(a) Period during which CMS accepts requests. The provisions of § 411.370 through § 411.389 apply to requests for advisory opinions that are submitted to CMS during any time period in which CMS is required by law to issue the advisory opinions described in this subpart.
(b) Matters that qualify for advisory opinions and who may request one. Any individual or entity may request a written advisory opinion from CMS concerning whether a physician's referral relating to designated health services (other than clinical laboratory services) is prohibited under section 1877 of the Act. In the advisory opinion, CMS will determine whether a business arrangement described by the parties to that arrangement appears to constitute a “financial relationship” (as defined in section 1877(a)(2) of the Act) that could potentially restrict a physician's referrals, and whether the arrangement or the designated health services at issue appear to qualify for any of the exceptions to the referral prohibition described in section 1877 of the Act.
(1) The request must relate to an existing arrangement or one into which the requestor, in good faith, specifically plans to enter. The planned arrangement may be contingent upon the party or parties receiving a favorable advisory opinion. CMS does not consider, for purposes of an advisory opinion, requests that involve the activities of third parties.
(2) The requestor must be a party to the existing or proposed arrangement.
(c) Matters not subject to advisory opinions. CMS will not address through an advisory opinion -
(1) Whether the fair market value was, or will be, paid or received for any goods, services, or property; and
(2) Whether an individual is a bona fide employee within the requirements of section 3121(d)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
(d) Facts subject to advisory opinions. The requestor must include in the advisory opinion request a complete description of the arrangement that the requestor is undertaking, or plans to undertake, as described in § 411.372.
(e) Acceptance of requests.
(1) CMS does not accept an advisory opinion request or issue an advisory opinion if -
(i) The request is not related to a named individual or entity;
(ii) The request does not describe the arrangement at issue with a level of detail sufficient for CMS to issue an opinion, and the requestor does not timely respond to CMS requests for additional information;
(iii) CMS is aware, after consultation with OIG and DOJ, that the same course of action is under investigation, or is or has been the subject of a proceeding involving the Department of Health and Human Services or another governmental agency;
(iv) CMS believes that it cannot make an informed opinion or could only make an informed opinion after extensive investigation, clinical study, testing, or collateral inquiry; or
(v) CMS determines that the arrangement or course of conduct at issue is or would be in violation of applicable State or Federal law or regulation.
(2) CMS may elect not to accept an advisory opinion request if it determines, after consultation with OIG and DOJ:
(i) The course of action described is substantially similar to a course of conduct that is under investigation or the subject of a proceeding involving the Department or other law enforcement agencies; and
(ii) Issuing an advisory opinion could interfere with the investigation or proceeding.
(f) Effects of an advisory opinion on other Governmental authority. Nothing in this part limits the investigatory or prosecutorial authority of the OIG, the Department of Justice, or any other agency of the Government. In addition, in connection with any request for an advisory opinion, CMS, the OIG, or the Department of Justice may conduct whatever independent investigation it believes appropriate.