The current coronavirus pandemic has led various federal government programs to provide funds to struggling businesses. Some of these funds are set aside specifically for health care businesses. These funds often come with restrictions and improper use can result in fines and allegations of wrongdoing.
Ensuring the funds are used properly is not an easy task. To help better ensure compliance, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is using the following enforcement actions:
- Whistleblowers. The agency has called on members of the health care community to report any potential violations. In addition to misuse of these funds, the agency also reminds those within the field that they can also report any concerns about potential violations of the anti-kickback statute.
- Audits. The agency has also stated that it will conduct an audit of how the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded and disbursed funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The agency will focus specifically on payment to health care providers and whether or not these providers used the funds in compliance with CARES Act requirements.
Serious penalties can result if the government believes a health care business misused these funds. These could include required return of the funds as well as additional fines. The nuances of the laws surrounding the funds are not always transparent. A simple mistake could lead to allegations of wrongdoing. As a result, it is wise to seek legal counsel to begin building a defense if you believe your practice is under investigation.