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Friday, December 9, 2022

Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services Announce Partnership to Protect Health Care Markets

The Agencies Will Enhance Enforcement Efforts Through Greater Coordination and Information Sharing, Cross-Agency Training, and Outreach

AAG Kanter and Inspector General Grimm signing the MOU

The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) today. Strengthening the partnership between the two agencies will enable both to better protect health care consumers and workers from collusion, ensure compliance with laws enforced by OIG and the Antitrust Division, and promote competitive health care markets. This partnership also supports the objectives of the President’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy.

“Americans depend on competitive health care markets to meet their most basic needs,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Today’s MOU memorializes our shared commitment to protect patients from antitrust crime and other anticompetitive conduct, while ensuring uninterrupted access to health care products and services for patients who need them.”

“OIG’s mission is to protect the integrity of HHS programs and the health and welfare of the people served by those programs,” said Inspector General Christi A. Grimm of the Department of Health and Human Services. “We look forward to collaborating with the Antitrust Division to ensure that exclusions are imposed where appropriate and the people served by federal health care programs maintain access to health care products and services. Through this partnership, we will tackle unlawful behavior across the health care industry. This is an important moment in recognizing that protecting competition protects health care markets and ultimately benefits patients and Federal health care programs.”

The agencies share an interest in protecting federal health care programs and promoting competitive health care markets. Both agencies are charged with protecting the people served by federal health care programs who have been harmed or may be at-risk of being harmed by anticompetitive and unlawful conduct, with remedies including holding individuals or entities accountable for violations of the law, while preventing further harm to the health care system.

The MOU signed today by Assistant Attorney General Kanter and Inspector General Grimm announces new steps the agencies will take to strengthen their partnership. Through coordination in information sharing, enforcement activity, and training, the two agencies will strengthen the enforcement of federal laws, including the full force of OIG’s exclusion authorities and the antitrust laws enforced by the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, while ensuring the continuity of health care products and services. In particular, this MOU will allow the two agencies to make referrals of potentially illegal activity to each other, as appropriate, and to coordinate on policy, strategy, and training.

OIG provides independent and objective oversight of HHS. OIG’s authorities come from the Inspector General Act, Social Security Act, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and other statutes. OIG has the authority to exclude individuals and entities from federal health care programs for a variety of reasons, including certain violations of antitrust laws. Those that are excluded can receive no payment from Federal health care programs for any items or services they furnish, order, or prescribe. To ensure health care assets remain in the market and competition is preserved and enhanced, OIG and the Antitrust Division will work together to ensure orderly winding down or sales of assets by excluded health care entities or other actions as appropriate.

The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division is charged with promoting and protecting competition by enforcing the antitrust laws of the United States, including the Sherman Act, Clayton Act, and other related statutes.

Information about possible antitrust violations or potential anticompetitive activity should be reported to the Antitrust Division Citizen Complaint Center.

Information about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in the Department of Health and Human Services’ programs should be reported to the HHS-OIG Hotline.

Topic(s): 
Antitrust
Component(s): 
Press Release Number: 
22-1334
Updated December 9, 2022