OIG: keep gifts small

Monday, September 30, 2002

WASHINGTON - The OIG has alerted all healthcare providers that any gifts or free services to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries should not exceed $10 per item or $50 annually.

HME providers aren't big into doling out gifts or free services, but industry sources say the special advisory is significant because it's the first time the OIG has given providers "explicit" guidelines for offering gifts and inducements to beneficiaries.

"This draws a very clear line, which is new," said Cara Bachenheimer, a healthcare attorney with Epstein Becker & Green. "It's great, because providers often have problems with the general statements coming out of the OIG and CMS. They're getting an explicit number here."

The OIG states that a provider who offers remuneration to a beneficiary, knowing it will influence the beneficiary's selection of a provider, practitioner or supplier may be liable to civil money penalties of up to $10,000 for each wrongful act. HME