According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the primary purpose of Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) is to investigate instances of suspected fraud, waste, and abuse. The specific actions employed by ZPICs to fulfil this mission include:
- Investigating potential fraud and abuse for CMS administrative action or referral to law enforcement;
- Conducting investigations in accordance with the priorities established by Center for Program Integrity’s (CPI) Fraud Prevention System;
- Performing medical review, as appropriate;
- Performing data analysis in coordination with CPI’s Fraud Prevention System;
- Identifying the need for administrative actions such as payment suspensions and prepayment or auto-denial edits; and,
- Referring cases to law enforcement for consideration and initiation of civil or criminal prosecution.
However, it appears that some of the ZPICs have been overly proactive in identifying the need for payments suspensions and are asking providers to voluntarily agree to payment suspensions for certain claims.
Physicians Being Targeted by ZPICs for Auto-Denial Edits.
Recently, physicians have been approached by ZPICs and asked to voluntarily agree to a payment edit on their National Provider Identifier (NPI) that would automatically deny any claim for payment for home health services that listed the physician as the ordering, attending, or referring physician. A ZPIC requesting a specific physician to voluntarily cease ordering any home health services appears to go further than identifying the need for administrative action including a payment suspension.
The activities a ZPIC may use to fulfil its obligations to CMS are:
- Request medical records and documentation;
- Conduct interviews;
- Conduct onsite visits;
- Identify the need for a prepayment or auto-denial edits and refer these edits to the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MAC) for installation;
- Withhold payments; and,
- Refer cases to law enforcement.
The following functions are reserved for the MACs and not functions of the ZPICs.
- Provider outreach and education;
- Recouping monies lost to the Trust Fund (the ZPICs identify these situations and refer them to the MACs for the recoupment);
- Medical review not
- Complaint screening; for benefit integrity purposes;
- Claims appeals of ZPIC decisions;
- Claim payment determination;
- Claims pricing; and
- Auditing provider cost reports.
While a ZPIC may refer a provider to the MAC for the imposition of an auto-denial edit, some ZPICs seem to have taken this process a step further and are attempting to have physicians voluntarily agree to the auto-denial edits.
Issues with Agreeing to an Auto-Denial Edit.
A physician who voluntarily agrees to an auto-denial edit could create significant problems for his or her patients and practice. A physician agreeing to an auto-denial edit would need to cease ordering home health services and would need to refer the patients that need home health services to another physician. Any physician that has been approached by a ZPIC seeking a voluntary auto-denial edit should consult competent legal counsel before agreeing to the auto-denial edit.
We have heard if ZPIC representatives allegedly intimidating or attempting to intimidate physicians who routinely order home health services for patients into agreeing to such auto-denial edits.
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.
Have you heard of these auto-denial edit requests from ZPICs? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
About the Authors: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He 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 Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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.
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