In September 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made the decision to allow Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) to begin reviewing the billing codes for office visits for healthcare providers. Those at issue are the codes referred to as evaluation and management (E&M) codes. These claims had previously been off-limits to RACS.
Connolly, Inc., the contractor for RAC audit services for 15 states and two U.S. territories, will sort through claims filed by doctors and hospitals from as far back as October 1, 2007. According to an article in American Medical News, the plan is to conduct limited reviews in those states and territories using statistical sampling to project how many physician claims that used the high-level, established patient evaluation and management code 99215 were paid correctly.
American Medical Association (AMA) Says E&M Codes Are Too Complicated for RACs to Audit.
The American Medical Association (AMA) disagrees with the decision to allow RACs to review E&M codes. In a letter to CMS, the AMA requests the Medicare agency reconsider its decision. The AMA believes E&M services are complex and based on several components.
In the letter the executive vice president of the AMA stated, “Based on our historical experience with the RACs, and in light of the fact that the RACs are not required to have same-specialty physicians review RAC determinations, we have no confidence that the RACs will be up to the task of understanding these variables or their clinical relevance.”
An Increased Use of Higher-Level E&M Codes by Physicians and Hospitals Led to Audit Approval.
The use of office visit codes by doctors and hospitals has been a topic of discussion lately. According to American Medical News, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported almost 442,000 physicians billed E&M services in 2010. Of those physicians, 1,669 were found to be consistently billing higher-level E&M codes, such as the 99215 code that Connolly will review.
A recent article in New York Times discusses the reason for the increase in billing could be the switch to electronic health records. The article states some of the programs will automatically generate detailed patient histories, or allow doctors to cut and paste the same examination findings for multiple patients, a practice called cloning. Cloning can make it appear the physician conducted a more extensive exam, than perhaps he or she actually did.
15 States and Two U.S. Territories Face RAC Audits of E&M Services?
Physicians and other healthcare professionals in 15 states, including Florida, and two U.S. territories may face these audits. RACs within these states will be permitted to extrapolate their findings based on a statistical sample of claims.
The states and territories in Connolly’s jurisdiction are: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
What To Do If You Receive a Notification of a Medicare Audit.
When a physician, medical group or other healthcare provider receives a notice of an audit and site visit from Medicare, the Medicare Administrative Carrier (MAC) or the Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC), things happen fast with little opportunity to prepare. To help, read our checklist of what to do when notified of a Medicare or ZPIC audit. Click here for part one and click here for part two.
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.
As a healthcare provider, how to do feel about these audits? Please submit any thoughtful comments below.
Abelson, Reed, Creswell, Julie and Palmer, Griff. “Medicare Bills Rise as Records Turn Electronic.” The New York Times. (September 21, 2012). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/22/business/medicare-billing-rises-at-hospitals-with-electronic-records.html?pagewanted=all
Fiegl, Charles. “Medicare Auditor Targets E&M Services for Review.” American Medical News. (October 1, 2012). From: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/10/01/gvl11001.htm
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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