Kusserow on Compliance: OIG Work Plan update on Hospital Sector

The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) Work Plan sets forth various audits and evaluations that are underway or planned during the fiscal year and beyond. Since June 2017, the OIG modifies the plan monthly to add new items and remove completed ones. When developing its plans, the OIG assesses relative risks in HHS programs and operations to identify those areas most in need of attention. The OIG recently reported updates to its planned work in the hospital sector that include:

  1. Determining whether: (1) skilled nursing facility (SNF) level of care was certified by a physician or a physician extender; (2) a condition treated at the SNF was one which the beneficiary received inpatient hospital services or a condition that arose while receiving care in a SNF; (3) daily skilled care was required; (4) services delivered were reasonable and necessary for the treatment of a beneficiary’s illness or injury; (5) improper Medicare payments were made on claims reviewed; and (6) hospital admissions were potentially avoidable.


  1. Reports on a data brief that describes nursing staffing levels reported by facilities to the Payroll‐Based Journal; examination of CMS’s efforts to ensure data accuracy and improve resident quality of care.


  1. Determining whether CMS corrected the common working file (CWF) edits and ensured they are working Prior review found that CMS CWF edits related to transfers to home health care, SNFs, and non‐IPPS hospitals were not working properly.


  1. Review of overstated Medicare charges on outpatient claims that contain both an outlier payment and a reported medical device credit to determine whether Medicare payments for replaced medical devices and their respective outlier payments were made in accordance with Medicare requirements.


  1. Determine how inpatient hospital billing has changed over time and describe how inpatient billing varied among hospitals and will use results to target certain hospitals or codes for a medical review to determine the extent to which the hospitals billed incorrect codes.


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 © 2019 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

National review of Medicaid opioid prescribing not yet feasible

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has determined that limitations of the national Medicaid claims database, the Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System (T-MSIS), makes a national review of opioid prescribing in Medicaid unfeasible. The system cannot yet identify all at-risk beneficiaries and providers, the OIG reported (OIG Report, No. OEI-05-18-00480, August 2019).

The OIG assessed the completeness of variables necessary to identify beneficiaries at risk of opioid misuse or overdose and the National Provider Identifiers (NPIs) of providers that ordered and dispensed opioids. According to the report, states were missing data necessary for a national review. Some states did not require NPI to be collected. Others included NPI in their data but incorrectly submitted the data or were unable to transmit the data to T-MSIS because of outdated systems. Without a provider NPI, it is not possible to identify all providers who may be overprescribing opioids and take appropriate action, or to identify providers for investigations of fraud, waste, or abuse, the OIG found.

Identification of beneficiaries can be impeded because a Medicaid beneficiary can have multiple IDs within a state or across states. If a beneficiary does have multiple IDs, prescriptions dispensed to the IDs would appear to be for multiple persons rather than one person. The OIG noted in the report that without a unique beneficiary ID, it is not possible to identify all at-risk beneficiaries in need of opioid-related treatment and conduct proper monitoring of services to protect beneficiaries from inadequate coordinated care.

States also have failed to report diagnoses codes for all services despite being required to do so. Without a diagnosis code, it is not possible to exclude all patients with cancer diagnoses for whom higher doses of opioids may be appropriate or to identify patients’ medical conditions to determine medical necessity for services.

The OIG noted in the report that in August 2018, CMS that all states were submitting T-MSIS data and that CMS was prioritizing T-MSIS data quality. According to the OIG, CMS indicated it would have research files available in 2019. CMS currently has been working with states to improve the quality of data submissions.


The OIG recommended that CMS strive to ensure that individual beneficiaries can be identified at a national level using T-MSIS. CMS should address instances in which a single beneficiary has more than one Medicaid ID within a state. CMS also should prioritize state reporting of prescriber NPIs and issue guidance to clarify the requirements for diagnosis codes.

Kusserow on Compliance: OIG’s planned work for home health agencies

Home Health Agencies (HHAs) remain one of the top enforcement priorities for the DOJ and HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG). Considerable OIG investigative resources are devoted to HHA fraud. However, the OIG auditors and evaluators are also focusing on HHA waste and abuse. For example, in May 2019, the OIG released several audit reports related to HHAs, including those for EHS Home Health, Excella Home Care, Great Lakes Home Health, and Metropolitan Jewish Home Care. The OIG found a number of deficiencies, including beneficiaries who were not homebound that were able to ambulate without assistance and perform home exercises, or had only a partial episode (wound healed). In addition, in many cases, documentation was not provided or did not support services. To continue its efforts in this area, the OIG has added several planned audits and evaluations related to HHAs, including the following:

  1. OIG will review supporting documentation to determine whether home health claims with 5 to 10 skilled visits in a payment episode, in which the beneficiary was discharged home, met the conditions for coverage and were adequately supported as required by federal guidance.


  1. Recent OIG reports disclosed high error rates at individual HHAs, consisting primarily of beneficiaries who were not homebound or who did not require skilled services. So, the OIG will continue its efforts regarding whether home health claims were paid in accordance with federal requirements.


  1. Using data from the CMS’s Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT), the OIG plans to identify the common characteristics of “at risk” HHA providers that could be used to target pre- and post-payment review of claims.


  1. The OIG will review Medicare Part A payments to HHAs to determine whether claims billed to Medicare Part B for items and services were allowable and in accord with federal regulations. Generally, certain items, supplies, and services furnished to patients are covered under Part A and should not be separately billable to Part B. the OIG has previously found noncompliance with these Medicare billing requirements.


  1. The OIG will compare HHA survey documents to Medicare claims data to look for evidence of patients omitted from HHA-supplied patient information from select recertification surveys using Medicare claims data.


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 © 2019 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.

Medicaid third-party liability changes a challenge for states

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a study to see the progress states have made in implementing the changes in third-party liability requirements since the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 was passed. The GAO found that the states are unclear on how to collect the required information, update their data systems, and implement the new policies. Adding to the difficulties in understanding and implementing the changes, CMS has issued inconsistent guidance and offers only outdated policy manuals that offer no assistance in implementing the changes (GAO Report, GAO-19-601, August 9, 2019).

Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

Federal law requires states ensure that Medicaid is the payer of last resort by taking steps to identify Medicaid beneficiaries’ other potential sources of health coverage and their legal liability. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 modified the required processes states must follow when paying claims with probable third-party liability for three types of services. Under the amended statute, states must apply cost avoidance procedures to claims for prenatal care services and pregnancy-related services when it is apparent that a third party is or may be liable at the time the claim is filed. Additionally, states are no longer required to pay claims for pediatric preventative services immediately and may instead require the provider to submit the claim to the third party and wait 90 days (wait-and-see period) for payment before seeking Medicaid payment. Finally, states must make payment for a child support enforcement (CSE) beneficiary’s claim if the third party has not paid the provider’s claim within a 100-day wait-and-see period.

State concerns

According to state officials, several changes to administrative tasks and the Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) needed to be undertaken to implement the new third-party liability changes and some required research and discussion about the best methods to make these changes. Officials noted that they would need to identify the correct codes in their data systems, establish some sort of indicators in their system to identify which claims were for CSE beneficiaries or had been billed to a third party and when. Some of this additional information would require a data sharing agreement with the state entity maintaining the CSE information while other information would require providers to track down insurance information from a non-custodial parent. Some officials expressed concern that the system changes may require new hardware and system modifications and may make it difficult or impossible to implement the changes, while others discussed waiting for the new MMIS that they were already working to roll out in the future. There were also concerns that the technology changes and the increased administrative work may make the changes not cost-effective to implement.

Stakeholder concerns

Stakeholders were concerned that obtaining accurate information on third-party liability sources for Medicaid beneficiaries and resubmitting claims that result from incorrect or outdated information can be resource intensive and time consuming. Medicaid beneficiaries may be unaware or may not disclose other insurance policies, especially when there are multiple policies by custodial and non-custodial parents or transitions in insurance following birth. Some stakeholders were concerned that rural-based providers may not have the resources to deal with the increased administrative work and delays in payment for services that could result from the payment changes. This may lead some providers to be less willing to serve Medicaid beneficiaries, which would potentially reduce access to care or delay time-sensitive services for children and pregnant women. Some providers may also seek to identify sources of third-party liability before providing services to beneficiaries, which would also delay access to care.


Many states expressed the need for further guidance from CMS on how to implement some of these changes, however, the GAO noted that CMS has issued guidance that is inconsistent with the federal laws and some CMS guidance documents are out of date and not a reliable source of information for states to use in implementing the new requirements. Therefore, the GAO recommended that CMS ensure the agency’s Medicaid third-party liability guidance is consistent with federal law.

The GAO found that CMS has not taken steps to determine the extent to which state Medicaid agencies are meeting the new requirements and indicated that they expect states to comply and will not verify unless the agency is made aware of non-compliance. The GAO recommended that CMS determine the extent to which state programs are meeting federal third-party liability requirements and take actions to ensure compliance where appropriate.