I. OIG Report
In the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) semiannual report to Congress, it claimed credit for excluding 2,297 individuals and entities from Medicare, Medicaid, and other Federal health care programs. The OIG also claimed credit for initiating 506 criminal and 267 civil actions. According to the OIG report, most of the exclusions resulted from convictions for crimes relating to Medicare or Medicaid, patient abuse or neglect, or license revocations. The civil and criminal actions were primarily initiated against “individuals or entities engaged in health-care related offenses.” In addition, the OIG told Congress that it was responsible for generating $1.26 billion in investigative receivables due to the Department of Health and Human Services.
II. Failure to Screen
The OIG also identified some of the cases that were felt to be important. Two of these cases involved exclusion related issues. In one case, the OIG imposed $15,000 in penalties against a company under a corporate integrity agreement for failing to timely screen employees and other “covered persons.” This is of particular interest to us because the penalty was not imposed for having an excluded employee. Instead, the penalty was imposed for failing to screen! This, again, demonstrates the interest and concerns of the OIG in exclusion issues.
III. Mandatory Exclusion
In the other case, a physician who had been excluded due to a conviction for a health care related offense, arranged an elaborate scheme to hide his involvement in a dermatology practice so that it could bill Medicare and Medicaid for services despite his excluded status. His scheme was eventually discovered, and he was tried by a jury. He was then convicted of health care fraud, bankruptcy fraud, identity theft, and the filing of false tax returns. Ultimately, he was sentenced to 8 years and 3 months of incarceration, ordered to pay $265,330 in restitution, and fined $2.6 million.
IV. Permissive Exclusion
Finally, the OIG report also states that the OIG continues to enforce the HEAL (Health Education Assistance Loan) Program. It further states that 20 individuals entered into settlement agreements, and $1.5 million was collected during the reporting period. We bring this up as a reminder that vigilance in this area is a necessity! There are any number of different ways for individuals and entities to be excluded from Medicare and Medicaid. Let the experts at Exclusion ScreeningSM help ensure your organization does not employ an excluded individual or entity.
Paul Weidenfeld, Co-Founder and CEO of Exclusion Screening, LLC, is the author of this article.
 U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General Semiannual Report to Congress, at 26.