Kusserow on Compliance: Time for Compliance Program evaluation

  1. Have a 2021 workplan focusing on improving the Compliance Program
  2. Not having independent evaluations is evidence of lack of program effectiveness
  3. DOJ & OIG: Identifying & addressing weaknesses evidences program effectiveness

With 2020 coming to an end, it is time to look forward to the New Year and plan ways to identify areas for improvement of the Compliance Program, building off of results of independent evaluations. Both the OIG and DOJ stress the importance of evidencing Compliance Program (“CP”) effectiveness and that all programs are in progress, never completed. They see compliance officers identifying weakness and gaps that lead to improvements as positive evidence of an effective program. The DOJ “Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs” notes that there will always be ways the program can be improved and enhanced. The DOJ, in its 2020 Compliance Program Evaluation Guidelines noted: “One hallmark of an effective compliance program is its capacity to improve and evolve. The actual implementation of controls in practice will necessarily reveal areas of risk and potential adjustment.”  The DOJ highlights the importance of effective implementation and evaluation measures” to determine whether the compliance program a “paper program” or one that is fully “implemented, reviewed, and revised, as appropriate, in an effective manner.” DOJ prosecutors are directed to ask: Does the company evaluate periodically the effectiveness of the organization’s compliance program?” Regular, rigorous, and consistent review of compliance programs is now the expectation.  The OIG calls for ongoing monitoring and independent ongoing auditing of Compliance Programs to evidence continuous improvement.

There are three general ways for independent evaluations: (1) a complete compliance program evaluation; (2) a compliance program gap analysis; or (3) an independently developed and administered employee survey of compliance knowledge, attitude and perceptions.

  1. Compliance Program effectiveness evaluations is recognized by experts as by far the best method to evidence how well the program is functioning. It measures outcome by conducting a 360-degree evaluation that includes: (a) full document examination and review; (b) on site review and testing of operations in action; and (c) interviews of Board members, executives, selective key staff, and focus group meetings. If done properly, the resulting reports with be 60 to 100 pages that include findings, observations, along with recommendations and suggestions for program improvement.
  2. Compliance program gap analysis is about half of the cost or less than a full compliance program evaluation, but the reduction of costs is matched by the diminished value of results. It is primarily a document “checklist” review, focusing on output metrics, rather than outcome metrics related to program effectiveness. It is best used with organizations with new or incomplete programs, desiring assistance in identifying elements needed to complete development of their program.  It can identify gaps for inexperienced compliance officers but lacks details by which this can be accomplished.
  3. Independently developed, validated, and administered compliance surveys of employees is the least expensive means, at a fraction of the cost for either of the two other methods, for evidencing and benchmarking compliance program effectiveness. The use of surveys has long been advocated by regulatory bodies, including in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, OIG Compliance Program Guidance and DOJ guidelines. These organizations advise using surveys of employees to gauge how well the program is functioning. Surveys that are anchored in a large database of organization, permit benchmarking an organization to the universe. Compliance knowledge surveys test knowledge of the compliance program structure and operations and can provide very credible empirical evidence of the advancement of program knowledge, understanding and effectiveness. Compliance culture surveys focuses on employee beliefs, attitudes, and perception concerning compliance, useful in measuring the extent to which individuals, coworkers, supervisors, and leaders demonstrate commitment to compliance. Both types of surveys should be considered as they are useful in benchmarking and measuring change in the compliance environment over a period and provide different dimensions and perspectives on a compliance program.

For more information on the difference in scope of work between a full compliance program evaluation and a gap analysis, send your queries to Richard Kusserow at rkussserow@strategicm.com.

 

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.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on LinkedIn.

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Copyright © 2020 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: DOJ compliance program guidelines once again focus on sufficiency of compliance resources

The 2020 Department of Justice (DOJ) Compliance Program Guidance for prosecutors places increased emphasis on questioning the adequacy of compliance resources that the DOJ views as essential for any program’s effective functioning. The DOJ elaborated that prosecutors should ask questions concerning whether the program is “adequately resourced and empowered to function effectively.” Put differently, even the most artfully constructed program is doomed to fail without sufficient funding, qualified compliance personnel, and widespread support throughout all levels of an organization. A question for many health care organizations is whether the organization would pass DOJ scrutiny on this point.

Results from the 2020 SAI Global Healthcare Compliance Benchmark Survey developed with and analyzed by Strategic Management included information regarding the adequacy of resources for Compliance Officers in meeting their challenges. Reading the details of the responses in the Survey suggest that many compliance offices are likely operating with less than fully adequate resources to meet DOJ expectations. The Survey results indicated that the average compliance office staff levels are five individuals with about one third of respondents reporting only one full-or part-time person. In a related question, over half of respondents indicated they are expecting their budget to remain mostly the same with about one quarter expecting some increase, while at the same time assuming new responsibilities, most notably those related to HIPAA Privacy and Security. Given the average staffing level of compliance offices, increasing responsibilities, heightened enforcement by government agencies, and limited increases in budgetary resources, it is likely that most compliance offices are stretching their limited resources and would have difficulty meeting the DOJ standards. The Survey also found that many are turning to external vendors to provide services and tools, to stretch limited staff resources and to lower operating costs.

 

For more information on this subject, contact Richard Kusserow at rkusserow@strategicm.com

 

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.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

Copyright © 2020 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Kusserow on Compliance: OIG reports top unimplemented recommendations

The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) Top Unimplemented Recommendations: Solutions to Reduce Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in HHS Programs is an annual OIG publication. These recommendations, if implemented, are ones that would most positively impact HHS programs in terms of cost savings, program effectiveness and efficiency, and public health and safety. All were derived from audits and evaluations issued through December 31, 2019, which predated the COVID-19 public health emergency. Fourteen of the 25 were related to Medicare and Medicaid. The recommendations called for CMS to:

  1. Take actions to ensure that incidents of potential abuse or neglect of Medicare beneficiaries are identified and reported.
  2. Reevaluate the inpatient rehabilitation facility payment system, which could include seeking legislative authority to make any changes necessary to more closely align inpatient rehabilitation facility payment rates and costs.
  3. Seek legislative authority to comprehensively reform the hospital wage index system.
  4. Seek legislative authority to implement least costly alternative policies for Part B drugs under appropriate circumstances.
  5. Provide consumers with additional information about hospices’ performance via Hospice Compare.
  6. Continue to work with the Accredited Standards Committee X12 to ensure that medical device-specific information is included on claim forms and require hospitals to use certain condition codes for reporting device replacement procedures.
  7. Analyze the potential impacts of counting time spent as an outpatient toward the three-night requirement for skilled nursing facility (SNF) services so that beneficiaries receiving similar hospital care have similar access to these services.
  8. Provide targeted oversight of Medicare Advantage organizations (MAOs) that had risk adjusted payments resulting from unlinked chart reviews for beneficiaries who had no service records in the 2016 encounter data.
  9. Require MAOs to submit ordering and referring provider identifiers for applicable records in the encounter data.
  10. Develop and execute a strategy to ensure that Part D does not pay for drugs that should be covered by the Part A hospice benefit.
  11. Ensure that States’ reporting of national Medicaid data is complete, accurate, and timely.
  12. Collaborate with partners to develop strategies for improving rates of follow-up care for children treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  13. Develop policies and procedures to improve the timeliness of recovering Medicaid overpayments and recover uncollected amounts identified by OIG’s audits.
  14. Identify States that have limited availability of behavioral health services and develop strategies and share information to ensure that Medicaid managed care enrollees have timely access to these services.

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.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

Copyright © 2020 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

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.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Kusserow on Compliance Newsletter

Copyright © 2020 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.