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.

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