Category Archives: Recovery Audit Contractor

More Medicare Audits Now Than Ever Before

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

A Medicare audit, whether it is performed by a contractor of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), or by another organization, can be a daunting process. It is never “routine” and should never be taken lightly.

Because of the efforts to reduce expenditures on entitlement programs and the success that the government has had in recovering large sums of Medicare overpayments, we are seeing a tremendous increase in Medicare fraud initiatives, including but not limited to audits by Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs), audits by Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs), the use of investigative subpoenas to obtain records, and related activities.

Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE now routinely share audit results and information on repayments made by health providers. We had a client who conducted a self-audit and found an overpayment situation. The client made a voluntary disclosure and sent in a voluntary repayment of the amount it had overbilled Medicare. A few weeks later our client received an overpayment demand from the federal TRICARE program. The TRICARE demands were based on the same patients and the same claims for the co-pays and deductibles that had been paid back to Medicare.

Common Errors Found in Medicare Audits.

We often seem some common errors in Medicare audits. Most of the errors relate to improper or incomplete documentation. Such errors include:

1. Failure to obtain the physician’s signature on the order or plan.
2. Failure to have an order signed by a physician.
3. Tests, consults, prescriptions, therapy, or services ordered by a non-Medicare provider.                                                                                                                    4. Failure to document the start time and stop time of each (time-based) procedure.                                                                                                                                                  5. Failure to have complete, unique notes for each patient (use of “cloned” notes).                                                                                                                                                      6. Failure to demonstrate if a client is progressing toward improvement or goal. 7. Lack of medical necessity for procedures performed.                                                 8. Failure to have the care plan signed by the physician within 24 hours.

Locate and Review the Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs) for the Codes You Bill.

All Medicare providers should ensure that they are familiar with the local coverage determinations (LCDs) that are published by MACs for the CPT codes they routinely bill. These are available on the MAC website. Strict compliance with all such guidelines is required.

Make Sure to Obtain the Physician’s Signature Prior to Treatment.

Therapists and others providing services in response to a physician’s order or consult request must ensure that they obtain the proper physician’s signature before treating patients. Make this an ironclad rule in your practice or business. We have heard from some therapists that physicians often ignore their correspondence and documentation, or the physician sits on it for weeks at a time before signing it. If you refuse to touch the patient without the required doctor’s signature you cannot be faulted. The responsibility is on the physician who fails to sign a plan in a timely manner. If you are unable to do this, then just plan on providing the services for free. Guidance on documentation required for a therapist, as well as LCD, and therapy services required for Medicare can be found on the CMS website.

Checklist for Medicare Audits.

These are some of the actions we recommend you take and which we take in medicare blogrepresenting a physician or other health provider in responding to a Medicare audit.

1. All correspondence from Medicare, or the Medicare contractor, should be taken seriously. Avoid the temptation to consider the request from Medicare just another medical records request. Avoid the temptation to delegate this to an administrative employee.

2. Read the audit letter carefully and provide all the information requested. In addition to medical records, auditors often ask for invoices and purchase orders for the drugs and medical supplies dispensed to patients, for which Medicare reimbursed you.

3. Include a copy of the complete record and not just those from the dates of service requested in the audit letter. Include any diagnostic tests and other documents from the chart that support the services provided. Many practices document the medications and immunizations given to the patient in a separate part of the chart and not in the progress notes; all documents, the complete record, should be provided to the auditor. Remember that even other physicians’ records obtained as history, including reports, consultations and records from other physicians or hospitals, should also be included. Consent forms, medical history questionnaires, histories, physicals, other physicians’ orders, all may be a crucial part of the record. If the patient was referred to you by a hospital order, nursing home discharge order or another order, obtain these to provide to the auditor.

4. Make sure all the medical records are legible and legibly copied. If the record is not legible, have the illegible record transcribed and include the transcription along with the hand-written or illegible records. Make sure that any such transcriptions are clearly marked as a transcription with the current date it is actually transcribed. Label it accurately. Do not allow any room for there to be any confusion that the newly transcribed part was part of the original record.

5. If your practice involves taking or interpreting x-rays or other diagnostic studies, include these studies. They are part of the patient’s record. If the x-rays are digital, they can be submitted on a compact disc (CD).

For the complete checklist, click here.

Challenge Overpayment Demands from Medicare and Medicaid Audits.

Recently we have spoken with numerous physicians and other health care professionals who have been placed on prepayment review after failing to challenge Medicare 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.

Comments?

Have you or your practice 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.

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 health care providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. We also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals, occupation therapists (OTs), physical therapists (PTs), speech therapists (STs), rehabilitation therapists (RTs) and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid program.

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

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 © 1999-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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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.