Tag Archives: Zone Program Integrity Contractor

ZPICs Seek “Voluntary” Agreements from Physicians for Auto-Denial Edits for Home Health Services

MLS Blog Label 2By Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law, and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the primary purpose of Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) is to investigate instances of suspected fraud, waste, and abuse.  The specific actions employed by ZPICs to fulfil this mission include:

–  Investigating potential fraud and abuse for CMS administrative action or referral to law enforcement;
–  Conducting investigations in accordance with the priorities established by Center for Program Integrity’s (CPI) Fraud Prevention System;
–  Performing medical review, as appropriate;
–  Performing data analysis in coordination with CPI’s Fraud Prevention System;
–  Identifying the need for administrative actions such as payment suspensions and prepayment or auto-denial edits; and,
–  Referring cases to law enforcement for consideration and initiation of civil or criminal prosecution.

However, it appears that some of the ZPICs have been overly proactive in identifying the need for payments suspensions and are asking providers to voluntarily agree to payment suspensions for certain claims.

Click here to read more on ZPICs from CMS.

Physicians Being Targeted by ZPICs for Auto-Denial Edits.

Recently, physicians have been approached by ZPICs and asked to voluntarily agree to a payment edit on their National Provider Identifier (NPI) that would automatically deny any claim for payment for home health services that listed the physician as the ordering, attending, or referring physician.  A ZPIC requesting a specific physician to voluntarily cease ordering any home health services appears to go further than identifying the need for administrative action including a payment suspension.

The activities a ZPIC may use to fulfil its obligations to CMS are:

–  Request medical records and documentation;
–  Conduct interviews;
–  Conduct onsite visits;
–  Identify the need for a prepayment or auto-denial edits and refer these edits to the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MAC) for installation;
–  Withhold payments; and,
–  Refer cases to law enforcement.

The following functions are reserved for the MACs and not functions of the ZPICs.

–  Provider outreach and education;
–  Recouping monies lost to the Trust Fund (the ZPICs identify these         situations and refer them to the MACs for the recoupment);
–  Medical review not
–  Complaint screening; for benefit integrity purposes;
–  Claims appeals of ZPIC decisions;
–  Claim payment determination;
–  Claims pricing; and
–  Auditing provider cost reports.

While a ZPIC may refer a provider to the MAC for the imposition of an auto-denial edit, some ZPICs seem to have taken this process a step further and are attempting to have physicians voluntarily agree to the auto-denial edits.

Issues with Agreeing to an Auto-Denial Edit.

A physician who voluntarily agrees to an auto-denial edit could create significant problems for his or her patients and practice.  A physician agreeing to an auto-denial edit would need to cease ordering home health services and would need to refer the patients that need home health services to another physician.  Any physician that has been approached by a ZPIC seeking a voluntary auto-denial edit should consult competent legal counsel before agreeing to the auto-denial edit.

We have heard if ZPIC representatives allegedly intimidating or attempting to intimidate physicians who routinely order home health services for patients into agreeing to such auto-denial edits.

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 heard of these auto-denial edit requests from ZPICs? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Authors: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with 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.

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 © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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How to Speed Up the Medicare Prepayment Review Process

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

For Medicare providers, being notified of an impending audit is not welcome news. Being notified of a prepayment review is even worse. In a prepayment review, the health care provider must submit documentation to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) contractor before ever receiving payment. The health care provider will only receive payment (typically months later) if the contractor is satisfied with the provider’s documentation. This can be financially disastrous for the health care provider, who still must pay day-to-day expenses while waiting for a decision.

CMS Contractors.

If you have received notice of prepayment review, you first need to determine the contractor that has initiated the review. CMS contracts with four types of contractors:

– Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs);

– Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) contractors; 

– Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs); and

– Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs).

Both the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) and Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) can initiate prepayment reviews.

MAC Prepayment Reviews.

MACs will initiate prepayment reviews of health care providers suspected of improper billing for services. If the MAC detects anything resembling fraud during the process, the prepayment review can extend for up to a year or more. However, MACs will generally terminate the prepayment review when the health care provider demonstrates a pattern of correct billing. Health care providers who are notified of a MAC prepayment review should consult with an experienced health care attorney from the beginning of the process. An experienced health attorney will be able to assist the health care provider to ensure everything is in place for a speedy prepayment review.

ZPIC Prepayment Reviews.

A MAC may refer a health care provider to a ZPIC for a benefit integrity prepayment review if they suspect fraud. A ZPIC can also initiate a benefit integrity prepayment review based on data analysis.  Unlike MACs, ZPICs generally are less willing to communicate with health care providers about the prepayment review.

Additionally, there are different time limitations for a benefit integrity prepayment review. The MAC prepayment review is governed by Medicare Manual provisions that stipulate a maximum length of time on a prepayment review. However, a benefit integrity prepayment review can last indefinitely, if the basis for the review is not timely and properly addressed by the health care provider.

Further, ZPICs make fraud referrals to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Thus, health care providers should view ZPIC correspondence as the start of a potentially larger investigation. An experienced health care attorney should be contacted immediately after a health care provider receives any contact from ZPIC.

How to Accomplish a Quick Review.

In many cases, the health care provider will be on Medicare prepayment review until its billing accuracy reaches a certain percentage. However there are other steps to help speed up the Medicare prepayment audit process.

1.  Read everything from the Contractor Carefully.

Pay close attention to all correspondence sent by the contractor. Make a note of the due date given and make sure your response is sent well within the time limits. Denials will usually occur if a response is not received by the given deadline. Also be sure that you send your response to the correct office.

2.  Read and Be Familiar with all Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs).

You should read and be familiar with any and all applicable local coverage determinations (LCDs) and national coverage determinations (NCDs) for any codes, services, supplies or equipment you are billing.

3.  Contact an Experienced Health Care Attorney Immediately.

A health care attorney who is experienced in prepayment reviews will be able to help you file a proper response in a timely fashion. An attorney will also be able to help find out additional information on why you have been placed on prepayment review and exactly what documentation the auditor is looking for. Alternatively, a health care consultant who has actual experience in working on Medicare cases and who has been an expert witness in Medicare hearings may be able to assist, as well.

4.  Contact the Contractor Responsible for the Review.

After you have consulted with an attorney, schedule a call with the contractor responsible for your prepayment review. During the call learn as many details about the audit as you can and find out what the reviewer wants in the documentation.

However, DO NOT:

  a. Argue with the auditor.

  b. Berate or demean the auditor.

  c. Challenge the auditor’s knowledge, competence or credentials.

  d. Ask the auditor to prove anything to you.

  e. Demand to speak to the auditor’s supervisor.

5.  Do Not File Duplicate Claims.

Keep track of all requests for additional documentation and when they were received. Do not think that you need to file another claim for the same items just because you have not received a response as quickly as other claims where additional documentation was not requested. If you provide duplicate claims, the contractor’s decision can be delayed.

6.  Keep all Submissions and Results Organized.

You must keep track of the date you receive the document request for a claim, the date you submitted the documentation for review, the result of the audit and the date the result was received. This will help you realize how quickly claims are reviewed. If a one claim’s review has taken longer than the others you’ve submitted, you can contact the reviewer to make sure they have received the claim and everything is in order.

7.  Follow-up with the Contractor for Feedback.

Keep in contact with the contractor throughout the review. This will help to maintain the relationship you initiated after first receiving notice of the prepayment review. This will also help you keep track of any issues and resolve them. Be sure to discuss how you can improve your claim submissions to meet the standards of your particular reviewer.

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 prepayment reviews. 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:

Baird, Jeff. “Q&A with Jeff Baird: How to Prepare for and Survive Prepayment Reviews.” Home Care. (Sept. 13, 2010). From http://homecaremag.com/news/prepayment-review-faq-20100913/

Greene, Stephanie Morgan. “5 Steps to Get Off Pre-Payment Audit – Quickly!” Harrington Managment Group. (Mar. 18, 2011). From http://homecaremag.com/news/prepayment-review-faq-20100913/

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.

New Hampshire City Auditing Ambulance Service for Allegedly Overbilling

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

On July 16, 2012, a New Hampshire city allegedly launched an audit into its primary ambulance service, American Medical Response (AMR), after the company acknowledged overbilling hundreds of patients since 2011, according to a Union Leader article.

AMR Allegedly Incorrectly Billed More Than 300 Ambulance Trips.

According to the report, an in-house audit by the city showed that 323 ambulance trips out of nearly 5,000 in 2011 and 2012 had been incorrectly billed. This amounts to slightly more than six percent (6%). AMR attributes the overbilling to human error.

After concerns that the billing problems could be more widespread, it was decided the ambulance service should be audited by an independent auditor.

AMR is reported to have forgiven any outstanding incorrect balances and issued $16,000 in refunds to patients who had already paid the incorrect bills.

Patients’ Bills Allegedly Exceeded the Amount AMR was Authorized to Charge.

Residents describe a common bill for ambulance transportation to be more than $1,000 for a single ambulance trip, which is approximately sixty-six percent (66%) more than AMR is authorized to charge under its contract with the city.

The city began its contract with AMR in January 2011, after the city’s previous ambulance service went out of business. The city’s fire chief said that under AMR’s contract, the company cannot charge more than thirty-five (35%) above the Medicare rate.

AMR is allegedly cooperating in the review, but the audit will take about a month to complete.

Ambulance Services Companies Are Easy Targets for Medicare Audits.

Recently, ambulance service companies have become the target of Medicare audits and are frequently accused of billing Medicare for unnecessary services. Medicare and Medicaid audits can result in overpayment demands reaching into hundreds of thousands of dollars and assessment of fines. Ambulance services were included in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) work plan for fiscal year 2012 as an area that would be subject to scrutiny. Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) and Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) are launching audits of ambulance service providers and emergency medical transportation companies.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits.

Medicare fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG). Don’t wait until its too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, ambulance services companies, 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.

Sources:

Siefer, Ted. “Independent audit begins on Manchester ambulance service billing.” Union Leader. (July 23, 2012). From: http://www.unionleader.com/article/20120724/NEWS06/707249979

Siefer, Ted. “City will conduct audit ambulance service over overbilling.” New Hampshire.com. (July 28, 2012). From: http://www.newhampshire.com/article/20120729/NEWS0603/707299953/1007

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.

Man Charged with Medicare Fraud in Ambulance Scheme

By Miles Indest

A Pennsylvania man has been charged in a 23-count indictment in relation to an alleged scheme to defraud Medicare by billing for fraudulent ambulance services. The charges were announced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on June 29, 2012.

Man Allegedly “Straw” Owner Used to Start Ambulance Company.

According to the indictment the man allegedly used a “straw” owner (someone who was not actually the owner) to fraudulently open Starcare Ambulance because he was otherwise ineligible to own the company. Between 2006 and 2011, the man allegedly billed Medicare for transporting kidney dialysis patients who did not medically need ambulance service. This indictment seeks forfeiture of over $5 million in cash as well as a GMC Hum-V (“Hummer”) vehicle.

Man Could Face Up To 10 Years in Prison for Each Count of Health Care Fraud.

If convicted of all charges, the defendant faces a statutory maximum sentence of ten years in prison on each of the health care fraud and conspiracy counts. He also faces five years in prison for aiding and abetting in false statements relating to health care fraud, a three year term of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

Ambulance Services Companies Are Target for Medicare Audits.

In recent years, and especially in 2012, ambulance services companies have become the target of Medicare audits and are frequently accused of billing Medicare for unnecessary services. Medicare and Medicaid audits can result in overpayment demands reaching into hundreds of thousands of dollars and assessment of fines. Ambulance services were included in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) work plan for fiscal year 2012 as an area that would be subject to scrutiny. Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs) and Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) are launching audits of ambulance service providers and emergency medical transportation companies.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicare Audits.

Medicare fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG). Don’t wait until its too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, ambulance services companies, 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.

Sources Include:

“Pennsylvania Man Charged With $5.4 Million Medicare Fraud.” San Francisco Chronicle. (June 29, 2012). From: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Pa-man-charged-with-5-4-million-Medicare-fraud-3674333.php

Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Pennsylvania Man Charged with Fraud in Ambulance Scheme.” Department of Justice. Press Release. (June 29, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/June/12-crm-840.html