Tag Archives: Medicare overpayment

Revised Readmission Penalties are Coming Due to Calculation Errors

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

Back in August of 2012, I wrote that lower Medicare reimbursement rates were coming to more than 2,000 hospitals around the country due to excessive readmission rates. To see that blog, click here.

In October of 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it has discovered errors in its initial calculations. This means, 1,422 hospitals with high readmission rates will lose slightly more money than first expected, according to Kaiser Health News.

Click here to read the entire article from Kaiser Health News.

Hiccup  in Medicare’s Hospital Readmission Reduction Program.

According to Kaiser Health News, the revisions were relatively small, averaging two-hundredths of a percent of a hospital’s regular Medicare reimbursements. Florala Memorial Hospital in Alabama will see the largest increase in its reimbursements, from 0.62 to 0.73 percent.

Originally, Medicare said it would base the penalties on the readmission rates for patients who were discharged from July 2008 through June 2011. According to a notice the CMS published, the mistake happened because the agency accidentally included claims before July 1, 2008, in its evaluations. Click here to see the notice from the CMS.

Program Initiated to Lower Hospitals’ Readmission Rates.

According to CMS, nearly one out of five Medicare patients will return to the hospital within a month of being discharged, these readmissions cost the government $17.5 billion in 2010. Medicare has estimated, with this program, it will recoup about $280 million from hospitals where too many patients return.

To see an updated list of hospital penalties, click here.

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 this story? Does this error by the CMS leave you jaded about the program? Leave any thoughtful comments below.


Sources:

Rau, Jordan. “Medicare Revises Hospitals’ Readmissions Penalties.” Kaiser Health News. (October 2, 2012). From: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2012/October/03/medicare-revises-hospitals-readmissions-penalties.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.

Excess Readmissions Mean Lower Medicare Reimbursement Rates for More than 2,000 Hospitals, Including 131 in Florida

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

Lower Medicare reimbursement rates are coming in October of 2012, to 2,211 hospitals around the country, including 131 in Florida. This is allegedly due to excessive readmission rates in these hospitals between July 2008 and June 2011, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This story was originally reported by Kaiser Health News on August 13, 2012, and by other sources.

To read more on the readmissions reduction program, click here.


Starting in October 2012, Millions of Dollars in Penalties will be Deducted from Medicare Reimbursements.

Starting October 1, 2012, penalties will be deducted from Medicare reimbursements each time a hospital submits a claim.

All together these hospitals will give up about $280 million in Medicare funds over the next year as the government begins a push to start paying health care providers based on the quality provided, according to the Kaiser Health News article. The government apparently considers readmissions a prime symptom of an overly expensive and uncoordinated health system.

The CMS records show nine hospitals in Florida, including Florida Hospital in Orlando, will deal with a one percent (1%) decrease caused by the penalties.

To see the 2013 Medicare readmissions penalties in Florida, click here.

Medicare Attempting to Lower Readmission Rates.

According to the CMS nearly two million Medicare beneficiaries return to the hospital within a month of being discharged, costing Medicare $17.5 billion in additional hospital bills. CMS states the national average readmission rate is slightly above nineteen percent (19%).

Who Will Lose the Most Medicare Funds?

The penalties will fall heaviest on hospitals in New Jersey, New York, the District of Columbia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Illinois, and Massachusetts. Hospitals that treat mostly low-income patients will be hit particularly hard as well. This is all according to the report by Kaiser Heath News.

The analysis of the penalties shows seventy-six percent (76%) of the hospitals that have a majority of low-income patients will lose Medicare funds.

More Than 1,100 Hospitals Will Not Be Penalized.

The CMS report found 1,156 hospitals with acceptable readmission rates. Those hospitals will not lose any money. The analysis showed, on average, the readmission penalties were lightest on hospitals in Utah, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming and New Mexico. Idaho was the only state where no hospital was penalized by Medicare.

The Maximum Penalty to Increase Next Year.

The CMS notes the maximum penalty will increase to two percent (2%) starting in October 2013, and then to three percent (3%) the following year.

These penalties are part of an effort by Medicare to use its financial backbone to force improvements in hospital quality.

On top of the readmission reduction program, on August 27, 2012, the CMS will begin the Recovery Audit Prepayment Review (RAPR), in which Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) will review a number of hospitals’ Medicare claims.
I previous wrote about the RAPR, click here to read that post.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers, home health agencies, nursing homes and other healthcare providers in 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.

Sources:

Rua, Jordan. “Medicare To Penalize 2,211 Hospitals For Excess Readmissions.” Kaiser Health News. (August 13, 2012). From: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/stories/2012/august/13/medicare-hospitals-readmissions-penalties.aspx?referrer=search

Kaiser Health News. “First Hospital Penalties for High Readmissions Detailed.” Kaiser Health News. (August 13, 2012). From: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/daily-reports/2012/august/13/quality-issues.aspx?referrer=search

Health News Florida. “Readmit Rates Cost FL Hospitals.” Health News Florida. (August 13, 2012). From: http://www.healthnewsflorida.org/hnf_stories/read/readmit_rates_cost_fl_hospitals

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.

2010 District Ruling for $44.9 Million in Tuomey Overturned by U.S. Appeals Court

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

Tuomey Reversed

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal district judge’s 2010 decision for Tuomey Healthcare System on March 30, 2012. (U.S. ex rel. Drakeford v. Tuomey Health. Sys., Inc., 4th Cir., No. 10-1819 (Mar. 30, 2012)) The lower court’s decision ordered Toumey Healthcare System to pay $44.9 million for allegedly violating the Stark Law. (42 U.S.C. § 1395nn) The appeals court decided that the 2010 district ruling denied Tuomey its Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial. 

A physician initiated a qui tam or whistle-blower suit against Toumey under the False Claims Act in 2005. The suit was later picked up and prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice. In the False Claims Act complaints filed in the U.S. District Court in Columbia, S.C., the whistle-blower and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) alleged that Tuomey had contracts with physicians that were illegally overpaid by Tuomey. This was alleged to be in exchange for their exclusively referring patients to Tuomey’s hospital, thus violating the Stark Law. Billings for referrals from those physicians allegedly constituted false claims as a result of this.

Novel Theory Used to Obtain Large Recovery

This was a novel theory to pursue in a qui tam or whistle-blower case because it was not based directly on submission of false claims. Instead it put forth the theory that the claims were false because they violated the anti-referral provisions of the Stark Act.

In March 2010, a jury found that Tuomey had not violated the False Claims Act but did find Tuomey guilty of committing Stark Law violations. (Note: The Stark Act does not establish a private cause of action for plaintiff to recover civil damages.) This jury verdict was set aside by the judge and a new trial regarding the False Claims Act allegations was granted. Under the lower court’s decision, Tuomey was still required to repay the government $44.9 million in Medicare payments that were allegedly received through physician contracts that violated the Stark Law.  This was the part of the verdict that was not set aside by the trial court.

However, according to the opinion of the appeals court, when the district court set aside the jury’s verdict, it specifically ordered that the new trial would encompass the whole False Claims Act matter, including whether Tuomey had violated the Stark Law. This nullified the jury’s interrogatory answer (part of the verdict it returned) regarding the Stark Law. Thus, when the district court ordered Tuomey to repay the government for violating the Stark Law, it denied Tuomey of its right to a jury trial.

Two Major Stark Issues Discussed

The appeals court also addressed two major Stark Law issues that were raised on appeal and are likely to recur on remand. The first issue is whether the facility component of the services performed by the physicians, for which Tuomey billed a facility fee to Medicare, constituted a “referral” within the meaning of the Stark Law. The court used the Health Care Financing Administration’s (now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) final rule on referrals (66 Fed. Reg. 856, 941, Jan. 4, 2001) to conclude that the facility/technical component of the physician’s personally performed services does constitute a referral.

The second issue was the correct standard to use. Having decided that the physicians were making referrals to Tuomey, the appeals court then examined if an arrangement that takes into account anticipated referrals violate the Stark Act’s “volume or value standards.” The “volume or value standards” require that compensation must be calculated in a way that does not take into account the volume or value of referrals between the parties.

Fair Market Value Standard

Additionally, Stark Act requires that whatever financial relationship exists reflects “fair market value.” Stark defines “fair market value” as compensation that “has not been determined in any manner that takes into account the volume or value of anticipated or actual referrals”(42 C.F.R. § 411.351). Thus, the court concluded that compensation based on the volume or value of anticipated referrals does implicate the volume or value standard. The court left it to the jury to decide if Tuomey’s contracts violated the fair market value standard.

$50 Million May be Returned to Tuomey

The government has 45 days from the date of the decision to request a rehearing. If it doesn’t, the matter goes back to the South Carolina federal district court where it was originally decided. Tuomey can then request the money that it had set aside to pay the government back, $50 million according to it, to be released to the health system.

Tuomey Issues Press Release

In a press release dated March 31, 2012 (Press Release), signed by Jay Cox, its President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tuomey Healthcare System stated:

The 4th Circuit has issued an opinion in favor of Tuomey on our appeal. We are pleased that the 4th Circuit Court has decided that the District Court’s judgment violated Tuomey’s Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial, and vacated (reversed) the $50 million judgment against Tuomey Healthcare System.

*          *          *

As the Court of Appeals said in the opinion: “The whole case, including the issues of fact at the former trial is open for hearing and determination.” This includes the incorrect finding by the first jury that Tuomey violated the Stark Law. Again, we are pleased with this news and we will keep you posted as we learn more.

Setback to Plaintiff’s Qui Tam Bar?

The original decision in Tuomey had encouraged plaintiff’s attorneys who take whistle-blower cases in health care matters and had alarmed health care systems across the country.  Although this does not eliminate the ability to use Stark Act violations as the basis for False Claims Act recoveries, it does indicate that the courts will require strict pleading, proof and procedural rules before it does allow this.

Sources Include:

Blesch, Gregg, “Appeals Court Overturns Order for S.C. Hospital to Pay $45 Million in Stark Case,” Modern Healthcare (Apr. 1, 2012). From:
http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20120401/NEWS/304019973/appeals-court-overturns-order-for-s-c-hospital-to-pay-45-million-in#

Cheung, Karen M., “Federal Appeals Court Overturns $45M Stark Ruling,” FierceHealthcare (Apr. 2, 2012). From:
http://www.fiercehealthcare.com/story/federal-appeals-court-overturns-45m-stark-ruling/2012-04-02

Cox, Jay, “Federal Case Update,” Tuomey Healthcare System Press Release (Mar. 31, 2012).

Cox, Jay, “Federal Case Update,” Tuomey Healthcare System Press Release (Mar. 31, 2012). From: http://www.tuomey.com/Articles/federal_case_update.aspx

Davis, Caralyn, “Stark Violations: Tuomey Healthcare in South Carolina Ordered to Pay $50 Million,” FierceHealthcare (June 9, 2012). From: http://www.fiercehealthfinance.com/story/stark-violations-tuomey-healthcare-s-c-ordered-pay-50-million/2010-06-09

HHS, “Medicare and Medicaid Programs: Physicians’ Referrals to Health Care Entities With Which They Have Financial Relationships,” 66 Fed. Reg. 856, 941 (Jan. 4, 2001). From:  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2001-01-04/pdf/01-4.pdf

U.S. ex rel. Drakeford v. Tuomey Health.Sys., Inc., 4th Cir., No. 10-1819 (Mar. 30, 2012). From: http://pacer.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinion.pdf/101819.P.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.