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6 Essential Questions For Audit Preparedness

May 5th, 2021 by

medical practice auditBy: Zach Simpson

As you train your staff on the changes that were recently made regarding evaluation and management coding it is very important to ensure that your staff understands the auditor’s perspective as well. There are four distinct portions of an auditor’s tool when evaluating the documentation guidelines for office/outpatient evaluation and management (E/M) services (99202-99215). The four distinct portions are diagnoses, data, risk, and calculation of medical decision making (MDM).  In order to ensure that a provider’s progress note is complete in the auditor’s eyes the provider should ask themselves the following six questions to create the best chances of successfully meeting the auditors expectations:

  1. Does my progress note contain a medically appropriate history and examination?
  2. Were my diagnoses addressed appropriately?
  3. Did I document all orders and data reviewed?
  4. Were other professionals included in my documentation that I worked with?
  5. Was an independent historian used?
  6. Does the documentation support the level of risk I chose?

For the remainder of the article, I am going to dive deeper into each question above so that you, as providers are able to recognize insufficient areas in a provider’s E/M documentation when you perform a self audit to better your practice. read more

Five Reimbursement Denial Reduction Tips

April 25th, 2021 by

EOBBy: Zach Simpson

  1. Review EOBs and determine where denials are originating and their root cause

While reviewing EOBs practices need to determine if a trend can be established that identifies the root cause for why claims are being denied. Trends can be established by asking if most denials are originating in your patient access and registration departments, or are denials occurring because of insufficient documentation, or due to billing or coding errors?

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A Quick Refresher On Medicare’s Requirements For Self-Reporting & Returning Overpayments

April 8th, 2021 by

By: Zach Simpson

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.

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Fighting Back Against CMS Recoupment: A New Option

November 13th, 2018 by

CMS recoupmentBy: Matt Fischer

Fighting a large extrapolated overpayment demand from a Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC)?  Facing bankruptcy?  Appealed to the Office of Medicare Hearing and Appeals (OMHA) with no hearing date in sight?  For providers and business owners who answer yes, there is a new potential remedy…a temporary injunction.

Multiple health care businesses have scored wins this year in their fight to prevent CMS from recouping payments before having an opportunity for an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing.  The similarity?  They each sought a temporary injunction in federal court.  Arguing that the alleged recoupments would cause the businesses to close, employees to lose their jobs and patients would be forced to change their providers, the businesses were granted temporary injunctions enjoining CMS from starting recoupment until the ALJ appeal stage had reached a conclusion.       read more

The Case Against Cloning (Medical Records)

August 10th, 2018 by

medical records cloningBy: Jacqueline Bain

The transition from paper medical records to electronic medical records has brought with it many conveniences and some unintended consequences. One example of an unintended consequence is cloning in the medical record. Cloning is copying and pasting previously recorded information from a prior patient note into a new patient note.

Providing quality medical care is only one part of the job. Appropriately documenting that care in order to be paid for your efforts is another. And while medical professionals are trained at length to provide care, hardly any are aware of the potential pitfalls associated with improper documentation.

In late 2015, CMS advised that cloning “is a problem in health care institutions that is not broadly addressed.” CMS specified that cloning records may indicate fraud, waste and abuse in inquiries and audits and that each part of a “medical record must contain documentation showing the differences and the needs of the patient for each visit or encounter.” read more

Potential Class Action Targeting ZPIC Dismissed: What This Means

April 30th, 2018 by

medicare payment suspensionBy: Matt Fischer

A recent lawsuit seeking class action status that targeted Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC), AdvanceMed along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been dismissed.  The plaintiff, an Illinois home health agency (HHA), filed suit in federal court requesting a writ of mandamus (i.e. an order directing a party to perform a specific act) and damages based on claims of fraud and non-compliance with Medicare’s regulations.  With many wanting an overhaul with regards to ZPIC authority, this case has been watched closely.  What does this decision mean going forward?  Consequently, this decision solidifies the formidable hurdle and requirement to exhaust all administrative remedies before challenging a ZPIC in court.

What occurred in this case is not uncommon.  AdvanceMed conducted a review of a number of patient charts which led to a suspension of Medicare payment “based on reliable information that an overpayment exists or that the payments to be made may not be correct.”  In response to the suspension notice, the HHA submitted a rebuttal statement with additional supporting documentation.  The ZPIC later informed the HHA that the documentation had been reviewed and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) decided to continue the suspension.  In subsequent discussions between the parties, an AdvanceMed representative surprising stated that it was not their policy to review rebuttals nor was it obligated to review the additional documentation.  The representative further indicated that CMS concurred with their position.  As a result, the HHA filed a lawsuit.      read more

Medicare Audit and Appeal Process from A to Z: Challenging Extrapolated Overpayments

February 1st, 2018 by

ZPIC auditBy: Matt Fischer

Medicare claims are processed by organizations (i.e. Medicare Administrative Contractors (“MACs”)) that contract with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) to act as liaisons between the Medicare program and providers and suppliers.  As CMS continues to evolve its enforcement strategies to reduce fraud and abuse in the system, post payment reviews utilizing statistical sampling still remain as one of its key methods.  These reviews are conducted not just by MACs but also by Zone Program Integrity Contractors (“ZPICs”).  When a review is completed, providers and suppliers often face large extrapolated overpayment amounts based on the analysis of a small sample of claims.  Therefore, providers and suppliers need to understand the process and most importantly, how to effectively navigate the system.

ZPICs are a part of Medicare’s integrity program and took the place of Program Safeguard Contractors (“PSCs”) that operated with the same goal in the past.  ZPIC reviews initiate in various ways such as from whistleblower complaints, through ZPIC investigations (e.g. using data mining), and from referral from the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”).       read more

ZPIC Audit Avoidance for Home Health Providers

November 30th, 2017 by

zpic audit medicareBy: Matthew Fischer

Medicare beneficiaries are generally entitled to coverage for care received by a home health agency.  However, home health providers can expose themselves to large overpayment demands from Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPIC audit) if the face-to-face (FTF) encounter requirements for home health certification are not strictly followed.  On an increasing basis, FTF encounters have been the target of ZPIC review.  Providers view this position as an effort to use home health agencies to police the industry.  On the other hand, contractors see this as part of their mission to identify cases of suspected fraud and recoup inappropriate payments.  Thus, it is imperative that home health providers fully understand the requirements in order to withstand contractor scrutiny. read more

ZPIC Audit: How to Defend Against Extrapolated Overpayment Results

November 13th, 2017 by

zpic overpaymentBy: Matt Fischer

Since the implementation of the ZPIC audit and RAC audit programs, healthcare providers and suppliers have experienced increased scrutiny in the pursuit of overpayments and fraud.  Medicare’s most vital tool in its progressive search is the use of statistical sampling.  In theory, statistical sampling offers a reliable and low cost approach to addressing large volumes of claims.  However, this process gives the government a huge advantage as it places a heavy assumption on a large number of claims without actual review of the claims.  Thus, it is important for providers and suppliers to understand the process and know how to challenge such studies in order to minimize potential repayment obligations and retain their revenue.

What is statistical sampling?

Statistical sampling draws a random sample from a universe of claims and extrapolates or projects the results of the sample to the entire universe of claims.  In other words, the Medicare contractor will select a sample of claims to review from a look back period or examination period of typically two or three years.  For this example, let’s say that the review finds a 40 percent error rate in the sample, meaning 40 percent were not found to meet Medicare requirements for payment.  In this case, a contractor will apply the 40 percent finding to the entire two years’ worth of claims and deny these claims based on the sampling results. read more

Medicare Payment Suspension Basics and the Rebuttal Process

November 9th, 2017 by

medicare prepayment reviewBy: Matt Fischer

Medicare payment suspension can place serious financial strain on a company’s operations.  As a result, many companies face the risk of closing its doors when a suspension is initiated.  Nevertheless, CMS is able to issue such suspensions by meeting a relatively low threshold.  Additionally, suspension decisions are not appealable leaving affected providers and suppliers with little options.  Therefore, it is important to understand the suspension process and how to counter if a notice of suspension is received.

CMS can suspend payments to providers and suppliers based on “reliable information” of any of the following: (1) fraud or misrepresentation; (2) when an overpayment exists but the amount has not yet been determined; (3) when reimbursement paid to a provider or supplier may be incorrect; or (4) when a provider or supplier fails to submit requested records needed to determine amounts due.  Suspensions are initiated by a request to CMS’ Office of Program Integrity by either law enforcement or a Medicare administrative contractor.   read more