Tag Archives: overpayment

The RACs, They’re Back! The Return of Medicare Recovery Audits

Patricia's Photos 013By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

All good things must come to an end. This includes the two-month hiatus from Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) that healthcare professionals enjoyed. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is restarting audits of Medicare fee-for-service claims on a limited basis. The program has been suspended since June 1, 2014, due to expired contracts.

CMS announced the return of RACs on August 4, 2014.

Click here to read the latest announcements on Medicare recovery audits from CMS.

From what we have heard, there were serious problems with some of the audits that had been conducted by the RACs and CMS desired to start over with a clean slate. Just saying!

What Does Limited Basis Mean?

According to CMS, current RACs will conduct a limited number of automated reviews and a small number of complex reviews on certain claims including, but not limited to:

- Spinal fusions;
– Outpatient therapy services;
– Durable medical equipment;
– Prosthetics;
– Orthotics; and
– Supplies and cosmetic procedures.

RACs will not conduct any inpatient hospital patient status reviews for now. In the past, short inpatient stays accounted for 91 percent of the money the program recovered for Medicare.

Controversial Program.

According to an article on HealthData Management, in February 2014, members of congress argued that parts of the RAC program are unfair and violate the way that the Medicare program was intended to operate by raising out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries. To address this concern, CMS established a provider relations coordinator to increase program transparency. This was announced in June 2014, so it is too soon to determine if this position will help providers affected by the medical review process. Click here to read more from HealthData Management.

Healthcare providers have complained that they are fed up with Medicare recovery audits tying up crucial funds and physician time in endless appeals. Currently, appeals can take up to five years. There is also a two-year moratorium in place preventing new appeals from being filed. You may remember my previous blog on the enormous backlog of Medicare recovery audit appeals. Click here to read that post.

What Exactly is a RAC?

RACs are often referred to as “bounty hunters.” They are private companies contracted by CMS, used to identify Medicare overpayments and underpayments, and return Medicare overpayments to the Medicare Trust Fund. Since the program began in 2009, it has brought in more than $8 billion in allegedly fraudulent, wasteful and abusive payments to healthcare providers.

How to Prepare for a Medicare Recovery Audit.

There is no such thing as a routine Medicare audit. The fact is that there is some item you have claimed as a Medicare provider or the amount of claims Medicare has paid in a certain category that has caused you or your practice to be audited.

I previously wrote a blog highlighting some of the actions we recommend you take in responding to a Medicare audit. The most important step you should take is to consult an experienced health law attorney early in the audit process to assist in preparing the response. Click here to read more on how to respond to a Medicare audit.

We Told You RACs Would Be Back.

RACs apparently caught $3.7 billion in allegedly wasteful payments that Medicare made to healthcare providers in 2013, and was allegedly on pace to bring back $5 billion this year. That’s why the government was eager to get RACs back to work.

It is extremely common for state and federal regulators to enforce even the smallest violations, resulting in investigations, monetary fines and penalties. If found in violation, you will not only have to pay fines and face disciplinary action, you will also lose revenue because you will have to spend time dealing with the investigation, instead of practicing medicine. Whether you are trying to prevent Medicare and Medicaid audits, Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) audits, or any other kind of healthcare audits, there are steps you can implement in your practice today that may save you down the line. Click here to read more on self audits.

Comments?

What do you think about the return of Medicare recovery audits? What are you thoughts on Recovery Audit Contractors? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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 http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Sources:

Demko, Paul. “Controversial Medicare Recovery Audits Make Limited Return.” Modern Healthcare. (August 5, 2014). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20140805/NEWS/308059962/controversial-medicare-recovery-audits-make-limited-return

Goedert, Joseph. “CMS Restarts Parts of the RAC Program.” HealthData Management. (August 5,2014). From: http://www.healthdatamanagement.com/news/CMS-Restarts-Parts-of-the-RAC-Program-48553-1.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. 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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

AHCA Expert Not Allowed to “Use His Discretion” in Deciding Claims Were Improper in Medicaid Appeal Hearing

FACTS: The Agency for Health Care Administration’s (“AHCA”) Office of Medicaid Program Integrity audited Dr. Rao, an authorized provider of Medicaid services, for claims between July 1, 2007, and June 30, 2009, and found him to be in violation of certain Medicaid provider policies. AHCA prepared a Final Audit Letter on June 1, 2011, notifying Dr. Rao that he had been overpaid by the Medicaid program by $110,712.09 for services provided during the audit period. Dr. Rao’s administrative hearing challenging AHCA’s overpayment determination was pending before DOAH. On August 17, 2012, Dr. Rao filed an unadopted rule challenge, alleging that AHCA’s overpayment determination was based on unadopted rules regarding the medical necessity of long-term monitored electroencephalograms (LTM EEGs).

OUTCOME: The ALJ found that AHCA’s peer review expert applied certain standards to the Medicaid claims he examined in conducting the Medicaid audit, but “exercised his discretion as to whether to apply them based on the specifics of each patient’s medical records.” The ALJ dismissed the unadopted rule challenge, explaining that “where application of agency policy is subject to the discretion of agency personnel, the policy is not a rule. . . . The medical standards at issue in this case are not self-executing and require the exercise of discretion in their application.” The ALJ noted that “the medical standards of practice must be applied on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the services provided were medically necessary, and provided both an appropriate level of care and standard of care ‘customarily furnished by the physician’s peers and to recognized health care standards” as required by section 409.9131(2)(d), Florida Statutes.

Source:

Radhakrishna K. Rao et al. v. AHCA, DOAH Case No. 12-2813RU (Final Order Aug. 20, 2013).

About the Author: The forgoing case summary was prepared by and appeared in the DOAH case notes of the Administrative Law Section newsletter, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Dec. 2013), a publication of the Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Puts Recovery Audit Contractor Program on Hold

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On February 18, 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it is in the procurement process for the next round of Recovery Audit Program contracts. This means the program is, for the time being, on hold while CMS awards new contracts. According to CMS, it will select new vendors to continue the Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) program, which is responsible for detecting improper Medicare payments. It is expected that this pause will also be used to refine and improve the RAC program. In the announcement it was not disclosed how long the program would be on hold.

Click here to read the announcement from CMS.

This news comes months after CMS revealed an enormous backlog of RAC appeals. The backup is so bad, providers are not able to submit new cases until the existing backlog clears, which could take two years or more.

Current Contracts Extended to Conclude Appeals.

According to Modern Healthcare, CMS extended its contracts with the four current vendors until December 31, 2015, for administrative and transition activities. These contracts were to end on February 7, 2014. The purpose of the extension is to allow the RACs to handle and wind down appeals. To read the entire article from Modern Healthcare, click here.

For providers this means a lull in additional documentation requests (ADRs), however it is important to remember RAC audits are not going away.

Dates to Remember.

Providers should note the important dates below:

- February 21, 2014, was the last day a Recovery Auditor could send a postpayment ADR;
– February 28, 2014, is the last day a Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) may send prepayment ADRs for the Recovery Auditor Prepayment Review Demonstration; and
– June 1, 2014, is the last day a Recovery Auditor may send improper payment files to the MACs for adjustment.

Backlog of RAC Appeals Worse Than Ever.

The RAC appeals process has become so overloaded that in December 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals (OMHA) notified hospitals, doctors, nursing homes and other health care providers that the agency would be suspending acting on new requests for hearings. Health care providers were told they would not be able to submit any new appeals until the existing backlog clears, which could take two or more years. To read more on the backlog of RAC appeals, click here for my previous blog.

RAC Audits Will Be Back.

In the first three months of the fiscal year 2013, RACs recouped more than $2.2 billion from providers due to what the RACs deemed were overpayments. With money coming in, RAC audits are not going away. It has become common for state and federal regulators to enforce even the smallest violations, resulting in investigations, monetary fines and penalties. If found in violation, you will not only have to pay fines and face disciplinary action, you will also lose revenue because you will have to spend time dealing with the investigation, instead of practicing medicine. Whether you are trying to prevent Medicare and Medicaid audits, Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) audits, or any other kind of healthcare audits, there are steps you can implement in your practice today that may save you down the line. Click here to read more on self audits.

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 do you think about the RAC program being put on hold? What do you think CMS should do to improve the program? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Kutscher, Beth. “CMS Recovery Audits on Hold as Contractors Wrestle Big Backlog.” Modern Healthcare. (February 20, 2014). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20140220/NEWS/302209968/cms-recovery-audits-on-hold-as-contractors-deal-with-big-backlog

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Recent Updates.” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (February 18, 2014). From: http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Monitoring-Programs/Medicare-FFS-Compliance-Programs/Recovery-Audit-Program/Recent_Updates.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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

ZPICs Seek “Voluntary” Agreements from Physicians for Auto-Denial Edits for Home Health Services

MLS Blog Label 2By Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law, and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

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.

Click here to read more on ZPICs from CMS.

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.

Comments?

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

Cardiologists Face Higher Scrutiny by CMS

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

As the U.S. population ages and heart disease continues to be a leading cause of health issues, cardiologists and cardiology practices are finding themselves billing Medicare for more and more visits and procedures.

Along with that increase in reimbursement from Medicare comes an increase in scrutiny.  According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), more than sixteen percent (16%) of total Medicare spending in 2010, was for cardiovascular care.

Some experts predict that this number will increase as cardiologists continue to adopt state-of-the-art technology and procedural techniques when treating their patients.

All of this means that whistleblowers, Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) auditors, Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) auditors, and CMS’s data mining services are going to be more incentivized to come after cardiovascular reimbursements.

To read more on the high scrutiny cardiologists face, click here to read an article on Modern Healthcare.

The Audits Are Coming.

Cardiology physicians and practices need to understand that just because they are doing things the “right way” does not mean that they will not be the subject of an audit. Auditing can be triggered by any number of things ranging from disgruntled employees, competing practices, dissatisfied patients, random audits, above average billing for certain codes, etc. None of these triggers means that a practice is doing anything wrong, but it will have to face an audit nonetheless.

Being prepared before an audit happens can be the most effective defense.  Review some of these prior articles and blogs we have written for tips in establishing audit protocols and handling audits in general:

Self Audit Now to Save Your Practice Later
–  Responding to a Medicare Audit – Practice Tips
–  Checklist on What to Do When Notified of a ZPIC or Medicare Audit and Site Visit – Part 1
–  Checklist on What to Do When Notified of a ZPIC or Medicare Audit and Site Visit – Part 2

The Best Defense for an Audit is to be Prepared Before an Audit Happens.

So long as CMS employs a “pay and chase” method of reimbursement, audits will be a permanent part of the healthcare landscape.  Every medical practice should consult with an attorney experienced in handling Medicare, Medicaid and other third party audits in order to develop effective policies and procedures.  By preparing for an audit prior to its occurrence a practice is in the best position to avoid any kind of sanction or overpayment demand.

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?

Do you think cardiologist and cardiology practices are under a higher amount of scrutiny? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Carlson, Joe. “Cardiologists Enmeshed in High-Scrutiny Climate.” Modern Healthcare. (July 8, 2013). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20130708/BLOG/307089995/cardiologists-enmeshed-in-high-scrutiny-climate

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

Tips for Responding to a Medicaid Audit

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

Should you find yourself, your facility or your health practice the subject of a Medicaid audit by your state Medicaid agency or audit contractor, there are a few things you should know.

The most important thing is that just because you are being audited, it does not mean that you or your business has done anything wrong. State and federal governments conduct audits for many different reasons. Typical reasons include: special audits of high-fraud geographic areas, auditing of particular billing codes, randomly selected provider auditing, and complaints of possible fraud.

Medicaid Audits in Florida.

The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Bureau of Medicaid Program Integrity are the Florida agencies responsible for routine audits of Medicaid health care providers to ensure that the Medicaid Program was properly billed for services. Health care professionals receiving the greatest amounts of Medicaid payments are also the ones most likely to be audited. These include pediatricians, Ob/Gyns, family practice physicians and dentists. The Medicaid audit usually requests information in a questionnaire that the medical practice is required to complete, as well as a request for copies of medical records (including x-rays and other diagnostic studies) on the list of Medicaid patients selected for the audit.

If AHCA determines that Medicaid overpaid for services, it will use a complex mathematical extrapolation formula to determine the repayment amount. The amount of the repayment to the Medicaid Program can be considerably greater than (30 to 100 times as much as) the actual amount of overpayment disclosed by the sample of records audited. Additionally, fines and penalties can be added by the Medicaid Program. However, you can eliminate or reduce the amount of any such repayment by actions taken both before and during the Medicaid audit.

How to Know If You Are the Subject of an Audit.

An audit will usually begin with the provider receiving an initial audit request, usually by letter or fax. This request will serve to notify the recipient that it is the subject of an audit. The initial letter will not always identify the reason for the audit. What it will contain, however, is a list of names and dates of service for which the auditors want to see copies of medical records and other documentation.

This stage of the process is crucial because it is the best opportunity to control the process. Once the records are compiled and sent to the auditor, the process shifts and you are now going to have to dispute the auditor’s findings in order to avoid a finding of overpayment.

The biggest mistake that someone who is the subject of an audit can make is to hastily copy only a portion of the available records and send them off for review. The temptation is to think that since the records make sense to you, they will make sense to the auditor. Remember, the auditor has never worked in your office and has no idea how the records are compiled and organized. This is why it is so important to compile a thorough set of records that are presented in a clearly labeled and organized fashion that provides justification for every service or item billed.

Read the Audit Letter Carefully.

On top of the letter notifying you of the audit, AHCA will also supply you with a list of patients to be sampled. A standard sample will include a list of anywhere from 30 to 150 patient names, depending on the size of the practice. Regular audits routinely request 30 to 50 patient records. The audit letter will also include a questionnaire to be completed (Medicaid Provider Questionnaire) and a “Certification of Completeness of Records” form to complete and return with the copies of the patient records. (Please note: this will be used against you in the future if you attempt to add to or supplement the copies of the records you provided).

Compiling a Response to an Initial Audit Request.

The following are steps that you should take in order to compile and provide a set of records that will best serve to help you avoid any liability at the conclusion of the audit process:

1. Read the audit letter carefully and provide everything that it asks for. It’s always better to send too much documentation than too little.

2. If at all possible, compile the records yourself. If you can’t do this, have a compliance officer, experienced consultant or experienced health attorney compile the records and handle any follow-up requests.

3. Pay attention to the deadlines. If a deadline is approaching and the records are not going to be ready, contact the auditor and request an extension before it is due. Do this by telephone and follow up with a letter (not an e-mail). Send the letter before the deadline.

4. Send a cover letter with the requested documents and records explaining what is included and how it is organized as well as who to contact if the auditors have any questions.

5. Number every page of the records sent from the first page to the last page of documents.

6. Make a copy of everything you send exactly as it is sent. This way there are no valid questions later on whether a particular document was forwarded to the auditors.

7. Send the response package using some form of package tracking or delivery confirmation to arrive before the deadline.

Compiling all of the necessary documentation in a useful manner can be an arduous task. If you find that you cannot do it on your own, or that there are serious deficiencies in your record keeping, it is recommended that you reach out to an attorney with experience in Medicaid auditing to assist you in the process.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid and Medicare Audits.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Have you ever been the subject of a Medicaid audit? What was the process like? 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.

You Must Challenge Overpayment Demands from Medicare and Medicaid Audits

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

We have recently received numerous communications from health care professionals, including physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, mental health counselors, durable medical equipment (DME) providers, assisted living facilities (ALFs), group homes, and psychologists, who have been placed on prepayment review after failing to challenge Medicare or Medicaid audit results. The problem is that these providers, once placed on prepayment review, have their payments held up for many months and are often forced out of business. Sometimes it appears that this may actually be the goal of the auditing contractor or agency.

What Happens on Prepayment Review.

Failing to challenge, follow-up on, and appeal any adverse audit determinations can be very detrimental. An error rate in excess of fifteen percent (15%) will usually result in the provider being placed on prepayment review. While on prepayment review, the provider will be required to submit the documentation for medical records by mail to support each claim submitted and have that claim and its supporting medical records’ documentation audited, prior to any claims being paid. Often the auditing agency will come back to the provider again and again to demand additional information and documentation on claims instead of immediately processing them. This can hold up processing of the claim for months. Often the resulting termination of income flow will force the provider out of business. This saves the government lots of money, because the provider has then provided services to Medicare or Medicaid recipients for many months without ever getting paid for it.

These are some of the reasons why we recommend that physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, podiatrists, optometrists, psychologists, mental health counselors, respiratory therapists, and others always hire the Board Certified Health Law Attorney experienced in audits from the very beginning.

A Real-Life Example of the Trouble Caused by a Medicare Audit.

In one case we know of, a therapist was audited by Medicare. The audit by the Medicare administrative contractor (MAC) requested only 30 records. The therapist provided copies of the records he thought the auditors wanted. He did not number the pages or keep an exact copy of what he provided. The MAC came back and denied one percent (1%) of the claims audited. However, since the amount demanded back by the MAC was only a few thousand dollars, the therapist never hired an attorney and never challenged the results. Instead of retaining legal counsel and appealing the results, the therapist paid the entire amount, thinking that was the easy way out.

Unfortunately, because of the high error rate, the MAC immediately placed the therapist on prepayment review of all claims, assuming the prior audit had disclosed fraud or intentional false coding. Every claim the provider submitted from that point on had to be submitted on paper with supporting medical records sent in by mail. The MAC refused to make a decision on any of the claims, instead, holding them and requesting additional documentation and information from time to time. The therapist currently has most of his claims tied up in prepayment review, some for as long as five months with no decision. No decision means no review or appeal rights.

The therapist conveyed to me that he recently contacted the auditor to attempt to obtain decisions on some of his claims so that he could at least begin the appeal process if the claims are denied. He advised me that the auditor at the MAC expressed surprise that he was still in business.

Challenge Improperly Denied or Reduced Claims.

These situations are very unfair and unjust, especially to smaller health care providers. The reduced cash flow even for a month or two may be enough to drive some small providers out of business. Larger health care providers have vast resources sufficient to handle such audit situations on a routine basis. They may have similar problems but are better equipped and have more resources to promptly handle it. Rather than immediately pay whatever amount is demanded on an audit and waive any appeal/review rights, the provider should review each claim denied or reduced and challenge the ones that have been improperly denied or reduced. Otherwise you may wind up with a high error rate which will cause you to be placed into prepayment review. Once placed in prepayment review, it is difficult to get out of it. Often it takes six months or longer.

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Audit Cycle.

Another reason to challenge overpayment demands as a result of an audit is because the audit contractors will keep you on an audit cycle for a number of future audits if they are successful in obtaining any sort of significant recovery from you on the initial audit. This is similar to what happens if your tax return is audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recovers a significant payment from you because you did not have the documentation to support your deductions, you can expect to be audited for at least the next two years.

The value of competent legal representation at the beginning of an audit cannot be overestimated. It is usually long after the audit is over, and the time to appeal the audit agency’s findings has passed, that the health care provider realizes he should have retained an audit consultation.

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 been audited? What was the process like? Did you retain legal counsel to help with the process? Was having legal assistance worth it? 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.