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Referral Fee Fine Despite Kickback Concerns – OIG Advisory Opinion 14-01

Independent Placement Agency Fee By Senior House Approved By OIG

senior housing kickback oig opinionThe Office of Inspector General posted its first advisory opinion of the year this past Tuesday.  OIG Advisory Opinion No. 14-01 responds to a nonprofit senior housing and geriatric care provider’s question of whether it may pay an independent placement agency a fee for referring new residents to its facilities.  Despite concerns that the arrangement could potentially generate prohibited remuneration under the anti-kickback statute, the OIG opinion states it would not impose sanctions in connection with the arrangement.

Here’s the facts:

  • The senior care provider operates 11 senior residential communities, two skilled nursing facilities, and a management company.
  • The residential communities offer to their residents various services – including skilled nursing services (e.g. wound care) and help with daily living activities (e.g. housekeeping).
  • A Medicaid program pays for services provided to residents in three of the residential communities.  Other than this, the skilled nursing facilities are the only entities that provide federally reimbursed health care services to residents.
  • Two of the residential communities pay an independent placement agency for referring new residents.  The placement agency receives a fee for every referral – a percentage of the new resident’s charges for his or her initial month or two.
  • The placement agency is prohibited from referring, and the residential communities are prohibited from accepting, residents who are known to rely on Medicaid, Medicare, or other state or federal funding.
  • Neither of the residential communities provide services reimbursed by Medicare.

Although the two residential communities pay a placement fee for a resident who may in the future receive federally reimbursed services from one of the senior care provider entities (which would potentially be illegal remuneration under anti-kickback laws), the OIG advisory opinion indicates that this referral arrangement is fine because:

  1. The placement fee is calculated only considering initial rent and services.
  2. The contracts underlying the arrangement prohibit both placement and acceptance of potential residents who are known to rely on government funding for their health care.
  3. Neither of the residential communities using the referral arrangement provide services reimbursed by Medicare.
  4. The senior care provider does not track referrals or common residents or patients nor do they limit their residents’ choice of providers.

Please feel free to contact John Fisher, CHC, CCEP, in the Ruder Ware Health Care Industry Focus Group for more information.

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John H. Fisher

Health Care Counsel
Ruder Ware, L.L.S.C.
500 First Street, Suite 8000
P.O. Box 8050
Wausau, WI 54402-8050

Tel 715.845.4336
Fax 715.845.2718

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