WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden of Oregon are pushing for greater transparency after an investigation they requested showed that the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General does not publicly disclose when it has entered multiple compliance agreements with healthcare providers or other companies that engaged in waste, fraud, or abuse, or extended these agreements.
“When a company abuses taxpayer dollars multiple times, it shouldn’t be able to sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened,” McCaskill said. “If a company repeatedly misused taxpayer dollars, this record should be available for other government agencies, state governments, and the general public to see.”
“Corporate integrity agreements exist to hold businesses accountable when they break the public trust – but if the government isn’t telling the public when a business violates the law again and again, something has to change,” Wyden said. “These agreements are at risk of becoming check-the-box exercises for big business if transparency and accountability are not dramatically improved.”
A Government Accountability Office report released today—requested by McCaskill and Wyden—analyzed the Department of Health and Human Services’ use of integrity agreements, which the agency can impose on healthcare providers or other companies 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 companies as they continue to work for the government. However, when the agreements expire, there is no public record of them—so when other government agencies, state governments, or individuals are deciding which companies to work with, they cannot easily access enforcement histories for healthcare providers or vendors. At the Senators’ request, the Government Accountability Office also identified those companies that have had multiple enforcement agreements.
“The public cannot readily see when a healthcare provider is, in essence, a repeat offender or even a prior offender,” wrote the Senators. “Accordingly, we request that HHS OIG revise its practices and provide the public with access to a record of integrity agreement histories for each entity subject to an integrity agreement, especially those entities for which stipulated penalties, multiple agreements and extensions have been required.”
Read the Senators’ letter HERE.