Kusserow on Compliance: Medicare overpaid hospitals $267M for post-acute care transfers to home health

An HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit identified 89,213 inpatient claims totaling $948 million at risk of overpayment because of hospital transfer policies to home health agencies for post-acute care. The OIG selected a stratified sample of 150 claims which was reviewed by an independent medical review contractor to assess the relatedness of the home health services to the hospital admission. The review found that Medicare improperly paid most inpatient claims subject to the transfer policy when beneficiaries resumed home health services within 3 days of discharge. Hospitals failed to code the inpatient claim as a discharge to home health services when the hospitals applied condition codes 42 (home health not related to inpatient stay) or 43 (home health not within 3 days of discharge). Of the 150 inpatient claims in the sample, Medicare properly paid for just three claims. As a result, CMS improperly paid for 147 claims, for a total of $722,288 in overpayments. Medicare should have paid these inpatient claims using a graduated per diem rate rather than the full payment. The OIG estimated that Medicare improperly paid $267 million during a 2-year period for hospital services that should have been paid a graduated per diem payment.

Prior OIG audits identified Medicare overpayments to hospitals that did not comply with Medicare’s post-acute-care transfer policy and in response CMS instituted new corrective actions into the system. The OIG later found the policies were still not properly designed. The result is that hospitals may be using condition codes to bypass CMS’s system edits to receive higher reimbursements for inpatients transferred to home health services. Compliance officers should consider this—the transfer of patients from hospital in-patient care to post-acute care at home health agencies—as a risk area warranting an internal review.


Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

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