Gift cards for patients don't violate anti-kickback statute, OIG says

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A facility that has proposed to offer grocery store gift cards in return for health screenings or clinical services will be sanctioned, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced.

The decision applies to enrollees in capitated Medicaid managed care plans who were assigned to a health center recently, or for at least one year but had not been seen there for one year.

The health center said the program was meant to encourage patients to take an interest in preventive care and increase their familiarity with the health center. The organization would not provide additional promotion or marketing of the arrangement.

A $20 grocery store card would be delivered via letter to eligible enrollees regardless of health status. The cards could not be redeemed for cash, and receipt of the cards would not require patients to select a particular clinical service at the health center. Patients could only receive one card per year.

The OIG said the proposal comes under the purview of the anti-kickback statute. However, it presents a low risk of fraud and abuse because the gift card would not lead to higher reimbursements for the health center and it would be limited and marketed to eligible enrollees.

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