Health law is the federal, state, and local law, rules, regulations and other jurisprudence among providers, payers and vendors to the healthcare industry and its patient and delivery of health care services; all with an emphasis on operations, regulatory and transactional legal issues.
COVID-19 has affected all aspects of everyday life and healthcare rules and regulations are no exception. All areas of healthcare have been impacted, including the patient’s financial responsibility for healthcare services in the form of co-insurance, copays and deductibles. The waiver of a patient’s financial responsibility for healthcare services is regulated by federal and state law. The waiver of co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles has been deemed a violation of the federal Anti-Kickback statue. A provider who routinely waives the patient’s financial obligation may be violating the participating provider agreement with commercial carriers, state law and federal law with respect to Medicare beneficiaries. Waiving patient fees is seen as an inducement to the patient to prefer one provider over another for financial reasons. However, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and commercial carriers have been authorized by the federal government to waive patient financial responsibility during the pandemic in order to encourage the public to get treated for COVID-19 and non-COVID medical conditions without fear of a hefty bill.
Florida may become the “next Texas” on the issue of physician owned specialty hospitals. “Next Texas,” since there are a number of examples where the concept launched (and also flopped). Done right, such facilities could be a better fit for many patients, depending of course on patient co morbidity issues. In theory, they would be the perfect bridge between surgery centers and regular acute care hospitals. But the ability of such specialty focused care suggests a better staffing model and more targeted and efficient overhead, instead of the broad-based overhead of an acute care hospital at is spread out aver all cases, including those where overhead allocation is viewed as “just an expense.” read more
Access to telehealth for Medicare beneficiaries was further increased by the Trump Administration April 30, 2020. These new changes allows all health care professionals eligible to bill Medicare for services to provide services via telehealth communications and to bill the Medicare program for such services. Additionally, certain services may now be provided using audio technology only.
For a list of services eligible for reimbursement by the Medicare Program, including services requiring audio technology only, download here. There are approximately 180 different codes reimbursable by Medicare if provided via telehealth communications.
The newest relief for small business and health care providers was passed by the Senate on April 21st, by the House on April 23rd, and became law on April 24, 2020. This new Act, provides for $484 billion in additional relief to small businesses and healthcare providers. $100 billion of the relief has been allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services and of that amount $75 billion is earmarked “to reimburse health care providers for health related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to the coronavirus outbreak.” The remaining $25 billion will be used for expenses to research, develop, validate, manufacture, purchase, administer, and expand capacity for COVID-19 test to effectively monitor and suppress COVID-19.
The $75 billion provided under the Act will remain available until expended and will be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus to reimburse necessary expense or lost revenues incurred as a result of COVID-19. However, if a health care provider has already had expenses or lost revenues incurred due to COVID-19 reimbursed from other sources or that other sources are obligated to reimburse (like the CARES Act), any funds received from the $75 billion cannot be used as a “double dip” by that health care provider.
A big difference for health care providers with this Act, is that unlike the CARES Act that provided a direct deposit to health care providers based on Medicare fee for services reimbursement, no application necessary, this Act requires the health care provider to apply for relief funds. Eligible health care providers include public entities, Medicare or Medicaid enrolled suppliers and providers, profit and not-for-profit entities that provide diagnoses, testing, or care for individuals with possible or actual cases of COVID-19 (so as to accommodate the “lost revenues” provision, this could mean any patient treated since January 31, 2020, and is not necessarily limited to patients treated for COVID-19 symptoms without testing confirmation). Health care providers should act quickly and apply for funds as soon as possible as the HHS Secretary will review applications and make payments on a rolling basis. Payment may be a pre-payment, prospective payment, or a retrospective payment as determined by the HHS Secretary. Health care providers must submit an application that includes statements justifying the need of the provider for the payment. The provider must have a valid tax id number (could be an individually enrolled physician). As with the CARES Act, HHS will have the ability to audit how relief funds are expended and must start reporting obligations of funds to the House and Senates Committees on Appropriations within 60 days from the date of enactment of this Act. Reporting will continue every 60 days thereafter. read more
On February 4, 2020, the Department of Justice announced a $1.5 million settlement with Southeastern Retina Associates, a 17 physician practice, with offices in Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia. The sole basis of the claim was the alleged misuse of the Modifier 25 billing code and charging for exams at higher levels than warranted. The claim was initiated by a whistleblower, who will receive $270,000 from the settlement.
Use and potential abuse of Modifier 25 is obviously not unique to retina surgeons. In fact, the modifier can be very beneficial to providers, since it allows for payment for those patient visits when the care provided exceeds the scope of the scheduled appointment. However, given the potential for abuse and the many watchful eyes of the government (the Southeastern Retina case was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the HHS Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the FBI, and the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office) and wannabe whistleblowers, a periodic review of a provider’s billing practices is always a good idea. read more
In 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) started a program that combined the process of reviewing a sample of claims with providing follow up education as a way to help reduce errors in the claim submission process. This is called the Targeted Probe and Educate Program (TPE). The goal of the program is to help providers and suppliers identify errors made and quickly make improvements. CMS has acknowledged that since its inception the program needs improvements and that this type of review can be burdensome. Most providers and suppliers never experience a TPE review; however, for the ones that receive notification, here are the top five things you should know before moving forward:
Litigation involving out of network claims by providers, also referred to as “non-participating” or “non-par”, continues to be rampant into 2019. Complexity of plan administration, increased state and federal rule making, and rising costs are resulting in increased litigation. A recurring issue: unpaid claims disputes.
Many physicians come to the conclusion that some contracts aren’t worth entering. More and more physicians are opting out of participating provider contracts or have chosen not to participate in the first place. Reimbursement is usually the prime reason. The law that controls much of the litigation surrounding these disputes is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). ERISA is a federal law that sets minimum standards for most plans along with fiduciary responsibilities for plan sponsors. Under ERISA, a “Summary Plan Description” must be created for each plan that sets forth the rights and benefits of each plan member and importantly, how out-of-network reimbursement is determined. read more
When providers or suppliers self-report overpayments to Medicare Part C Managed Care organization, there is some uncertainty on what lookback period applies and whether there actually is an overpayment obligation. Is it Medicare’s 60-day overpayment rule that applies or do the Managed Care Part C organizations impose a different lookback period for overpayments?
CMS (The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) published its Final Rule clarifying the procedures applicable to the statutory requirement under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) for providers and suppliers to self-report and return overpayments. (The Final Rule was published on February 12, 2016). The Final Rule applies to Medicare Parts A and B and addresses the procedures that a provider or supplier need to follow to investigate, identify, quantify to self-report and return an overpayment. The Final Rule clarifies the obligations of Medicare providers and suppliers to report and return overpayments for claims originating only under Medicare Parts A and B. The final rule does not address, or reference, the obligations of providers to return overpayments to Medicare Advantage organizations for Part C claims. read more
Improving patient outcomes while maintaining physician decision making and practice efficiency is key to success in the growing health care arena. Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity to create new value, instead of a threat to what we find comfortable. It is clear that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is embracing the importance of innovation in the way we deliver health care.
In November 2018, the 2019 Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program was released by CMS with changes effective January 1, 2019. This is the time for providers to definitely keep their eyes open to utilizing mHealth, and telehealth services. mHealth is also known as mobile health, and is a general term for the use of mobile phones and other wireless technology in medical care to educate consumers about preventive healthcare services as well as for disease surveillance, chronic disease management, treatment support, epidemic outbreak tracking. The release of the program is a sign that the agency is in favor of expanding the implementation of technology in providing medical care. The updated mHealth codes are: read more
On November 1, 2018, a federal court judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of the American Hospital Association (AHA) ordering the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to clear the Medicare appeal backlog by fiscal year (FY) 2022. If you have not been following this litigation, the AHA initially filed suit in 2014 against the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requesting an order from the court mandating the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals (OMHA) within HHS to comply with its statutory deadlines (i.e. to issue a decision within 90 days). Following brief review by the U.S. Court of Appeals and upon the case being before the district court for a third time, the case has finally reached a resolution.
In short, HHS agreed that due to recent funding, compliance is possible within four years. Accordingly, the judge set the following deadlines for HHS and OMHA: read more