By 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
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it will temporarily ban new home health providers and ambulance suppliers from enrolling in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in three fraud “hot spots.” According to CMS, the six-month moratorium begins July 30, 2013. It applies to newly enrolling home health agencies (HHAs) in Miami, Florida, and Chicago, Illinois. It also applies to newly enrolling ambulance suppliers in Houston, Texas. Existing providers and suppliers can continue to deliver and bill for services. The goal of the ban is to fight healthcare fraud.
Authority to impose a moratorium was included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). According to a summary of the anti-fraud provisions in the Affordable Care Act, the Act allows CMS to prohibit new providers from joining the program where necessary to prevent or fight fraud, waste or abuse in certain geographic areas or for certain categories of services. This is the first time CMS is exercising its authority.
Why Moratorium Was Imposed in These Areas.
According to CMS, the decision to impose the moratorium was based on a number of factors, including a disproportional number of providers and suppliers relative to beneficiaries, a quick increase in enrollment applications from providers and suppliers, and extremely high utilization in these areas.
Miami Area a Hot Bed for Healthcare Fraud and Abuse.
The Miami area has stood out as one of the nation’s hubs of Medicare fraud, according to CMS. For example, in May 2013, a Miami patient recruiter for an HHA was sentenced to 37 months in prison for participating in a $20 million Medicare fraud scheme. Click here to read a previous blog. In that same month, workers from a Miami-area HHA were accused of bribing Medicare beneficiaries for their Medicare information, which was used to bill for home health services that were never rendered or not medically necessary. To read more, click here.
According to the Miami Herald, with a large number of elderly Medicare beneficiaries living in Miami, it’s not a surprise that healthcare fraud is so prevalent. South Florida allegedly accounts for one-third (1/3) of all healthcare fraud prosecutions in the nation. Click here to read the entire Miami Herald article.
The Affordable Care Act Offers the Government New Tools to Fight Healthcare Fraud.
In 2011 and 2012, the government reported recovery of $14.9 billion in healthcare fraud judgments, settlements and administrative impositions, according to CMS. In addition, CMS has revoked 14,663 providers and suppliers’ ability to bill the Medicare Program since 2011. The Affordable Care Act seeks to improve anti-fraud and abuse measures by focusing on prevention rather than the traditional “pay-and-chase” model of catching crooks after they have committed fraud. Click here to read a blog on the Affordable Care Act’s other fraud fighting tools.
What This Means for Health Care Professionals and Providers.
By knowing the government is beefing up measures to fight healthcare fraud, providers can attempt to avoid practices that are likely to lead to Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) or Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) audits. Additionally, a provider can be prepared for potential audits by increasing its documentation and compliance efforts.
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.
What do you think of CMS’ decision to invoke the moratorium? Do you think this should have been done sooner? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “CMS Imposes First Affordable Care Act Enrollment Moratoria to Combat Fraud.” CMS.gov. (July 26, 2013). From: http://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Press-Releases/2013-Press-Releases-Items/2013-07-26.html
Chang, Daniel. “Feds Ban New Home Healthcare Agencies in Miami to Fight Medicare Fraud.” Miami Herald. (July 26, 2013). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/26/3524612/feds-ban-new-home-healthcare-agencies.html
Beasley, Deena. “U.S. Bans New Home Health, Ambulance Providers in Three Regions.” Miami Herald. (July 26, 2013). From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/26/us-medicare-moratoria-idUSBRE96P14P20130726
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.
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