OIG has approved the use of gift cards to incentivize patients to return sample collection kits, provided there are certain safeguards in place:
- Mailing the gift cards only to those patients who return the kits by the deadline specified in the reminder letter.
- Advising patients that they may not use the gift cards on items or services provided by the requestors.
- Limiting patients to one gift card every 36 months, which is consistent with Medicare’s coverage period for the screening test.
- Implementing processes to ensure patients who received a gift card during the 36-month period do not receive another one during that period.
- Refraining from patient-focused promotional activities that advertise the availability of the gift card.
- Prohibiting advertising or marketing the proposed arrangement to healthcare providers who may order the test.
- Excluding tests ordered by healthcare providers through the requestors’ website from the proposed arrangement.
Dee Harleston, Stewart Kameen, Jinnifer Michael, and Danielle Sloane, for Bass Berry & Sims:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently issued Advisory Opinion 23-03, approving a proposal by the manufacturer of a colorectal cancer screening test and its wholly owned laboratory to provide gift cards to certain patients to encourage them to return the sample collection kits. While limited in scope, this favorable opinion is noteworthy because OIG typically disfavors arrangements under which providers or suppliers distribute gift cards to incentivize patients to obtain federally reimbursable services. Although OIG approved the proposed arrangement at issue in Advisory Opinion 23-03, the agency also pointedly warned entities against structuring arrangements that differ from the facts of the proposed arrangement.