Technical Difficulties Cause OIG to Extend Comment Deadline on Permissive Exclusions

OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SEALLast month, the Officer of the Inspector General announced that it will be extending the period of time when the public can comment in the Federal Register on revisions to its policies.

Typically, the 15-90 day period for commenting in the Federal Register is unalterable after a due date is set. However, there can be exceptions, and the cause for the most recent one is a notice from the OIG.

The OIG collects information on individuals and entities who have been convicted of crimes or misdemeanors, like fraud or patient neglect. Individuals and entities who meet certain requirements are put on the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities, and Federal healthcare programs can not to pay out for services rendered by these individuals or organizations.

The notice that caused the extension is requesting comments on proposed revisions to the OIG’s permissive exclusion authority. The OIG can use this authority to prevent individuals and entities from participating in federal healthcare programs like medicare and medicaid if they’ve violated certain laws, like the False Claims Act and Civil Monetary Penalties Law.

There are several charges that can result in permissive OIG exclusion, and the decision to exclude is usually at the discretion of the OIG (unlike mandatory exclusions, which result in OIG exclusion no matter what).

The criteria for deciding when a permissive exclusion is warranted were last evaluated and released in 1997, leading many to believe that a revision is in order. The OIG extended the issue to public stakeholders, with a specific interest in hearing if policies should differ when a case involving an entity is considered, versus a case with an individual. It also requested feedback on whether to take an entity’s OIG compliance program into account when evaluating exclusions.

“I do believe that the OIG should take healthcare organizations compliance programs into consideration when evaluating a permissive exclusion,” says Steven Grossman of Streamline Verify. “It’s amazing how healthcare organizations have become focused on ensuring that their compliance policies are up to par, which, we see is having a direct effect on the quality of care. I am shocked how people haven’t commented too much on the regulations.gov website.”

Public comments were originally due in to the Federal Register by Sept. 9, but technical difficulties with the comment submission website, www.regulations.gov, made it unclear whether all comments had been received. The timeframe for comment has been extended to Dec. 29th to make sure all comments are received.

When the OIG receives all of the public comments, it will make a decision on whether or not the criteria for permissive exclusions will be re-evaluated.

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