Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Home Health Care: Cost-Effective, Convenient, and Vulnerable to Fraud
Home health agencies (HHAs) provide health care services to assist individuals with a disability, or who are ill, injured, or elderly. It is a cost-effective and convenient method of receiving quality care that is provided from the comfort of the patient’s own home. While HHAs have been around for years, primarily to serve the elderly and avoid hospitalization, the post-pandemic “at-home” era has made it the fastest-growing healthcare industry in the country. However, the high demands and good intentions of instilling home health agencies come with its adverse counterpart- fraud and abuse.
Nursing Home Staff Turnover Rates Partially Explains Disproportionate Number of Deaths during COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted residents and staff of nursing homes and long-term care facilities more than any other demographic, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the total mortality rate from the virus in the United States. According to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”), at least 132,000 residents and employees have died from complications of the COVID-19 across 31,000 facilities, although some estimates place the death count closer to 200,000. One factor aggravating the number of deaths in nursing homes is the extraordinarily high rate of staff turnover each year.
Federal Relief of Regulatory Oversight Burdens in Medicaid Final Rule
he Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) refined the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”) Managed Care final rules. CMS originally released the final rules in 2016 and another revision in 2018. After several cumulative comments on 2016 and 2018 final rules, CMS attempted to create more flexibility for States with managed care delivery methods. CMS’s third version of the final rules is more of an attempt to clarify and fix technical errors than giving States more flexibility to operate their managed care organizations.
Rule Changes, Regulatory Waivers Expand Access to Health Care Services During Pandemic
Recent regulatory waivers and rule changes by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) have resulted in a notable increase in patients seen remotely, according to two recent studies. The studies suggest that CMS regulatory waivers and rule changes, which included expanded access to COVID-19 testing and telehealth services in response to challenges faced by health care providers and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, have increased remote delivery of mental health care and highly specialized clinical practices like plastic surgery.
Action Against Individuals Regarding Fraudulent Genetic Testing
Michael Manganelli Associate Editor Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2021 In October 2019, The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced a multi-agency and multi-state coordinated law enforcement action against 35 individuals involved in an alleged $2.1 billion genetic cancer testing scheme. The alleged scheme involved the payment of illegal kickbacks and bribes to medical professionals …
Removing “Incident to” Billing: Recommendations from Policy Experts
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.
D.C. District Court Vacates CMS Overpayment Rule for Medicare Advantage Organizations
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.
Compliance in Healthcare: Understanding Zone Program Integrity Contractor Investigations and Audits
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.
Escobar’s Materiality Standard Shields Organizations from the Risk in Risk Adjustment Payments
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.
Current Trends in Medicaid 1115 Waiver Requests: Are They Schemes to Avoid Compliance with Disfavored Requirements?
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.