Now more than ever, it is critical that anyone contemplating investment in a healthcare sector carefully review the target company’s compliance protocols. We have always strongly recommended that investors analyze the company’s compliance program, as well as efforts at adhering to the program requirements, in order to better gauge the company’s overall goals and philosophy regarding compliance. Understanding a company’s compliance culture can help the buyer assess the risks it may be taking with investment in the company and what challenges, if any, may be on the horizon for the company.
Now, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the PPACA, more commonly referred to as the healthcare reform legislation), certain healthcare providers, as a condition to participation in Medicare, must have in place a compliance plan that meets the requirements to be laid out by the Secretary of HHS. The PPACA lists several detailed requirements for the compliance plans of skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), likely due to the industry’s historical scrutiny and highly publicized investigations from the SNF industry in the past few years. SNFs must implement these compliance plans pursuant to the requirements of Section 6102 of the PPACA within 36 months following passage of the PPACA, and regulations must be issued by the Secretary of HHS for SNFs with additional guidelines no later than two years following passage of the PPACA.
By contrast, the Secretary of HHS is mandated with determining which provider types must have compliance plans in place and what those plans must entail. HHS has informally indicated that it would likely roll out the compliance plan requirements on an industry-by-industry basis. It is likely that the requirements for most industries will closely follow the key components of the DHHS Office of Inspector General model compliance plan published for healthcare providers in 1997, which has subsequently been updated.
For healthcare providers without compliance plans that wish to make early moves toward a full compliance program, or for buyers who seek additional comfort through early implementation, an article entitled “A Practical Compliance Plan Approach for ASCs” authored by Scott Becker, Melissa Szabad and myself is available here. Although this article speaks specifically to the ambulatory surgical center industry, it has practical implications for most healthcare providers.