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.
Due to the increasing number of forms being required these days it is all too common for practices to get lost in the vast terminology, rules, and coding requirements that have to be followed as well. An area that practices have one of the most difficult times with is operationalizing the issuance of an ABN properly. I am frequently asked to consult for practices that ask who does which part, when, and with whom in regards to ABNs? In other instances, many practices I have worked with simply make the mistake that they can solve the complexities of trying to understand the nuances of how to properly utilize ABNs by deciding to issue ABNs to every Medicare patient for every service which is not a viable option either. The solution that many offices try that I just described is called issuing blanket ABNs, which in turn may cause Medicare to invalidate all issued ABNs from the practice, including those that may been appropriate which is why it is very important that blanket ABNs are never issued.
One thing in common with practices that issue ABNs in a proper manner is that they all have a process in place for identifying potential denied services prior to delivering them. To many practices this may sound easy, but to ensure that your practice is as effective as possible it will take some claims data analysis to ensure that your practice is capturing all potential opportunities for ABN issuance. The aim of this article will be to provide practices with 5 steps that will make ABN issuance easier. read more
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) and other Federal agencies charged with responsibility for enforcement of Federal law have emphasized the importance of voluntarily developed and implemented compliance plans. The government, especially the OIG, has a zero- tolerance policy towards fraud and abuse and uses its extensive statutory authority to reduce fraud in Medicare and other federally funded health care programs. The OIG believes that through a partnership with the private sector, significant reductions in fraud and abuse can be accomplished. Compliance plans offer a vehicle to achieve that goal. The OIG has provided a model compliance plan for clinical laboratories to assist laboratory providers in crafting and refining their own compliance plans.
The OIG suggests that the comprehensive compliance program should include the following elements:
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
Medicare’s DMEPOS Competitive Bidding Round 2021 is now in full effect as of January 1, 2021. (See previous articles about what CBID Round 2021 is all about).
DME providers either participated in the process with hopes of being awarded a bid, or they abstained from doing so. Of those who participated, with Medicare’s recent bid winner announcements, bid winners were happy and bid losers, well not so much – as only those providers awarded a contract could service a Medicare Part B beneficiary for competitively bid product(s) for patients residing in competitive bid areas (“CBA”).
Now what? What are the options for the relationships between ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in moving forward, if any? Let’s briefly discuss subcontracting. read more
On January 1, 2021, every hospital in the United States (with very few exceptions) will be required to post clear, accessible pricing information online about the items and services they provide. These “standard charges” must be provided in two ways: first, as a comprehensive list of all items and services offered by the hospital in a machine readable format; and second, as a display of “shoppable services” in a consumer friendly format. According to CMS, the stated goal of the new rule is to empower patients “with the necessary information to make informed health care decisions.”
With the first requirement, the list must include gross charges, discounted cash prices, payor-specific negotiated charges, and de-identified minimum and maximum negotiated charges. The items and services covered are basically anything for which the hospital has established a standard charge, regardless of location or whether the item or service is provided on an inpatient or outpatient basis. These include, but are not limited to, supplies, surgical implants, procedures, room and board, and professional charges.
CMS has announced that it will resume Medicare Fee-For-Service (FFS) medical reviews August 3, 2020 regardless of the status of the COVID-19 public health emergency. These audits have been suspended since March 30 as a result of the crisis and applied to prepayment reviews and post-payment reviews conducted by Medicare Administrative Contractors (MAC). 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.
CMS has issued temporary waivers and new rules to help the American health care system address the increased need for health care services caused by COVID-19. Among the waivers, CMS is allowing hospitals to set up services in alternative sites to accommodate increased patient census. Hospitals may be allowed to use ASCs, inpatient rehab hospitals, hotels and dormitories for non-COVID-19 patients or patients not requiring critical inpatient services. Hospitals are also being encouraged to increase staffing, allowing hospitals to increase staff through hiring of local and non-local providers/practitioners as long as they are appropriately licensed in the same state as the hospital or another state. However, even though CMS has created flexibility for rendering services during this pandemic, use of alternative “hospital” sites and expansion of hiring staff must comport with a state’s emergency preparedness or pandemic response plan. read more
Up until now, Medicare has been fairly structured in how telehealth services are reimbursed. Medicare would pay for telehealth services only if certain, very narrow criteria were met. These rules covered the patient, the patient’s location, the provider, the types of services rendered, the telehealth equipment used and the way the services are coded. Those rules can now be relaxed under recent federal legislation.
On March 6, 2020, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 into law. That law relaxes the current Medicare criteria, in order to expand the use of telehealth as a resource against COVID-19. Pursuant to this law, the Secretary of HHS has the authority to waive the “site” requirements for telehealth services provided to Medicare beneficiaries who are located in an identified “Emergency Area” during an “Emergency Period.” Since the whole country is currently is experiencing a public health emergency, as declared by both the President and the Secretary of HHS, the Emergency Period and Emergency Area requirements are met on a nation-wide basis.