrangements.

CMS issued a proposed regulation, Incentive Payment and Shared Savings Programs, on July 7, 2008 (to be codified at 42 C.F.R. § 411.357(x)).  However, that proposed regulation did not adequately address VBP and  differed significantly from OIG’s gainsharing guidance.  Rather than publish a final regulation, CMS asked for public comment on 55 aspects of the proposed regulation.  73 Fed. Reg. 69,725, 69,795-98 (Nov. 19, 2008).  Unfortunately, to date, CMS has failed to issue any type of formal (or informal) guidance on the application of the Stark Law to gainsharing or other shared savings programs.

The OIG should turn its gainsharing, compliance and advisory opinion guidance into a safe harbor.  While we would prefer a new Stark gainsharing exception, a new Stark exception may not necessary so long as CMS states unambiguously that a hospital that complies with that OIG gainsharing safe harbor will satisfy the personal services exception to the Physician Self-Referral Law.

CMS and OIG should also propose additional, consistent guidance that will address VBP and other shared savings programs.  Such a position would be consistent with the position taken by CMS and the OIG in adopting parallel Stark exceptions and anti-kickback safe harbors for providing financial assistance to physicians implementing electronic prescribing and electronic health records (See 42 C.F.R. § 411.357(v)-(w); 42 C.F.R. § 1001.952(x)-(y)) and would provide practical guidance that hospitals and physicians could use to achieve clinical and financial integration.