Category Archives: Medicare Audit

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.

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.

Major Medicare Offender Sentenced to Prison for Multi-Million Dollar Health Care Fraud Scheme

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

The former owner of four mental health facilities in South Florida and North Carolina was sentenced to fourteen (14) years in federal prison on February 25, 2013. The former business owner pleaded guilty to defrauding Medicare out of tens of millions of dollars from 2004 through 2011, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). He had previously been convicted of cocaine trafficking but decided to move to Medicare fraud supposedly because he thought it would be safer. In total the former mental health facility owner was indicted for defrauding the government of nearly $63 million. As part of his plea, he was ordered to repay $28 million.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Unnecessary Services, Illegal Kickbacks and Fake Mental Health Records.

The scheme, headed by the former business owner, involved three mental health clinics in Miami, Florida, and one in Hendersonville, North Carolina. All four facilities allegedly billed Medicare and Medicaid for services that were unnecessary or otherwise not provided. The clinics also paid bribes to local assisted living facilities (ALFs) in order to provide a steady stream of patients that were in no need of services. Employees of the clinic would then fabricate entire mental health records for the patients in order to bill the government programs. The former mental health facility owner and his employees allegedly thought that creating the medical records would aid them in avoiding detection by federal auditors, according to an article in the Miami Herald.

To read the Miami Herald article, click here.

Co-Conspirators Feeling the “Heat.”

Fifteen (15) of the former business owner’s co-conspirators have been charged for their alleged roles in the health care fraud scheme. Ten (10) defendants have already pleaded guilty, according to the DOJ.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. These departments help make up the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) that works to stop Medicare fraud across the country.

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 of the former business owner’s sentence? Do you think it is enough to deter other would-be criminals from scamming the government? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Weaver, Jay. “Miami Businessman Who Stole Millions from Medicare Sentenced to 14 Year.” Miami Herald. (February 26, 2013). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/26/3254507/miami-businessman-who-pleaded.html

Department of Justice. “Owner of Mental Health Facilities Sentenced to 168 Months in Prison in Connection with $63 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice. (February 25, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/February/13-crm-234.html

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.

Occupational Therapists, Podiatrists, Psychologists and Optometrists Being Scrutinized in Medicare Audits

1 Indest-2008-1George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Our firm has recently seen an increase in the number of occupational therapists (OTs), speech therapists (STs), podiatrists, psychologists, optometrists and other licensed health professionals being scrutinized in Medicare audits and recovery actions. Often these result from claims submitted for evaluation or treatment entered in nursing homes or assisted living facilities (ALFs).

You Must Provide Complete and Detailed Documentation of Care Rendered.

In many cases, the provider may not have complete documentation of the care rendered because it has been placed in the patient’s record at the facility. Unfortunately, Medicare does not see this as an excuse to provide copies of all relevant medical records in support of claims during an audit. The provider must still obtain the records and forward them to the auditor. Failure to do so will result in a complete disallowance of claims for treatment or services.

Other Problems with Fort Comings in Documentations.


Other problems we have seen with forth comings in documentation that has resulted in claims denial include:

1. Failing to have a physician’s order, prescription or referral specifically requesting the services indicated,

2. Failing to have a legible signature from a doctor ordering such services, or the physician’s typed/printed name with the letters “M.D.” or “D.O.” after the name,

3. Lack of proof of medical necessity for the services rendered,

4. Illegible medical records or illegible medical records entries,

5. Failure to have a start time and stop time for services that are billed based on the amount of time spent with the patient,

6. Failure to have the signature (electronic or manual) of the individual health professional delivering the services on the health records documenting the delivery of those services.

Such deficiencies are easy for health professionals to avoid at the time of the delivery of services. Some of these may be corrected before the documents are produced in response to an audit request. However, after the documents have been provided as a response to an audit request, it may be too late to do anything about these document deficiencies.

Obtain Representation Early.

A health law attorney experienced in Medicare and Medicaid audits can save a provider tens of thousands of dollars in claims and overpayments being reimbursed to payers. Obtain representation at the earliest possible time.

Check Your Professional Liability Insurance Policy.

Many professional liability insurance policies will pay for the cost of legal representation in a Medicare or Medicaid audit. If your insurance company does not offer this benefit, you may purchase separate insurance coverage which does provide this benefit for only a small premium. Ask your insurance agent for information on this type of coverage. After you need it, it will be too late to purchase it. This mistake could put you out of business and negatively affect your professional license.

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.

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.

 

Government Discovers Extensive Overbilling of Cancer Drug to Medicare

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm, and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

It’s no surprise that the government is aggressively pursuing Medicare fraud. Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG), made a surprising discovery. An audit uncovered that more than three-quarters (3/4) of all Medicare claims for the breast-cancer drug Herceptin were billed incorrectly, according to Modern Healthcare. This was found during an audit conducted on physicians and hospitals from around the country between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2010.

To read the entire Modern Healthcare article, click here.

Audit Results from Around the Country.

Three different audits were released to the public by the HHS OIG. All of these audits showed roughly the same information. Health care providers have been billing Medicare for full multiuse vials of the drug Herceptin, when patients actually only need a smaller portion. Medicare does not pay healthcare providers for any part of the drug that is discarded, because it can be preserved for up to 28 days and reused. The auditors suggest that payment from Medicare for an entire multiuse vial is likely to be incorrect. We saw a similar situation with the drug Avastin and Lucentis being used by ophthalmologists several years ago.

The results of the audits were released in January 2013. One audit found eighty-five percent (85%) of 1,073 Herceptin vials used in Ohio and Kentucky were billed incorrectly. In Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, the government auditors found that seventy-eight (78%) of 713 claims investigated were wrong. The overpayment amount was around $682,000, for these audits.

Florida’s District Found to Have Overcharged 78% of Bills.

According to the report, HHS auditors found overcharges in seventy-eight percent (78%) of bills for 1,330 vitals of Herceptin submitted to First Coast Service Options, Inc. This company serves as the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) for HHS District Nine, which primarily includes providers in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The overcharges for Herceptin were $1,325,409.

In the report, the government recommends that First Coast Service Options, Inc., do a number of things. The first is to recover the more than one million dollars in overpayments. It’s also recommended that First Coast Service Options, Inc., implement system edits that review multiuse vial drugs that are billed with units of service equivalent to the dosage of an entire vial. The government also suggests that these audit results be used as an educational tool for teaching correct billing practices to physicians and hospitals.

Click here to read the entire report on District Nine.

How to Respond to a Medicare Audit.

Remember, there is no such thing as a “routine” Medicare audit. The fact is that if you find yourself or your practice at the center of a Medicare audit, 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 the audit. We’ve come up with a list of actions that we use and recommend you take when responding to a Medicare audit. Click here to view that list.

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

The best time to respond to and defeat an allegation of overpayment is at the very beginning. That is why it is essential that you obtain qualified counsel to help you through the process. 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?

Why do you think hospitals and physicians incorrectly bill for Herceptin? Are audits like these necessary? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Carlson, Joe. “OIG Finds Widespread Herceptin Overcharges.” Modern Healthcare. (January 21, 2013). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20130121/NEWS/301219959/oig-finds-widespread-herceptin-overcharges

Jarmon, Glorida. “The Medicare Contractor’s Payments to Providers in Jurisdiction 9 for Full Vials of Herceptin were often Incorrect.” Office of Inspector General (January 2013). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/Herceptin%20FL%20Overcharges.pdf

About the Authors: 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.

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.

Florida Pharmacy Owner Accused of Medicare Fraud

00011_RT8By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A family that owns a number of South Florida pharmacies is allegedly under investigation for Medicare fraud, according to a number of sources. On January 17, 2013, federal authorities raided one pharmacy location in Naples, Florida. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents removed boxes of documents and computers from the pharmacy, according to Naples News. The pharmacy owner and his mother are allegedly being investigated by the U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Click here to read the entire Naples News article.

Pharmacy Owner and Mother Allegedly Submitted False Claims to Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare.

According to NBC2, a South Florida television station, the pharmacy owner and his mother were both allegedly part of a scheme that defrauded Medicare. The family allegedly submitted claims to Medicare Part D after beneficiaries had died. This information came from a letter sent to Medicare Part D providers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on October 17, 2012. The letter was obtained by NBC2. The scheme allegedly also involved submitting false claims to Medicaid and Tricare.

Click here to watch the NBC2 news story.

Investigation is Ongoing.

The pharmacy that was raided is part of a chain of stores owned by the same family. So far, only the pharmacy located on Rattlesnake-Hammock Road in Naples is being investigated. That location is reportedly still closed, but the other pharmacy locations are open.

Neither the DEA nor the OIG of the HHS has released a press release on this investigation.

As in all media reports, please remember that all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Pharmacies Are Being Raided and Shutdown  All Over the State.

If  you have watched the news at all lately or have been reading our blog, you can tell there have been an increased number of raids on pharmacies, arrests of pharmacists and emergency suspension orders issued from the Department of Health (DOH).

Recently, the DEA served a Walgreens distribution center in Florida with an immediate suspension order (click here to read more on this story), and pulled the controlled substance licenses from two Central Florida CVS Pharmacies (to learn more, click here).

In my personal opinion, the recent raids and investigations at pharmacies are especially hard on the independent operators. If the large retail giants can’t survive, the small independent pharmacies stand little chance.

Talk with an Experienced Health Law Attorney About Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare 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.

What Do You Think?

As a pharmacy owner, pharmacy employee or health care facility owner, what do you think of the increased effort to find fraud? Do you think all facilities, not just pharmacies, are under the microscope? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Freeman, Liz. “Sunshine Pharmacy in East Naples Remains Close, Day After Federal Raid.” Naples News. (January 19, 2013). From: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2013/jan/19/sunshine-pharmacy-east-remains-closed-raid-federal/

Ritter, Rick. “Naples Pharmacy Busted for Medicare Fraud.” NBC2. (January 20, 2013). From: http://www.nbc-2.com/story/20627104/detectives-investigating-medicare-fraud-at-naples-pharmacy

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.

Medicare Put the Hospice Industry Under the Microscope

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

It’s no surprise to anyone that Medicare is cracking down on hospices around the country. According to a report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), eighty-two percent (82%) of hospices’ claims did not meet Medicare coverage requirements. That is why Medicare is investigating the industry as a whole. Specific details on what Medicare is looking for can be found in the 2013 OIG Work Plan. Click here to read the 2013 OIG Work Plan.

So far, Medicare has kept true to its word. During the week of January 7, 2013, the federal government announced it is suing a Central Florida hospice for Medicare fraud, according to the Orlando Sentinel. (Click here to read the Orlando Sentinel article.) Also, one of the nation’s largest and most respected hospices located in San Diego, California, is in the middle of a federal audit, according to a Kaiser Health News article. (Click here to read the Kaiser Health News article.) These are just a few examples of what hospices around the country are dealing with.

Central Florida Hospice Dealing with Qui Tam or Whistleblower Case.

The federal qui tam (whistleblower) lawsuit against the Central Florida hospice was reportedly filed by the hospice’s former vice president of finance in September 2011. The Department of Justice (DOJ) joined the whistleblower lawsuit in September of 2012.

The federal lawsuit alleges the hospice CEO ordered employees to admit patients without properly determining whether they were terminally ill, as required by Medicare. Staff was also apparently told to find ways to “edit” patients’ medical files so that the billing appeared legitimate. To learn more on this case, click here to read a blog I wrote on the hospice when the government joined the lawsuit. Click here to read the entire whistleblower complaint.

San Diego Hospice Cuts More Than Just Patients After Medicare Audit.

In 2010, federal officials audited a large hospice located in San Diego, California. Medicare is still investigating the hospice’s 2009-2010 admissions. Since the audit, the hospice has had to drop around 400 patients, due to their ineligibility for hospice care. Cutting patients meant a decrease in profits, which subsequently meant the hospice had to let 260 employees go and close a 24-bed hospital, according to Kaiser Health News.

Hospices Under Scrutiny.

According to the Kaiser Health News article, the hospice industry is booming. In 2011, it’s estimated hospices served 1.65 million people in the U.S., which is about forty-five percent (45%) of all those who died that year. Medicare paid for the hospice benefits of eighty-four percent (84%) of those patients.

Medicare is concerned with the amount of people hospices admit. Hospices normally treat patients with fewer than six months to live. If a patient recovers, Medicare expects the patient to leave the program. Patients may stay in hospice care only if they are re-certified as still likely to die within six months by a physician. It’s thought that enrollment bonuses to employees and kickbacks to nursing homes that refer patients are big factors as to why hospices accept ineligible patients.

Medicare Trying to Keep Up with Fraud and Abuse in Hospice Industry.

Currently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is focused on safeguarding tax payers dollars from fraud. I have recently seen a number of audits initiated against health professionals who treat assisted living facility (ALF), hospice and skilled nursing facility (SNF) residents. Most often these are audits by the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC), because these facilities have been identified as fraught with fraud and abuse. I wrote a two-part blog this topic. Click here for part one and here for part two.

If you are being audited, click here to read some tips we recommend in responding to a Medicare audit.

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

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, nurses, 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.

What Do You Think?

What do you think about Medicare targeting hospices? Do you think it is necessary? Is the hospice business going to suffer because of these investigations? Please leave any thoughtful comment below.

Sources:

Santich, Kate. “Feds Sue Hospice of the Comforter for Medicare Fraud.” Orlando Sentinel. (January 14, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-feds-sue-hospice-of-the-comforter-20130114,0,7827264.story

U.S. ex rel. Stone v. Hospice of the Comforter, Inc., No. 6:11-cv-1498-ORL-22-AAB (M.D. Fla) United State District Court for the Middle District of Florida Orlando Division. (September 12, 2012), available at http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/US%20v%20Hospice%20of%20the%20Comforter.pdf

Dotinga, Randy. “Slowly Dying Patients, Am Audit and A Hospice’s Undoing.” Kaiser Health News. (January 16, 2013). From: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2013/January/16/san-diego-hospice.aspx

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.

 

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