WASHINGTON – Following a request from U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General recently announced that it had implemented plans to increase transparency on its previous enforcement actions. McCaskill asked for this change earlier this year when a Government Accountability Office report, also requested by McCaskill, showed that there was no public record of compliance agreements with healthcare providers or other entities that engaged in waste, fraud, or abuse of federal healthcare dollars after they expire.
“Healthcare is the number one issue for many Missourians, who are worried about how they’re going to afford a visit to the doctor’s office or emergency room,” said McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Taxpayers deserve to know when healthcare providers have essentially been repeat offenders or prior offenders, and this transparency will help achieve that goal.”
The Government Accountability Office report requested by McCaskill analyzed the Department of Health and Human Services’ use of corporate integrity agreements, which the agency can impose on healthcare providers or other entities that have violated federal law or regulations in their delivery of health services or products that were paid for by the federal government. These integrity agreements allow the agency’s Office of Inspector General to enact penalties and/or monitor the providers as they continue to deliver health services. However, when these agreements expired, there was no public record of them—denying government agencies, state governments, or individuals access to enforcement histories for healthcare providers or vendors.
McCaskill has long been an advocate for increased transparency in government and in healthcare spending. Last week, McCaskill released a draft bipartisan plan to help protect patients from surprise medical bills, which comes from the bipartisan Senate healthcare price transparency working group, of which McCaskill is a member. Last month, she released an investigative report that showed that drug prices directly negotiated by the government could save the Medicare Part D program $2.8 billion in a single year on the 20 most commonly prescribed brand-name drugs alone. As part of her investigation into opioid manufacturers and distributors—the most comprehensive Congressional investigation into the crisis to date—McCaskill exposed the financial ties between opioid manufacturers and third party groups, who often lobbied for pro-opioid policies after receiving contributions from pharmaceutical companies. In the wake of these discoveries, McCaskill introduced a bill in June to increase transparency and ensure opioid manufacturers report contributions to third party groups, which totaled almost $9 million between 2012 and 2017 for the companies and groups profiled in the February 2018 report.
Read HHS OIG’s letter to McCaskill announcing this change HERE.