[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 249 (Friday, December 28, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 76434-76435]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-31107]


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DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Office of Inspector General

42 CFR Part 1001


Solicitation of New Safe Harbors and Special Fraud Alerts

AGENCY: Office of Inspector General (OIG), HHS.

ACTION: Notice of intent to develop regulations.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with section 205 of the Health Insurance 
Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), this annual notice 
solicits proposals and recommendations for developing new and modifying 
existing safe harbor provisions under the Federal anti-kickback statute 
(section 1128B(b) of the Social Security Act), as well as developing 
new OIG Special Fraud Alerts.

DATES: To ensure consideration, public comments must be delivered to 
the address provided below by no later than 5 p.m. on February 26, 
2013.

ADDRESSES: In commenting, please refer to file code OIG-121-N. Because 
of staff and resource limitations, we cannot accept comments by 
facsimile (fax) transmission.
    You may submit comments in one of three ways (no duplicates, 
please):
    1. Electronically. You may submit electronic comments on specific 
recommendations and proposals through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at 
http://www.regulations.gov.
    2. By regular, express, or overnight mail. You may send written 
comments to the following address: Patrice Drew, Office of Inspector 
General, Congressional and Regulatory Affairs, Department of Health and 
Human Services, Attention: OIG-121-N, Room 5541C, Cohen Building, 330 
Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20201. Please allow sufficient 
time for mailed comments to be received before the close of the comment 
period.
    3. By hand or courier. If you prefer, you may deliver, by hand or 
courier, your written comments before the close of the comment period 
to Patrice Drew, Office of Inspector General, Department of Health and 
Human Services, Cohen Building, Room 5541C, 330 Independence Avenue 
SW., Washington, DC 20201. Because access to the interior of the Cohen 
Building is not readily available to persons without Federal Government 
identification, commenters are encouraged to schedule their delivery 
with one of our staff members at (202) 619-1368.
    For information on viewing public comments, please see the 
Supplementary Information section.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patrice Drew, Congressional and 
Regulatory Affairs Liaison, Office of Inspector General, (202) 619-
1368.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
    Submitting Comments: We welcome comments from the public on 
recommendations for developing new or revised safe harbors and Special 
Fraud Alerts. Please assist us by referencing the file code OIG-121-N.
    Inspection of Public Comments: All comments received before the end 
of the comment period are available for viewing by the public. All 
comments will be posted on http://www.regulations.gov as soon as 
possible after they have been received. Comments received timely will 
also be available for public inspection as they are received at Office 
of Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services, Cohen 
Building, 330 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20201, Monday 
through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. To schedule an appointment to 
view public comments, phone (202) 619-1368.

I. Background

A. OIG Safe Harbor Provisions

    Section 1128B(b) of the Social Security Act (the Act) (42 U.S.C. 
1320a-7b(b)) provides criminal penalties for individuals or entities 
that knowingly and willfully offer, pay, solicit, or receive 
remuneration to induce or reward business reimbursable under the 
Federal health care programs. The

[[Page 76435]]

offense is classified as a felony and is punishable by fines of up to 
$25,000 and imprisonment for up to 5 years. OIG may also impose civil 
money penalties, in accordance with section 1128A(a)(7) of the Act (42 
U.S.C. 1320a-7a(a)(7)), or exclusion from the Federal health care 
programs, in accordance with section 1128(b)(7) of the Act (42 U.S.C. 
1320a-7(b)(7)).
    Since the statute on its face is so broad, concern has been 
expressed for many years that some relatively innocuous commercial 
arrangements may be subject to criminal prosecution or administrative 
sanction. In response to the above concern, section 14 of the Medicare 
and Medicaid Patient and Program Protection Act of 1987, Public Law 
100-93 Sec.  14, the Act, Sec.  1128B(b), 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7b(b), 
specifically required the development and promulgation of regulations, 
the so-called ``safe harbor'' provisions, specifying various payment 
and business practices that, although potentially capable of inducing 
referrals of business reimbursable under the Federal health care 
programs, would not be treated as criminal offenses under the anti-
kickback statute and would not serve as a basis for administrative 
sanctions. OIG safe harbor provisions have been developed ``to limit 
the reach of the statute somewhat by permitting certain non-abusive 
arrangements, while encouraging beneficial and innocuous arrangements'' 
(56 FR 35952, July 29, 1991). Health care providers and others may 
voluntarily seek to comply with these provisions so that they have the 
assurance that their business practices will not be subject to 
liability under the anti-kickback statute or related administrative 
authorities. The OIG safe harbor regulations are found at 42 CFR part 
1001.

B. OIG Special Fraud Alerts

    OIG has also periodically issued Special Fraud Alerts to give 
continuing guidance to health care providers with respect to practices 
OIG finds potentially fraudulent or abusive. The Special Fraud Alerts 
encourage industry compliance by giving providers guidance that can be 
applied to their own practices. OIG Special Fraud Alerts are intended 
for extensive distribution directly to the health care provider 
community, as well as to those charged with administering the Federal 
health care programs.
    In developing Special Fraud Alerts, OIG has relied on a number of 
sources and has consulted directly with experts in the subject field, 
including those within OIG, other agencies of the Department, other 
Federal and State agencies, and those in the health care industry.

C. Section 205 of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability 
Act of 1996

    Section 205 of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability 
Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Public Law 104-191 Sec.  205, the Act, Sec.  
1128D, 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7d, requires the Department to develop and 
publish an annual notice in the Federal Register formally soliciting 
proposals for modifying existing safe harbors to the anti-kickback 
statute and for developing new safe harbors and Special Fraud Alerts.
    In developing safe harbors for a criminal statute, OIG is required 
to engage in a thorough review of the range of factual circumstances 
that may fall within the proposed safe harbor subject area so as to 
uncover potential opportunities for fraud and abuse. Only then can OIG 
determine, in consultation with the Department of Justice, whether it 
can effectively develop regulatory limitations and controls that will 
permit beneficial and innocuous arrangements within a subject area 
while, at the same time, protecting the Federal health care programs 
and their beneficiaries from abusive practices.

II. Solicitation of Additional New Recommendations and Proposals

    In accordance with the requirements of section 205 of HIPAA, OIG 
last published a Federal Register solicitation notice for developing 
new safe harbors and Special Fraud Alerts on December 29, 2011 (76 FR 
89104). As required under section 205, a status report of the public 
comments received in response to that notice is set forth in Appendix 
F.\1\ OIG is not seeking additional public comment on the proposals 
listed in Appendix F at this time. Rather, this notice seeks additional 
recommendations regarding the development of new or modified safe 
harbor regulations and new Special Fraud Alerts beyond those summarized 
in Appendix F.
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    \1\ The OIG Semiannual Report to Congress can be accessed 
through the OIG Web site at http://oig.hhs.gov/publications/semiannual.asp.
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    A detailed explanation of justifications for, or empirical data 
supporting, a suggestion for a safe harbor or Special Fraud Alert would 
be helpful and should, if possible, be included in any response to this 
solicitation.

A. Criteria for Modifying and Establishing Safe Harbor Provisions

    In accordance with section 205 of HIPAA, we will consider a number 
of factors in reviewing proposals for new or modified safe harbor 
provisions, such as the extent to which the proposals would affect an 
increase or decrease in:
     Access to health care services,
     The quality of health care services,
     Patient freedom of choice among health care providers,
     Competition among health care providers,
     The cost to Federal health care programs,
     The potential overutilization of health care services, and
     The ability of health care facilities to provide services 
in medically underserved areas or to medically underserved populations.
    In addition, we will also take into consideration other factors, 
including, for example, the existence (or nonexistence) of any 
potential financial benefit to health care professionals or providers 
that may take into account their decisions whether to (1) order a 
health care item or service or (2) arrange for a referral of health 
care items or services to a particular practitioner or provider.

B. Criteria for Developing Special Fraud Alerts

    In determining whether to issue additional Special Fraud Alerts, we 
will consider whether, and to what extent, the practices that would be 
identified in a new Special Fraud Alert may result in any of the 
consequences set forth above, as well as the volume and frequency of 
the conduct that would be identified in the Special Fraud Alert.

    Dated: December 20, 2012.
Daniel R. Levinson,
Inspector General.
[FR Doc. 2012-31107 Filed 12-27-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4152-01-P