‘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.

Kelsey LeingangKelsey Leingang
Kelsey J. Leingang provides transactional and regulatory counseling to health care organizations, including hospitals, health systems, physician groups and other health industry providers. Read Kelsey J. Leingang's full bio.


Joan PolacheckJoan Polacheck
Joan Polacheck advises clients on a variety of health care compliance and regulatory issues, including fraud and abuse, Stark law, Anti-Kickback Law and Medicare reimbursement issues. She represents a broad range of health care industry clients, including hospitals, suppliers, and drug and device companies. Read Joan Polacheck's full bio.


Erica L. GnilkaErica L. Gnilka
Erica L. Gnilka provides counsel to health systems, physician groups and other health care providers on complex regulatory issues.  Erica’s practice includes advising clients on issues related to federal and state health care program enrollment and reimbursement, as well as fraud and abuse issues arising under the Stark Law, the Anti-Kickback Statute and accompanying state statutes. Read Erika L. Gnilka's full bio.


Monica WallaceMonica Wallace
Monica A. Wallace focuses her practice on complex regulatory and transactional counseling to health care organizations, including health systems, hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, physician groups, dental providers, integrated delivery systems, academic medical centers, DMEPOS and pharmaceutical manufacturers and suppliers, home health agencies, and venture capital and private equity firms and their health-related portfolio companies. Read Monica A. Wallace's full bio.

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