Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Earlier this year, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) uninamously voted to recommend removing “incident to” Medicare billing for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and physician assistants (PAs). MedPAC serves as an independent congressional agency that advises Congress on Medicare-related issues by analyzing access and quality of care. If this recommendation is adopted, APRNs and PAs would only be able to bill Medicare directly, thus reducing the amount paid by Medicare from 100% under services billed “incident to” to 85% directly. This recommendation could potentially save the Medicare program up to $250 million annually and would allow for better data collection into the amount of services performed by APRNs and PAs, whose services are often masked under “incident to” billing reports. Though there is still some debate on whether the financial loss of losing this option is too high for primary physicians who may hire APRNs and PAs for their practice, the benefits of billing directly likely outweigh the losses.
On September 7, 2018, the United States District Court in the District of Columbia (“D.C. District Court”) vacated Medicare’s overpayment “report and return” rule as applied to Medicare Advantage Organizations (“MAOs”). The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) created the requirement to report and return overpayments. The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) issued rules to provide definitions that the PPACA did not define, create a procedure, payment options and timeframes. MAOs may no longer need to comply with CMS’ overpayment rule, but the PPACA remains intact. Providers who service Medicare beneficiaries will need to conduct the same analysis in order to comply with the PPACA “report and return” requirement.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have a multitude of resources to detect and protect against fraud and abuse in claims. Particularly, CMS has at least six types of contractors that provide different roles in the prevention, detection, and reporting of fraud and abuse in healthcare. This list includes Recovery Auditors, which serve to reduce fraud and abuse by detecting and collecting overpayments from entities and Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) Contractors, which determine rates of improper payments by reviewing claims under Medicare Fee-For-Service (FFS). Another auditor that providers should be particularly mindful of are the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs). This article is an overview ZPICS, its role in Medicare, and outlines the steps providers should take when faced with an audit by ZPICs.
Finance Director for UnitedHealth Group brought qui tam suit against UnitedHealth Group, Inc. alleging that the organization upcoded risk adjustment data resulting in increased payments (more than $1.14 billion) to UnitedHealth Group. The Department of Justice (DOJ) intervened in the case, yet UnitedHealth Group was successful in getting the primary False Claims Act Claims dismissed by arguing that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) would not have refused to make the adjustment payments had they known of the errors in the risk adjustment. The Escobar materiality standard helps clarify threshold level of risk to Managed Care Providers in attesting to their risk adjustment payments; the falsities must have had an impact on the respective payment.
States looking for flexibility or creativity in implementing Medicaid programs can apply for waivers from the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). According to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment Access Commission (MACPAC), waiver use is quite extensive—resulting in “wide variations in program design, covered services, and eligible populations among states and even within states.” As of September 2017, 33 states account for 41 approved waivers, and 18 states have 21 total pending waivers. The scope of these waivers traditionally broadens eligibility and creates new programs in states where Medicaid needs are not expressly recognized by federal law. Current pending applications suggest, however, that states seeking waivers now do so as a means to circumvent Medicaid program requirements they disagree with.
This summer I had the opportunity to intern with the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) in Washington, DC. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with OIG, and I learned a great deal about health care fraud, waste, and abuse. In spending my summer with OIG, I had a glimpse into the powerful regulatory bodies that protect the health care market from abuse. As I move forward with my career in regulatory work, I will take with me the invaluable experiences and skills from my internship.