Tag Archives: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS)

Watch Out for Legal Pitfalls Associated with Telemedicine

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

With all the new technologies, mobile medical applications, expansion of access to health care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the emphasis on quality care, telemedicine is at the forefront of the health care industry.

Now is the time to educate yourself on the new opportunities in practicing telemedicine. As with any new health care business model, you also have to assess the risks and be sure you are complying with the ever increasing number of regulations.

Where Telemedicine Stands Today.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) can be credited for the telemedicine revival. In 2011, CMS issued a final rule permitting a more flexible process for credentialing and privileging practitioners who provide telemedicine services. Telemedicine escalated in 2013, when federal and state legislation and major insurers expanded the types of reimbursable telemedicine services. Now in 2014, there are more partnerships between insurers and health care delivery systems to provide patients access to specialists through telemedicine programs.
For example, WellPoint, Inc., and Aetna, Inc., among other health insurers, are letting millions of patients schedule online visits with health care professionals. These insurance companies are working together with companies that offer virtual visits with doctors who, in some states, can prescribe drugs for anything from sinus infections to back pain. According to Bloomberg, this is a major advancement for telemedicine. To read the entire article from Bloomberg, click here.

The Current Status of Telemedicine in Florida.

In March 2014, the Florida Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine adopted updated standards for practicing telemedicine. The final rule, 64B8-9.0141, Florida Administrative Code, defines telemedicine as:

the practice of medicine by a licensed Florida physician or physician assistant where patient care, treatment, or services are provided through the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications. Telemedicine shall not include the provision of health care services only through an audio only telephone, email messages, text messages, facsimile transmission, U.S. mail or other parcel service, or any combination thereof.

The rule states that the standard of care shall remain the same regardless of whether a physician provides services in person or by telemedicine. Also, those providing telemedicine services are responsible for the safety, security and adequacy of their equipment.

Several other parts of the new Florida telemedicine rule are worth noting:

1. Telemedicine is sufficient to establish a physician-patient relationship;
2. All regulations regarding patient confidentiality and record keeping are applicable;
3. The rule specifically exempts medical advice given by emergency responders including EMTs, paramedics and emergency dispatchers;
4. The rule also does not apply to physicians or physician assistants providing emergency care under conditions requiring immediate medical care; and
5. Florida law presently prohibits prescribing controlled substances via telemedicine.


Telemedicine and the Potential Legal Issues.

As telemedicine grows, so will the oversight and scrutiny by state medical boards and federal and state regulatory agencies. Here are some areas to be mindful of:

- Reimbursement: This is continuously an issue with telemedicine. Medicare reimbursement for telemedicine services is limited and generally requires face-to-face contact between patients and providers. Medicaid reimbursement varies from state-to-state, and only about 20 states have enacted statutes that require reimbursement for certain telemedicine services. This means health care providers need to review Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement policies, state health insurance regulations, and provider payer contract requirements so that they are aware of the reimbursement requirements that may affect their billing. Educate yourself on what will and what won’t be reimbursed, and only submit compliant claims to avoid audits.

- Fraud and Abuse: As a telemedicine provider, you will most likely initiate business arrangements between distinct health care entities that may include the lease of equipment or the use of a product owned, in part, by physicians. Arrangements like this need to be written with federal fraud and abuse laws in mind, including the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law. For more advice on telemedicine-related fraud issues, review advisory opinions issued by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

- Medical Staff Bylaws: Health care organizations that depend on information from a distant-site hospital or telemedicine entity to credential and privilege telemedicine practitioners must revise their medical staff bylaws and policies to include criteria for granting privileges to distant practitioners, and a procedure for applying the criteria. Additions should also include what category of the medical staff distant-site telemedicine practitioners will join, the level of involvement they may have in medical staff committees, and what procedural rights they should be given.

- Credentialing and Privileging: Under CMS’ final rule, health care organizations may rely on the credentialing and privileging decisions of distant-site hospitals or the information provided by other telemedicine entities when determining privileges for distant-site practitioners who provide telemedicine services, as long as certain conditions are met, including a compliant written agreement.

- Patient Privacy: Providers are responsible for ensuring they have secure communication channels, implementing business associate and other confidentiality and privacy agreements, educating staff regarding the appropriate use of telemedicine, and understanding how and what patient information is being collected and stored.

- Compliance with State Requirements: Most states require physicians engaging in telemedicine to be licensed in the state where the patient is located. It would be wise for health care organizations to seek the legal guidance of an experienced health law attorney to navigate individual state requirements.

- Interactions with Pain Management Laws: Our practice has seen many physicians become the subject of some kind of government investigation or action resulting from the remote practice of medicine in a pain management setting. These telemedicine rules do not alter the status quo in pain management. Physicians are still required to see patients in a face-to-face encounter in order to prescribe controlled substances for the treatment of pain. There are discussions among the members of the Florida  Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine to permit limited prescribing of controlled substances through telemedicine. However, the boundaries of a future rule are unclear. Considering the hard-line stance the Boards have taken toward pain management in general, it is unlikely that any final rule would authorize the remote practice of pain management.

Health care providers need to stay mindful of the listed legal issues, and any others that may come up. It is important when practicing telemedicine to ensure your services are compliant, and you appropriately protect patient safety and privacy.

Comments?

Does your practice use telemedicine? In your opinion what are the benefits and what are the difficulties of telemedicine? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

French, Marie. “The Doctor Will Click on You Now.” Bloomberg. (July 13, 2014). From: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-14/the-doctor-will-click-on-you-now.html

Kadzielski, Mark and Kim, Jee-Young. “Telemedicine: Many Opportunities, Many Legal Issues, Many Risks.” JD Supra. (July 30, 2014). From: http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/telemedicine-many-opportunities-many-l-18993/

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Zone 4 Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) for Medicare and Medicaid Programs is Health Integrity, LCC

2 Indest-2009-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Health Integrity, LCC, was named the Zone 4 Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) for the Medicare and Medicaid programs. As the ZPIC for Zone 4, Health Integrity has been performing benefit integrity activities aimed to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid data matching programs.

A ZPIC is a business entity that contracts with Medicare and Medicaid and works with state Medicaid agencies, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and law enforcement officials to identify improper billing and utilization patterns throughout Zone 4.

ZPIC Zone 4 includes Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

What is a ZPIC?

ZPICs are private companies contracted by the CMS, used to conduct audits for Medicare and Medicaid overpayments. ZPICS also detect, investigate and gather evidence of suspected fraud and abuse to be turned over to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for criminal or civil prosecution.. When you hear “ZPIC,” think “fraud.”

ZPIC audits are initiated by:

1. Whistleblower or qui tam lawsuits,
2. Probe audits,
3. Other audit agency findings,
4. Beneficiary/patient complaints,
5. Hotline complaints, or
6. Complaints and notices from other government programs.

How to Handle a ZPIC Audit.

When a physician, medical group or other health care provider receives a notice of an audit and site visit from a ZPIC, things happen fast with little opportunity to prepare. A ZPIC will routinely fax a letter to the practice shortly before the end of a business day the day before a site visit/audit to that practice. Auditors will request to inspect the premises, will photograph all rooms, equipment, furniture, and diplomas on walls. They will usually request copies of several patient records to review later. They will request copies of practice policies and procedures, treatment protocols, all staff licenses and certifications, drug formularies, medications prescribed, and medications used in the office. ZPIC auditors will inspect any medication/narcotic lockers or storage cabinets and will request drug/medication invoices and inventories. You will usually be contacted for follow-up information and documentation after the audit and will eventually be provided a report and, possibly, a demand for repayment of any detected overpayments.

For a checklist on what to do after you receive initial notification of a ZPIC audit, read our two-part blog. Click here for part one and click here for part two.

The Health Law Firm’s Success in a North Carolina Medicaid Action.

In October 2012, The Health Law Firm assisted a North Carolina Medicaid provider in reducing an overpayment demand made by the North Carolina Medicaid program by more than ninety-eight percent (98%). We were brought on to assist the provider in challenging an initial audit. We assembled and submitted documents to the auditor and assisted the client in presenting evidence at the hearing. The final result of the hearing reduced the Medicaid overpayment amount from $1.4 million to just $24,083. To read more on this successful Medicaid action, click here.

State Included in Zone 4.

ZPIC Zones are broken up by state. Health Integrity serves as the Zone 4 ZPIC. As indicated above Zone 4 includes Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.


The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

Have you ever received notification of a ZPIC visit or audit? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

What Health Providers Need to Know About Telemedicine

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

For years providing health care to patients has been at a location that is convenient to the health provider. With emerging trends in telemedicine and upcoming healthcare reforms, recently enacted, patients may begin to enjoy the convenience of medical evaluation and follow-up by video, telephone and computer. The biggest bar to this to date has been the refusal of Medicare, Medicaid and insurers to pay for this, along with restrictive state board of medicine regulations prohibiting it. For example, a big thorn in the side of physicians treating pain management patients has been regulatory prohibitions by the Florida Board of Medicine.

According to a Star Tribune article, 30 million Americans are expected to gain access to insurance through the Health Care Reform Act in 2014. Telemedicine is one effective and low-cost solution to treat easy-to-diagnose medical conditions. It is also expected to assist in relieving the looming shortage of physicians.

Telemedicine uses technologies, such as the internet, streaming media, telephones and video conferences to meet the needs of patients. When deciding whether to establish a telemedicine program it is important to look at the state licensure requirements, as requirements are different in each state.

Click here for a breakdown of telemedicine legislation by state.

What You Need to Know About Telemedicine in the Sunshine State.

According to rule 64B15-14.008, Florida Administrative Code, prescribing medication based solely on an electronic medical questionnaire constitutes unprofessional conduct and it groups for disciplinary action. At least in Florida, the medical authorities have required that physicians must see the patient in person in a face-to-face encounter before prescribing medication. Physicians may not provide treatment recommendations unless a document patient evaluation has occurred, sufficient dialogue between the physician and patient regarding treatment options and the risks and benefits of treatment have occurred, and medical records are properly maintained.

Click here to learn more on the standards for telemedicine practices in Florida.

Federal laws and regulations may bring a change in the state requirements.

Online House Call.

Virtuwell is an online medical clinic offered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Patients log onto the Virtuwell website and answer a number of questions. Using the patient’s answers, a nurse practitioner will diagnose the ailment, give treatment advice and, if necessary, send a prescription to a pharmacy. This service costs around $40 per diagnosis. The Virtuwell website launched in 2010. In just two years, more than 40,000 patients have logged on to receive medical advice. This form of telemedicine may be the future of health care.

To read more on Virtuwell from the Star Tribune, click here.

It is important to note that Minnesota allows physicians to offer this service if they are registered to practice telemedicine or are registered to practice across state lines.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.
At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of telemedicine? Do you think it is the future of doctor’s office visits? In your opinion what are the benefits and what are the difficulties of telemedicine? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Crosby, Jackie. “The New House Call is Online.” Star Tribune. (November 24, 2012). From: http://www.startribune.com/business/180632701.html

Gardner, Elizabeth. “Is Your Doctor Out of the Office? Try an E-Visit.” U.S. News. (September 4, 2012). From: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/09/04/is-your-doctor-out-of-the-office-try-an-e-visit

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Signing False Medicare Claims Lands Nurse Behind Bars for 30 Months

10 Indest-2008-7By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A Detroit-area registered nurse was sentenced on November 19, 2012, to 30 months in federal prison for his alleged part in a nearly $13.8 million Medicare fraud scheme. According to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release, he will serve probation after being released from prison. He was also ordered to pay more than $450,000 in restitution, together with his co-defendants.

Click here to read the entire press release from the DOJ.

Nurse Signed Medical Records for Services Never Rendered.

According to the nurse’s plea agreement, from December 2008 through September 2011, he was paid to sign medical records for a home health care agency that billed Medicare for services that were allegedly never rendered. The man reportedly admitted to not seeing or treating the Medicare beneficiaries for whom he signed medical documentation. He also admitted to knowing that the documents he signed were being used for false claims. According to an article from Health Exec News, the man was paid around $150 for each fake file that he signed.

To read the article from Health Exec News, click here.

A Handful of Alleged Co-Conspirators Waiting to Be Sentenced.

Nine alleged co-defendants in this case have pleaded guilty and are waiting to be sentenced, while three others are fugitives and six more are awaiting trial, according to the DOJ. In total, the home health agency was paid close to $13.8 million by Medicare.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations,  in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Do you think the registered nurse received a sentence that was too harsh? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Health Exec News. “Medicare Fraud Scheme: Nurse Gets Jail Time for Signing False Claims.” Health Exec News. (November 23, 2012). From: http://healthexecnews.com/nurse-medicare-fraud-scheme

Department of Justice. “Detroit-Area Nurse Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Role in $13.8 Million Home Health Care Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice. (November 19, 2012). From: ttp://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/November/12-crm-1389.html

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

American Hospital Association (AHA) Sues U.S. Government for Denied Medicare Payments by RACs, ZPICs and Other Auditors

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 1, 2012, the American Hospital Association (AHA) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) claiming that private auditors hired to crack down on improper Medicare payments are denying hospitals millions of dollars in medically necessary care, this is according to a number of sources. The AHA is seeking a court order declaring the practice invalid, saying it violates the Medicare Act.

Four hospital systems in Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania have joined the AHA as plaintiffs in the suit. The suit has been filed in federal court in Washington, D.C.

To read the AHA complaint against the HHS, click here.

AHA Wants Doctors to Be Able to Focus on Patient Care.

The lawsuit alleges Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs), private auditors used by the HHS, forced hospitals to repay Medicare for the costs of in-patient services by determining that Medicare beneficiaries should have been treated as out-patients instead of being admitted into hospitals as in-patients. The services provided to out-patients are much less, of course, and the bills for out-patient services are usually much lower.

In the official press release AHA argues when patients need treatment, the first step for a doctor is to decide whether to admit the patient to the hospital or to provide care in an out-patient facility. AHA believes doctors’ decisions are often more complicated for Medicare beneficiaries because the doctor is routinely second-guessed by RACs months or even years later. The president and CEO of AHA said this practice is “indefensible.”

Click here to read the entire press release from the AHA.

Neither the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) nor the Department of HHS has commented on the pending litigation.

AHA Fed Up with Redundant Audits that Drain Time, Funding and Patient Care.

In October 2012, prior to the lawsuit, the executive vice president of the AHA wrote a letter to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in response to the Work Plan for Fiscal Year 2013. In the work plan the OIG reviewed the effectiveness of various Medicare contractors, including RACs, Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) and Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs).

The letter states that these programs auditing payment accuracy are well intentioned, but hospitals are fed up with the RACs’ inaccuracy in determining whether the hospital received any overpayments. The letter also claims that hospitals are overwhelmed by the significant overlap and duplication of efforts between the RACs, MACs and ZPICs. These redundant audits drain time, funding and attention to patient care, according to the AHA.

According to the OIG review, hospitals reported appealing more than forty percent (40%) of all RAC denials, with a seventy-five percent (75%) success rate in the appeals process.

Click here to read the letter from the AHA to the OIG.

How to Take Action Once a Notice of a Medicare Audit Has Been Received.
When a physician, medical group or other healthcare provider receives a notice of an audit and site visit from a RAC, MAC or ZPIC, things happen fast with little opportunity to prepare. To help, read our checklist of what to do when notified of a Medicare or ZPIC audit. Click here for part one and click here for part two.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

What you think about the lawsuit again the HHS? Do you support AHA’s decision to question the RACs’ auditing system? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Mitchell, Alicia. “Hospitals Sue Federal Government for Unfair Medicare Practices.” American Hospital Association. (November 1, 2012). Press Release from: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/AHA%20Sues%20Govnt%20PR.pdf

Pollack, Richard. “Letter: AHA Supports OIG Review of Effectiveness of Medicare Contractors, Including RACs, In 2013 Work Plan.” American Hospital Association. (October 24, 2012). Letter from: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/AHA%20letter%20to%20OIG%20on%20RACs.pdf

Morgan, David. “Hospitals Sue Government Over Private Medicare Audits.” Reuters. (November 1, 2012). From: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/11/01/us-usa-healthcare-medicare-idUKBRE8A01BZ20121101

Harris, Andrew. “American Hospital Association Sues U.S. Over Medicare.” Bloomberg. (November 1, 2012). From: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/print/2012-11-01/american-hospital-association-sues-u-s-over-unpaid-medicare.html

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.


“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Phony Medical Equipment Supplier will Spend 30 months in Prison for Medicare Fraud

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A Los Angeles medical equipment supplier will spend 30 months in prison for submitting nearly $1 million in false claims to Medicare. The claims were almost all for expensive, high-end power wheelchairs. The man was sentenced on October 5, 2012.

To see the press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ), click here.

Man Owned and Operated a Phony Durable Medical Equipment Supply Company.

In February 2012, the defendant in this case pleaded guilty to owning and operating a fake durable medical equipment (DME) supply company, which he used to submit false claims to Medicare. He would allegedly pay kickbacks to co-conspirators for prescriptions and other documents needed to pull off the fraud. About ninety-five percent (95%) of all of his claims were for power wheelchairs. The wheelchairs were allegedly supplied to Medicare beneficiaries who were illegally solicited by recruiters.

Feds Taps the Brakes on Wheelchair Medicare Fraud.

In September of 2012, power wheelchair suppliers voiced their concerns over a new government program called the Power Mobility Devices (PMDs) Demonstration. Durable Medical Equipment Suppliers (DMES) protested the program because it requires advanced approval prior to the delivery of a power wheelchair to the consumer.

Federal health officials argue that these changes are necessary because eighty percent (80%) of the power wheelchair claims that were submitted in 2011 to Medicare did not meet program requirements, according to the government. That error rate means more than $492 million of improper payments.

I recently wrote on blog on this hot-button topic, click here to read it.

Beware of Patient Recruiters.

We have seen several big cases recently involving prosecution for Medicare fraud in which patient recruiters were involved. It would probably be a good idea, if you are a legitimate Medicare provider, to have nothing to do with patient recruiters. If you are not a legitimate Medicare provider, you don’t care about this anyway.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare Issues Now.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers and health care providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits, MAC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent DME suppliers, physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions, termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program and administrative hearings.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

What do you think about this story? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

U.S. Department of Justice. “Los Angeles Medical Equipment Supplier Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Medicare Fraud Scheme.” FBI. (October 5, 2012). Press Release. From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/October/12-crm-1213.html

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

E&M Services Now Under Review by the Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs)

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

In September 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made the decision to allow Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) to begin reviewing the billing codes for office visits for healthcare providers. Those at issue are the codes referred to as evaluation and management (E&M) codes. These claims had previously been off-limits to RACS.

Connolly, Inc., the contractor for RAC audit services for 15 states and two U.S. territories, will sort through claims filed by doctors and hospitals from as far back as October 1, 2007. According to an article in American Medical News, the plan is to conduct limited reviews in those states and territories using statistical sampling to project how many physician claims that used the high-level, established patient evaluation and management code 99215 were paid correctly.

To read the entire article from American Medical News, click here.

American Medical Association (AMA) Says E&M Codes Are Too Complicated for RACs to Audit.

The American Medical Association (AMA) disagrees with the decision to allow RACs to review E&M codes. In a letter to CMS, the AMA requests the Medicare agency reconsider its decision. The AMA believes E&M services are complex and based on several components.

In the letter the executive vice president of the AMA stated, “Based on our historical experience with the RACs, and in light of the fact that the RACs are not required to have same-specialty physicians review RAC determinations, we have no confidence that the RACs will be up to the task of understanding these variables or their clinical relevance.”

Click here to read the entire letter from the AMA to CMS.

An Increased Use of Higher-Level E&M Codes by Physicians and Hospitals Led to Audit Approval.

The use of office visit codes by doctors and hospitals has been a topic of discussion lately. According to American Medical News, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported almost 442,000 physicians billed E&M services in 2010. Of those physicians, 1,669 were found to be consistently billing higher-level E&M codes, such as the 99215 code that Connolly will review.

A recent article in New York Times discusses the reason for the increase in billing could be the switch to electronic health records. The article states some of the programs will automatically generate detailed patient histories, or allow doctors to cut and paste the same examination findings for multiple patients, a practice called cloning. Cloning can make it appear the physician conducted a more extensive exam, than perhaps he or she actually did.

Click here to read the entire article from The New York Times.

15 States and Two U.S. Territories Face RAC Audits of E&M Services?

Physicians and other healthcare professionals in 15 states, including Florida, and two U.S. territories may face these audits. RACs within these states will be permitted to extrapolate their findings based on a statistical sample of claims.

The states and territories in Connolly’s jurisdiction are: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

What To Do If You Receive a Notification of a Medicare Audit.

When a physician, medical group or other healthcare provider receives a notice of an audit and site visit from Medicare, the Medicare Administrative Carrier (MAC) or the Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC), things happen fast with little opportunity to prepare. To help, read our checklist of what to do when notified of a Medicare or ZPIC audit. Click here for part one and click here for part two.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

As a healthcare provider, how to do feel about these audits? Please submit any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Abelson, Reed, Creswell, Julie and Palmer, Griff. “Medicare Bills Rise as Records Turn Electronic.” The New York Times. (September 21, 2012). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/22/business/medicare-billing-rises-at-hospitals-with-electronic-records.html?pagewanted=all

Fiegl, Charles. “Medicare Auditor Targets E&M Services for Review.” American Medical News. (October 1, 2012). From: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/10/01/gvl11001.htm

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

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