Tag Archives: Medicare administrative contractor (MAC)

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.

Advertisements

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.

 

“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.

Ambulance Company in Tennessee Settles A $2 Million Overpayment Lawsuit

George F. Indest III, Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Dr. Thu Pham, O.D., Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm Attorney

A Tennessee ambulance company and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced a settlement in a case over a post payment audit for more than two million dollars in May 2012. Back in March of 2010, the Nashville ambulance company sued the DHHS after being sent a $2.65 million overpayment demand, according to the Nashville Business Journal.

To see the Nashville Business Journal article on the lawsuit, click here.

Huge Fine Found Using Error Rate Extrapolation Formula.

According to the lawsuit, the ambulance company claimed that the fine was based on incorrect accounting by a Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) for the DHHS. The contractor reviewed “a small sample of claims and determined that many did not meet Medicare coverage criteria.”

The actual overpayment on those claims was $10,764, which was determined to be an error rate of fifty-one percent (51%). The error rate was then used to extrapolate and obtain the $2.65 million figure which was demanded from the ambulance company.

Ambulance Company Files Administrative Appeal.

Upon administrative appeal, the ambulance company said most of its claims were determined to be appropriate, yet the error rate was never recalculated and the company was still stuck with a large bill.

Disputes of payments included bills for transporting dialysis patients by ambulance. The DHHS said those trips were not valid because they were not emergencies. The ambulance company refuted this contending that the trips did not have to be emergencies because they were ordered by a doctor.

Click here to read the entire lawsuit.

What You Should Know About the Use of Statistical Sampling and Extrapolation Formulas.

In both state Medicaid audits and in Medicare audits, we have experienced increased reliance by the auditing agency on use of mathematical extrapolation formulas to estimate the amount that should be repaid. The formula used usually takes the overpayment that has actually been found and, based on several factors, multiplies it out to many times the actual overpayment amount, as is the example in this case. We have seen ratios of as high as 1 to 150 (or 150 times the actual disallowed claims amount) calculated.

Things you should know about this are as follows:

1.  Neither the Medicare program nor the state Medicaid programs should use an extrapolation formula, unless:

  a. There is a “high” error rate in the claims that have been submitted; or

  b. There have been prior educational efforts or prior audits of the provider, and the provider

has failed to correct the problems in claims submission previously found.

2.  The states each have different guidelines, rules or regulations on when they will apply the statistical formula. Some do not use it at all. Some use a higher percentage error rate to prompt use of the formula and some lower. For example, North Carolina uses one of the lowest percentage error rates we have encountered; an error rate of more than five percent (5%) will prompt its Medicaid agency to apply the statistical extrapolation to the recovery amount.


Two Parties Settle.

On May 25, 2012, the United State District Court announced the ambulance company and the DHHS had settled and compromised. The lawsuit was dismissed against the DHHS without prejudice for a period of ninety (90) days.

Click here to see the order of dismissal.

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. 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.

Sources:

Nashville Business Journal. “Ambulance Company Sues Over $2.65M Bill.” Nashville Business Journal Online. (March 15, 2012). From: http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/stories/2010/03/15/daily2.html

First Call Ambulance Service, Inc., v. Department of Health and Human Services, Case Number 3:10-0247, Order of Dismissal, May 25, 2012 available at: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/First%20Call_Dismissal.pdf

First Call Ambulance Service, Inc., v. Department of Health and Human Services, Case Number 3:10-cv-0247, First Call Ambulance Service, Inc., Sues Department of Health and Human Services Over $2.65 Million, March 20, 2010 available at: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/First%20Call%20Case.pdf

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.

Power Wheelchair Suppliers Voice Concerns over New Government Program

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

On September 19, 2012, power wheelchair suppliers voiced their concerns over a new government program called the Power Mobility Devices (PMDs) Demonstration at a Senate Special Committee on Aging. Durable Medical Equipment Suppliers (DMES) protested the program because it requires the permission of a Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) prior to the delivery of a power wheelchair to the consumer.

To see the Power Mobility Devices (PMDs) Demonstration operational guide from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), click here.

Wheelchair Claims Have High Error Rates.

Federal health officials believe these changes are necessary because eighty percent (80%) of the power wheelchair claims that were submitted in 2011 to Medicare did not meet program requirements. That error rate means more than $492 million of improper payments, according to the Associated Press (AP).

The New Program in Detail.

The new program was initiated on September 1, 2012. It now requires all power mobility claims from Medicare patients in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and Texas to be submitted for prior authorization. According to a press release by the American Association for Homecare, those seven states receive almost fifty percent (50%) of all the power wheelchairs obtained through Medicare each year.

Click here to see the press release from the American Association for Homecare.

Medicare will only pay for a power wheelchair after a physician and patient meet face-to-face, and the physician prescribes the wheelchair. A DMES is then responsible for recommending the type of wheelchair the patient needs and submitting the claim to Medicare. Under the new program, a doctor or DMES will submit a prior authorization request along with all relevant paperwork supporting the Medicare coverage. The MAC then decides whether the request meets the requirements for coverage.

Under the CMS guidelines, power wheelchairs are only covered by Medicare when patients need them for daily activities and when canes, walkers or manual wheelchairs won’t work for mobility assistance.

Medicare Beneficiaries Get a Sense of False Hope from Television Ads.

According to the AP, a ranking member of the committee suggested the television advertisements for motorized wheelchairs and scooters give consumers the wrong impression about how Medicare coverage can be obtained. He argues these commercials imply Medicare beneficiaries just need to sign a form to receive a power wheelchair. The committee discussed giving authority to regulate the television ads to the CMS.

To listen to testimony from the hearing, click here.

Comments?

What do you think of this story? Leave your comments on this blog below.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers and health care providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits, MAC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent DME suppliers, physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions, termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program and administrative hearings.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Sources:

Freking, Kevin. “Wheelchair Suppliers Say Crack Down on Medicare Fraud Goes Too Far; Insurer Applauds Effort.” Associated Press. (September 19, 2012). From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/health_care/wheelchair-suppliers-say-effort-to-crack-down-on-medicare-fraud-goes-too-far/2012/09/19/032ee93a-02ab-11e2-9132-f2750cd65f97_story.html

American Association for Homecare. “American Association for Homecare Expects Medicare to Move Past its Deny-at-All-Costs Culture that Routinely Denies Claims for Power Wheelchairs” The Sacramento Bee. (September 20, 2012). From: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/09/19/4835272/american-association-for-homecare.html

Swann, James. “Power Wheelchairs On the Congressional Hot Seat.” Bloomberg BNA. (September 20, 2012). From: http://www.bna.com/power-wheelchairs-congressional-b17179869795/

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.

Compliance with Conditions of Participation Necessary for Reinstatement of Terminated Medicare Billing Privileges or Revoked Medicare Provider Number and Participation Agreement

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

We have recently experienced an alarming increase in the number of Medicare providers receiving notices that their Medicare billing privileges are being terminated.  These include home health agencies (HHAs), independent diagnostic testing facilities (IDTFs), ambulance and emergency transport providers, physicians, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) providers, medical groups, physical therapists and therapy providers.  In most cases, this is because the health care provider has failed to update its address with the Medicare Program.  To see a prior article we wrote on this, click here.

Most often this occurs when a site visit by the Medicare administrative contractor (MAC) (previously called the carrier or fiscal intermediary) arrives at the business location on file with Medicare and finds the provider’s business location has changed.  Other times the termination is because of a minor technical violation of Medicare rules, such as being closed when a site inspector shows up, failing to have hours of operation posted, failing to have a required insurance policy in place, failing to be open at the time the inspector shows up, or other similar reasons.

If the health provider does nothing to appeal the revocation, then there is a required waiting period of at least one year before it can even reapply to the Medicare Program.  The termination may also have extremely serious consequences regarding participation in the state Medicaid Program, licensure, other contracts, clinical privileges, participation on insurance provider panels and related businesses.

We recommend immediately retaining an experienced health attorney to help you prepare and file a corrective action plan (CAP), request for reconsideration of the decision and an appeal, if necessary.  We recommend that you include proof of currently meeting every required condition of participation (COP) for your health specialty, service or item.  We include copies of written policies adopted, new forms, new procedures, insurance policies, copies of CMS forms 855 that were previously submitted, and other documents that may be required by the COP.  Please see our prior blog/article on submitting CAPs.

For access to each of the conditions of participation (COP) and conditions for coverage (CFC), click on the following link, or cut and paste it into your internet browser:

http://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/CFCsAndCoPs/index.html?redirect=/CFCsAndCoPs/

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.