A home health provider may offer free “introductory visits” to new patients without fear of implicating the Anti-Kickback Statute or Civil Monetary Penalties law, so long as those patients have already chosen it as their home health provider, OIG said late last week.

OIG concluded that these introductory visits “are a logical and reasonable first step in the care relationships that have been established.”

Arrangement under review

  • OIG stated its position in an advisory opinion to an unidentified for-profit home health agency (HHA). Under that arrangement, upon discharge, hospitals provide patients who require ongoing home health services with a list of HHAs. If the patient selects this particular HHA, then a liaison from the HHA contacts the patient to arrange a free introductory visit.
  • During this visit, the liaison provides an overview of the experience, gives the patient written materials with contact information, and shares pictures of the team that will be providing services to the patient. The primary purpose of the visit is “to facilitate the patient’s transition to home health services in an effort to increase compliance with the post-acute treatment plan.”

Analysis of whether the visits were “remuneration”

  • The “threshold question,” according to OIG, is whether the visits constitute “remuneration” to the patients. OIG concluded they do not, for several reasons, including:
    • The visits “do not provide any actual or expected economic benefit to the patients,” even though the visits “may have some intrinsic value to patients.”
    • The liaison does not provide any federally reimbursable diagnostic or therapeutic services during this visit, nor does the HHA claim costs associated with the visit on any cost reports or otherwise “shift the burden of these costs to any Federal health care program, other payors, or patients.”
    • The visit ensures patients’ personal safety by familiarizing them with the members of the care team who will later come into their homes.
    • These visits are “distinguishable from other potentially problematic arrangements” because patients already have selected the HHA as their provider when the liaison contacts them.

A copy of the advisory opinion can be found here: OIG Advisory Opinion No. 15-12.