Editor's note: Daniel Levinson, HHS' inspector general, sat down with Modern Healthcare reporter Joe Carlson for an exclusive interview last week after Levinson addressed thousands of compliance officers at the Health Care Compliance Association's annual Compliance Institute in Las Vegas. The questions and answers have been edited for clarity and space.
Modern Healthcare: One of the things I hear a lot from providers is that the Stark law is simply too complicated.
Levinson: Unfortunately, I'm not in charge of deciding what the law should be when it comes to healthcare compliance. We have an array of statutes of which Stark is a very important part. And our job in the IG's office is to enforce all the laws that we are empowered to enforce.
Modern Healthcare: So you're enforcing the law as it is, you're not making the law.
Levinson: That's the job of the inspector general's office when it comes to not only the Stark law, the False Claims Act, all the five laws I mentioned (the anti-kickback statute, the civil monetary penalties law and the exclusions statute). We take our obligation, our responsibility that is given to us by lawmakers, very seriously, and we enforce those laws aggressively but fairly.
Modern Healthcare: Is the Stark law too punitive? Does it penalize things that are sort of minor, in a major way?
Levinson: You know, I understand the reasons for the Stark law, and we enforce that law as it is, in a way that we try to do justice to what was intended by it.
Modern Healthcare: Any thoughts on the CMS' efforts to use big data, as you said before, and digital tools, data-mining?
Levinson: Those efforts are still being rolled out, if I understand the posture of where those things are right now. We need to look at whether the hoped-for results are happening. I think we're in the process of evaluating the CMS' efforts.
Modern Healthcare: Hard to say One PI (a project integrating claims data across Medicaid and all parts of Medicare) hasn't had some time to come into being.