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.
On November 13, 2020 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that all Americans will have access to the COVID-19 vaccine at no cost. CMS has clearly communicated to private insurers, Medicaid programs and Medicare that it is their responsibility to cover the vaccine at no charge to beneficiaries. CMS states that Operation Warp Speed ensures that States, provider’s and health plans have the information and direction they need to ensure broad vaccine access and coverages for all. As a condition of receiving free COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government, providers will be prohibited from charging consumers for administration of the vaccine.
Beneficiaries with Medicare will not pay anything for the COVID-19 vaccine and their coinsurance/copayment and deductible amounts will be waived. In 2021, for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries, Medicare will pay directly for the vaccine and its administration for those enrolled in MA plans. MA plans are not responsible for reimbursing providers to administer the vaccine. MA beneficiaries do not pay for the vaccine and copayment/coinsurance and deductibles are waived. read more
HHS found that a home health agency incorrectly billed Medicare and did not comply with Medicare Billing requirements for beneficiaries that were not homebound and for others that did not require skilled services at all.
In August and September 2018, physicians and the owner of a home health agency were each sentenced on multiple counts of conspiracy and healthcare fraud and ordered to pay $6.5 million in restitution. One physician was sentenced to 132 months in prison following trial. A physician who pled guilty was sentenced to 27 months in prison following a guilty plea. The home health agency owner was sentenced to 42 months in prison. The defendants paid and received kickbacks in exchange for patients and billed Medicare more than $8.9 million for services that were medically unnecessary, never provided, and/or not otherwise reimbursable. Additionally, certain defendants provided prescriptions for opioid medications to induce patient participation in the scheme.
In September 2018, the co-owner and administrator of a home health agency was sentenced to 24 months in prison, ordered to pay over $2.2 million in restitution, and ordered to forfeit over $1.1 million. The co-owners participated in a home healthcare fraud conspiracy that resulted in Medicare paying at least $2.2 million on false and fraudulent claims. The owners and their co-conspirators paid kickbacks to doctors and patient recruiters in exchange for patient referrals, billed Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary, and caused patient files to be falsified to justify the fraudulent billing.
Back in February 2018, the owner of more than twenty home health agencies was sentenced to 240 months in prison and ordered to pay $66.4 million in restitution, jointly and severally with his co-defendants, after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. A patient recruiter for the home health agencies, who also owned a medical clinic and two home health agencies of her own, was sentenced to 180 months in prison. Another patient recruiter, who also was the owner of two home health agencies, was sentenced to 115 months in prison. These conspirators paid illegal bribes and kickbacks to patient recruiters in return for the referral of Medicare beneficiaries many of whom did not need or qualify for home health services. Medicare paid approximately $66 million on those claims.
Illegal kickbacks in exchange for referrals of Medicare beneficiaries, lack of medical necessity for home health services, failing to meet the guidelines, fraudulent billing, billing for services beneficiaries did not receive and fraudulent documentation continues to plague the home healthcare industry.
In a fraudulent operation that the Department of Justice calls, “unprecedented”, elderly or disabled patients nationwide were lured into providing their DNA for testing in a widespread genetic testing fraud scheme powered by a large telemarketing network. The doctors involved were paid to write orders prescribing the testing without any patient interaction or with only a brief telephone conversation.read more
Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (“AHCA”) is the state’s chief health policy and planning organization. AHCA is also responsible for the state’s Medicaid program. One of the agency’s latest targets are behavioral analysis providers who treat children with autism. Recently, AHCA imposed a temporary six-month moratorium on enrollment of new providers due to newly discovered fraud and abuse. AHCA states that the temporary moratorium will allow the agency the time to complete a full assessment of the current provider population. In other words, all behavioral analysis providers will experience heightened scrutiny in the coming months if not already. This can include in-person interviews and requests for records. Given this increased regulatory action, it is important for behavioral analysis business owners to be aware of the audit process and to prepare for likely future reviews.
Here are a few of the notable findings cited by AHCA regarding the identified fraud and abuse: read more
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) contracts with private companies also known as sponsors to provide Medicare services and benefits under Parts C and D. However, when a sponsor fails to comply with program and/or contract requirements, sponsors are subject to a wide range of enforcement action by CMS. Enforcement and contract actions available to CMS include intermediate type sanctions (i.e., suspension of payment, marketing or enrollment), termination, and most notably, civil monetary penalties (CMPs). Historically, the majority of enforcement action taken involve the imposition of CMPs. Thus, plan sponsors are strongly encouraged to adopt an aggressive compliance plan that includes mock periodic audits in order to prevent potential deficiency findings by CMS. read more
Proposed changes to the “incident to services” rule in the 2016 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule are set to seriously impact how medical practices provide certain services, bill for them and share income from those services.
Incident to services are services or items that are furnished as an integral part of the professional services of a physicians or other practitioner in the course of diagnosis or treatment. 80 Fed. Reg. at 41785. They are billed to CMS as though the physician actually provided the service. One of the rule’s key requirements is that a physician directly supervise the performance of the services, which has meant that a physician who is part of the practice has to be physically present in the office when the services are provided. If, for instance, a physician in the practice was present when physical therapy or diagnostic imaging was provided to a patient, the services could be billed to CMS as though the physician actually provided the services, even though the service was provided by, for instance, a licensed physical therapist or imaging technician. read more
While your healthcare business may be compliant with billing regulations and coding, this does not mean that your payer is compliant and has paid you correctly per your contract. Providers know that Fraud and Abuse has been one of the largest areas of focus for payers and the government over the past 20 years. Due to this attention, many healthcare businesses engage auditors to audit their compliance of claims quarterly or annually. However, in addition to compliance audits, a provider should be auditing their payer interaction to create a dynamic blueprint of denial management and payment recovery. The AMA states that a 5% denial rate for an average family practice equates to about $30,000 walking of the door. A good benchmark for payer compliance would be a denial rate of 5-10%. Often times, practices and healthcare businesses operate with a much higher rate, and even in the 20-30% range without even knowing it.
When auditing the payer interaction, several components should be included in the review including:
Denial rate percentage
Aging of claims paid for 30 day, 60 day, 90 day, over 120 day period as an Aggregate
Aging of claims paid for 30 day, 60 day, 90 day, over 120 day period by each Payer
Claims denied categorized by denial reason as an Aggregate for previous 12 months
Claims denied categorized by denial reason by each Payer for previous 12 months
Claims that have been appealed, the date submitted, the date of the outcome, the outcome by each Payer
Claims not paid according to fee schedule as an Aggregate for previous 12 months
Claims not paid according to fee schedule by each Payer for previous 12 months
There is nothing readily understood about the term medical necessity. In healthcare it is the “overarching criterion for payment”. There is no payment for services or supplies if there is no medical necessity to support it. Today, every provider at some time is faced with a denial because of lack of medical necessity. Physician providers will usually hear that payors do not get in the way of the physician-patient relationship. Payors typically state that they never tell a physician how to practice medicine and a denial based on lack of medical necessity is for purposes of payment only. However, what provider, on a routine basis, will continue to order care and services which medically unacceptable and not supported for payment purposes?
The definition of medical necessity varies from one commercial plan to another. Federal law such as Medicare has its definition and so does state law under programs such as Medicaid. Various medical associations such as the AMA also define medical necessity.
Generally, medical necessity refers to services or supplies which are required for the treatment of an illness, injury, diseased condition or impairment and which is consistent with a patient’s diagnosis or symptoms and are in accordance with generally accepted standards of medical practice. Services or supplies must not be ordered only as a convenience to the patient or provider. Of course care and services which are investigational or unproven are not considered medically necessary. read more
Florida’s providers are buzzing with questions about value based care, asking why now? Is it a fad? Will it really ever be a widespread form of payment? Why does Florida seem farther behind the value based curve than other markets?
While there are more aggressive markets in other parts of the country, the bottom line is this: CMS changes are coming and they will not be stopped. The government has invested too much money to turn around at this point. Here are just a few examples of why:
The CMS Value Based Program with hospitals is already implemented;
Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation is piloting NUMEROUS programs covering many physician specialties
CMS expanded the Medicare Shared Savings Program to 3 tracks.
A new Merit-Based Incentive Payment for Physicians, Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists will be apply to payments for services furnished in 2019.
The train has left the station. Providers will now shift from fee for service to value based payments with CMS. To be successful and still have a profitable business, clinical integration and quality improvements will need to be implemented to improve your practice whether you are hospital based or office based AND whether you are employed by a hospital or in private practice. These changes will be implemented for all of your patients as you will not distinguish in your level of service between patients with managed care as the payor rather than CMS. This essentially means that managed care payors will reap the benefits of these improvements in your practice. If you do not have a value based contract in place with the managed care payors they will not be sharing one dime with you. They will reap the benefits of your improvements AND keep the money! And by the time you get around to a managed care contract that is value based, the shared savings opportunities will be less than if you began those discussions now. read more
As the shift from fee for service to value based payment develops, one thing is crystal clear: volume is no longer king. Prior to 2010, medical providers were being paid on the amount of services that they rendered. The more patients that they treated, the more money they made. That certainty has disappeared with value based compensation and outcomes are now driving the compensation. To be successful, a provider must learn to bend both the quality and cost curve. In short, providers must increase quality while decreasing costs.
When contemplating negotiating or entering into a value based contract, the first thing to consider is the amount of financial risk that your practice or healthcare business can take on. The four main types of financial payments are:
The best way to determine which payment model best suits your needs is to hire a qualified financial healthcare analyst who will be able to generate financial risk modeling. A provider will then have a common starting point to negotiate as well as a better understanding of the issues, risks, and potential cost savings involved. read more