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.
With the current healthcare environment many providers looked to alternative methods of treating patients and achieving outcomes this past year due to the pandemic. To meet the needs of their patients, and their financial obligations many providers implemented services that were not customary to their practice, or their billing departments. As is the case for any office that begins to provide something new there is always the potential for error in any aspect of the practice involved with the patient or claim. Therefore, I believe it is a great time to refresh providers on the procedures for reporting and returning Medicare overpayments as they are discovered moving forward.
As many of you are aware in 2016 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a final rue pursuant to Section 1128J(d) of the Social Security Act (the Act), as amended by the Affordable Care Act, that requires Medicare Parts A and B health care providers to report and return overpayments 60 days after the date an overpayment is identified, or the due date of any corresponding cost report, if applicable, whichever is later. If credible information indicates that an overpayment exists, the rule requires that a reasonably diligent inquiry must be performed.
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
Healthcare fraud continues to be a significant priority for the U.S. Department of Justice. On February 24, 2021, the DOJ’s Criminal Division Fraud Section published its annual “Fraud Section Year in Review 2020.” While the Fraud Section has three separate enforcement units, the Health Care Fraud (HCF) Unit is responsible for all enforcement activities in the health care industry. The Unit’s focus is to protect against fraud and abuse in federal health care programs and recoup illicit gains.
During 2020, the HCF Unit operated 15 strike forces in 24 federal judicial districts throughout the U.S. The efforts of these strike forces led to charges against 167 individuals alleging $3.77 billion in fraudulent charges for health care paid for by federal and state programs. This should cause any health care provider to stand up and take notice. And enforcement in the health care industry is not likely to go away soon with so many schemes ripe for the government’s picking and generating recoupment on behalf of the federal health care programs.
Here are couple of the latest schemes that have landed pharmacies, pharmacists and other health care professionals squarely in the crosshairs of federal enforcement:
Almost two years after “Operation Brace Yourself” regarding purported telemedicine and orthotic bracing fraud made national headlines, on February 4, 2021 the Department of Justice Announced that a major player in that fraud – Florida businesswoman Kelly Wolfe – recently pled guilty to criminal health care and tax fraud charges.
Operation Brace Yourself was a 2019 crackdown on the illegal use of telemarketing and telemedicine to generate fraudulent claims for DME orders, whose reach spanned continents and ultimate implications defrauded taxpayers out of billions of dollars.
According to the Department of Justice Press Release and Settlement Agreement, Mr. Wolfe was seemingly a significant mastermind in establishing hundreds of DME companies that went on to defraud US taxpayers and Medicare beneficiaries.
Here are some highlights of the recently signed Settlement Agreement between the United States DOJ, Kelly Wolfe and her company Regency, Inc. read more
A medical attorney can defend you in court. Learn how these professionals can also help you to examine and amend your business so you avoid lawsuits altogether.
Watch a movie about a medical attorney, and you’re destined to see plenty of courtroom scenes. While it’s true that defending a client in court is a big part of a medical attorney’s job, attorneys do much more for their clients. And often, their work keeps clients out of the courtroom altogether.
3 Ways a Healthcare Practice Attorney Can Help
Medical attorneys working in a private practice like ours tackle all sorts of disparate tasks. They’re all rooted in the law, of course. But the connection may not be clear at first glance.
A healthcare practice attorney with our firm might help you to:
Avoid risk. Every employee within a healthcare organization deals with matters of life and death. Tiny mistakes can lead to big lawsuits. We help to ensure our clients are complying with local, state, and federal laws. We can even assist with training programs to educate staff about their responsibilities.
Handle paperwork. You can’t put up a sign and start helping clients. You must hold the proper accreditation. Your facilities and staff must be certified. And you need the right licenses too. Our medical attorneys can handle these tasks for you.
Draw up contracts. Hiring employees means negotiating benefits, drawing up non-compete clauses, ensuring that ethical clauses are met, and more. These are extremely time-consuming tasks, but they are critical. A healthcare practice attorney can help.
Our staff can handle many other tasks that we’re not including here. We pride ourselves on creating the right mix of help for each client.
How to Choose the Right Law Firm
Plenty of companies hope to entice you to sign with them. Learning how to separate a good medical attorney from an inexperienced one isn’t easy.
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
A recent Department of Justice $500,000 settlement with a cardiology practice underscores the need for ensuring tighter compliance by medical practices. There, the practice billed Medicare for cardiology procedures for which interpretive reports were also required. Medicare paid for the procedures, but upon audit, CMS could not find the requisite interpretive reports. The False Claims Act case settled for $500,000, but it’s likely that (1) the reimbursement by Medicare was far less, and (b) the legal fees behind the settlement weren’t too far behind the settlement amount! Had the practice self-audited each year, would they have found the discrepancy?
Medical practices have felt the weight of price compression and regulatory load more than probably any segment in the healthcare sector. They are doing far more for far less. And regulations expand faster than viruses! Hence, many have a strategy of regulatory compliance that can best be characterized as a combination of facial compliance (“We bought the manual and put it on the shelf”) and hope (“They’re not really serious about this, are they?”). Unless you’re part of a practice of more than 20 doctors, it’s likely that you can do more to ensure regulatory compliance.
When an overpayment is identified in Medicare Part A or B claims, providers can contest the overpayment amount by using the Medicare administrative appeals process. Because of the large difference between overpayment amount in a sample from an extrapolated amount, the OIG states that it is critical for the review process during an appeal to be fair and consistent. In the first and second levels of Medicare appeals (redetermination and reconsideration) extrapolated overpayments are reviewed by MAC (Medicare Administrative Contractors) and by QICs (Qualified Independent Contractors).
The OIG audit was to make sure that the MACs and the QICs reviewed the appealed extrapolated overpayments consistently and in compliance with CMS requirements.
What OIG found was that CMS did not always provide sufficient guidance and oversight to ensure that these reviews were performed in a consistent manner. The most significant inconsistency identified was the use of a type of simulation testing that was performed only by a subset of contractors. The test was associated with at least $42 million in extrapolated overpayments that were overturned in fiscal years 2017 and 2018. read more
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
The Secretary of Health and Human Services issued blanket waiver of the Stark Law on March 30th in order to facilitate COVID related medical services. The waivers apply only to financial relationships and referrals related to COVID. The circumstances and conditions under which the waivers apply are strictly and narrowly described. Moreover, the waivers have no impact in the presence of fraud or abuse. With respect to physicians wanting to provide designated health services (e.g. clinical lab services) related to COVID detection and treatment, for instance–
the federal requirement that the DHS be provided in the same building as the physician office is waived; and
the financial relationship limitations between the physician (or family member) and the DHS provider is waived.
The waiver also contains specific examples of waived interactions between providers and hospitals, including— read more